Friday, July 31, 2020

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #323

- 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
It was this recommendation for Felicity Hayes-McCoy's
forthcoming book, The Transatlantic Book Club that caught me eye..."perfect for fans of Jenny Colgan". That's me! I do love a good rom-com series. The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. Big plus for the US cover is not showing the woman's face! I like the background of hills and buildings. And putting the title of the book, on the book, is clever. It's a bright and cheerful look and I would be enticed into picking it up. The UK cover does seem to follow a look. The same hills and village are there. This time we're given a figure instead of a face. And a blurb "Distance Makes No Difference to Love" lets you know it's a romance. Hmm, this week I'm going to go with the US cover - the bright colours are just more inviting for me. What about you? Which cover do you prefer? Any plans to read The Transatlantic Book Club?
You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

The End of Her - Shari Lapena

If you're a fan of domestic noir, you should have Shari Lapena on your must read list. Her latest book, The End of Her, has just released.

Patrick and Stephanie are adapting to having a set of twin girls. The babes are colicky and mom and dad are sleep deprived. Oh, you just know things are going to ramp up!

Erica, a woman from Patrick's contacts Stephanie and tells her that Patrick's first wife's death was not an accident as her told her. Instead, Erica says that Patrick murdered her. This is just crazy Stephanie thinks, my husband couldn't be a murderer. But, she begins to have her doubts and starts to look into Patrick's past a little closer. Patrick is a bit of an enigma and I wasn't sure about his innocence or guilt. Erica is such a calculating opportunist - her scenes and dialogue are particularly well done. And she has other opportunities in mind as well.

This is a great cat and mouse plot, with the reader never quite sure who is telling the truth, who is the hunter and who is the hunted. I love the uncertainty. And the unreliability of sleep deprived Stephanie's thinking. And every other twist that Lapena threw in!

The ending caught me a bit off guard and I flipped back to see if I had missed something. I'm not going to spoil it by explaining, but after consideration, it was a fitting end.

A great escapist read - here's an excerpt of The End of Her.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Over the Counter #461

What book caught my eye this week? One for mindful Trekkies...

Mr Spock's Little Book of Mindfulness: How to Survive in an Illogical World by Glenn Dakin.

From Hero Collector Books:

"Who better to teach us mindfulness and wisdom than Mr. Spock, that beacon of calm, rational thought. With quotes from STAR TREK and timely insights about modern life this book will be your guide. In a universe that seems to have gone mad, we turn to mindfulness to restore sanity. When humanity has lost its way, it takes a Vulcan to raise an eyebrow at our folly and lead us towards the truth. After all, it's only logical ...

Essays on focus, computers, social media, love, family, self-acceptance and more.Filled with actual quotes from Mr. Spock and Star Trek characters, along with black & white illustrations. Includes source listing from TV episodes."

(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 the 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, July 28, 2020

The Pull of the Stars - Emma Donoghue

If Emma Donoghue writes it - I need to read it. I've been waiting for The Pull of the Stars to release - and I couldn't help myself - I finished it in a day. Yes, it's that good (as are all of Donoghue's books)

Donoghue wrote The Pull of the Stars before Covid 19 came about. But the similarities are frightening. History truly does repeat itself.

The Pull of the Stars takes place over three days in a maternity quarantine ward in a hospital in Dublin - at the height of the 1918 Flu Pandemic.

Julia Power is in charge of the three bed ward as there are very few nurses to go around. The local nunnery provides young Bridie as a helper for Julia. And the third of this triangle is Dr. Lynn. Kathleen Lynn is an actual historical figure who was a pioneer in her field - and deeds. I truly enjoy Donoghue's blending of fact and fiction in her books.

The setting is so detailed, I felt like I was in the little ward, struggling to grab just a bit of the fresh air trying to get in through the wee window. The smells, the lack of privacy, the desperate struggle to just breathe. All while pregnant. The descriptions of childbirth are visceral - and again, true to the time. Julia's care of the sick women in her care and her sense of duty are impeccable. But there are cracks in her carefully cultivated public persona. Her obligations do battle with her want of more. More for her patients, more for women - and more for herself. A partner, a confidant, a child. Bridie's enthusiasm, quickness in mind and body and her outlook on life despite the hardships she has endured will endear her to the reader. Donoghue does a fantastic job as well at bring Dr. Lynn to life. A woman truly ahead of her time.

