Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year!

Gosh, the older I get, the faster the years fly. I remember my grandmother saying that - and now I get it!

I want to wish you all a Happy New Year  and all the best to you and yours.

Thank you to all of you who stop by A Bookworm's World and share my love of books.

This is the time of year when we all swear off excesses, but books are the one excess I have no interest in swearing off!

Here's to all the new releases just waiting for us in 2017!

Friday, December 30, 2016

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #138

- 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 do enjoy a good lighthearted read once in awhile, in between all the mysteries and thrillers. Here's one I've got my eye on. Miss You by Kate Eberlen. The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. The heart is quite clever on the UK cover, incorporating the title. And there's a nice cover blurb from an established chick lit author. But I find it a little stark and I'm not sure I would be inclined to pick it up. By contrast, the US cover is very busy. (It reminded me a bit of a patchwork quilt - yes I'm a quilter). I think it gives a better idea of what the premise of the book is. (Missed connections over many years and locales.) So for me this week it's the US cover. Any plans to read Miss You? Which cover do you prefer? 
 You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World. 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Silence Between Breaths - Cath Staincliffe

Cath Staincliffe is an award winning British crime novelist and screenwriter. Her latest novel is The Silence Between Breaths. Reading between the cover words, you can see the tagline: Eight Strangers. One Deadly Secret.

Mirroring current newspaper headlines, Staincliffe's novel takes place on a British commuter train. We meet the residents of one car, as well as an employee working that car. The Silence Between Breaths is an ensemble novel with a large number of players - the eight and their extended familial connections. I must admit, I initially made a list to keep straight who was who, but it didn't take me too long to readily recognize then all. Staincliffe had created rich, detailed lives, personalities and individual voices for each character. Not all are likeable, but their lives are compelling.

Of course I wanted to know what the secret was. It's revealed fairly early on in the book and was what I had suspected. But knowing the secret only made me more curious. What is going to happen? And how will the passengers react? What will befall them? And having to come to know the details of their lives only heightened the anticipation of dread.

That event takes place, but Staincliffe takes things further, following the 'after' story as well, which I really appreciated. It gave the story closure of a sort, a final ending instead of leaving the reader to wonder about the aftermath. There is action and tension throughout the story, but the book is definitely character driven. Staincliffe has excelled at her depictions. Fiction, but not that far from the truth.

Fans of Noah Hawley's Before the Fall would enjoy The Silence Between Breaths. Read an excerpt of The Silence Between Breaths. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Over the Counter #346

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner. Well, with a New Year comes resolutions and change.....

First up is How to Relax by Thich Nhat Hanh.

From the publisher, Parallax Press:

"In How to Relax, Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh shares inspiration and clear, simple directions for exploring mindfulness meditation. With sections on healing, relief from nonstop thinking, transforming unpleasant sounds, solitude, being at peace, and more, How to Relax includes meditations to help you achieve the benefits of relaxation no matter where you are. Pocket–sized with two–color sumi ink drawings throughout by celebrated artist Jason DeAntonis, How to Relax is perfect for those brand-new to meditation as well as those looking to deepen their spiritual practice."

In How to Relax, Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh shares inspiration and clear, simple directions for exploring mindfulness meditation. With sections on healing, relief from nonstop thinking, transforming unpleasant sounds, solitude, being at peace, and more, How to Relax includes meditations to help you achieve the benefits of relaxation no matter where you are."

Next up is Forever Painless: Lasting Relief Through Gentle Movement by Miranda Esmonde-White.

From the publisher, Penguin Random House Canada:

"In Forever Painless, Miranda Esmonde-White introduces us to a new understanding of how chronic pain begins when our muscles become unbalanced and cause connective tissue problems. Something as common as daily habits or as unexpected as accidents or injuries create imbalance, and we compensate by favouring our weaker part, leading to strain on our feet, ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, upper back, lower back, elbows, wrists or neck--and eventually such conditions as arthritis, chronic back pain, plantar fasciitis and fibromyalgia. Hips and knees are especially problematic: surgeons often tell those with chronic hip or knee pain to tough it out and come back in two or three years when the damage is sufficiently severe that only a joint replacement will do. Forever Painless deals with preventing and reversing imbalances so you can live a pain-free life.

