Friday, March 31, 2017

A Simple Favor - Darcey Bell

A Simple Favor is Darcey Bell's debut novel.

Miles and Nicky attend the same school. Miles's mom Stephanie, is a stay at home widowed parent and Nicky's mom, Emily, is a married working mom. The moms make seemingly unlikely friends, but they are. So, when Emily asks Stephanie if she can pick up Nicky from school now and then, Stephanie is happy to oblige.

But ..."It's been two days since she hasn't shown up or gotten in touch with me or returned my texts or calls. Something terrible has happened. She's vanished. I have no idea where she is."

A great premise that opens up a wealth of what-ifs and possibilities....

Stephanie is the narrator of part one of A Simple Favor. She's not sure what to do - Emily's husband Sean is out of town. Maybe Emily just got caught up at work, maybe she's on her way? But Stephanie does take the time to write a post on her mommy blog asking everyone to keep an eye out for her best friend. The tone of Stephanie's blog entries and self dialogue was pitch perfect. Somewhat obnoxious, self-serving, self-deprecating, self-righteous and self-delusional. As the search for Emily is finally undertaken, Stephanie makes herself available to help Sean and Nicky in any way she can.Any way. The reader is left wondering what has really happened - did Stephanie have anything to do with Emily's disappearance or perhaps Sean knows more than he is telling.

The second part belongs to Emily and the third part is Sean's voice. Each character is unlikable and unreliable. I'm not going to spoil things for you, revealing any more. But I do want to mention that I was very, very tempted to skip ahead and read the final chapters. But I resisted! Bell delightfully leads the reader down the garden path, leaving them wondering what will happen next. Lots of twists and turns on that path! I will mention that one of the characters has a fondness for Patricia Highsmith novels and Hitchcock films.

A great debut and I look forward to Bell's next book. Read an excerpt of A Simple Favor.

"A Simple Favor was preempted by Fox 2000 for feature development within 36 hours of submission. Foreign rights have already been sold in 24 countries and territories."

"Darcey Bell was born in 1981 and raised on a dairy farm in western Iowa. She is a preschool teacher in Chicago. A Simple Favor is her first novel." You can connect with Darcey 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.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #152

- 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
Woohoo! A new Harlan Coben is on the way....but not 'til the Fall. No details about the plot, but he writes some darn good thrillers. So - similarities - bright bold covers. I like the font on the US cover better the UK. The UK cover does convey more urgency and action. But...and here's where my decision was made this week. I like forming my own mental images of what a character looks like. So for me this week it's the US cover. What about you? Which cover do you prefer? Are you a Harlan Coben fan?
You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Giveaway - Make Your Bed - Admiral William H. McRaven

The title caught your eye didn't it? Well, if you're one of the few who haven't watched Admiral William H. McRaven's Graduation speech on Youtube (Yes it has been viewed over ten million times!), I have a copy of Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life...And Maybe the World - the book based on that speech - to giveaway today.

From Grand Central Publishing:

"If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.

On May 17, 2014, Admiral William H. McRaven addressed the graduating class of the University of Texas at Austin on their Commencement day. Taking inspiration from the university's slogan, "What starts here changes the world," he shared the ten principles he learned during Navy Seal training that helped him overcome challenges not only in his training and long Naval career, but also throughout his life; and he explained how anyone can use these basic lessons to change themselves-and the world-for the better.

Admiral McRaven's original speech went viral with over 10 million views. Building on the core tenets laid out in his speech, McRaven now recounts tales from his own life and from those of people he encountered during his military service who dealt with hardship and made tough decisions with determination, compassion, honor, and courage. Told with great humility and optimism, this timeless book provides simple wisdom, practical advice, and words of encouragement that will inspire readers to achieve more, even in life's darkest moments."

"Admiral William H. McRaven (U.S. Navy Retired) served with great distinction in the Navy. In his thirty-seven years as a Navy SEAL, he commanded at every level. As a Four-Star Admiral, his final assignment was as Commander of all U.S. Special Operations Forces. He is now Chancellor of the University of Texas System. " You can follow Admiral McRaven on Twitter. 

Check out the video below of the speech and scroll down to enter to win a copy of Make Your Bed.

Enter to win using the Rafflecopter form below. Open to US and Canada, no po boxes please. Ends April 15/17.

Over the Counter #359

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Clubs this week ...... that you probably would not want to join....

First up is The Maximum Security Book Club: Reading Literature in a Men's Prison Hardcover by Mikita Brottman.

From the publisher, Harper Collins:

"On sabbatical from teaching literature to undergraduates, and wanting to educate a different kind of student, Mikita Brottman starts a book club with a group of convicts from the Jessup Correctional Institution in Maryland. She assigns them ten dark, challenging classics—including Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Poe’s story “The Black Cat,” and Nabokov’s Lolita—books that don’t flinch from evoking the isolation of the human struggle, the pain of conflict, and the cost of transgression. Although Brottman is already familiar with these works, the convicts open them up in completely new ways. Their discussions may “only” be about literature, but for the prisoners, everything is at stake.

Gradually, the inmates open up about their lives and families, their disastrous choices, their guilt and loss. Brottman also discovers that life in prison, while monotonous, is never without incident. The book club members struggle with their assigned reading through solitary confinement; on lockdown; in between factory shifts; in the hospital; and in the middle of the chaos of blasting televisions, incessant chatter, and the constant banging of metal doors.