Ahh, this book is heartbreaking. The treatment of women during this time period, the mortality rate of infants, the Catholic Church's abuse of power, life and death, the effects of war and so much more.  But the spark of light (and pull of the stars) lives in these pages too. A story you won't be able to put down.

So very, very well written. Read an excerpt of The Pull of the Stars.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Craigslist Confessional - Helena Dea Bala

It was this descriptive line from the publisher that caught my eye..."For fans of Humans of New York and PostSecret, a collection of raw, urgent, and heartfelt stories, shared anonymously...".

I'm a fan of both of those platforms so I knew I wanted to listen to Helena Dea Bala's just released book, Craigslist Confessional: A Collection of Secrets From Anonymous Strangers.

Why are we fascinated by someone else's life? There are many answers to that question. I think a lot of it is connection - realizing others may have experienced the same things, realizing we're not alone in our sorrow - and in our joy.

Dea Bala fell into this - she stopped to talk to a homeless man that she had passed by many days. And they ended up exchanging stories. An idea was born and an ad was placed. The results are here and the stories make for addictive listening.

There are forty tellings of addiction, love, loss, abuse, sexual struggles, depression, and many times simply "I've never told anyone this before". Some of them are hard to listen to, others are affirming. But all of them will touch the listener in one way or another. You might have gone through the same thing or can identify with this anonymous person - and know that you're not alone.

I did choose to listen rather than read Craigslist Confidential. I think the 'confessions' had more impact through listening. I always feel more immersed in the stories. A number of readers are employed to narrate the forty stories. There were many familiar voices in the "Full Cast" production. Each of them gave the confessions the respect and emotion they were owed in their telling. And while they each read more than one, each confession was fresh. All readers were clear and easy to understand. Hear for yourself - listen to an excerpt of Craigslist Confessional.

I liked the cover too - you can just read the redacted words underneath the red. Eye catching and cryptic - what will you find inside? And in the world of Covid 19, I'm sure there are many 'confessions' to come. I hope Dea Bala continues on with this.

Friday, July 24, 2020

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #322

- 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 like Nick Hornby's stories. His new one, Just Like You,
releases in September 2020 on both sides of the pond. "This warm, wise, highly entertaining twenty-first century love story is about what happens when the person who makes you happiest is someone you never expected." The  US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. Now at first glance, you may be saying - 'Hey Luanne, you posted the same cover twice! Close, but not quite. And right off the bat, I wonder why so close and yet changed? Which cover was first? Okay, let's start. The addition of red and orange really brightens up the US cover. The brown and washed out pink on the UK cover just says blah to me. And the author's name looks wishy washy as well. Now here's the interesting bit - doesn't the US cover look like the two figures are fully dressed. Uh huh. Now look at the UK cover. The pink color block is lowered - and it looks like the figures are both in their underwear. And they're floating in some sort of lava pit. Awkward. Easy choice for me this week - US. What about you? Which cover do you prefer? Any plans to read Just Like You?
You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

The Daughters of Foxcote Manor - Eve Chase

Oh. my. gosh. I cannot tell you how much I loved Eve Chase's new book, The Daughters of Foxcote Manor!!

After a tragedy in London, Mrs. Harrington, her son and daughter move to the family's country home. With them is Rita, a naive nanny who loves the Harrington children. The danger and tension ramp up - and nothing will ever be the same for any of them.

What's not to love? 1970 England. An isolated, crumbling house in a forest. The forest itself is hiding many secrets. An older housekeeper who insinuates herself into the lives of the inhabitants. Danger in the form of a husband and a lover, each vying for the same woman. There's a Gothic feel to this part of the book.

The story at Foxcote Manor is alternated with a second timeline. Forty years forward Sylvie is making changes in her life. She has decided to leave her husband and start over. But, the fact is she has never really addressed her own start in life. Not until her daughter uncovers a cache of newspaper clippings in her ailing grandmother's home.

How Chase ties these two stories together is brilliant. There are so many threads from the past that weave into the present  - in ways I hadn't seen coming.

