Monday, October 31, 2016

Escape Clause - John Sandford

Virgil Flowers started out as a supporting character in John Sandford's 'Prey' series. But Virgil proved to be pretty popular and ended up with his own series. Escape Clause is the ninth book in his series.

What makes Virgil so popular? He's a 'good ole boy' with a laid back attitude, loves fishing as much as he loves working and his cases are always, well, odd. He's got an eye for the ladies (and the ladies for him) but things seem to be getting more serious with girlfriend Frankie. He's crap with a gun, often not even bothering to carry one and instead relies on his wits and his mouth to get him out of tight situations. Bottom line, I just like him.

So I was eager to see what his latest case was. This time 'round, Virgil is after two tigers stolen from the Minnesota zoo. Is it animal rights activists or has someone stolen them for their value in traditional Chinese medicine?  And on the homefront, Frankie's sister Sparkle has come to visit.  Sparkle seems to be ruffling some feathers at a local business that could mean trouble.

In the zoo case there's no mystery as to who dunnit, but it's enjoyable to ride along as Virgil and his team try to piece it together and make it stick. That journey is a lot of fun, but fair warning - there is some violence.

But for me the real draw of the Virgil books are the characters. The supporting cast of players is just as great as Virgil. I've always enjoyed mainstays Jenkins and Shrake. There's a cameo by Lucas Davenport and faithful readers will spot the tie in to Sandford's last book. The dialogue is the other thing I really enjoy - it's quick, wry and witty.

This series isn't high drama or contain convoluted plotting. What it is, is just plain entertaining. Great quirky characters, left of centre plotting and witty dialogue add up to a quick and addictive read. The trademark phrase 'That f****ng Flowers is always fun to watch for. Read an excerpt of Escape Clause. 

Fans of the television show Fargo would enjoy this series. And upon saying that, I think it would be great to see Virgil on the screen as well. Now, who should be cast as the lead.......

Friday, October 28, 2016

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #129

- 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
Lisa Jewell's novel, I Found You is already a bestseller in the UK. It releases in North America in the Spring of '17. It sounds like a great read and is on my TBR list. The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. The seaside is the setting for the book - featured on both covers. The tag line on the UK cover is intriguing. But I don't like the fonts or colours used on the UK cover. I like the US picture, especially the ominous sky. The font seems to match the tone of the dark sky as well. So, I'm going with the US cover this week. Which cover do you prefer? Any plans to read I Found You? You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

News of the World - Paulette Jiles

Paulette Jiles' latest novel is News of the World. It's also a National Book Award finalist.

1870. Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, 71 years old, earns his living travelling through Texas, reading newspaper articles to audiences in small towns. It is in one of those small towns that his friend Britt approaches him and asks him to deliver something for him. Actually it's a someone. A ten year old girl, kidnapped by the Kiowas when she was six. The family paid Britt to rescue her and deliver her back to her last living relatives. And because its the right thing to do, Kidd agrees. But Johanna has no memory of her life before the Kiowa, speaks no English and has no idea why she has been taken from her Kiowa family. It's a 400 mile trip through rough and dangerous country for an old man and a child.....

Oh, my......this was such an amazing read on so many levels. Kidd is a great lead - intelligent, moral, brave, determined and steadfast. But also with an eye on the world beyond his scope. Throughout the narrative we learn more about his past and the roads he chose to take in his seventy one years. His life has been rich and full, filled with both good and bad. (Kidd is based on an actual historical figure who was a reader in Texas in the 1870's)

We get short glimpses into Johanna's mind and thinking throughout the trip - her take on what is happening. She too is a strong character with the same qualities as Kidd - brave and determined. Think what she has lived through in her short ten years.

But it is the burgeoning relationship between the two that had me unable to put the book down. Over the 400 miles, they face much - and share much. The relationship is built without straying into saccharine over-sentimentality.

Every uncertain situation on the trip had me perched on the edge of my seat, hoping that he and Johanna make it through. But, I wondered, what would happen if they reached the end? And for answers to that question, you're going to have to pick up the book. I heartily recommend that you do.

Historical fiction fascinates me. I often think that I was born into the wrong century. Jiles brings her time and setting to life with detailed description - the wagon, meals, dusty roads and small settlements, recreating the political and racial tension of the time and so much more.

Jiles employs a 'no punctuation' style for her book. It only took a page or two to get used to it. And I think it was the perfect style for this book - it matches the pared down, no frills tone and tenor of both the time period and their journey.