Though The Maximum Security Book Club never loses sight of the moral issues raised in the selected reading, it refuses to back away from the unexpected insights offered by the company of these complex, difficult men. It is a compelling, thoughtful analysis of literature—and prison life—like nothing you’ve ever read before."

Next up is The Jolly Roger Social Club : A True Story of a Killer in Paradise by Nick Foster.

From the publisher, Henry Holt:

"he true story of a series of bold killings which took place in a shadowy American ex-pat community in Panama--a tale of greed, political history, and murder

In the remote Bocas del Toro, Panama, William Dathan Holbert, aka "Wild Bill," is awaiting trial for the murder of five fellow American ex-patriots. Holbert's first victims were the Brown family, who lived on a remote island in the area's Darklands. There, Holbert turned their home into the "Jolly Roger Social Club," using drink- and drug-fueled parties to get to know other ex-pats. The club's tagline was: "Over 90% of our members survive." Those odds were not in his victims' favor.

The Jolly Roger Social Club is not just a book about what Holbert did and the complex financial and real estate motives behind the killings; it is about why Bocas del Toro turned out to be his perfect hunting ground, and why the community tolerated-even accepted-him for a time. Told through the fascinating history of the country of Panama, a paradise with sinister ties to the political and economic interests of the United States, journalist Nick Foster brings this uniquely bizarre place to life; shedding light on a community where many live under assumed names, desperate to leave their old lives behind-and sometimes people just disappear."

(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, March 28, 2017

Vintage Trailer Voyeur - Victoria Ocken

I have been fascinated by the little house movement for awhile now. Looking, dreaming and imagining what if? But to be honest, unless I build it myself - they're out of my price range.

But when Victoria Ocken's  new book, Vintage Trailer Voyeur: A Peek Inside the Unique Custom Trailer Culture crossed my path, I got excited. A trailer is doable for me. And not just any old trailer - a vintage trailer. And I imagined all the fun that could be had by fixing and gussying up that vintage beauty.

I remember camping in a wee little trailer with my parents and sister when I was younger. We delighted in sleeping in the upper bunk, that on reflection could have only been about 16 inches from the ceiling. I remember how cosy it was and the sound of the rain on the tin roof.

There are over 400 beautiful colour  photos of many, many types of vintage trailers - from wee little teardrops to full size Airstreams. Each of them has a style and presence. Some have been redone with a theme in mind, some have been left as they were, with original cabinets, some have been re-outfitted.  But all of them are beautiful - tiny little homes that look so comfortable and inviting. I loved looking at the detail and care put into each restoration or outfitting. A caption accompanies each photo and there are short essays from many of the owners as well. The joy that the author and other vintage trailer lovers have for their passion shines through. I would have enjoyed seeing a photo of each owner with their trailer.

Ocken has a very personal connection with trailers. The prologue "Everyone has a story. My story has been intertwined with trailers from an early age when I was abandoned in one as an infant....."

Vintage Trailer Voyeur is a great coffee table book or a wonderful inspiration. Me - it's the latter. Now, to start scouring for just the right one.......

Monday, March 27, 2017

A Trial in Venice - Roberta Rich

The Midwife of Venice was Roberta Rich's debut novel. This international bestseller was followed by a second novel - The Harem Midwife. And at last the third novel - A Trial in Venice - is here!

This isn't a time period I usually read, but I was fascinated and immediately drawn in by Rich's characters, plotting and settings in the first book. And I've eagerly awaited each new book.

Rich has filled her books full of fascinating historical detail - the social mores, customs and laws of the time, religious differences, midwifery, day to day life and more. Using that research she has created a character it is impossible not to like. The three books have Hannah Levi, a Jewish midwife in 1575's Venice, at their heart. She's strong-minded, strong-willed, compassionate, intelligent and loving. But she must live within the confines set down by her faith and the laws of the land - which proves hard to do.

1580. The prologue opens with Hannah languishing in a Venice Prison. The how and why of this imprisonment is a story begun in the first book. Hannah saved a child from death in the first book. The parents died and Hannah kept the child to raise as her own. But....the boy was a Christian and the heir to a fortune. There are those who covet the boy's wealth and are just as determined to have control of him and his money. The two co-conspirators behind the machinations that have led to Hannah's arrest are wonderfully drawn - especially the conniving Cesca.

The beginning comes full circle with just the right ending to this trilogy. The tale in between will appeal to those who love historical novels filled with 'rich' detail, suspense and yes, romance. The love between Hannah and her husband Isaac is a joy to read, as is the love for their children.

I recommend starting with the first book to fully appreciate the subsequent books. Read an excerpt of A Trial in Venice. Sadly this is the conclusion to this story, but I am very much looking forward to see what Rich turns her pen to next.

You can connect with Roberta Rich on her website and follow her on Twitter.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Giveaway - The Devil and Webster - Jean Hanff Korelitz

Jean Hanff Korelitz is the New York Times bestselling author of You Should Have Known and Admission. Her latest book is The Devil and Webster, a twisty new novel about a college president, a baffling student protest, and some of the most hot-button issues on today's college campuses. The book has just released - and I have two copies to giveaway to two lucky readers!

From Grand Central Publishing:

"Naomi Roth is the first female president of Webster College, a once conservative school now known for producing fired-up, progressive graduates. So Naomi isn't surprised or unduly alarmed when Webster students begin the fall semester with an outdoor encampment around "The Stump"-a traditional campus gathering place for generations of student activists-to protest a popular professor's denial of tenure. A former student radical herself, Naomi admires the protestors' passion, especially when her own daughter, Hannah, joins their ranks.