The characters were so well drawn. My heart was with Rita. The relationships are just as well developed - complicated, intricate and entwined. The plotting is so imaginative and unique. And the settings will draw the reader in. For me, it was the forest that called.

Chase's writing is so very, very good - she is a brilliant storyteller. And it makes for addicting reading.  I can't recommend The Daughters of Foxcote Manor enough. Have a look - read an excerpt.

Fans of Kate Morton will want to read The Daughters of Foxcote Manor - or any of Chase's books - I've read and loved them all.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Over the Counter #460

What book caught my eye this week?  This one's for fans of The X-Files - one of the few shows I've watched more than once... The X-Files: The Official Archives: Cryptids, Biological Anomalies, and Parapsychic Phenomena by Paul Terry.

From Abrams Books:

"A fully authorized, richly illustrated inside look into 50 of Mulder and Scully’s most memorable monster cases

When an X-Files fan opens up The X-Files: The Official Archives, they are gaining access—for the first time—to Agents Mulder and Scully’s notes, records, and visual evidence from actual X-File reports. Designed to mimic a collection of FBI case files and packed with such items as autopsy reports, mug shots, lab results, handwritten notes, newspaper clippings, pages ripped from antique books on the occult, and security camera printouts, this fully authorized book is the only one of its kind. Detailing the agents’ investigations into 50 cases of cryptids, biological anomalies, and parapsychic phenomena—from the Flukeman to The Great Mutato to Pusher—The X-Files: The Official Archives showcases some of the show’s greatest villains (some dastardly, some just misunderstood), and instructs future agents on how to successfully investigate the paranormal."

(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 the 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, July 21, 2020

The Lantern Men - Elly Griffiths

Elly Griffiths has just released The Lantern Men, the twelfth entry in the Ruth Galloway series. And I have to tell you - this series is one of my hands down favorites. I eagerly await each new book - and read it far too quickly.

Ruth is a forensic archaeologist. She is a lecturer as well and often helps out on police matters. In The Lantern Men, a convicted murderer will only reveal the location of four of his victims to Ruth. Why Ruth?

Griffiths's plotting is always detailed, the mysteries are always convincing, the police work realistic and the historical components are really well done. With many of the cases, I've gone online to read more about the history.

I've always enjoyed the setting of the Norfolk area - especially the marshes. And I would be quite happy to live in Ruth's wee cottage.

Oh, and the title? "The Lantern Men concerns the Norfolk legend of mysterious figures that prowl the marshes at night. It's said that travellers would see a man walking ahead of them and carrying a lantern. They would follow the light only to be led to their deaths on the treacherous ground."

But what draws me to this series are the characters. I adore the character of Ruth.  I think it's because she isn't a 'cookie-cutter' protagonist. She's become a single mother later in life, she's hard on herself, generous with her friends, is highly intelligent, but shuns the spotlight. She's not beautiful in a conventional sense, but has that something that draws people to her. Griffiths has not endowed her with super sleuth abilities, rather she comes off as an actual person - unabashedly and happily herself. The supporting cast is just as well drawn, with self professed Druid Cathbad being my favorite. And of course there's DCI Nelson. He and Ruth's relationship is very complicated. Eager readers like myself have been waiting for this book to find out what happens next with the two of them. The Lantern Men jumps ahead two years to some unexpected happenings. (And eager readers, it ends with another open ended scenario for book thirteen. Can't wait!)

I highly, highly recommend this character driven mystery series. You could certainly read this book as a stand alone, but do yourself a favour and start with The Crossing Places, the first book.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Review and Giveaway - A Woman Alone - Nina Laurin

Oh, I must admit, I love psychological suspense fiction. Nina Laurin has just released A Woman Alone - and it's a twisty turny tale that you won't be able to put down! Bonus - I've got a copy to give away to one lucky reader!

Maybe you own one of those devices or use an app that allows you to simply speak and have something turned on (even remotely), programmed the way you like it or contacting someone. Chances are you do. What about living in a house completely controlled by an AI? (Artificial Intelligence) Venture, Illinois is a community of such houses. A place to feel safe and pampered. More time to do what you want. Your likes and dislikes programmed...and more. Cecilia, her husband and young daughter move into Venture. But, Cecilia feels like things just aren't right - and no one believes her...