Forever Painless will teach you a new way of looking at your body, providing neurological and physiological explanations of the causes of most chronic pain and teaching you simple exercises that real people have used to become free of pain and regain mobility. Among those who have conquered their pain using the techniques in this book: the director of child services in New York City who used these exercises to recover from disabling chronic back pain; an accountant who avoided major bone reconstruction surgery through 20 minutes a day of stretching and strengthening; a prima ballerina whose career was extended by five years when Esmonde-White's exercises relieved her debilitating hip pain. "It's time to change our relationship with chronic pain," Esmonde-White writes. "The solution is right under our noses, it's free, and it doesn't require drugs or surgery: it's gentle rebalancing exercises."

(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, December 27, 2016

Kill the Next One - Federico Axat

Kill the Next One marks Federico Axat's North American debut. Translation rights for this novel have been sold in twenty-nine countries.

Ted McKay seems to have it all - beautiful wife, two lovely little girls and a high-paying job. But when he is diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour, Ted decides to end it all. He is sitting with his gun to his head in his study when the doorbell rings. And whoever it is starts shouting that he knows what he is doing. And then there's the note in Ted's pocket in his own handwriting, "Open the door. It's your only way out."

I was intrigued and even more so when Ted lets the stranger in and he proposes that Ted end things - but with a twist. First, he should kill a 'deserving' criminal and then another man with a terminal illness. After that, someone will do the same for Ted.

Great premise eh? And Ted decides it's a great idea. But it's not as straight forward as all that. Axat has created one of the most unreliable narrators I've read in a while. Is what's happening really what's happening? Ted's memories are confused, his narrative of what's going on is cloudy and his thinking becomes muddled. What is the truth?

Axat has penned a very clever, but convoluted plot. The reader will need to be on their toes to keep on top of the next iteration. I adore unreliable narrators, but about two thirds of the way through, I grew tired of Ted's ever changing narrative. I had my suspicions as to what the final 'reveal' was going to be - and I was proven correct. From the publisher's initial description of the book, I expected a very different read.

I never truly engaged with either Ted or his story - instead I felt like a distanced observer. Additionally, without providing any spoilers, the possum seemed liked an add on plot device to me. Fair warning to gentle readers - there is a gratuitous animal torture scene near the end of the book that doesn't need to be there and adds nothing to the story.

Sadly, this was a bit of a letdown for me. But, see for yourself - read an excerpt of Kill the Next One.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Hillbilly Elegy - J.D. Vance

There are certain types of memoirs I am drawn to - not the celebrities, the rich, the famous. No, I am drawn to the stories of ordinary people. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance is one of those stories.

"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 that's just the surface story. Vance takes us inside the struggle of generations of his family to attain that 'American Dream.'

Vance pulls no punches, discussing the alcoholism, drug addiction, violence and abject poverty that were an everyday part of their lives. But on the flip side of the coin you'll find the strong family ties, the unwavering love, loyalty and determination to persevere and succeed. His family's story is not unique. It's the story of every disenfranchised working class family in America.

Vance is unflinching in his honest exploration of his roots. And I felt privileged to be part of that. The book is read by the author, adding an even more personal touch to his work. And honestly, I would have loved to have met Vance's beloved grandmother "Mamaw, who was an integral part of his own success.

Absolutely fantastic listen! Listen to an excerpt here. Or read an excerpt here.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

'Twas The Night Before Christmas - Clement Clarke Moore

" 'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,

Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."

Friday, December 23, 2016

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #137

- 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
Emma Flint's novel Little Deaths releases in January. It has generated some buzz - enough for me to add it to the ever teetering TBR pile. (Inspiration for the book is from a real case.) The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. Alright, so both have red tones/white fonts, Jeffery Deaver blurbs and our overdone woman on the cover. I do prefer the US cover this week - I think looking out the window and down at something conveys some problem/mystery/incident. I prefer the partial face as well - I dislike full face shots on covers. I would much rather form my own visual images from the author's words. What about you? Any plans to read Little Deaths? Which cover do you prefer this week? You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World. 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Wolf Road - Beth Lewis

I've been perusing some of those 'best books of the year' lists as 2016 draws to a close. The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis was on one of those lists. And I knew I had a copy buried in the TBR pile. Well.....I should have read it the minute it arrived. What a fantastic read! And I absolutely agree with the 'best of' designation!

Sometime in the future - after the apocalyptic 'Big Damn Stupid' has happened - the world has carried on. But in BeeCee it has reverted back to a wild west, frontier law, fend for yourself society.