I'm always on the lookout as I read for the meaning behind the title of a book. In this case it's multi-faceted. Kidd delivers the news of the world in his reading rounds. But also the idea that we are born with a message - one that we will never know the contents of until it is delivered to the pearly gates.

I finished News of the World in one evening. And thought about it long after the final page. And wondered why I haven't read Paulette Jiles before. That will be changing - I'm going to look up her backlist. News of the World - and the map that came with it - has earned a permanent place on  my bookshelf. Read an excerpt of News of the World.

"Paulette Jiles is a novelist, poet, and memoirist. She is the author of Cousins, a memoir, and the novels Enemy Women, Stormy Weather, The Color of Lightning, Lighthouse Island, and News of the World. She lives on a ranch near San Antonio, Texas." You can connect with Paulette Jiles on her website.

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

I received this book for review from HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Giveaway - Two by Two - Nicholas Sparks

New York Times bestselling author Nicholas Sparks returns with 'an emotionally powerful story of unconditional love, its challenges, its risks and most of all, its rewards' - Two by Two. And I have two copies to giveaway to two lucky readers!

From Grand Central Publishing:

"At 32, Russell Green has it all: a stunning wife, a lovable six year-old daughter, a successful career as an advertising executive and an expansive home in Charlotte. He is living the dream, and his marriage to the bewitching Vivian is the center of that. But underneath the shiny surface of this perfect existence, fault lines are beginning to appear...and no one is more surprised than Russ when he finds every aspect of the life he took for granted turned upside down. In a matter of months, Russ finds himself without a job or wife, caring for his young daughter while struggling to adapt to a new and baffling reality. Throwing himself into the wilderness of single parenting, Russ embarks on a journey at once terrifying and rewarding-one that will test his abilities and his emotional resources beyond anything he ever imagined."

"With over 100 million copies of his books sold, Nicholas Sparks is one of the world's most beloved storytellers. His novels include 12 #1 New York Times bestsellers. All his books have been New York Times and international bestsellers, and were translated into more than 50 languages. Ten Sparks novels have been adapted into major motion pictures. You can connect with Nicholas Sparks on his website, like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

And if you'd like to read Two by Two, enter using the Rafflecopter form below. Open to US and Canada. Ends November 5/16.

Over the Counter #338

What books caught my eye this week as it passed over the library counter and under my scanner? This week it's poverty....

First up is Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance.

From the publisher, Harper Collins:

"From a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, a powerful account of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class.

Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans. The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.

The Vance family story begins hopefully in postwar America. J. D.’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love,” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually their grandchild (the author) would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of their success in achieving generational upward mobility.

But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that this is only the short, superficial version. Vance’s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother, struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, and were never able to fully escape the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. Vance piercingly shows how he himself still carries around the demons of their chaotic family history.

A deeply moving memoir with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country."

Next up is $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America by Kathryn Edin and H. Luke Shaefer.

From the publisher, Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt:

" A New York Times Notable Book of the Year

Jessica Compton's family of four would have no income if she didn't donate plasma twice a week at her local donation center in Tennessee. Modonna Harris and her teenage daughter, Brianna, in Chicago, often have no food but spoiled milk on weekends.

After two decades of brilliant research on American poverty, Kathryn Edin noticed something she hadn't seen before - households surviving on virtually no cash income. Edin teamed with Luke Shaefer, an expert on calculating incomes of the poor, to discover that the number of American families living on $2.00 per person, per day, has skyrocketed to one and a half million households, including about three million children.

Where do these families live? How did they get so desperately poor? Through this book's eye-opening analysis and many compelling profiles, moving and startling answers emerge. $2.00 a Day delivers new evidence and new ideas to our national debate on income inequality."

(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, October 25, 2016

The Trespasser - Tana French

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 24, 2016

Giveaway - Lovers and Newcomers - Rosie Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Product review - OXOQO iPhone 6/6s Waterproof Case

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 21, 2016

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

- You can't judge a book by its cover - which is very true.
 But you can like one cover version better than another....

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

Unlock the Weird with Ripley's Believe It or Not

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Heart of Henry Quantum - Pepper Harding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We Know It Was You - Maggie Thrash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Over the Counter #337

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

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

From Thomas Nelson:

"Are you ready to see your fixer upper?