Then Omar Khayal, a charismatic Palestinian student with a devastating personal history, emerges as the group's leader, and the demonstration begins to consume Naomi's life, destabilizing Webster College from the inside out. As the crisis slips beyond her control, Naomi must take increasingly desperate measures to protect her friends, colleagues, and family from an unknowable adversary.

Touching on some of the most topical and controversial concerns at the heart of our society, this riveting novel examines the fragility that lies behind who we think we are-and what we think we believe." Read an excerpt of The Devil and Webster.

"Jean Hanff Korelitz was born and raised in New York and graduated from Dartmouth College and Clare College, Cambridge. She is the New York Times bestselling author of five novels and the creator of BOOKTHEWRITER, a New York City based service that sends authors to book groups. In 2016 she and her husband (Irish poet and The New Yorker poetry editor Paul Muldoon) adapted and co-produced "The Dead, 1904", an immersive adaptation of James Joyce's "The Dead", for New York's Irish Repertory Theatre."

Enter to win a copy of The Devil and Webster using the Rafflecopter form below. Open to US and Canada, ends April 8/17.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Out of Bounds - Val McDermid

Val McDermid is simply one of the best crime writers around. I have loved every book she's written. She has a number of series. Out of Bounds is the fourth novel featuring Inspector Karen Pirie. But you could absolutely read this as a stand alone.

Pirie is working cold cases. When a DNA sample from an accident victim turns up a match with a twenty two year old unsolved murder, Karen hopes for a quick solve to an old case. But it's not as straight forward as she hoped. And being Karen, she can't help but follow a case that interests her. Even when it's not hers. A terrorist bombing, also from twenty plus years ago is one she can't let go.

Karen is a wonderfully flawed character, struggling to overcome her own tragedies and doubts, while still maintaining a professional demeanor. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. But you can't help but be in her corner. She's fierce and driven to find answers. The mental and verbal sparring between her and her superior is such fun to read. Her partner Jason is not as quick, but they make a good team. And it's impossible not to like him.

Where McDermid's books shine are in the plotting. Complex and not easily sussed out. I enjoy following the police work needed to unravel the answers, discovering the connections along with the characters. McDermid adds a nice (and timely) piece of social commentary with Karen befriending some Syrian refugees.

Absolutely recommended. (As are the previous twenty nine books she's written!) Read an excerpt of Out of Bounds.

Friday, March 24, 2017

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #151

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

UK cover
US cover
John Grisham has two new books coming out in 2017. The first is Camino Island, releasing on June 6th on both sides of the pond. At the heart of the plot - a literary heist. The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. The US cover has the author's name and title in the same font and size while the UK cover has a larger and brighter font for the  author's name. The title is smaller, but there's a tag line giving you a bit more to go on. The US cover's picture could be about anything, while the UK cover is a bit more 'dangerous'.  So, I'm going to go with the UK cover this week. Which cover do you prefer? Will you be reading Camino Island?
You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Giveaway - The Excellent Lombards - Jane Hamilton

The Excellent Lombards by Jane Hamilton releases in paperback on April 4th - and I have a copy to giveaway to one lucky reader!

From Grand Central Publishing:

"Mary Frances "Frankie" Lombard is fiercely in love with her family's sprawling apple orchard and the tangled web of family members who inhabit it. Content to spend her days planning capers with her brother William, competing with her brainy cousin Amanda, and expertly tending the orchard with her father, Frankie desires nothing more than for the rhythm of life to continue undisturbed. But she cannot help being haunted by the historical fact that some family members end up staying on the farm and others must leave. Change is inevitable, and threats of urbanization, disinheritance, and college applications shake the foundation of Frankie's roots. As Frankie is forced to shed her childhood fantasies and face the possibility of losing the idyllic future she had envisioned for her family, she must decide whether loving something means clinging tightly or letting go. A new classic from the author of Oprah's Book Club picks A Map of the World and The Book of Ruth." Read an excerpt of The Excellent Lombards.

This is the book Jane Hamilton was born to write... [it is] magnificent." - Ann Patchett, New York Times bestselling author of Commonwealth

"Jane Hamilton's novels have won literary prizes, been made into films, and become international bestsellers; and two of them, The Book of Ruth and A Map of the World, were selections of Oprah's Book Club. Her nonfiction has appeared in the New York Times; Washington Post; Allure; O, The Oprah Magazine; Elle; and various anthologies. She's married to an apple farmer and lives in Wisconsin." You can connect with Jane Hamilton on her website.

And if you'd like to read The Excellent Lombards, enter the giveaway using the Rafflecopter form below. Open to US and Canada, no PO boxes please. Ends April 8/17.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Over the Counter #358

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? The animal kingdom this week.....

First up is Sad Animal Facts by Brooke Barker.

From Flatiron Books:

"A delightful and quirky compendium of the Animal Kingdom’s more unfortunate truths, with over 150 hand-drawn illustrations.

Ever wonder what a mayfly thinks of its one-day lifespan? (They’re curious what a sunset is.) Or how a jellyfish feels about not having a heart? (Sorry, but they’re not sorry.)

This melancholy menagerie pairs the more unsavory facts of animal life with their hilarious thoughts and reactions. Sneakily informative, and wildly witty, Sad Animal Facts will have you crying with laughter."