And it is into this world that our protagonist is born. Lost in the woods as a seven year old, she is found and raised by a man she calls Trapper. He names her Elka. It's a hard life, but Elka grows into a proficient survivalist, able to fend for herself in the woods. Life seems destined to continue the way it has until Elka sees a wanted poster in town - with Trapper's face on it. It seems that Trapper hunts more than wild game. Now on the run from him and hoping to find her long lost parents up in the gold fields, Elka encounters what the world has now become. Desperate, dirty and dangerous.

What a protagonist! Her thoughts, voice and actions as she makes her way north held me spellbound. I was on the edge of my seat constantly as Lewis threw up one more situation and then another and another for Elka. (And I'm going to admit here, I broke my own rule - I peeked ahead more than once. I just couldn't stand the tension!)

Lewis's setting was instantly recognizable for this reader - the book is set in British Columbia (BeeCee)  Couver (Vancouver) is also mentioned. What a unique genre - apocalyptic, western, thriller. Love, love, loved it. True Grit meets Hanna meets Winter's Bone. Read an excerpt of The Wolf Road. I really hope that Beth Lewis is hard at work on her next novel.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Over the Counter # 345

What book caught my eye this week as it passed over the library counter and under my scanner. Well, being so close to Christmas.....

....Scrooge #worstgiftever by Charles Dickens and Brett Wright did.

From the publisher, Random House Books for Young Readers:

"A Christmas Carol, one of the holiday’s greatest traditions told . . . in texts?!

Imagine: What if Scrooge, Marley, the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, and the whole Cratchit family had smartphones? A classic is reborn in this clever adaptation of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol!

One grouchy old man who can’t stop asking “How did you get this number?!”
Three ghosts who communicate in the most modern ways, including one who ONLY uses emojis!
And a status update with the most “likes” ever: God bless us, everyone!

This retelling will cure even the worst bout of Bah hummingbird! #darnyouautocorrect

A glossary and cast of characters are included for those who need it."

(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, December 20, 2016

The Christmas Surprise - Jenny Colgan

I really enjoy Jenny Colgan's books. They're filled with sweet lead characters, a quirky supporting cast and always a lovely little village setting. Colgan writes a number of series. The Christmas Surprise is part of the Rosie Hopkins series. Note that this was released as Christmas at Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop in Britain in 2013. This latest edition has a new cover and has been released as an e-book.

I happily settled in for the night with a pot of tea and a warm throw and lost myself in the village of Lipton. (For those not familiar with the series or characters, Colgan provides a lovely prologue, full of descriptions of players, relationships and what's gone on before. She's quite funny!)

Rosie and her fiance Stephen have the best of news - and the worst of news around Christmastime. The Christmas Surprise takes us through a year of life with this village and its inhabitants ending with the next Christmas. And in between, there are hopes, dreams, desires, missteps, miscommunications - and lots and lots of love.

Yes, some of the characters are cliched - but I enjoyed them all. And I would be quite happy, living in Lipton. I wish there were truly communities such as this that cared about each other. I love reading this type of tale - knowing there's a 'happy ever after' at the end. Warm, witty and oh so perfect for this time of the year. Read an excerpt of The Christmas Surprise.

I received this book from Harper Collins for review.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Inheriting Edith - Zoe Fishman

Inheriting Edith is Zoe Fishman's latest book.

Maggie is a single mom who has been working as a house cleaner. One of her clients is a well known author, who treats her well. But when Liza kills herself, Maggie is stunned to find out that she has been left a house in Sag Harbor - complete with the author's eighty year old mother Edith - who has Alzheimer's.

This reader was immediately engaged with Fishman's characters. I think each reader will have a favorite character, based on their stage of life. Maggie is a pull no punches woman, struggling to do her best by her little daughter, who has a voice in the story as well. (Some of her dialogue is a bit advanced for the age of the child, but out of the mouth of babes...) Edith is the character who spoke to me the most. Her struggle with memory, everyday living and putting the past right struck close to home for me. I thought Fishman did a great job portraying the everyday issues that come with Alzheimer's  - from both Edith and Maggie's viewpoint. I did find Edith's friend Lillian a bit overdrawn and over the top.

There aren't a lot of surprises in Inheriting Edith - this type of story has been written before. But Fishman's premise was unique and I found her exploration of motherhood, friendship, grief, aging, illness, self discovery and yes, love, to be thoughtful. I think book clubs would enjoy this novel.

If you're in the mood for a heart string tugging tale, consider Inheriting Edith. Read an excerpt of Inheriting Edith.

