Monday, August 31, 2020

Bunker - Bradley Garrett

Well, this is one for the times isn't it? Bradley Garrett actually started writing Bunker: Building For The End Times before Covid 19 hit, but finished it during the pandemic.

Pandemic. Apocalypse. Social breakdown. Political anarchy. What will you do or think you can do, to keep you and your loved ones safe? Are you prepped for any emergency? Many are - in many different ways. Here's a fact for you - in the US alone, 3.7 million Americans call themselves preppers.

Garrett takes us across the world exploring bunkers, bunker communities, preppers, bug out plans, kits and vehicles, conventions, and so much more. I was quite frankly astounded at the number of people and the lengths they are going to feel ready. The level of preparedness runs the gamut from extra groceries to full on in the ground communities.

Garrett meets with those who are selling safety, recounts the history of prepping, explores sites, and so much more. Garrett has an impressive background and it shows - the book is thoroughly researched and very well written.

There's lots of food for thought here - especially in these times. I do know one person who identifies as a prepper. They have goods for at least a year and a bug out plan. Who's to say what's going to be needed? Those that can afford it will certainly be at the head of the line. I was astounded by the dollar figures being floated. And based solely on some of the interviews included, there are many in the bunker community that I would say have some mental health issues.

Bunker was really interesting to listen to - informative and thought provoking.

I chose to listen to Bunker. Initially I thought the author would be the reader, but it was instead award winning narrator Adam Sims. His voice has a nice edge to it and I thought it suited the subject of the book really well. He captures the emotions and nuances of the work. His voice is clear, easy to understand and pleasant to listen to. Hear for yourself - listen to an audio excerpt of Bunker.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

In the Clearing - J.P. Pomare

In The Clearing is J.P. Pomare's new release.

What's it about? From Mulholland Books:

"Set against a ticking clock, this "taut and unpredictable" thriller pits a ruthless cult against a mother's love, revealing that our darkest secrets are the hardest ones to leave behind (Chris Hammer).

Four days to go
Amy has only ever known life in the Clearing, amidst her brothers and sisters–until a newcomer, a younger girl, joins the "family" and offers a glimpse of the outside world.

Three days to go
Freya is going to great lengths to seem like an "everyday mum," even as she maintains her isolated lifestyle, hoping to protect her young son and her dog.

Two days to go
When news breaks of a missing girl–a child the same age as Freya's son, Billy–Amy and Freya find themselves headed for a shocking collision.

One day to go."

My Thoughts:

Pomare's cult preys on children with a sadistic and thoroughly mad leader. Interestingly, in this case, it's a woman.  She simply needs twelve children to complete her family.  If they're blond that's perfect - otherwise she'll have their hair dyed. Food is scarce, correction is harsh, and the adults are horrible in so many ways. But things start to escalate and Amy begins to question everything she has ever known. I initially thought Freya was older than I thought. She's quite enigmatic about why she lives where she does, her past etc. This is a great way to hook a reader. But it went on a bit too long for me. She tries very hard to appear normal and fit in. But she knows she doesn't. A piece of her past arrives - and her carefully structured life begins to crumble.

I had my suspicions about the connection between these two lead characters. Pomare did a good job of eking out the connections by alternating Amy and Freya's narratives, as well as journal entries. The ending was a nice gotcha.

It was only on finishing the book that I discovered Pomare took inspiration for In the Clearing from an actual Australian cult from the 1960's. Many of Pomare's cult's details are taken directly from The Family.

And that could be the thing with this book for me. It felt like any other cultish novel I've previously read and ended up being an okay, not great, read for me. Other folks really loved this novel - you can check out their reviews on Goodreads. Or here's an excerpt of In the Clearing.

Gentle readers, this one may not be for you - there are some triggering situations.

Friday, August 28, 2020

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #327

- 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
Australian cover
A new Michael Connelly book is on the way! The Law of
Innocence releases in November. It's the seventh book in the Lincoln Lawyer series. And it's most definitely on my must read list. The US cover is on the left and the Australian cover is on the right. Okay...there's a dirty, gritty looking underpass on the US cover. Looking closer the dark items on the left hand side are a shopping cart and one or two homeless individuals. The light is blinding coming in the other end. The cover does indeed have to do with driving. The Australian cover gives us a night view - this time of a lit up city. It looks prosperous compared to the US cover. But the best part? Yeah, it's that black, '80's-vintage Cartier edition Lincoln Town Car that stands out. I love the idea of a mobile office. And I can only imagine cruising around in this beauty. Okay, so guess which cover I like? Uh huh, the Australian cover for me this week. What about you?
Any plans to read The Law of Innocence? Which cover do you prefer?
You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Estelle - Linda Stewart Henley

Linda Stewart Henley has just released her debut novel - Estelle. This novel is about Degas' sojourn with family in New Orleans in the late 1800's. It's historical fiction blended with family saga, romance, and mystery--and art!