Next up is Not So Different: Finding Human Nature in Animals Hardcover by Nathan H. Lents.

From Columbia University Press:

"Animals fall in love, establish rules for fair play, exchange valued goods and services, hold "funerals" for fallen comrades, deploy sex as a weapon, and communicate with one another using rich vocabularies. Animals also get jealous and violent or greedy and callous and develop irrational phobias, just like us. Monkeys address inequality, wolves miss each other, elephants grieve for their dead, and prairie dogs name the humans they encounter. Human and animal behavior is not as different as once believed.

In Not So Different, the biologist Nathan H. Lents argues that the same evolutionary forces of cooperation and competition have shaped both humans and animals. Identical emotional and instinctual drives govern our actions. By acknowledging this shared programming, the human experience no longer seems unique, but in that loss we gain a fuller appreciation of such phenomena as sibling rivalry and the biological basis of grief, helping us lead more grounded, moral lives among animals, our closest kin. Through a mix of colorful reporting and rigorous scientific research, Lents describes the exciting strides scientists have made in decoding animal behavior and bringing the evolutionary paths of humans and animals closer together. He marshals evidence from psychology, evolutionary biology, cognitive science, anthropology, and ethology to further advance this work and to drive home the truth that we are distinguished from animals only in degree, not in kind."

(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, March 21, 2017

Every Wild Heart - Meg Donohue

Meg Donohue's latest novel, Every Wild Heart, has just released.

Gail Gideon, known as G.G., is the host of a successful talk radio show. Her own divorce was the fuel for her nightly advice program. She's also the mom of fourteen year old Nic.

But, not everyone loves Gail's show. There will always be detractors, but one seems to be ramping up into truly dangerous territory. Is it time for a change? And then Nic suffers an horse riding accident and comes out of her coma a changed person.

Donohue explores the ever evolving mother/daughter relationship with all its moments, worries and bumps - and love. But within that dynamic, she also has each character taking a look at themselves - being true to yourself and finding your own path - at any age.

Each character has a passion. For G.G. it's music and for Nic it is horses. Donohue does a good job of making those passions believable. I really enjoyed G.G.'s choice of tunes! Romance also plays a part in Every Wild Heart for both characters - sometimes love is found in the last place you look. And sometimes what seems perfect - isn't. Gail and Nic's paths mirror each other, but at two different stages of life. I liked Gail, but found her a bit harsh and aggressive. I really liked the character of Nic - her insecurities, her joys and her kindness were all well depicted. And I'm sure most readers can identify with those turbulent high school years.

The cover is attractive and there are elements of the story present - the cowboy books and the barn board. But I would have like to have seen something that actually matched the age and description of the main two characters from the book's real timeline instead of the past.

Every Wild Heart was an easy, breezy read - perfect for this summer's beach bag. Read an excerpt of Every Wild Heart.

"Meg Donohue is the USA Today bestselling author of How to Eat a Cupcake, All the Summer Girls, and Dog Crazy. She has an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University and a BA in comparative literature from Dartmouth College. Born and raised in Philadelphia, she now lives in San Francisco with her husband, three children, and dog." You can connect with  Meg on her website, follow her on Twitterand like her on Facebook. See what others on the TLC book tour thought. Full schedule can be found here.

I received this book for review from Harper Collins and TLC book tours.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Follow Me Down - Sherri Smith - Review AND Giveaway

Sherri Smith has written two historical novels, but her newest book, Follow Me Down, is a thriller. (And I have two copies to giveaway!)

Smith takes us to Wayouta, North Dakota. Mia and her twin brother Lucas could not wait to escape this small town, their drunken mother and the claustrophobic nature of everyone knowing you - and your business. Mia has made a life for herself in Chicago and works as a pharmacist. A pharmacist who tends to sample the product too much. Her brother went back though and works as a teacher at the local high school. Mia ends up back in Wayouta as well - but only after her brother is accused of killing the high school girl he was allegedly sleeping with. There's no way her brother could do such a thing....could he?

Smith has created one of those insular towns and filled it with people who happily jump on the bandwagon of popular theory. Lucas is guilty - they just need to find him. The police are sure that Mia knows where he is. Mia, for her part is just as determined to find him and prove his innocence. Wayouta is filled with a plethora of suspects, odd ducks, a dark underbelly and a questionable police department.

Mia is the narrator of the book, but she is distinctly unreliable."My face was splotchy; grass was in my hair. And I did look crazy. I did. For a full minute, I wondered if I was. If the pills had made my brain go runny and soft. That maybe I couldn't trust any of my own memories. That for me, reality was a multiple-choice questionnaire." Her tenacity and bullheadedness are appealing. And she has a wicked sense of humour. I quite liked her voice.

Relationships - especially those between a mother and child, play a large (and heartbreaking) part in the plotting. Sibling ties are also a focus of Follow Me Down.

I found Follow Me Down a bit slow to get started, but the story picked up speed after the initial characters were introduced and the time and place were set. Smith gives us lots of suspects and throws in some red herrings along the way. The final whodunit? Didn't see it coming! If I had to describe the feel of the book, I would say modern Gothic with a psychological twist. Read an excerpt of Follow Me Down.

"Sherri Smith has previously written two historical fiction novels with Simon and Schuster UK. When not writing, she spends time with her family and two rescue dogs, and restores vintage furniture that would otherwise be destined for the dump. She lives in Winnipeg, Canada, where the long, cold winters nurture her dark side." You can connect with Sherri on her website, follow her on Twitter and like her on Facebook.