This isn't a far fetched scenario at all. But the possibilities of how things might go wrong make for a delicious premise for a book.

Laurin dials the tension up by adding in secrets, twists and turns that you won't even see coming. Lots of chapter ending foreshadowing had me staying up quite late to finish the book. Honestly, I couldn't put it down - I wanted to know those secrets. Because everyone in the book is hiding something. And just as I got to the last chapter - Laurin got me again. No way did I see the last twist at the end coming! I really appreciate being surprised with a plot. And Laurin absolutely caught me off guard. Bravo! Have a peek for yourself - read an excerpt of A Woman Alone. And if you'd like to read A Woman Alone, enter for a chance to win a copy using the Rafflecopter form below. Open to US and Canada, no PO boxes please. Ends August 1/20.

"Nina Laurin studied Creative Writing at Concordia University in Montreal, where she currently lives. She arrived there when she was just twelve years old, and she speaks and reads in Russian, French, and English but writes her novels in English. She wrote her first novel while getting her writing degree, and Girl Last Seen was a bestseller a year later in 2017.  Nina is fascinated by the darker side of mundane things, and she’s always on the lookout for her next twisted book idea. "

You can connect with Nina Laurin on her website, like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter as well as on Instagram.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, July 17, 2020

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #321

- 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
"'The Upstairs Room is the real thing. Frightening and clever and full of atmosphere.' - Susan Hill." The Upstairs Room is Kate Murray-Browne's debut novel. The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. Okay - both use dark tones and seem creepy. It's interesting that the US cover is looking from outside. The teal colour of the sky and shadow on the front of the house is quite bold and does catch your eye along with the yellow. The house. Why do we find a single lit room so mysterious I wonder? The UK cover is a view from inside with a shadow from the light outside. To me, the predominantly black cover just says something's is hiding or is hidden. I'm torn again this week, but am going to go with the US cover this week. I find it visually more interesting. 
What about 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, July 16, 2020

You Can Go Home Now - Michael Elias

I like finding new authors or taking a chance on a book. Such was the case with the newly released You Can Go Home Now by Michael Elias.

Nina Karim is a tough Queens detective. Ask her why she became a cop and she'll give you her stock answer - but not the truth. The truth is she wants revenge on the man who killed her father. Until she hunts him down, she works cold cases. A disturbing pattern emerges as she peruses the latest stack of files. Dead men - and all their widows were in the same shelter.

Right off the bat, I liked Nina - her irreverence for authority, her drive for answers and her own brand of justice. I'm a sucker for troubled lead characters. Supporting players were just as well drawn. Nina's boyfriend, a loan shark is more often the voice of reason. But he too is happy to bend rules.

Elias is a screenwriter and that skill added wonderfully to the 'readability' of the book. (It kind of reads like a movie) The emotions, twists, turns and action all leapt off the page. The dialogue, the investigations, the settings all really well done. And there's lots of current social issues woven in to the plot. It moves along at a good pace. There are a few plot pieces that I wondered about, but didn't detract from my enjoyment of the book.

But what I liked the most? Nina. She was a fantastic protagonist. And I'd like to hope that the little opening left in the final pages is enough to bring Nina (and Bobby B.) back for a second book. Read an excerpt of You Can Go Home Now.

Gentle readers - there are some triggering scenes and topics in this novel.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Over the Counter #459

What book caught my eye this week?  I adore Humans of New York! And I just noticed that Brandon Stanton has a new book - Humans - coming out in October of this year.

From St. Martin's Press:

"Brandon Stanton’s new book, Humans—his most moving and compelling book to date—shows us the world.

Brandon Stanton created Humans of New York in 2010. What began as a photographic census of life in New York City, soon evolved into a storytelling phenomenon. A global audience of millions began following HONY daily. Over the next several years, Stanton broadened his lens to include people from across the world.

Traveling to more than forty countries, he conducted interviews across continents, borders, and language barriers. Humans is the definitive catalogue of these travels. The faces and locations will vary from page to page, but the stories will feel deeply familiar. Told with candor and intimacy, Humans will resonate with readers across the globe—providing a portrait of our shared experience."