Here's a bit more from She Writes Press:

"When Edgar Degas visits his French Creole relatives in New Orleans from 1872 to ’73, Estelle, his cousin and sister-in-law, encourages the artist―who has not yet achieved recognition and struggles to find inspiration―to paint portraits of their family members.

In 1970, Anne Gautier, a young artist, finds connections between her ancestors and Degas while renovating the New Orleans house she has inherited. When Anne finds two identical portraits of Estelle, she discovers disturbing truths that change her life as she searches for meaningful artistic expression―just as Degas did one hundred years earlier.

A gripping historical novel told by two women living a century apart, Estelle combines mystery, family saga, art, and romance in its exploration of the man Degas was before he became the artist famous around the world today." Check it out - here's an excerpt of Estelle.
Cr: Mark Gardner

"Linda Stewart Henley is an English-born American who moved to the United States at sixteen. She is a graduate of Newcomb College of Tulane University in New Orleans. She currently lives with her husband in Anacortes, Washington. This is her first novel. You can connect with Linda on her website and like her on FaceBook.

"...a promising debut....Henley brings New Orleans to life as she braids two intriguing stories – Edgar Degas’ art and dalliance with Marguerite, and Anne’s treasure hunt into Degas’s poorly-known early history."—Historical Novels Review

"Interweaving a contemporary story with a rich and detailed glimpse into a little-known segment of famed French painter Edgar Degas’s life, Linda Stewart Henley invites readers into the intriguing art world of New Orleans through interlocking storylines set a century apart. An admirable debut!"
―Ashley E. Sweeney, award-winning author of Eliza Waite and Answer Creek

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Over the Counter #465

What book caught my eye this week?

Proof that old television series never die - they just come out with new cookbooks. May 1992 was the last episode of the Golden Girls....and the Golden Girls Cookbook: More than 90 Delectable Recipes from Blanche, Rose, Dorothy, and Sophia (ABC) by Christopher Styler releases September 29/20 - a mere 28 years later!

From Kingswell Books:

"Filled with innovative recipes by renowned chef Christopher Styler, and beautiful photos by NYT food photographer Andrew Scrivani, plus fun quotes, info, and photos from the show.

There will be Italian meals like Clams Fra Diavlo in Sophia's chapter, and Southern food like honey-bourbon glazed carrots in Blanche's, and of course some amazing cheesecakes. And what Golden Girls cookbook would be complete without Rose's favorite Scandinavian dishes, like St. Olaf Friendship cake, a simple, buttery treat.

From drinks and appetizers, to salads and mains, there is something to delight every fan in this witty and approachable cookbook."

(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, August 25, 2020

Blacktop Wasteland - S.A. Cosby

Wow, just wow. My review isn't going to do justice to S.A. Cosby's recently released Blacktop Wasteland - but just know it's an absolutely fantastic read.

Cosby opens Blacktop Wasteland with a night race on a road in rural Virginia. Bug's driving a Duster that his father left behind when he walked away. The description of time and place is so vivid - I could smell the gas, the rubber, hear the revving of engines, the squeal of tires and the buzz of the night. The settings are also characters in this book.

"Progress had left this part of town behind. A blacktop wasteland haunted by the phantoms of the past."

Beauregard "Bug" Montage is known as the best wheelman on the East Coast. Was. Bug's left the Life - he's gone straight - owns a garage, has a wife and a family. But his debts are mounting, despite his best efforts. He needs money.....and he knows one way to get it. He goes looking for a job - one that needs a wheelman - and he finds one.

There are so many layers to Cosby's story. First off the characters are wonderfully drawn. Bug is an intricate character, one the reader can't help be onside with. The supporting cast - good and bad - are just as well drawn. (I had a soft spot for cousin Kelvin) All of them jump off the page, with detailed lives.

And then there's' the heist. I must say, I can't get enough heist stories. This one is brilliantly imagined and planned. But there's always a snag somewhere. And again, Cosby's plotting is a standout. The danger, action and yes, unforseen twists and turns had me committing a crime. I couldn't help myself....I peeked ahead a few chapters. I know, I know, but the tension was unbearable! I truly couldn't put the book down.

But there's more to this story than just the heist. It's a study of a man whose life has been a struggle and his desire to have a better life for his family. Memories provide a look at Bug's early and formative years.

And that ending? Not what I wanted, but instead what is real. If I had to put a genre label on Blacktop Wasteland, it would be grit lit.

Blacktop Wasteland is one of my favorite reads for 2020. A pedal to the metal, non stop read. See for yourself - read an excerpt of Blacktop Wasteland.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Bear Necessity - James Gould-Bourn

Do you ever feel like it's just the right time to listen or read a feel good book? I like to regularly slot one into the mix, giving me a change from my regular murder and mayhem reads. James Gould-Bourn's debut novel, Bear Necessity, is one of those feel good books.

Danny's wife died in a tragic auto accident a year ago. Their eleven year old son Will has not spoken a word since. They're both struggling with her loss. And adding to the mix, Danny has lost his job and he's desperately behind in his debts.