You can connect with Zoe Fishman on her website and follow her on Twitter.

I received this book from Harper Collins for review.

Friday, December 16, 2016

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #136

- 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
Jonathan Moore writes dark thrillers. His forthcoming book is The Dark Room. The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. Both covers are suitably dark, given the title and the premise of the book. I think the font on the US covers makes more of an impact. The lock on the UK cover definitely hints at something dark that should be locked away. It has a worn, kind of cobwebby look to it. I think I'm going to go with the US cover this week. That light peeking out from the door jamb has me wondering what's inside the room - and the book. One negative for me on both covers - a James Patterson blurb. What about you? Which cover do you prefer? Any plans to read The Dark Room? You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World. 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Dear Amy - Helen Callaghan

Dear Amy is the debut novel from Amy Callaghan.

Margot teaches English at a private school in England. She also writes an advice column for the local newspaper. She feels like a bit of a fraud though, handing out advice as her own personal life is a bit of a mess.

Then Katie, one of her students disappears. And shortly after a 'help me' note arrives for 'Dear Amy' at the newspaper office from girl named Bethan - who also disappeared - twenty years ago.  Is someone playing a horrible joke? Or could the author of the letter really be Bethan? Could she still be alive? Then another letter arrives and Margot finds herself involved in the investigation. Great premise!

Dear Amy is told in first person from Margot's point of view. But as the book progresses, I began to have my doubts about Margot's outlook. Yes, Callaghan employed one of my favourite plot devices - the unreliable narrator. Margot is mercurial - hard to pin down and somewhat difficult to like. But that's okay with me - I don't necessarily need to like every character in a novel to enjoy the book.  The perpetrator of the crimes is also given a voice - and their thoughts are distinctly chilling.

As the pages turned, I began to think I had things figured out. Turns out I did, but kept turning as I wanted to see how the story played out. The pacing did seem to slow down in the latter third of the book and I think the resolution could have been reached a bit quicker. And I'm not sure if the romantic subplot was even necessary (or for this reader, believable).

Overall, I enjoyed Dear Amy. It was entertaining and I liked Callaghan's writing.  A good debut novel and I look forward to the next book from Helen Callaghan. Read an excerpt of Dear Amy.

You can learn more about Helen at her website, like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Over the Counter #344

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? This week's connection is an animal in the title....

First up is How to Talk to Your Cat About Gun Safety: and Abstinence, Drugs, Satanism and Other Dangers that Threaten Their Nine Lives by Zachary Auburn.

From the publisher, Three Rivers Press:

"The cats of America are under siege!

Long gone are the good old days when a cat’s biggest worries were mean dogs or a bath. Modern cats must confront satanists, online predators, the possibility of needing to survive in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, and countless other threats to their nine lives.

For over four decades, the American Association of Patriots have stood at the vanguard of our country’s defense by helping to prepare our nation’s cat owners for the difficult conversations they dread having with their pets. Written in a simple Q&A format, How to Talk to Your Cat About Gun Safety answers crucial questions such as, “What is the right age to talk to my cat about the proper use of firearms?” and “What are the benefits of my cat living a lifestyle of abstinence?” and especially “Why does my cat need to use the internet? Can’t he just play with yarn like cats used to do?”

Our country—and our cats—stand at a precipice. It will take courage, and it will take hard work, but armed with the knowledge within these pages, we can make our cats—and America—great again!"

And on a more serious note, The Coyote's Bicycle: The Untold Story of the Rise of a Borderland Empire Paperback by Kimball Taylor.

From the publisher, Tin House Books:

"It wasn’t surprising when the first abandoned bicycles were found along the dirt roads and farmland just across the border from Tijuana—the area’s residents were accustomed to all kinds of refuse and detritus—but the bikes kept coming: mountain bikes, touring bikes, BMXs, and beach cruisers, all piling up, day after day. They went from curiosity, to nuisance, to phenomenon. But until they caught the eye of journalist Kimball Taylor, only a small cadre of human smugglers—coyotes—and migrants could say how or why they’d gotten there. This is the true story of 7,000 bikes that made an incredible journey and one young man from Oaxaca who arrived at the border with nothing but the clothes on his back, built a small empire, and then vanished. Taylor follows the trail of the border bikes as they make their way through a surprisingly diverse spectrum of society’s most powerful institutions, and, with the help of an unlikely source, he reconstructs the rise of one of Tijuana’s most innovative coyotes. Touching on issues of immigration and globalization, as well as the history of the US/Mexico border, The Coyote’s Bicycle is at once an immersive investigation of an outrageous occurrence and a true-crime, rags-to-riches, coming-of-age story."