(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 the 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, July 14, 2020

I Killed Zoe Spanos - Kit Frick

I like adding a YA novel to my reading list every so often. Kit Frick's ("Writing complicated girls out of impossible situations since 2018") latest is I Killed Zoe Spanos.

Anna takes a summer job as a nanny for a wealthy family in the Hamptons. She's happy to take the position as she needs to get away from her life, her friends and her own excessive drugs and drinking use.

But trouble finds her anyway. The residents of Herron Mills are still on edge after the disappearance of local teen Zoe Spanos. Anna keeps getting told that she looks a lot like Zoe. And being a teen novel, you know what's going to happen next don't you? Uh huh - Anna decides to investigate on her own. She just feels a connection with Zoe. Now, this isn't a spoiler as it is in the publisher's description of the book - Anna ends up being charged for Zoe's death.

But! Also investigating is teen Martina who hosts the podcast Missing Zoe podcast. I'm finding podcasts in a lot of books now. It's like a new take on epistolary story telling. I quite like it. (And I'm a big podcast fan!)

Frick takes us down the garden path and back again - multiple times. There are so many ways the final aha could have been played out. But, there was no way at all to guess what was coming in the final pages. I loved the uncertainty and the unreliability of almost everyone's narrative. Twists and turns galore.

And being a YA novel, there's lots of angst, drama, mysterious estates, mysterious neighbours, undercurrents, and more - on top of the murder. Fans of Riverdale would most likely enjoy I Killed Zoe Spanos.

This one was just so much fun to listen to. I love listening to a book - I become much more immersed in the story. This audiobook was really different as it employed a large number of readers  - the two main characters and a large number of supporting characters. I really enjoyed this - it makes it so much easier to differentiate who is speaking which I really liked. Some were new to me and others were familiar names. Those reading teen characters had voices that sounded 'younger' and were just right for the characters. All of the narrators spoke clearly and were easy to understand. The tone and tenor of the plot was well portrayed and communicated with inflection and movement in the reading. Hear for yourself - listen to an excerpt of I Killed Zoe Spanos.

Read by Jenni Barber and Jayme Mattler / With Dan Bittner, Inés del Castillo, Jonathan Davis, Gibson Frazier, Madeleine Maby, Soneela Nankani, Jackie Sanders, Candace Thaxton and Jesse Vilinsky.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Giveaway - The Lion's Den - Katherine St. John

Sex! Betrayal! Intrigue! Got your attention!? I've got a hot summer read to givea way to one lucky reader. The Lion's Den by Katherine St. John.

What's it about?  From Grand Central Publishing:

"A dream vacation on a luxurious yacht turns deadly in this pulse-pounding beach read and perfect book club pick about glamour, friendship, romance, and betrayal on the Riviera.

Belle likes to think herself immune to the dizzying effects of fabulous wealth. But when her best friend, Summer, invites her on a glamorous girls' getaway to the Mediterranean aboard her billionaire boyfriend's yacht, the only sensible answer is yes. Belle hopes the trip will be a much-needed break from her stalled acting career and uniquely humiliating waitressing job, but once aboard the luxurious Lion's Den, it becomes clear that all is not as it seems.

The dream vacation quickly devolves into a nightmare as Belle and the handful of other girlfriends Summer has invited are treated more like prisoners than guests by their controlling host, and Belle comes to see Summer for what she truly is: a vicious gold digger who will stop at nothing to get what she wants. Belle soon realizes she's going to have to keep her wits about her -- and her own big secret close to her chest -- if she wants to make it off the yacht alive." Read an excerpt of The Lion's Den.

"Katherine St. John is a native of Mississippi and graduate of the University of Southern California. Over the years she has worked as an actress, screenwriter, director, photographer, producer, singer-songwriter, legal assistant, bartender-waitress, yoga instructor, real estate agent, and travel coordinator . . . but finds she likes writing novels best. Katherine currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and children." You can connect with Katherine on her website, like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

And if you'd like to read The Lion's Den, I have a copy to give away to one lucky reader! Enter for a chance to win using the Rafflecopter form below. Open to US and Canada, no po boxes please. Ends July 25/20.