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

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

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

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

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

From Artisan Books:

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

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

(Over the Counter is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World. I've sadly come the realization that I cannot physically read every book that catches my interest as it crosses over my counter at the library. But... I can mention them and maybe one of them will catch your eye as well. See if your local library has them on their shelves!)

Superfood Breakfasts with DK Canada

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

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

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

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

From Sterling Publishing:

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

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

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

Monday, October 17, 2016

Just Fine With Caroline - Annie England Noblin

Just Fine With Caroline is Annie England Noblin's second novel.

Caroline has moved back home to Cold River, Missouri. Her family needs her help - her mom has Alzheimers, her dad is so busy (he's the town doctor) and her cousin Ava Dawn always seems to need a hand. And Caroline wants to keep her mom's beloved bait store open.

Life gets a little more complicated when Noah Cranwell returns to town to resurrect his family's store - directly across from the bait shack.

Noblin hits all the notes you would expect in a light hearted read - a slow building romance that hits more than one bump in the road, family issues, quirky supporting characters, conflicts that our main characters need to challenge - and secrets. Noblin also weaves some historical fact into her story that was quite fascinating.

Annie herself makes her home in the Missouri Ozarks and uses that first hand knowledge to create her town, residents and atmosphere. I have lived in more than one small town and Noblin's depiction is spot on. Everyone really does know you, your business and it's really hard to keep a secret in a small town.

I liked Caroline as a lead character - she's the solid, smart one that people tend to turn to. Ava Dawn is a foil for Caroline - she makes mistakes, bad choices and tends to live a wilder life. Noah as the yes, no, maybe so romantic lead was well drawn - and attractive. The rest of the supporting players round out the cast. High school hero also back in town, good guy sheriff with his own secrets, lovable town drunk etc.

There's usually not much you can't figure out ahead of time in 'heartwarming small town' types of reads. And yes, this proved true for Just Fine With Caroline for me. But that's the appeal of them  - you know everything is going to turn out okay in the end.

This is the first book in Annie's new Cold River series. I can see a wealth characters just waiting to be met and and for their stories to be told. Read an excerpt of Just Fine With Caroline.

My only quibble is that those quirky characters, dialogue and situations just try a bit too hard and are a bit over exaggerated. But on the other hand, this suits this style of novel. A sweet little read, meant to be enjoyed with a tall glass of sweet tea. Read an excerpt of Just Fine With Caroline.

"Annie England Noblin lives with her son, husband, and three dogs in the Missouri Ozarks. She graduated with an M.A. in creative writing from Missouri State University and currently teaches English and communications for Arkansas State University in Mountain Home, Arkansas. She spends her free time playing make-believe, feeding stray cats, and working with animal shelters across the country to save homeless dogs." You can connect with Annie on Facebook and follow her on Twitter. See what others on the TLC book tour thought - full schedule can be found here.

I received this book for review from HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours.

Friday, October 14, 2016

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #127

- 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 liked Claire Macintosh's debut novel, I Let You Go. Her
next book, I See You,  is also a suspense novel - and has joined my ever growing TBR list. The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. the font on bother covers is the same, with a just a minor colour change. The blues are very similar as well. But I think I like the picture used on the US cover a bit more. It's stark and a bit ominous. Where is that escalator headed? Why is there no one else around her? So, US cover for me this week. Which cover do you prefer? Any plans to read I See You? You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Over the Counter #336

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? A pair of cookbooks this week - for those short on time.....or ingredients....

First up is The I Heart Naptime Cookbook: More Than 100 Easy & Delicious Recipes to Make in Less Than One Hour by Jamielyn Nye.

From Grand Central Publishing:

"More than 100 inspiring recipes and crafts to cook, bake, and create during that precious hour known as naptime.

Every parent knows how magical naptime is-that blissful hour when the house is quiet and you actually have a few moments to yourself. Now Jamielyn Nye, founder of the popular blog and mother of three, is making naptime even more delicious with her highly anticipated first cookbook. With millions of visitors a month, I Heart Naptime has become a favorite online destination for readers who can't get enough of Nye's easy, kid-pleasing recipes and adorable crafts.