What to do? Well, a walk through the park provides him with an idea - he'll become a street performer! Strapped for cash, he ends up with a worn out panda costume. And The Dancing Panda is born! Well.....kinda....sorta....

Danny is a great lead character, one you just can't help but like. Will, without a word, had me in his corner and in my heart. The supporting cast is just as delightful - Will's best friend Mo (who often speaks for him) is quite funny. Danny's best friend Ivan is gruff with a heart of gold. As is Crystal, a professional pole dancer. There's an eclectic group of street performers - one of which decides he is Danny's arch enemy.

Gould-Bourn's writing makes for easy listening. There are lots of light moments and joking, but folded into that are a father and son trying to negotiate their shared grief. Grief is different for everyone and I thought Danny and Will's loss and journey forward was well written.

Now, Bear Necessity is one of those stories that you just know is going to work out in the end. And truly that's why I listen or read them. I need some life affirming positivity in this crazy world. Listeners will absolutely find that in Bear Necessity.

As mentioned, I chose to listen to this title. The reader was Rupert Holliday-Evans. He did a fantastic job of bringing Gould-Bourn's story to life. He's a very versatile narrator. He provided many voices and accents that matched the mental images I had created for the characters. It was quite easy to know who was speaking. There's lot of enthusiasm in his reading. He easily depicts the emotions, action and more with ease. I quite enjoyed his reading. Hear for yourself - listen to an excerpt of Bear Necessity.

Friday, August 21, 2020

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #326

- 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
I'm eager to read Romy Hausmann's novel Dear Child. It's a bestseller in Germany and is garnering praise in North America. This descriptor caught my eye - "Room meets Gone Girl ..." The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. Ok, right off the bat, the crayon coloring and printing just says a child is involved. The Xing out of the tiny house in telling as well. You can gather a lot of the plot from this cover I think. The UK has chosen a starker look. The title in red ink says danger. And the house is made from sticks and looks to be falling down. Definitely creepy. There's also three blurbs from some big name authors. This week I'm going to go with the UK cover. What about you? Any plans to read Dear Child?
Which cover do you prefer?
You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

The Heir Affair - Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

Oh what a royal romp of a read this was! The Heir Affair by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan picks up where the first book (The Royal We) left off.

Now, you don't have to The Royal We to enjoy The Heir Affair - but you should - it's a great read as well!

In a nutshell, here's the plot from Grand Central Publishing:

"After a scandalous secret turns their fairy-tale wedding into a nightmare, Rebecca "Bex" Porter and her husband Prince Nicholas are in self-imposed exile. The public is angry. The Queen is even angrier. And the press is salivating. Cutting themselves off from friends and family, and escaping the world's judgmental eyes, feels like the best way to protect their fragile, all-consuming romance.

But when a crisis forces the new Duke and Duchess back to London, the Band-Aid they'd placed over their problems starts to peel at the edges. Now, as old family secrets and new ones threaten to derail her new royal life, Bex has to face the emotional wreckage she and Nick left behind: with the Queen, with the world, and with Nick's brother Freddie, whose sins may not be so easily forgotten -- nor forgiven."

Are you a royal watcher? I must admit, I am. So, yes there are many, many similarities to the current family of royals in England. What Cocks and Morgan have done though, is humanize the public personas and let us behind the curtain. And imagined what might have happened or might be happening away from public scrutiny.

Leading the charge is Bex. She is such a wonderful lead. She's not perfect, but always tries to do the right thing while remaining true to herself - within the confines of her new public role and behind closed doors. She's a lead that readers can't help but be onside with. And who hasn't imagined marrying a Prince? The relationship between Bex and Prince Nicholas is wonderfully drawn and absolutely believable. (and so romantic!) The supporting cast is an eclectic bunch - I have a soft spot for Bex and Nic's friends - especially Gav. The Queen and Queen Mother played a bigger part in this book.

There's a lot of humor in the pages of The Heir Affair, but many serious issues are tackled as well and are handled with aplomb. The dialogue is witty and things move along quickly, making for addictive reading.

An easy, breezy summer read - definitely a fairytale for today's world. I'm hoping there's more in store.....Read an excerpt of The Heir Affair.

"Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan are the creators of the Internet's wittiest, longest-standing celebrity fashion blog, Go Fug Yourself, which made Entertainment Weekly's Must List and the Guardian's list of 50 Most Powerful Blogs. They are the authors of The Royal We as well as two young adult novels, Spoiled and Messy, and have written for publications ranging from New York magazine to Vanity Fair, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, W magazine, and Glamour." You can connect with Heather and Jessica on their website, like them on Facebook, follow them on Instagram as well as on Twitter.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Over the Counter #464

What book caught my eye this week? *Puts hand up* Yes.....I adore Hallmark movies - especially at Christmas!