Friday, July 10, 2020

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #320

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
Lauren Beukes's new novel Afterland has already released - and its definitely on my TBR list. I quite like apocalyptic tales. The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. Two very different looks this week - blue skies and a flower vs. what looks to be a catastrophic volcano/bomb/burning something.  Light vs. dark. Knowing the premise, I would say that the UK cover is closer to the story inside. But, I like the US cover too. I'm a sucker for bright pink. But with that flower, I would have been thinking 'break up story.' 
Both covers have a blurb from George R.R. Martin. Ahh, a tough call this week. For 'just because it catches the eye more', I'm going to go with the US cover. What about you? Which cover do you prefer? Have you read Afterland?
You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

The Love Story of Missy Carmichael - Beth Morrey

I do love my mayhem and murder tales. But I like a story that grabs you by the heartstrings too. Such is the case with The Love Story of Missy Carmichael by Beth Morrey.

There are a lot of  books with seniors as the main characters - finding their way, robbing banks, starting revolts at the care home and more. I wonder if there's a genre tag for these?

No revolts or robberies in this one. Just a seventy nine year old, lonely ex-librarian named Missy Carmichael. Her husband is gone, she's estranged from her daughter and her son and grandchild live in Australia. (She's in England) She's lonely, but avoids people and spends her time waiting. For what, she's not sure.

And then something does happen - a dog named Bob, two eclectic women and a small boy invade her life, her home.....and her heart.

The publisher used this phrase to describe the book. And I think it's perfect....."a life-affirming, deeply moving “coming-of-old” story, a celebration of how ordinary days are made extraordinary through friendship, family, and the power of forgiving yourself–at any age."

Morrey does a wonderful job creating her characters. Missy is not a warm and cuddly person in the beginning. But as her life is remembered, I started to understand her pain. And as she starts to venture out into life again I was so happy for her and mentally kept urging her forward. Angela is bigger than life and I loved her 'pushiness'. Her son Otis gives Missy a chance to play and hug a small person again. And Sylvie - her enthusiasm for everything and everyone is infectious.

The plot grabbed me by the heartstrings and didn't let go. Every so often you need a pick me up tale. And The Love Story of Missy Carmichael is just right. See for yourself - read an excerpt of The Love Story of Missy Carmichael.

Kudos to Beth Morrey - this was a fantastic debut novel.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Over the Counter #458

What book caught my eye this week? This one doesn't release until October, but I'm hoping my library buys it....

A Walk Around the Block: Stoplight Secrets, Mischievous Squirrels, Manhole Mysteries & Other Stuff You See Every Day (And Know Nothing About) by Spike Carlsen.

From Harper One:

"The bestselling author of A Splintered History of Wood uses a walk around his hometown to explore how every part of our urban landscape—from manhole covers and recycling bins to pedestrian crossings and bike lanes—impact and shape our lives in this fascinating work of popular science.

 A simple walk around the block set Spike Carlsen off on an investigative journey to discover everything he could about every thing we take for granted in our everyday life.

Leading readers on a spirited tour of his hometown, and a few other environs, he teaches us how to best appreciate and make the best use of the world’s most useful things with illuminating narrative tales about the hidden world outside and underneath our front door.

With wit and everyman expertise, Carlsen explains the engineering marvels, unheralded utilities, and how to make the best use of the world’s most useful things, including:

How the addition of a front porch reduces crime and increases property value
How planting a $10 boulevard tree cuts air-conditioning costs by 20 percent, while generating approximately $30,000 worth of oxygen and $31,000 worth of erosion control.
How a simple walk, in addition to reducing the chance of a stroke (20 percent), cardiovascular disease (30 percent), and broken bones (40 percent), can increase creativity by 60 percent.
Engaging, entertaining, and informative, illustrated with black-and-white photographs, A Walk Around the Block celebrates all the seemingly random yet essential stuff we encounter yet overlook every day. "

(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 the 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, July 7, 2020

Smacked - Eilene Zimmerman

My latest listen is Smacked: A Story of White-Collar Ambition, Addiction, and Tragedy by Eilene Zimmerman.

From Penguin Random House:

"A journalist pieces together the mysteries surrounding her ex-husband’s descent into drug addiction while trying to rebuild a life for her family, taking readers on an intimate journey into the world of white-collar drug abuse.