And if you'd like to read Follow Me Down, enter to win one of two copies up for grabs using the Rafflecopter form below. Open to US and Canada, no PO boxes please. Ends April 1/17.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Fall From Grace - Tim Weaver

Fall From Grace is the fifth book in Tim Weaver's David Raker series. But it can certainly be read as a stand alone.

Who is Raker? Well, his background is in journalism, but he has since set himself up as private missing persons investigator.

Leonard Franks retires from the Metropolitan Police and heads to Dartmoor to spend his retirement years with his wife in the country. Until the day he goes out to get firewood and disappears. Not a trace of him, despite a police investigation. After nearly a year, his daughter Melanie, also working in the Met, employs Raker to have another look. This is unusual in that Raker and Melanie have a antagonistic past with each other. But, in spite of that Raker takes the case.

Raker's investigation is methodical and measured, with one revelation or clue leading to his next avenue of inquiry. But the case itself is not as straight forward. Weaver has created a mystery that is more complicated than what I initially imagined it would be. Many revelations along the way led to a much different outcome than the one I initially imagined. I did find the plot become a bit overly convoluted as the end neared.

Weaver weaves in a personal storyline for Raker. He has recently discovered he is the father of an adult daughter. Their relationship seems a bit forced to me, but it gives Raker more depth.

I've read previous books in this series, but chose to listen to this latest. The reader was Brit Michael Healy. His voice is measured and well modulated, with a slight gravelly tone His accent is easily understood. It conjured up a slightly different picture of Raker than the one I had in my head from previous books. But it fit - he sounds confident and in control. Dialogue and action scenes are given their due, with inflection and intonation. It's funny what you hear when listening to an audiobook. I could hear the sighs, some swallows and a few other non verbal sounds that make it actually sound like you are there. I like the Raker character, but did find that the audio version made him seen a bit pompous in parts. But this didn't detract from my overall enjoyment of the book.

Listen to an excerpt of Fall From Grace.

Friday, March 17, 2017

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #150

- 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 or listened to all of the Jack Reacher titles from Lee Child. This collection of  eleven previously published short stories and a new novella releases on both sides of the pond in mid May. The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. The UK cover seems to mimic previous covers in this series. Lonely guy on a deserted road in the middle of nowhere. It does capture the essence of the character and the books. But you know, I would be much more likely to pick up the US cover. The image and the colours catch my eye. And Reacher does like his black coffee. So it's the US cover for me this week. Which cover do you prefer? Are you a Reacher creature? You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Say Nothing - Brad Parks

"Their first move against us was so small, such an infinitesimal blip against the blaring background noises of life, I didn't register it as anything significant."

That's the opening line of Brad Parks's new thriller Say Nothing.

And then it becomes real significant, real fast. Someone has kidnapped Judge Scott Sampson and his wife Allison's twins. Why his family? What do they want? Money? No, it's something else....

Parks has crafted an addicting read. There's a nice mixture of suspense, family dynamics and some legal scenes along with the tension filled race to try and get the children back. Who can they trust? And who could be doing this to them?

"That was like the first thing they said to me and the last thing: Say Nothing. Say Nothing."

Parks manipulates the reader with some red herrings and alternate paths along the way to the final pages. Chapters from the kidnappers are interspersed throughout the book. So, the reader knows the danger the children are in even as Scott tries to fulfill the kidnapper's demands and not involve law enforcement.  I have to say, Parks caught me off guard a few times with some of the turns his story took - most notably in the final pages. I like unpredictable. There were a few plot points that I thought were perhaps a bit far-fetched, but I didn't think too hard about them - instead I just kept turning pages.

Say Nothing was an entertaining read that was hard to put down. And it raises the question - what would you do to protect your family? I'm looking forward to the next book from Parks. Read an excerpt of Say Nothing. Fans of Linwood Barclay and Harlan Coben will enjoy Say Nothing.

You can connect with Brad Parks on his website, like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Over the Counter #357

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Pies please.....

First up is Flapper Pie and a Blue Prairie Sky:  A Modern Baker's Guide to Old-Fashioned Desserts Hardcover by Karlynn Johnston.

From the publisher, Appetite by Random House:

"Combining long-forgotten classics with deliciously revamped recipes and stunning photography is what Karlynn Johnston is all about. In her anticipated first cookbook, Karlynn covers everything you need to know about being a modern-day old-fashioned baker: from setting up your kitchen and stocking your pantry, to making pie dough and releasing a Bundt cake from its pan.

Once you’ve got the basics covered, you’ll be ready to bake time-honored desserts like Saskatoon Berry Pie, Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies, and No-Bowl Chocolate Vinegar Cake. Then, jazz things up with these recipes’ modern twists: White Chocolate Saskatoon Galette, Chocolate Buttercream-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Root Beer Float Cupcakes. And, of course, there’s the recipe that started it all: the almost-lost Prairie favorite, Flapper Pie. When Karlynn first posted this recipe on her blog, it went viral, drawing enthusiastic and sentimental responses from readers everywhere who wanted to reminisce about their childhood and family food memories.

An approachable book for every skill level, Flapper Pie and a Blue Prairie Sky covers all the cherished bake goods from Karlynn and her family. Featuring more than 120 recipes from cakes to candies, doughnuts to dainties, and pies to puddings, with the same gorgeous photography that has made The Kitchen Magpie a go-to blog for passionate home bakers, this book is a delicious demonstration of the comfort and closeness that baking can bring. Flapper Pie and a Blue Prairie Sky is destined to become a classic to be shared through the generations."