(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, December 13, 2016

The Christmas Angel Project - Melody Carlson

December always brings the desire to read Christmas fiction for me. And to remember the real 'reason for the season.' The Christmas Angel Project by Melody Carlson was absolutely perfect on both counts.

The prologue introduces us to Abby, who is putting the finishing touches on some personal Christmas gifts for her friends, all members of their book club. Now, this isn't a spoiler as it's the first chapter - but Abby passes away.

The reader is privy to the shock and grief that her four friends experience when they hear this news. Each of the four has a very different personality and different reaction to the news of Abby's death. She played a unique role in each woman's life.When Abby's husband delivers the gifts to the group, they take what Abby has given them and turn it to something even more special. They decide to become 'Christmas Angels' and help members of their community.

"Angels should be capable of making miracles in other people's lives......Suddenly they were all talking, suggesting ways they might help others, good deeds they might do, ways to 'pay it forward'."

I loved this idea - it's absolutely one each of us should put into play in our own lives and community - at any time of the year. Matthew 6

Carlson's characters are very likeable in their honesty, doubts, beliefs and struggles. I enjoyed that they were all from different walks and stages of life. (And I would enjoy them as friends as well) She has created unique ideas for each character to carry out their good deeds. I enjoyed seeing their plans come to fruition. Carlson also includes a lovely romantic subplot for one of the characters.

Looking for an sweet, inspirational, heart-warming holiday tale with a wonderful message? Pick up The Christmas Angel Project. Best enjoyed with a cup of tea looking out at the snow. Read an excerpt of The Christmas Angel Project.

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Other Widow - Susan Crawford

I really enjoyed Susan Crawford's debut novel - The Pocket Wife. (my review) The Other Widow is her new novel.

Dorrie has been having an affair with her boss Joe. On the night he decides to end it, the car they are sitting in is hit. Desperate to not have her husband find out about the affair, Dorrie runs. Sure that Joe is dead she calls 911, but when the EMTs arrive, there is no Joe.

Joe's wife Karen is on her way home after a night out with a friend, sharing her suspicions that her husband has been having an affair, when she spies what looks like Joe's car - smashed.

Maggie, a former cop turned insurance investigator, is assigned the claim. She thinks there's much more to it than meets the eye.

Well, she's right - there are secrets bubbling beneath the surface for all three women. Will they stay hidden or come to light? What happened to Joe? Why? He too kept secrets. And someone out there knows them.

Crawford keeps the reader guessing as we see the story through three pairs of eyes, each with their own agenda. Crawford delves deeper into relationships in this book, giving these subjects equal time with the mystery plot line. Personally, I prefer a faster driven novel when I think 'psychological suspense.'

I just didn't like either Dorrie or Karen and felt no sympathy for either of them. Maggie I liked very much. She seemed 'real' and I empathized with her struggles with PTSD. I liked her dogged determination to solve the crime, falling back on her old professional skills. I think Maggie has more stories to tell and hope that Crawford considers bringing her back in future novels.

I had my suspicions as to 'whodunit' and was proven correct by the end. The run up to the final pages seemed a bit rushed. I found the plot a little convoluted and overly convenient in parts. But that didn't deter me from turning pages to see where Crawford would take things. Read an excerpt of The Other Widow.

"Susan Crawford grew up in Miami, Florida, and graduated from the University of Miami with a BA in English and a minor in psychology. She later moved to New York City and then Boston before settling in Atlanta to raise three daughters and work in the field of adult education. A member of the Atlanta Writers Club and the Village Writers, Susan teaches at Georgia Piedmont Technical College and dabbles in local politics. She lives with her husband and a trio of rescue cats in Atlanta, where she enjoys reading books, writing books, rainy days, and spending time with the people she loves." Find out more about Susan at her website, like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

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.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Product Review - Seagull Black Laptop Backpack

Now that I am flying so much, I needed to re-evaluate what I was travelling with as onboard luggage. As well as how many bags I was toting travelling back and for each day to work.

I was offered the opportunity to try out the Seagull Black Laptop Backpack. While it holds up to a 15.6" laptop, I live and breath on my Ipad, which comfortably fits in the padded computer slot, secured with a velcro closure.