Something was wrong with Peter. Eilene Zimmerman noticed that her ex-husband looked thin, seemed distracted, and was frequently absent from activities with their children. She thought he looked sick and needed to see a doctor, and indeed, he told her he had been diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder. Yet in many ways, Peter seemed to have it all: a beautiful house by the beach, expensive cars, and other luxuries that came with an affluent life. Eilene assumed his odd behavior was due to stress and overwork—he was a senior partner at a prominent law firm and had been working more than sixty hours a week for the last twenty years.

Although they were divorced, Eilene and Peter had been partners and friends for decades, so when she and her children were unable to reach Peter for several days, Eilene went to his house to see if he was OK.

So begins Smacked, a brilliant and moving memoir of Eilene’s shocking discovery, one that sets her on a journey to find out how a man she knew for nearly thirty years became a drug addict, hiding it so well that neither she nor anyone else in his life suspected what was happening. Eilene discovers that Peter led a secret life, one that started with pills and ended with opioids, cocaine, and methamphetamine. He was also addicted to work; the last call Peter ever made was to dial in to a conference call.

Eilene is determined to learn all she can about Peter’s hidden life, and also about drug addiction among ambitious, high-achieving professionals like him. Through extensive research and interviews, she presents a picture of drug dependence today in that moneyed, upwardly mobile world. She also embarks on a journey to re-create her life in the wake of loss, both of the person—and the relationship—that profoundly defined the woman she had become."

My Thoughts:

Wow, just wow....I cannot even fathom what Zimmerman and her children have gone through. And I think it's quite brave of her to write about her life - and her ex-husband's death. I applaud her sharing this reality. Will their story help else realize someone in their life need help before it is too late? Maybe. Illegal drugs use is found everywhere regardless of gender, race, financial status or locale. Zimmerman inserts facts, figures and other interviews alongside Peter's story, painting a bigger picture.

Smacked is an eye opening and brutally honest memoir. It's heartbreaking to listen to, especially as  children were so affected. This audiobook is so very personal, as Zimmerman herself reads the book. Hear for yourself - listen to an audio excerpt of Smacked. How can you really rate someone's life? Five stars for the telling and sharing.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Review and Giveaway - Silent Scream by Angela Marsons

I love crime fiction and am always excited to discover a new author. Angela Marsons is my latest discovery. Silent Scream is the first book in her Detective Inspector Kim Stone series. And I have a copy to give away to one lucky reader, courtesy of Grand Central Publishing!

Right off the bat, I really liked the lead character. Kim is opinionated, pushy and likes to buck authority. But its all for the good - finding killers is her job and she's darn good at it. There's a great team backing Kim, three disparate personalities, all with a unique set of skills. I liked all of them as well and appreciated the relationship between the four.

Silent Scream opens with a startling prologue and hideous crime. Fast forward to present day - someone is killing seemingly random victims - until Kim find a link between them - something from all their pasts. Archaeologists are brought in. There are cryptic missives from the killer as well - and they're pretty dark.

I have to say that Marsons did a fantastic job with not just the police procedural details, but the archaeological bits as well. Everything rang true. Detailed.

Her writing is smooth, the pacing is great, the dialogue works and the and descriptions of time and place brought the 'Black Country' setting to life. The plot is well planned and executed. There are multiple choices for whodunit - and a nice little gotcha in the end. Well played.

An excellent read - I'll definitely read others in this series. See for yourself - read an excerpt of Silent Scream.

 And if you'd like to read Silent Scream, enter for a chance to win a copy using the Rafflecopter form below. Open to US and Canada, no PO boxes please. Ends July 18/20.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, July 4, 2020

The Book of Second Chances - Katherine Slee

A book with a book on the cover and in the title? Count me in! Katherine Slee's latest release is The Book of Second Chances.

Emily was in a tragic accident as a child. She lost her parents and was raised by and lives with her Grandmother Catriona, a much loved children's author. Emily provided illustrations for the picture books. Until she loses her Gran as well. Emily has happily lived her life within the walls and garden of the cottage they shared.  But a letter delivered after Catriona's death will send Emily on a hunt across the globe to find one last manuscript. To hold on to the house, she needs to undertake the search. Her childhood friend Tyler accompanies her.