Next up is Art of the Pie: A Practical Guide to Homemade Crusts, Fillings, and Life Hardcover by Kate McDermott,  photography by Andrew Scrivani.

From Countryman Press:

"Kate McDermott, who learned to make pie from her Iowa grandmother, has taught the time-honored craft of pie-making to thousands of people. Here she shares her secrets to great crusts (including gluten-free options), fabulous fillings, and to living a good life. This is the only PIE cookbook you need.

One of 2016’s Best Cookbooks, The Pie-Baking Bible, an instant classic, with raves from NPR,, USA Today, Bon Appetit, Cosmopolitan, Outlander Kitchen, and more."

(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, March 14, 2017

Giveaway - Saratoga Payback - Stephen Dobyns

Saratoga Payback is the latest in Stephen Dobyns's critically acclaimed Charlie Bradshaw mystery series. It releases today - and I have a copy to giveaway to one lucky reader.

From the publisher, Blue Rider Press:

"Ever since the cops revoked his private investigator’s license, Charlie Bradshaw has been adjusting to life as a regular senior citizen. But reading, sitting around the house, and making amateur home repairs is a far cry from his past life as Saratoga Springs’ most successful everyman detective.

So when Charlie discovers the sprawled corpse of Saratoga Springs’ biggest nuisance on his sidewalk, the ex-P.I. is torn. Should he risk asking questions of his own, knowing he could easily be prosecuted for doing P.I. work without a license? Or should he avoid the trouble and spend his twilight years in peace? Well, the case was practically delivered to his doorstep…

Saratoga Payback, the latest installment in Stephen Dobyns’s critically praised Charlie Bradshaw Mysteries, follows Charlie as he toes the line between concerned private citizen and practiced private eye. As he begins to look into the murder of the town pest, Charlie also finds himself entangled in problem that is purely Saratogian–a mission to rescue an old acquaintance’s kidnapped horse. Wry, entertaining, and adroitly written, Saratoga Payback is an immensely satisfying addition to Dobyns’s popular mystery series." Read an excerpt of Saratoga Payback.

"Stephen Dobyns is the author of more than thirty-five novels and poetry collections, including The Burn Palace, The Church of Dead Girls, Cold Dog Soup, and Cemetery Nights. His novels have been translated into twenty languages, and his poetry has appeared in the Best American Poetry anthology. Dobyns, who has taught at the University of Iowa, Boston University, Syracuse University, and Sarah Lawrence College, teaches creative writing in the master of fine arts program at Warren Wilson College."

Sound like a series you'd enjoy? Enter to win a copy of Saratoga Payback using the Rafflecopter form below. Open to US and Canada, no PO boxes please. Ends March 25/17.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Walk Away - Sam Hawken

Sam Hawken has just released Walk Away - the second book in his Camaro Espinoza series. I hadn't read the first, but Walk Away can absolutely be read as a stand alone.

Camaro? She's a former combat medic who knows how to fight. She never backs down or walks away. When her sister Annabel asks her for help with an abusive boyfriend, she's on her way across country without a second thought. After all, family is family. But that abusive boyfriend has family too. And he's even worse than his brother.  What starts out as a simple warning off soon turns deadly - for a lot of people.

I loved Camaro! Who doesn't love a kick butt female lead? (Think female Jack Reacher) Hawken slowly reveals bits and pieces of the sisters' past. I wasn't too sure about her sister - she's 'weaker' if you will, and seems to have has a history of making bad choices and needing help to clean up. I really liked two of the supporting cast - bail bondsman Yates and Deputy Marshall Hannon. I hope to see Yates in a future book. But boy oh boy, Marshall Way is a piece of work. He's a loose cannon with a temper. Hawken has written him well - it's impossible not to have a visceral reaction to this man.

Hawken's plot is well conceived and things move along at a quick pace. Great short snappy dialogue to match. And lots of action. Walk Away kinda reads like an action film. And I can absolutely see it as a movie. I look forward to the third installment. Read an excerpt of Walk Away.

You can connect with Sam Hawken on his website or follow him on Twitter.

Friday, March 10, 2017

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #149

- 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 can't wait to read this third installment in Greg Iles' Natchez Burning trilogy. (March 21 in the US and April 6 in the UK) It's brilliantly plotted, timely and filled with characters I have grown to care about - and the flip side of that. This is a series that I would absolutely read again - and there are very few books I can say that about. Iles left us with a devastating turn of events at the end of the last book and I am so eager to see where things go from there and to have answers. The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. The UK covers would catch your eye with it's monochromatic colour punch. I'm not sure that the two men on a bridge or the tag line really captures the scope of this trilogy. There is so much more to it. The US cover is my choice this week. The red behind the trees connotes blood spilled or burning - both are key in the book. All under a blue sky. Overall the US cover is more effective to me. So, have you read the first two books? Are you looking forward to the final entry? Which cover do you prefer?
You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Trophy Child - Paula Daly

I've read all of Paula Daly's books - they're addicting page turners - and I was eager to read her latest - The Trophy Child. And yes, it was another fantastic read!

There are always difficulties in blended families. But the Bloom family is truly struggling. Father Noel is spending more and more time at work (and in a bottle) as he doesn't want to deal with the home situation. Verity is Noel's daughter, living with her father and her stepmother Karen not by choice, but because she has nowhere else to go. Ewan is Karen's son from her first marriage. He's happily stoned most of the time, living over the garage. The one thing that binds them is Bronte - the ten year old daughter of Karen and Noel. And then Bronte goes missing......