Both the back and backpack straps are padded for comfort. The straps are adjustable and are securely fastened to the main unit. There is lots and lots of storage in this backpack. There is a pocket and sunglasses hanger on the straps. Two water bottle nets are on each exterior side. There are five zippered pouches of increasing size in this backpack, not including an interior pen/pencil/phone (eyelet headphone slot as well)  storage.

The exterior would repel rain, but is not completely waterproof - don't set it in a puddle! An exterior carry handle at the top allows the backpack to be carried by hand or attached to a suitcase. The zipper teeth are medium weight nylon, the pulls are metal and both seem quite sturdy. Side clasps allow the user to keep the pack in tight or looser mode.

There is a great deal of room in this backpack! It would suffice for a weekend bag - and it meets the carry on measurements for plane travel. I've loaded my lunch and workday bits and bobs in and there's still room for me. It looks good too with the black (won't show the dirt!) and red accents. Overall I really like it!

Friday, December 9, 2016

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #135

- 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
My Not So Perfect Life is a stand alone novel forthcoming from Sophie Kinsella. It sounds like a fun read, so I've added it to my TBR list. The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. So, let's take a peek - two very different backgrounds - green vs. white and two very different looks. I have to admit - I just don't like the overall look or feel of the US cover. The image seems very dated and old to me and the premise of the novel is quite modern. I find the UK cover bright and enticing and it seems to promise a fun, light read much more than the US cover. Which cover do you prefer? Any plans to read My Not So Perfect Life? You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World. 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Rains - Gregg Hurwitz

Quite a few of my favourite adult authors have started writing young adult books - many of them series.

Gregg Hurwitz has just released The Rains  - the first in his new young adult series. And though it's marketed to teens, this adult reader quite enjoyed The Rains.

That ominous cover would lead you to believe weather is the inspiration for the book title. Well, something does fall from the sky, but it's not rain. Instead it's some sort of parasitic spore that infects anyone over eighteen, turning them into some sort of zombie. The driving force behind this attack may be  an alien race. So, who are the Rains? Fifteen year old Chance Rain and his seventeen year old brother Patrick Rain. And the third person on the cover is Patrick's girlfriend Alex. Together, they're leading force behind the battle for survival for the rest of the under eighteens kids.

Chance is our narrator - indeed it is his journal we are reading. "If you're reading this, your life is at risk. Maybe, just maybe these pages will give you a chance."

Hurwitz has plotted an inventive mashup between aliens and zombies and added lots of action and nail biting scenarios. But he has also developed his lead characters well. They have depth and feeling and the reader will immediately be drawn to them., especially Chance. Chance does a lot of growing up as the book progresses. There is also a romantic thread running through the book between Patrick and Alex, but it too is portrayed realistically. Alex is just as strong a lead as the boys. The relationship between the brothers is well drawn, believable and heartstring tugging.  And with every story there has to be a negative character. Readers will love to hate Ben, who is the antithesis of the boys. Hurwitz himself is the owner of a number of Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs. In the book, Chance also raises Ridgebacks. They too endear themselves to the reader as part of the 'good guys' team. (But I have to say, there's one chapter where I yelled No, no, no!)

I liked the rural setting - our heroes are a little more down to earth and pragmatic than some of the zombie novels set in cityscapes. A few of the plot devices are a bit too pat - but this is the adult mystery reader in me speaking. Just go with the flow and enjoy The Rains. It's a great addition to the teen fiction scene and would appeal to both male and female readers. See for yourself - read an excerpt of The Rains.

You can connect with Gregg Hurwitz on his website, like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.  And keep your eyes peeled for the next book -  Last Chance.

The Other Child - Lucy Atkins

Clare Mackintosh's blurb on the cover of Lucy Atkin's novel The Other Child caught my eye and introduced me to a new (to me) author.

British single mom Tess falls head over heels for American born surgeon Greg. When he is offered a promotion in America, Tess and Greg decide to marry before moving to the US. That and there's a new brother or sister on the way for her son Joe.

But everything is decidedly not rosy when they arrive in Boston. The house is too large and sterile. The neighbourhood is like a showcase, the neighbours are standoffish, if not downright rude, Tess is alone much of the time and Joe is having trouble assimilating. But things only go downhill from there - is Greg having an affair with the neighbour? Who is that dark figure she sees standing staring at her house? Has someone been in the house? Tess thought she knew her husband well, but now begins to doubt him - and starts looking into his past. And what she finds begs the question: 'How well do you know your husband?'