Hallmark Channel Countdown to Christmas: Have a Very Merry Movie Holiday Hardcover by Caroline McKenzie.

From Hearst Books:

"The official Hallmark Channel Christmas keepsake takes you behind-the-scenes of your favorite feel-good holiday films with the casts' memories, photos, recipes and more.

This stunning book invites readers to an exclusive inside look at the making of everyone's favorite holiday classics with secrets from the stars, screenwriters, set designers, costume designers, and directors who create the movie magic. Featuring the network's top leading ladies and gentlemen--Candace Cameron Bure, Lacey Chabert, Kristin Chenoweth, Debbie Matenopoulos, Cameron Mathison, Chris McNally, Danica McKellar, Christina Milian, Tamera Mowry-Housley, Jodie Sweetin, Holly Robinson Peete, Alexa and Carlos PenaVega, and many others--this ultimate deck-the-halls guide shares their personal holiday recipes, favorite ideas for Christmas decorating and gift giving, as well as ways to savor and share the true meaning of the holidays.

Inside you'll find:
  •  45 recipes for delicious holiday meals, Christmas cookies, desserts, cocktails, and even snacks perfect for serving at your movie marathons, plus recipes from the Hallmark Channel movie stars such as Danica McKellar's Chocolate Yule Log, Chris McNally's Classic Eggnog, and Lacey Chabert's Sweet Potato Pie
  •  A heartfelt foreword from Candace Cameron Bure on her love of the holiday season with its "magic and warmth."
  •  An introduction from Country Living Editor-in-Chief Rachel Hardage Barrett on how holiday movies offer comfort and warmth
  •  Super-fun quizzes to test your Hallmark Channel Christmas Movie IQ
  •  Special decorating and gift-wrapping ideas and thoughtful ways to express gratitude
  •  Everything you need to host a watch-party including a play-along bingo card and shareable memes
  •  Color photos throughout including captivating images from your favorite holiday romances
  •  Heartwarming tales of rescue animals like the network's Happy the Dog and Happy the Cat

It's the must-have gift for your favorite Hallmark Channel movie fan or for anyone who wants to put a little more happily-ever-after into the happiest season of all!"

(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, August 18, 2020

The Night Swim - Megan Goldin

Megan Goldin gave us a "heckuva page turner" with last year's debut novel, The Escape Room. (my review) I quite enjoyed it and was eager to read her newest book, The Night Swim.

Rachel Krall is the voice and the brains behind the Guilty Or Not Guilty podcast. (Okay, hooked already - I love crime podcasts.) Her popularity has surged since the show managed to get a man's sentence overturned. Rachel thinks she's found her case for season three. A small town's golden boy, an athlete destined for greatness, has been accused of rape. (Uh huh - seen that one in the papers haven't we?) Rachel stops into town to have a look around. When she comes back to her car, there's a note under her windshield wiper, begging her to take a look at the past - the death of a young woman twenty five years ago. Murder or accident? But, Rachel keeps a very low personal profile - who knows she is here?

Oh, so many ways this story could go! And the plot is unpredictable - even better. I truly appreciate not being able to figure things out ahead of time.

Goldin has a background in reporting and I think The Night Swim benefited greatly from that skill set. The investigation was believable and well written. I felt like the reader was right alongside Rachel as she put the pieces together. Rachel was a strong lead character, one I liked and was behind all the way.

In addition to loving podcasts, I also enjoy novels written with epistolary elements. Goldin gave me both with podcast transcripts being included. Courtroom scenes were part of the book as well - I always enjoy a legal battle.

Gentle readers, there are trigger situations in this book. I thought Goldin handled them with the seriousness and respect they deserved.

Another great read from Goldin - I'll be watching for her next! Read an excerpt of The Night Swim.

"Megan Goldin worked as a correspondent for Reuters and other media outlets where she covered war, peace, international terrorism and financial meltdowns in the Middle East and Asia. She is now based in Melbourne, Australia where she raises three sons and is a foster mum to Labrador puppies learning to be guide dogs. The Escape Room was her debut novel." You can connect with Megan Goldin on her websitelike her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Giveaway - The Heatwave - Kate Riordan

Summer isn't over yet! It's still hot, hot, hot! As is Kate Riordan's new book - The Heatwave. It releases August 18.....and....I have a copy to give away to one lucky reader!

What's it about? From Grand Central Publishing:

"Under the scorching French sun, a tense homecoming unearths a long-buried family secret in this deliciously propulsive beach read of a mother’s greatest fear brought to life.

Elodie was beautiful. Elodie was smart. Elodie was manipulative. Elodie is dead.

When Sylvie Durand receives a letter calling her back to her crumbling family home in the South of France, she knows she has to go. In the middle of a sweltering 1990’s summer marked by unusual fires across the countryside, she returns to La Reverie with her youngest daughter Emma in tow, ignoring the deep sense of dread she feels for this place she’s long tried to forget.