Clues are provided by excerpts from her Grandmother's diary. The first stop leads to another clue and another piece.....of her Grandmother's life. And through this search Emily learns more about her Gran's life - and loves. And along the way....more about herself as well.

Slee does a wonderful job of creating the character of Catriona. We never meet her in person, but come to know her through Emily's memories, friends, loves, pictures and diary entries. Emily takes longer to come to know as she has built up so many defenses over the years. Her quick mind and imagination draw the reader to her. I loved the descriptions of the picture books' stories and illustrations.

Slee has used birds to open each chapter. Emily loves birds as well. There's a neat index at the back that details each bird and their meanings. It ties in nicely with what goes on in that chapter.

Slee has a way with words. I was easily caught up in the past and intrigued by the present. I enjoyed her writing very much. Both narratives thoughtfully consider love, loss, grief, forgiveness and hope. (And it feels a wee bit magical as well!) See for yourself - read an excerpt of The Book of Second Chances.

"Each character, each place, took inspiration from her own life, her own highs and lows, because it's not possible to appreciate the good without the bad. The light without the dark. The joy without the sorrow. 'But most of all', Emily whispered. "most of all, we have to try.'"

Friday, July 3, 2020

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #319

- 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 loved Ruth Hogan's previous book, The Keeper of Lost Things. I'm looking forward to reading her new release, Queenie Malone's Paradise Hotel. The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. So....a similar look on both covers with the cladding (or maybe ship lap lol), the crown in the upper left, a few flowers on the edge of the UK cover compared with the window box filled with climbing flowers. I think this week it's going to come down to colour preference. I do like the blue of the US cover, but I like the multi coloured UK a bit more. And that little hotel at the top - it's hard to see, but it says Brighton Pier. So, UK for me this week. What about you? Which cover do you prefer. Any plans to read Queenie Malone's Paradise Hotel?
You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

The Girl From Widow Hills - Megan Miranda

I've really enjoyed Megan Miranda's previous books. Her latest is The Girl From Widow Hills.

Arden was a child when she went missing for three days - having sleep walked out into the night. Miraculously she was found. But the aftermath ended up being too much for her single mother - and Arden herself. Arden has no recollection of these missing days. An adult now, Arden has reinvented herself - new name (Olivia), new locale. Until the night she sleepwalks again - and trips over a dead body.

Ohh, great premise! Who is the corpse? Does Olivia know him? Did he know her? And worst of all - did she have something to do with this man's death? After all, she's sleepwalking again....and again, she has no memory of it...

I loved the uncertainty. The reader is with Olivia as she tries to piece together what's going on, rather than with the police investigation. Miranda gives us lots of suspects and lots of questionable behaviour by a number of characters that muddies the waters. Including Olivia herself. Olivia's past is slowly revealed through newspaper articles and book excerpts. As these inserts continued, I started to have my own suspicions. I liked Olivia as a lead character, but worried about her naivete at points - as I was mentally yelling at her....No, they're lying! The supporting cast is a mixed bunch and the listener will have no problem picking out the ones you don't like!

I chose to listen to The Girl From Widow Hills. The reader was Rebekkah Ross. I've listened to other books she's narrated and I really like her voice. It is pleasant to listen to, clear and easy to understand. Her narration is very expressive, capturing the emotions of all the characters. The voice for Olivia has just the right tone - trusting, but as things progress and she becomes stronger, so does the strength of Olivia's voice. The voices used for the 'not so nice' characters were spot on. Ross's voice has movement, capturing the danger and action of the plot. Hear for yourself - listen to an excerpt of The Girl From Widow Hills.

As the final pages drew near, I thought I knew whodunit. I was right, but the ending was really well done - and tension filled! Great summer listen.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Over the Counter #457

What book caught my eye this week?  I loved paint by numbers when I was young. Less mess with this version I bet...

Paint by Sticker: Dogs. From Workman Publishing:

"Best in Show! Peel the sticker, place the sticker, and watch your painting come to life.

If only you had a tail to wag! This completely engrossing activity book for dog lovers and crafters alike has everything you need to complete 12 fantastic canine portraits, including a frisky dachshund, a pug begging to play, and a handsome husky showing off those alert blue eyes. And note - the card-stock pages are perforated, so every finished picture can easily be removed for framing." 

(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 the 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!)