After Bronte's disappearance, Daly caught me completely off guard with the turn her plot took. I adore not being able to predict where a plot is going to lead - and Daly definitely kept me off kilter.And she provides us with lots of suspects for the whodunit. For for those of you who love psychological suspense as much as I do, there is a twist at the end.

There is so much going on behind the scenes here. Each of the family has secrets. But the character who had me spitting mad was Karen. She's a vitriolic tyrant. And she takes 'Tiger Mom' to a whole new level, scheduling every minute of Bronte's life, demanding perfection. Honestly, some (okay most) of her dialogue was off the charts. It was very easy to hate this character.

Karen's attitude is a current social commentary....."British parents, though they wouldn't admit it, were sneakily adopting the Chinese model of parenting, whereby anything less than an 'A' was considered a failure. They meant that a balanced childhood was okay for someone else's child. Not theirs."

The one I felt the most for was Verity. She is caught in this dysfunctional family, tormented by Karen. Each player is fleshed out with very distinct personalities. They're not all pretty and there was more than one character I was on the fence about. One of those was the DS Joanne Aspinall (last seen in Just What Kind of Mother Are You) who is investigating the Bloom case. But I was quite taken by her partner DS Oliver Black - he seems to be one of the few characters who has no baggage or ulterior motives. But, I found my empathy and sympathy changed with each new chapter and revelation.

But what I'm not on the fence about is how much I enjoyed this latest from Daly! Definitely recommended! Read an excerpt of The Trophy Child.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Over the Counter #356

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? This week its messages, letters and thoughts - sent and unsent....

First up is The Last Message Received by Emily Trunko, illustrated by Zoe Ingram. 

From the publisher, Crown Books:

"Named one of the Top 10 Most Viral Blogs by Mashable, the Tumblr The Last Message Received—created by 16-year-old Emily Trunko—is now available as a gift book!

What if a message someone sends you today is the last you’ll ever receive from them? Would you respond differently, or even at all, if you knew that the end of a friendship, a brutal breakup, or worse might be coming, and that this might be your only chance?

The collection The Last Message Received includes over a hundred final text messages, social media posts, emails, and more. Adapted from the popular Tumblr The Last Message Received—followed by more than 85,000 people and selected as a finalist for the Shorty Award—the Last Message Received book features sudden endings and the type of loss that will inspire readers to reflect on what’s essential in their own lives and the importance of celebrating the people they love every day. Includes exclusive content not available on Tumblr!"

Next up is Dear My Blank: Secret Letters Never Sent, edited by Emily Trunko and illustrated by Lisa Congdon.

From Crown Books for Young Readers:

"From the popular Tumblr of the same name comes a collection of heart-warming, tear-jerking, and gut-wrenching anonymous letters that people never intended—or didn’t have the courage—to send.

The Tumblr Dear My Blank—created by 16-year-old Emily Trunko and followed by over 35,000 people—is now a carefully curated gift book with more than 160 anonymous letters covering a range of topics from heartbreak, unrequited love, and loss, to inspiration, self-awareness, and gratitude.

Featuring exclusive content not available on Tumblr, these unsent letters are addressed to secret crushes, lost loved ones, boyfriends, siblings, parents, grandparents, and many more.

Art and design by Lisa Congdon enhance these messages, making the book a beautiful keepsake for all readers."

(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, March 7, 2017

The River at Night - Erica Ferencik

The River at Night is Erica Ferencik's (fantastic!) debut novel.

We all have them - long term friends that you try to get together with at least once a year. That's what Wini, Pia, Rachel and Sandra try to do, picking a new vacation destination every year. It's white-water rafting this year in the remote wilds of Maine. A place where no one lives. Or do they? And when they have an accident on the river..... Great premise!

The four are all very different personalities. Friends yes, but personalities do clash - especially in stressful situations. Ferencik nails the interactions between the four - their depictions are realistic, the friendship rings true and the personalities remind me of some people I've known.  The friendship between the four is tested as the book progresses, as is each woman.

Great plotting - a hint of Deliverance for those that remember that movie. (No worries, not as graphic) Lots of action. I kayak, but I don't think I'll ever go white water rafting. And I no idea what was going to happen next. I can't tell you how much I appreciate being kept in the dark, wondering where an author is going to take the story.

I chose to listen to The River at Night. The narrator was Joy Osmanski. Her interpretation of the novel was excellent. Each woman was easily identifiable - with their own tone, cadence and attitude. I absolutely believed the interactions between the four. And the other characters (not going to spoil it by saying who) had a dark and sinister voice that gave me chills. Osmanski conveyed the sense of danger and desperation really well - and had me listening to just one more chapter before turning in. This is a book I know I enjoyed more by listening. I felt caught up in the story, included in the conversations and decisions. Although I was mentally voting (and shouting) 'no' for many of their choices!

The River at Night was such an addicting tale! Absolutely recommended. I'll be watching for Ferencik's next book! Listen to an excerpt. Or read an excerpt.

The River at Night is An Page-Turning Novels Pick, A 2017 Indie Next Pick, A Bustle Most Anticipated Thriller Novel of 2017 and an An Entertainment Weekly “Must List” Pick! You can follow Erica Ferencik on Twitter.