This is the kind of book I love to read. You know - if it was a movie, you'd be yelling at the actor - 'Don't go in the basement!". That's what I wanted to do - yell at Tess - 'Can't you see he's lying!' But no, Tess keeps making excuses for his behaviour, for what might be going on, for the little white lies...

There were a few convenient plot devices that I questioned - it's my pragmatic nature. But, I let it go and kept reading. I wanted to keep turning pages - it's that kind of book. What will happen next? Is Tess really in danger? What secrets is Greg hiding? The tension builds with every new chapter.

I was a bit unhappy with some of the choices Tess made regarding Joe's care. The ending isn't quite what I imagined the final pages would bring - I would have liked a different outcome. Even so, I found The Other Child quite entertaining. Read an excerpt of The Other Child.

You can connect with Lucy Atkins on her website and follow her on Twitter. Watch for Lucy Atkins' new book, The Night Visitor, coming in June 2017. I'll be picking it up.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Over the Counter #343

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? This week it's stuff - too much stuff......

Junk : digging through America's love affair with stuff  by Alison Stewart.

From the publisher, Chicago Review Press;

"Junk has become ubiquitous in America today. Who doesn’t have a basement, attic, closet, or storage unit filled with stuff too good to throw away? Or, more accurately, stuff you think is too good to throw away.

When journalist and author Alison Stewart was confronted with emptying her late parents’ overloaded basement, a job that dragged on for months, it got her thinking: How did it come to this? Why do smart, successful people hold on to old Christmas bows, chipped knick-knacks, VHS tapes, and books they would likely never reread? She discovered she was not alone.

Junk details Stewart’s three-year investigation into America’s stuff, lots and lots and lots of stuff. Stewart rides along with junk removal teams from around the country such as Trash Daddy, Annie Haul, and Junk Vets. She goes backstage to a taping of Antiques Roadshow, and learns what makes for compelling junk-based television with the executive producer of Pawn Stars. And she even investigates the growing problem of space junk—23,000 pieces of manmade debris orbiting the planet at 17,500 mph, threatening both satellites and human space exploration.

But it’s not all dire. There are creative solutions to America’s overburdened consumer culture. Stewart visits with Deron Beal, founder of FreeCycle, an online community of people who would rather give away than throw away their no-longer-needed possessions. She spends a day at a Repair CafĂ©, where volunteer tinkerers bring new life to broken appliances, toys, and just about anything. Stewart also explores communities of “tiny houses” without attics and basements in which to stash the owners’ trash.
Junk is a delightful journey through 250-mile-long yard sales, and packrat dens, both human and rodent, that for most readers will look surprisingly familiar."

Next up is Downsizing The Family Home: What to Save, What to Let Go by Marni Jameson and Mark Burnetz.   

"It’s a rite of passage almost no one will escape: the difficult, emotional journey of downsizing your or your aging parents' home. Here, nationally syndicated home columnist Marni Jameson sensitively guides readers through the process, from opening that first closet, to sorting through a lifetime's worth of possessions, to selling the homestead itself. Using her own personal journey as a basis, she helps you figure out a strategy and create a mindset to accomplish the task quickly, respectfully, rewardingly—and, in the best of situations, even memorably. Throughout, she combines her been-there experience with insights from national experts—antiques appraisers, garage-sale gurus, professional organizers, and psychologists—to offer practical wisdom and heartwarming advice so you know with certainty what to keep, toss or sell."

(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, December 6, 2016

The Lost Gift: A Christmas Story - Kallie George and Stephanie Graegin

There's nothing like reading holiday books to get ready for Christmas!

Author Kallie George and Illustrator Stephanie Graegin have a new Christmas story out called The Lost Gift.

Santa and his sack of gifts are flying over the forest when a gift tumbles out of the sleigh, unnoticed by Santa. But four animals of the forest, Bird, Rabbit, Deer, and Squirrel, take notice and wonder what they should do.

The animals debate on what should be and this opens up many opportunities for discussion with your child in the The Lost Gift. What would you do if you found a parcel meant for someone else? Lots of right/wrong and feeling questions that could be brought up. What do you think is in the parcel? What are you hoping for for Christmas? George's story is thoughtful and I like that it's brought to life with animals as the main character.

There's always one in the crowd - and this time it's Squirrel, who provides the negative outlook. Again, more discussion opportunities about friends.

The 'word pages' are laid out well, offering up time to enjoy the illustrations as well. Again, lots of inspiration for talking about your family's traditions - tree decorating, visiting etc. for example.