As memories of the events that shattered their family a decade earlier threaten to come to the surface, Sylvie struggles to shield Emma from the truth of what really happened all those years ago. In every corner of the house, Sylvie can’t escape the specter of Elodie, her first child. Elodie, born amid the ’68 Paris riots with one blue eye and one brown, and mysteriously dead by fourteen. Elodie, who reminded the small village of one those Manson girls. Elodie who knew exactly how to get what she wanted. As the fires creep towards the villa, it’s clear to Sylvie that something isn’t quite right at La Reverie . . . And there is a much greater threat closer to home.

Rich in unforgettable characters, The Heatwave alternates between the past and present, grappling with what it means to love and fear a child in equal measure. With the lush landscape and nostalgia of a heady vacation read, Kate Riordan has woven a gripping page-turner with gorgeous prose that turns the idea of a summer novel on its head." Sounds good doesn't it? I loved her previous book, Firecomb Manor (my review). Here's an excerpt of The Heatwave.

"Kate Riordan is a British writer and journalist. After working on staff at the Guardian and Time Out London, she left London for the Cotswolds in order to concentrate on writing novels. Her historical novel Fiercombe Manor (The Girl in the Photograph in the UK) was published by Harper in 2015." You can connect with Kate Riordan on Twitter, follow her on Facebook as well as on Instagram.

Enter for a chance to win a copy of The Heatwave using the Rafflecopter form below. Open to US and Canada, no PO boxes please. Ends August 29/20.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

In Case of Emergency - E.G. Scott

In Case of Emergency is the newly released second book from E.G. Scott.

As the book opens, we meet Charlotte. There's something in her background that she alludes to more than once, but doesn't define right away. She also is worried about her boyfriend Peter - she's not heard from him and is afraid he's missing. But he's told her his job is clandestine and she is not to worry when she doesn't hear from him. So, she doesn't go to the authorities. Instead, the authorities end up calling on her. There's a body she needs to identify as she was listed as the emergency contact. Problem is - she doesn't know the person.

Okay, I thought that was a great premise - so much could be done with this start. The missing boyfriend has lots of possibilities as well.

We also meet Rachel, Charlotte's friend and colleague. She too has secrets that end up taking a while to learn about. And yes, those slow reveals absolutely work in a suspense novel. But, I have to say the opening salvos were overly enigmatic.

There are many more plot twists and additions as things move forward. The red herrings were done well. But for me, it was tooooo much and way overdone. In the end, the final 'whodunit' was ridiculously unbelievable.

Here's the other thing - I didn't like either character at all. Charlotte is supposed to be brilliant, yet her actions speak otherwise. And this is just something that annoyed me - they two of them call each other 'honey' - over and over again.

E. G. Scott is the shared pseudonym of authors Elizabeth Keenan and Greg Wands. And upon discovering this, it explained much. In Case of Emergency reads like two people wrote it - and every idea that was brainstormed was included.

This one wasn't for me - but you can find lots of folks who enjoyed it on Goodreads. And here's an excerpt of In Case of Emergency.

Friday, August 14, 2020

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #325

- 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
Val McDermid is known as Britain’s Queen of Crime. She is indeed one of my fave mystery/police procedural authors. She writes a number of series. Still Life is the 6th entry in her Karen Pirie Series. The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. The water is featured on both covers. One is depicted in a busier locale - I have to believe that significant bridge on the US cover gets lots of use. At first glance I thought the bright fish pots on the US cover was a blanket! Ominous skies on both, but the blue on the US cover seems too fake for me.  A quieter tone on the UK cover, which I quite like. That seemingly never ending view is strangely appealing to me. The empty boat has lots of possibilities. So an easy choice this week - UK cover. What about you? Which cover do you prefer? Any plans to read Still Life?
You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World

Thursday, August 13, 2020

The Wicked Sister - Karen Dionne

Karen Dionne's debut novel, The Marsh King, was a runaway bestseller. She follows that success up with her newly released second novel, The Wicked Sister.

Rachel either committed or witnessed a horrific crime as a child. She has virtually no memory of the death of her parents at their remote log cabin. She ran into the woods and wasn't found for two weeks. Remarkedly, she was in good shape. Fifteen years later, she has chosen to keep herself voluntarily locked away in a psychiatric hospital. For company, she often speaks to the spider in the corner of her room. But when the journalist brother of another resident takes an interest in the killing and offers up new evidence, Rachel knows she has to confront her past - if she can remember it.

Dionne employs one of my favorite storytelling devices with past and present narratives. We follow Rachel in the present as she tries to find answers. And we meet Jenny, Rachel's mother as we come to know the past. How Rachel and her sister, Diana, grew up on a large wilderness property, communing with nature. That back and forth technique always makes for addictive reading - having to get back to a timeline, armed with new knowledge.

The Marsh King's Daughter had fairy tale elements woven through it and I found myself looking (and finding) the same in The Wicked Sister. Deep in a wood with an enchanted feel, animals endowed with a magical feel, a good sister vs. a bad sister, and more.