From Fluffy Buttermilk Biscuits to BLT Salad with Homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing, One-Pot Cheesy Bacon and Chive Macaroni, and Cookies 'n' Cream Cupcakes, The I Heart Naptime Cookbook features more than 100 recipes that have you covered for any meal, snack, or sweet craving-and many will even inspire your kids to help in the kitchen! In addition to recipes, Nye's charming crafts like DIY plates, napkins, and aprons transform any meal into a celebration and makes it easy to give the perfect gift, from a basket of homemade toffee to birthday cupcakes.
An indispensable resource for home cooks and busy parents, The I Heart Naptime Cookbook will make it easy to answer that age-old question, "What's for dinner?"

Next up is Simple: The Easiest Cookbook in the World by Jean-Francois Mallet.

From the publisher, Black Dog and Leventhal:

"This is really the easiest cookbook in the world. Every recipe has less than four steps and fewer than six ingredients, illustrated with more than 1,000 user-friendly photographs. No wonder it is an overnight international bestseller!

Want a quick answer to "What should I eat?" Simple-with its clean design, large type, straightforward photos, and handy icons-will have you enjoying a meal in minutes. Through combinations of basic flavors and fresh ingredients, chef, food photographer, and cookbook author Jean-François Mallet helps anyone, the novice and gourmand alike, prepare tasty time-saving meals. His "at-a-glance" approach will change your relationship with your kitchen. You'll find yourself whipping up dishes as varied as Thai-Basil Beef, Saffron Risotto, Mozzarella and Fig Skewers, Salmon and Lentil Salad, Jumbo Shrimp Curry, and Pistachio and Cherry Cook."

(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, October 11, 2016

Giveaway - Love You Dead - Peter James

Love mysteries? Police procedurals? Yes? Then I've got a great giveaway for you today!

Peter James has just released the twelfth novel in his award-winning Detective Superintendent Roy Grace crime series - Love You Dead.

From the publisher, Pan MacMillan:

"An ugly duckling as a child, Jodie Bentley had two dreams in life - to be beautiful and rich. She's achieved the first, with a little help from a plastic surgeon, and now she's working hard on the second. Her philosophy on money is simple: you can either earn it or marry it. Marrying is easy, it's getting rid of the husband afterwards that's harder, that takes real skill. But hey, practice makes perfect . . .

Detective Superintendent Roy Grace is feeling the pressure from his superiors, his previous case is still giving him sleepless nights, there have been major developments with his missing wife Sandy, and an old adversary is back. But worse than all of this, he now believes a Black Widow is operating in his city. One with a venomous mind . . . and venomous skills. Soon Grace comes to the frightening realization that he may have underestimated just how dangerous this lady is." Read an excerpt of Love You Dead.

"Peter James is the UK’s biggest selling police procedural author, with 11 consecutive Sunday Times No 1s, as well as a No 1 bestseller in many countries around the globe, where he is published in 37 languages in 52 countries." Peter James' entire series is being re-launched in the U.S.! You can find Peter James on his website, like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

And if you'd like to read Love You Dead, I have a copy to giveaway to one lucky reader. Open to the continental U.S. only. Enter using the Rafflecopter form below. Ends Oct. 22/16.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Devil Sent the Rain - Lisa Turner

Lisa Turner's newest release is Devil Sent the Rain, the latest installment in her Detective Billy Able series. It's a first read of this author for me - but won't be my last. (And yes, this could be read as a stand-alone)

A good prologue always draws me into a book, eager to find answers to what has been presented in the first few pages.....who and why being the ones that spring to mind most often. The opening of Devil Sent the Rain absolutely drew me in. An unnamed pregnant woman, driving to her own wedding, is shot in cold blood.

Billy Able and his partner Frankie Malone of the Memphis Police Dept. boast the highest solve rate on the squad. They're handed this case when the identity of the high profile victim is discovered. The pressure is on from both the victim's family and police higher-ups to solve it quickly.

This was my first introduction to this pair. For the record, Frankie is a woman. Both are strong characters with very different personalities. Frankie is smart, tough and ambitious. Billy has some baggage, but he too is a smart cop, often relying on his intuition and hunches. They play off each other well. References are made to past cases, but I never felt out of the loop. Instead, I felt like reading more of this pair by picking up the previous two books.

Turner also brings in the South as a character. Attitudes and history are woven into everyday descriptions and settings, as well as figuring into the plot. Turner is from Memphis and her personal knowledge adds to the tone and tenor of the novel.