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Girl Before - J.P. Delaney

Oh, there was lots of buzz around J.P. Delaney's new release The Girl Before. Did it live up to the hype? Yes it did - I raced through it in two days.

One Folgate Street in London, England, is a architectural wonder. It is minimalism to the extreme. Stone, glass, white on white, no doors. And much is controlled by the Housekeeper - a computer program that takes its cues from the bracelet that the inhabitants wear.

And who lives there? Only those chosen by the architect - after undergoing a rigorous application. And acceptance of the many rules of the house - no mess everything must be out of sight, no photos, no colour and much more.

"Please make a list of every possession you consider essential to your life."

After a break-in, Emma see living in the house as safe, a sanctuary against danger.  After her divorce, Jane sees the house as a clean slate, a new start. Emma lived at Folgate before Jane.

The Girl Before is told in alternating chapters from Jane and Emma - now and then. When Jane learns of the previous tenant's death, she becomes consumed with finding out more - even though she is discouraged by the enigmatic Edward, the architect/owner. The reader is privy to the events during Emma's time in the house. And knowing what we know, the tension ratchets up as Jane seems to be following in her footsteps - and into danger......

I felt like I should be on Emma and Jane's 'side', if you will. But as the book progressed and more of their personalities and their (questionable) choices are revealed, I found I didn't overly like either of them. But I still desperately wanted to know what next. Edward - well, he's in his own category. And I'm not too sure why either of them find him so appealing, but hey, this book wouldn't be the same without him being this way. Control, it's all about control with this guy. In his life and in his house. Super creepy.

Gentle readers be warned - there are a few somewhat graphic sex scenes.

Just get yourself past accepting that anyone would actually move into a house such as this with crazy rules and you are in for a deliriously addictive, psychologically twisty turny read with a nice little gotcha in the end. Read an excerpt of The Girl Before.  The Girl Before has been optioned by Universal Studios with Ron Howard to direct.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Death of A Ghost - M.C. Beaton

I've always enjoyed M.C. Beaton's Hamish MacBeth series. But in this latest book, Death of a Ghost, I've found that Hamish has developed an edge - one I don't like.

I do like the sleepy village of Lochdubh, its quirky inhabitants and the ginger policeman who easily solves cases, but works even harder to not get the credit. But I didn't find the homey, cosy feeling I was looking for in this newest entry.

I was immediately put off by a distasteful 'joke' in the first few pages  It's not a joke, it's not PC and quite frankly I can't see any female reader finding it funny. (Yes, it involves the letters CN and T. Pick a vowel.) Curiosity kept me reading. And there were more harsh words and ugly tones from Hamish. He's just not nice any longer. He was always a bit tetchy, but it was not nasty or crude.

The plot line of Death of a Ghost is very, very busy. Lots of players, more than one body and  lots of clues. Hamish and his partner Charlie seem to careen from one situation to another. I do like this new partner - he's a good sort. Familiar supporting cast members do appear, but even they seem to have gotten darker. The ongoing feud with Blair has taken a murderous turn. And even likable lush Jimmy isn't the same. I found the writing choppy and uneven.

This was a series I used to read to nursing home residents. But no more. And sadly, no more for me either. This is the end of the road for me and Hamish. And I think it might be time for Hamish to retire.  Read an excerpt of Death of a Ghost.

Friday, March 3, 2017

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #148

- 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 haven't read Brad Parks yet, but his forthcoming book looks pretty good - so it's been added to that teetering TBR pile. The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. Both versions have nabbed some high profile authors for cover blurbs. Both have 'in your face' white title lettering that's a bold font. I do find the UK cover a bit lurid, but it leaves no doubt that a child in danger is part of the plot. I think I am more drawn to the US cover this week. The red is eye catching, I like the shadows on the title and I am wondering about that house at the end of the road. What about you? Any plans to read Say Nothing? Which cover do you prefer?
You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Dime - Kathleen Kent

Kathleen Kent has just released her new novel The Dime. I've read and really liked her historical novels and was looking forward to this newest book.

Wow. This latest was a complete departure from her previous work - and I loved it!

The Dime introduces us to Betty Rhyzyk - a Brooklyn cop from a long line of law enforcement. She and her girlfriend have relocated to Dallas. Now working as a Narcotics Detective, Riz has no lack of cases. The Mexican drug cartels are making sure of that. But when her latest case results in disaster, Riz is determined to avenge her colleagues and her reputation. Drug dealers, stalkers, white supremacists, the rich, the poor, a cult and more populate the pages of The Dime.

I loved this character! I could absolutely picture her physically and her personality comes through in her thoughts, dialogue and actions. There are two sides to Riz - the tough cop she needs to be at work and the softer personal side at home with Julie. The supporting cast is just as well drawn. There's a wide variety of personalities on the squad. I really liked Riz's partner Seth. And of course, there are those that don't want a lesbian leader. Kent handles these conflicts and attitudes with a deft hand in both Betty's personal and work lives.

Extremely well plotted, great police procedural work and the action will keep you turning pages. The ground has been laid - and this reader will be waiting for the next in the series. More please. Read an excerpt of The Dime.

"Kathleen Kent is the author of three bestselling historical novels, The Heretic's Daughter, The Traitor's Wife, and The Outcasts. She is also the author of the short story "Coincidences Can Kill You," published in Dallas Noir, which was the inspiration for The Dime, her first work of crime fiction. Kent lives in Dallas, TX." You can connect with Kathleen on her website, like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.