Dionne did a really good job with her characters. The confusion of one sister and the incarnate evil of the other jumped off the page. There are some really creepy scenes that had me shivering.

The title's a bit of a giveaway - we know that one of them is evil, but it's a roundabout trail to the final answer. One element used was a bit of a stretch for me -  but note that I am quite pragmatic. A decidedly different read with the suspense genre label. Here's an excerpt of The Wicked Sister.

Just for fun, look up the meanings of both names - I wonder if Dionne chose the names for her lead characters based on their meanings?

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Over the Counter #463

What book caught my eye this week?

Ice Walker: A Polar Bear's Journey through the Fragile Arctic by James Raffan

From Simon and Schuster:

"From bestselling author James Raffan comes an enlightening and original story about a polar bear’s precarious existence in the changing Arctic, reminiscent of John Vaillant’s The Golden Spruce.

Nanurjuk, “the bear-spirited one,” is hunting for seals on Hudson Bay, where ice never lasts more than one season. For her and her young, everything is in flux.

From the top of the world, Hudson Bay looks like an enormous paw print on the torso of the continent, and through a vast network of lakes and rivers, this bay connects to oceans across the globe. Here, at the heart of everything, walks Nanurjuk, or Nanu, one polar bear among the six thousand that traverse the 1.23 million square kilometers of ice and snow covering the bay.

For millennia, Nanu’s ancestors have roamed this great expanse, living, evolving, and surviving alongside human beings in one of the most challenging and unforgiving habitats on earth. But that world is changing. In the Arctic’s lands and waters, oil has been extracted—and spilled. As global temperatures have risen, the sea ice that Nanu and her young need to hunt seal and fish has melted, forcing them to wait on land where the delicate balance between them and their two-legged neighbors has now shifted.

This is the icescape that author and geographer James Raffan invites us to inhabit in Ice Walker. In precise and provocative prose, he brings readers inside Nanu’s world as she treks uncertainly around the heart of Hudson Bay, searching for nourishment for the children that grow inside her. She stops at nothing to protect her cubs from the dangers she can see—other bears, wolves, whales, human beings—and those she cannot.

By focusing his lens on this bear family, Raffan closes the gap between humans and bears, showing us how, like the water of the Hudson Bay, our existence—and our future—is tied to Nanu’s. He asks us to consider what might be done about this fragile world before it is gone for good. Masterful, vivid, and haunting, Ice Walker is an utterly unique piece of creative nonfiction and a deeply affecting call to action."

(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, August 11, 2020

The Shadows - Alex North

I listened to Alex North's previous book - The Whisper Man - and really enjoyed it. I was eager to listen to his newest - The Shadows.

The covers of both titles feature handprints - with a bit more when you look closely. I liked the elongated shadows and the figures making their way into .....?

The Shadows opens with a horrific crime in a small English village. Now, it's one you've read in the papers before. Or so I thought. I was wrong - there's so much more to this crime.

Paul Adams was a schoolboy when it happened. It involved the boys he thought were his friends. One died, one went to prison - and one - Charlie - was never seen again. That was twenty five years ago. Paul left the village and never returned, until now. And only because his mother is dying. And then - another boy is killed in a neighbouring village - and his death seems to be a copy of that old crime. Is Charlie back?

I'm not going to spoil things for you - the method of murder is frightening - and very, very creepy. (I love creepy!) Things start happening to Paul - someone following him, flashes of the past and what's in his mother's attic. (Attics or basements always house the gotcha stuff, don't they?) What's happening now? And what really happened then?

North does subtle creepy really, really well. A sound, a name, a memory, a possibility. The reader knows there is something bad out there and it is the anticipation that ramps up the creepiness factor over and over again. I loved the building tension. The Shadows are the woods behind Paul's boyhood home. The description of the woods themselves is enough to give you goosebumps.

I appreciate not being able to predict a plot. There was no way to know where North's story was headed and how it would end.

I chose to listen to The Shadows. The readers were Hannah Arterton and John Heffernan. I've said it before and I'll say it again - I become much more immersed in a tale when I listen. The Shadows absolutely was better for me in audiobook format. Both readers have lovely British accents that are easy to understand. They both enunciate well and speak clearly. Heffernan has a wonderfully expressive voice that captured the tone and tenor of the plot. The gravelly tone of his voice was perfect for the uncertainty, the danger and the spookiness of the book.  Arterton did a good job as well - she too has an expressive voice that's easy on the ears. Hear for yourself - listen to an excerpt of The Shadows.

Another atmospheric listen from North. I'll be watching for his next book.

Monday, August 10, 2020

When She Was Good - Michael Robotham

I'm a big fan of Michael Robotham's writing. I've really enjoyed the Joe O'Loughlin series, as well as the stand alones. Robotham introduced a new series last year featuring forensic psychologist Cyrus Haven. And it was just as good as I had hoped. (my review)

Haven returns in the newly released When She Was Good. And so does Evie Cormac - a teenager who was discovered in a hidden room when she was a young child. She can tell when anyone is lying to her. But who is she? She has never told anyone her real name - if she knows it. Or what happened to her or who might be responsible? But the past never stays buried does it? Cyrus has stirred things up - and Evie is on the run again.