Turner's plotting is well paced, relying more on interactions and dialogue than forensic evidence for the final whodunit. And this is what I liked about the book - it is character driven. We become invested in the lead characters. And there is no doubt as to who is on the other side of the fence - they're quite easy to dislike. Billy's personal connection to the victim and her family makes the case personal. The run up to the final whodunit is fairly well telegraphed, but there are many red herrings and a choice of suspects laid along the way to muddy the waters and keep the reader wondering until that last chapter. (How many metaphors did I just mangle!)

I always enjoy the origin of a book title. In this case it's a discussion of the circumstances surrounding another death....

"They brought in boats and dragged the fields and tried to search the riverbanks, but the current was too fast. It started to rain. Poured for three days. I stopped at a convenience store for sandwiches and coffee. This crazy-looking woman in line got in my face and whispered, 'The devil sent the rain.' Then she crossed herself. It was creepy."

I love discovering new authors and series and Lisa Turner has been added to my list of authors to follow.  Read an excerpt of Devil Sent the Rain.

Cr:Phillip Parker
"Born in Memphis, Lisa Turner travels between her ancestral home in the Deep South and her writing getaway on the wildly beautiful coast of Nova Scotia." Find out more about Lisa at her website, and follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

See what other on the TLC book tour thought - full schedule can be found here.  I received this book for review from HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours.

Friday, October 7, 2016

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #126

- 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 a sucker for those words....psychological thriller....My Husband's Wife by Jane Corry was a bestseller in the UK earlier this year. It releases in North America in Jan 2017. So....the  US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. Well, an easy choice for me this week. I am truly tired of backwards girl pictures. (Even worse is when they're looking over their shoulders) I think the colours are too dark and I just don't find it overly appealing. The title is probably the only thing that would make me pick up this version. I'm going with the UK version this week. It's a bolder look, the colours catch my eye, as does the tagline. I'm a big fan of Elizabeth Haynes, so her blurb would entice me to pick it up. The photo matches the title.  So...which cover do you prefer. Any plans to read My Husband's Wife?
You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

One Was Lost - Natalie D. Richards

One Was Lost is the fourth book from Natalie Richards.

A group of high school seniors head out on an end of year camping trip. An unexpected flash flood separates the group into two - on either side of the river. The bedraggled second group (consisting of a teacher and four students) beds down for the night, resting up for what tomorrow might bring. What tomorrow brings is a group that has been drugged, a teacher that won't wake up and words inked onto each teen's arm. Damaged, Deceptive, Dangerous, Darling.

Uh, huh. There's someone in the woods. Playing games - with their lives.

"Lucas was right. This is a trap, a carefully constructed production. And we played our parts to perfection."

One Was Lost absolutely brought a slasher teen flick to mind. The kind where you want to yell at the characters to not go into the woods alone. (and someone always does) Richards does a good job of casting suspicion on every character as the book progresses. Interactions between the four - who were not friends before the trip - also adds to the confusion and doubt. Who can they trust?And it wouldn't be a YA book without the obligatory romantic subplot. Our main character Sera has fallen for local bad boy Luke, but the path to true love is a rocky one. Very rocky if you're stuck in the woods with a maniac trying to kill you.

The whodunit is a bit far-fetched, but provides a nice little twist at the end. But the journey there was an enjoyable, easy read.

For me, YA fiction is fun escapist reading. One Was Lost was the perfect one night read for a dark and stormy night. (and the cover telegraphs that too) My only quibble would be the recommendation of  One Was Lost by the publisher to fans of Ruth Ware's In a Dark, Dark Wood. Ware's work is an adult novel that really cannot be compared to this YA book. But I think teens will love it. Read an excerpt of One Was Lost.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Over the Counter #335

What books caught my yes this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Performers this week.....dead and/or alive.....

First up is The Tao of Bill Murray: Real-Life Stories of Joy, Enlightenment, and Party Crashing by Gavin Edwards.

From the publisher, Random House:

"This collection of the most epic, hilarious, and strange Bill Murray stories, many of which have never before been reported, spotlights the star’s extraordinary ability to infuse the everyday with surprise, absurdity, and wonder.

No one will ever believe you.