The faces and expressions of the animals are appealing and kind. Graegin's illustrations match the tone and tenor of the story, are detailed (I enjoyed finding the little house on various pages) and colorful.

George has penned a wonderful message in The Lost Gift - perfect for this time of the year. Thumbs up from Little Guy and Gramma for this sweet, charming tale. The Lost Gift has been added to their holiday bookshelf, ready for future Christmastime reading. Peek inside The Lost Gift.

The Twelve Days of Christmas: A Peek-Through Picture Book - Britta Teckentrup

It's that time of the year! Christmas is around the corner!

Britta Teckentrup has a taken the classic Yuletide song, The Twelve Days of Christmas, and written and illustrated a peek-through picture book for the younger crowd.

Teckentrup's elves have engaging, welcoming faces, sure to draw a child in. The cover's snowflakes and holly are in silver foil, giving the book a definite festive feel and look.

Most of us know the song, with the number of gifts increasing on each day. Teckentrup starts with a small cutout for day one of just the partridge in the pear tree. My little guy was immediately drawn to the cut out on the right hand page, wanting to know what was on the next page, and the next and the next. With each turned page, the cut-out increases in size to accommodate the growing number of gifts. (Trivia fact - if you received all the gifts you would have 364!)

There are many ways to enjoy this book - we sang the song, pointed to the right gifts/pictures and did some counting as well. By the time we reached the last page, it was full of presents. For these eyes, they were a bit small (necessary to fit them all in) but little guy has sharp eyes and enjoyed pointing out the details to me. The illustrations are quite detailed and have a vintage feel to them.

The left hand page is paler than the more vibrant cut-out page - which certainly directs your attention the main area. But, I thought that perhaps providing more to look at on the opposite page - elves to find or elves engaged in some activity - would have provided even more reading/viewing opportunities.

This book is geared for preschool to grade 2 - perfect for little guy and Gramma. We quite enjoyed Britta Teckentrup's interpretation of this classic holiday favorite. The book been added to their holiday bookshelf and will be part of future Christmastime traditions.

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Witches of New York - Ami McKay

Don't you love the cover of Ami McKay's latest book - The Witches of New York?

I had no idea what it was about when I picked it up, but I love McKay's writing, so I knew it would be good. And it was wonderful - literally magical!

I began to read and was thrilled to find a character named Moth from McKay's The Virgin Cure. Moth has reinvented herself as Adelaide Thom and opened a tea shop with Eleanor St. Clair. The two women sell more than tea though. Eleanor outright describes herself as a witch and Adelaide has an innate ability to read people. When young Beatrice Dunn arrives looking for employment, Eleanor recognizes the untapped abilities and power the girl possesses. McKay's lead characters are magical, but not perfect which hits the right note. Others also see Beatrice's potential - witch hunters, religious fanatics, those desperate to contact the dead and an alienist. The sense of impending danger from these players had me not wanting to turn the page at some junctures. But of course I had to. There are also some decidedly unusual supporting characters - a raven who may not really be a bird, myriad ghosts and a pair of dream fairies.

The setting is just as much of a player in the novel. McKay's depiction of 1880's New York conjured up vivid scenes crackling with detail and interspersed with historical fact. McKay captures the tone and fascination of the time period with conversing with the spirit world. And she had me wondering as well as I read the spells, wondered about that sudden breeze in a closed room and tried to remember the dream I had last night.

McKay's prose are meant to be read slowly, savouring each sentence and situation and pausing to wonder what if? The Witches of New York is another wonderful read from a very talented storyteller. See for yourself - read an excerpt of The Witches of New York. I think there's more to this story - I wonder if McKay thinks so too?

You can find Ami McKay on her website, like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Friday, December 2, 2016

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #134

- 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
You see the pattern don't you - I love suspense and thrillers. What caught my eye was a blurb by one of my fave authors - Harlan Coben. And the catchphrase 'Why is everyone talking about the ending of Sarah Pinborough's Behind Her Eyes?' Well, now I need to know! So, the US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. The first thing I noticed is that the US has eyes open and the UK is eyes closed. Snippet of a woman's face on the US, more on the UK. And colour and lack of. The UK cover is a little more lurid than the US, but in terms of picking either up to read more on the flyleaf, I would be more inclined to pick up the UK cover - my choice this week. What about you? Which cover do you prefer? Any plans to read Behind Her Eyes? You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World. ?