I have been wondering if we would ever find out about Evie's past. She is a fascinating character - well, actually they both are. Cyrus also has a dark and troubled past. Robotham has a done a great job building the two leads. I like them and find myself fully engaged and interested in their stories.

The search for Evie's past - or is the past searching for Evie? Either way, it's a tense journey to the final pages. Danger, action, suspense, corruption and more propel the story forward. And long hidden memories and details up the ante. Things unfold through both Evie and Cyrus's voices. The plotting is intricate and well played.

I chose to listen to When She Was Good. And that choice was made based on the reader - Joe Jameson. He did the first book as well and I'm so glad he did latest as well. The continuity is great. His voice is rich and full and his speaking voice is clear and easy to understand. He created distinctive voices for each character The Cyrus is calm and measured. The Evie voice is great - I absolutely hear a teenage girl with a chip on her shoulder. Those unique voices have created clear mental images of the characters for me. He interprets the book well and uses his voice effectively for the emotions and action as they play out. I've said it before and I'll say it again - I find myself more drawn into a book when I listen to it. Hear for yourself - listen to an excerpt of When She Was Good.

Another excellent listen from Robotham - but hey, I knew it would be. An easy five star book.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Ask Me Anything - P.Z. Reizin

I enjoyed P.Z. Reizin's previous book, Happiness for Humans (my review). He has just released his newest book - Ask Me Anything.

Happiness for Humans featured two AIs (Artificial Intelligence) as lead characters.The two AI's decide to meddle in Jen and Tom's lives - and help the course of true love along.

Reizin employs the same premise in Ask Me Anything. But, in this case its a fridge/freezer leading the charge. He has decided that Daisy's choice in men is going nowhere. And so he, along with a plethora of other appliances and devices will help the course of love along.

The fridge/freezer has a fun voice - with a wry sense of humor and even philosophical. The supporting cast includes an electric toothbrush (his conversations tend to go in circles), a microwave, the television and more web devices outside Daisy's home, like bar cams, CCTV etc. And this is truly reality. And the appliances yes, they too have 'personalities'. I liked Daisy, but felt like she was more of a prop for the appliances and their agenda.

The road to love is a bumpy one, but you just know its all gonna work out in the end.

Now, I liked As Me Anything, but I felt like it was a story that I'd read before. And I started to grow tired of the fridge/freezers conversations/meetings and plans. It became repetitive - and slow. I ended up not reading straight through, but instead picked it up and down over the course of a few weeks.

Here's an excerpt of Ask Me Anything.

Friday, August 7, 2020

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #324

- 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 adored Anthony Horowitz's Magpie Murders. (my review). I was excited to see that there's a new Atticus Pund mystery coming out in November in NA, August in the UK. The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. Alright, lets get started. Two bold background colors on both covers. I do find the red moire appealing that the blue. As to images, the UK does have a moon referencing the title. Night scene, bare branches - and an owl - with one of the worst owl faces I've ever seen. It looks like he hit a building straight on and flattened out his face even more. Hmm, do you sense what cover I'm liking this week? The key image against the red makes me want to see what's inside. And the four little images - a (moon?) flower, a book, an X (marks the spot) and a hammer (murder weapon anyone?) And look at the left hand side cut out on the key - do you see the face. A most excellent cover - and an easy choice for me this week - US. What about you? Which cover do you prefer? 
Any plans to read Moonflower Murders?
You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

How Lulu Lost Her Mind - Rachel Gibson

Rachel Gibson is a prolific, New York Times bestselling author. Her latest novel is How Lulu Lost Her Mind.

Lou Ann has built her business from the ground up. Professionally she is known as Lulu The Love Guru - sex, love and relationship advice is her forte. She's on her way to start a new tour when she gets a call from her mother's Alzheimer nursing home. Patricia is being asked (well told) to leave the home due to her behavior. And just like that Patricia is living with Lou Ann. And the tour is on hold. The one thing that Patricia wants is to visit her family home, Sutton Hall, in Louisiana. And Lou Ann wants to give her mother that last wish.

I liked the premise - honoring the wishes of someone who is losing their memories. Patricia is a real character with five marriages under her belt. She loves men and is a real flirt. I really liked her - she's true to herself and has lived her life exactly as she wanted to. Having family members with Alzheimer Disease, I could appreciate this character and her behaviour, dialogue and moods. I would be curious to know if Gibson has had this in her life personally. Every experience is different, but I found some of Patricia's actions and abilities beyond what I would expect.