New York Times bestselling author Gavin Edwards, like the rest of us, has always been fascinated with Bill Murray—in particular the beloved actor’s adventures off-screen, which rival his filmography for sheer entertainment value. Edwards traveled to the places where Murray has lived, worked, and partied, in search of the most outrageous and hilarious Bill Murray stories from the past four decades, many of which have never before been reported. Bill once paid a child five dollars to ride his bike into a swimming pool. The star convinced Harvard’s JV women’s basketball team to play with him in a private game of hoops. Many of these surreal encounters ended with Bill whispering, “No one will ever believe you” into a stranger’s ear. But The Tao of Bill Murray is more than just a collection of wacky anecdotes. This volume puts the actor’s public clowning into a larger context, as Edwards distills Murray’s unique way of being into a set of guiding principles. A sideways mix of comedy and philosophy, full of photo bombs, late-night party crashes, and movie-set antics, this is the perfect book for anyone who calls themselves a Bill Murray fan—which is to say, everyone."

Next up is Elvis is Alive: The Complete Conspiracy by Xaviant Haze.

From the publisher, Adventures Unlimited Press:

"Oh Elvis, where art thou? Living on the Moon? Witness Protection? Kalamazoo? For more than 35 years Elvis lovers have been asking themselves this question, desperately wanting to believe their musical hero is still alive. Seeking to finally put the matter to rest, Xaviant Haze blows the Elvis conspiracies vault wide open with the first book dedicated solely to the mysteries surrounding the King of Rock n’ Roll. While giving an accurate and concise history of the King's life, he also illustrates how Elvis's talent was seized and controlled by the darker forces within the entertainment industry. The rise of an artist to celebrity status, his work while a mind control victim and his (or her) ultimate self-destruction has become an all-too-familiar story in pop culture, so frequently seen it can hardly be considered a coincidence. But Elvis was no manufactured Disney creation, he was a true one-of-a-kind talent rising from epic poverty to become one of the most iconic entertainers the world has ever seen. His was a tale of screaming fans, groundbreaking music, untold riches, dizzying fame and a spectacular free fall into obliteration. It was also a tale of UFO encounters, zany fake funerals, studies in metaphysics, numerology, occult theology—and a strange connection with Michael Jackson. An infamous pill addiction led the King to an early “death” and in the aftermath a pop culture phenomenon was born, enabling Elvis to sustain a famous afterlife thanks to over three decades of conspiracy theories. It’s time to reexamine these theories and put to rest once and for all the notion that Elvis could have faked his own death. If we can…"

(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, October 4, 2016

The Heavens May Fall - Allen Eskens

You know that little frisson of excitement you get when you start to read a new author and realize you've found someone who is good, really good? I had that feeling when I read Allen Eskens' award winning debut novel, The Life We Bury, in 2014. (my review) The next book, The Guise of Another was just as good. (my review) On re-reading my review, I see that Max Rupert, was my favourite character in TGOA and that 'I'd love to see him in another book, even in a peripheral role."

Well, I got my wish! Detective Max Rupert is the lead character in Esken's just released third book, The Heavens May Fall.

Jennavieve Pruitt is found dead, her body dumped in an alley. But the original crime scene is her own bedroom. Jennavieve's husband, attorney Ben Pruitt was out of town, that day. But, Pruitt has a history with the police, specifically with Rupert. Despite his claims of innocence, Rupert likes him for the crime. This is the case that Rupert pulls on the anniversary of his own wife's unsolved murder.

Lawyer Boady Sanden is a friend to both men. When Pruitt asks him to represent him - even before any charges have brought - Sanden hesitates....he had to walk away from the law six years ago for personal reasons. But in the end he agrees.

Eskens has crafted another great plot, giving the reader the best of two genres - police procedural and legal reads. The final reveal of whodunit at the end, complete with a nice little twist was great. The ongoing search for Rupert's wife's murderer provides a nice sub-plot.

But Eskens takes things a step further in his novels. His characters have depth and introspective voices. The Heavens May Fall is told from two perspectives - that of Max and Boady. The reader sees the investigation and trial from two different viewpoints. But what we also see is the inner turmoil of each man, their search for personal peace of mind against the search for justice. Friendship and loyalty are also pitted against justice.

I always enjoy coming across the origins of a book's title as I read. In this case...

"Fiat justitia ruat caelum - do justice though the heavens may fall. If a person is ever presented with the choice, that person must always do what is right even though it may bring on great personal loss."

Eskens himself is a defense lawyer. That credibility, combined with his impressive writing chops, makes for some great reading. The Heavens My Fall could absolutely be read as a stand-alone. But do yourself a favour and pick up the previous two as well. You won't be disappointed. Read an excerpt of The Heavens May Fall.

And as before, I hope to see Max Rupert in Esken's next book. You can connect with Allen Eskens on his website, follow him on Twitter and like him on Facebook.