Now, I loved Patricia, but I was only lukewarm towards Lou Ann. She is the lead, but everything seems to be about her, despite the move being for her mom. The heat, the house, the town, the stores, the workmen and more all rub her the wrong way. I know Gibson was going for humor with much of it, but a lot of it just fell flat for me.

There's a romance here as well - hunky contractor. I liked him and his southern charm and wisdom, but never bought into his attraction to Lulu.

Mother/daughter relationships are a big part of the book. And those parts I really liked. But the title How Lulu Lost Her Mind just reinforced my dislike for her. Why Lulu is the one losing her mind when it is her mom who is literally losing hers? The behaviour she can't help? Maybe. There were lots of other plot lines that seemed extraneous - the 'mystery' of Patricia's father and uncle. Gibson uses lots of description - it grew tiresome to hear every last detail.

I listened to How Lulu Lost Her Mind. The reader was Stephanie Einstein and she was really good. The voice she uses for Lou Ann is perfect for the mental image I created for this character - somewhat entitled, exasperated a lot of the time and judgemental. There are moments when she remembers her childhood and what is happening in the present and a softer, kinder voice is used. Einstein had a good voice for Patricia - believable and suitable. Einstein's voice is clear, easy to understand and definitely engaged. Hear for yourself - listen to an audio excerpt of How Lulu Lost Her Mind.

I may be in the minority on this one. Other readers loved it - check out the reviews on Goodreads.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Over the Counter #462

What book caught my eye this week? I love photography books - the more unusual, the better...

Accidentally Wes Anderson by Wally Koval.

From Voracious Books:

"A visual adventure of Wes Anderson proportions, authorized by the legendary filmmaker himself: stunning photographs of real-life places that seem plucked from the just-so world of his films, presented with fascinating human stories behind each fa├žade.

Accidentally Wes Anderson began as a personal travel bucket list, a catalog of visually striking and historically unique destinations that capture the imagined worlds of Wes Anderson.

Now, inspired by a community of more than one million Adventurers, Accidentally Wes Anderson tells the stories behind more than 200 of the most beautiful, idiosyncratic, and interesting places on Earth. This book, authorized by Wes Anderson himself, travels to every continent and into your own backyard to identify quirky landmarks and undiscovered gems: places you may have passed by, some you always wanted to explore, and many you never knew existed.

Fueled by a vision for distinctive design, stunning photography, and unexpected narratives, Accidentally Wes Anderson is a passport to inspiration and adventure. Perfect for modern travelers and fans of Wes Anderson's distinctive aesthetic, this is an invitation to look at your world through a different lens."

(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, August 4, 2020

Afterland - Lauren Beukes

I enjoy reading speculative fiction. I'm always curious as to what an author imagines for our future. Lauren Beukes's latest novel, Afterland, isn't that far in the future - and is in fact disturbingly close to what we're living with now.

There's a pandemic - and what it does is kill only men. There are a few left and the government has them in captivity, testing them. It's been three year now - there are a few males who are immune. The female government has them in captivity, testing them. Miles is now twelve and is one of the few boys left. Stuck in the US when the pandemic hit, his mother Cole has been trying to get them back to their own country of South Africa. With the help of Cole's sister Billie, they have one last shot.

"The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry." And women. Billie has a different plan for Miles.

What follows is a gut wrenchingly tense, hold your breath dangerous, edge of your seat chase. With every corner Miles and Cole turn, there's another complication, problem, roadblock. For in this new world, everyone has their own agenda.

The characters were so well drawn. Twelve year old Miles rang true and Cole's love and determination to save her son is palpable. But Billie. Ohhh boy, Billie is, as my gran used to put it, a piece of work. Her thinking is skewed to begin with, but a bump on head amplifies her crazy. And along the way both Cole and Billie meet and travel with other groups of women. Just as - or more - scary than Billie.

And is Beukes's imagining that far fetched? Nope, not at all. Separating parents from their children, holding people captive against their will, a sickness across the world and more.

Beukes had me from first page to last. Would you like it? If you liked The Handmaid's Tale with a side of Mad Max, you'd love Afterland. I could see this one as a movie. Take a look - here's an excerpt of Afterland.  his was a first read of Lauren Beukes for me. I think her writing is absolutely fantastic, so I'm off to hunt down her first two books. And I'll eagerly awaiting the fourth!

Monday, August 3, 2020

Dear Emmie Blue - Lia Louis

It was the balloon that sold me on Lia Louis's new book, Dear Emmie Blue.

Emmie was sixteen when she tied her contact information to a balloon and let it fly. The balloon made it from England to France, where Lucas found it. The two connected and have been the best of friends for fourteen years. Although....Emmie has been hoping it might become something more....

I loved the idea of a friendship starting with a found message. Louis does a fantastic job detailing the friendship, the caring, the banter and the ease of these two together, along with Lucas's older brother Eliot and their parents.

Emmie was such a great lead - she suffered a traumatic experience years ago and it has marked her life in so many ways. Along with the somewhat slapdash parenting her single mom provided. Emmie is kind and giving, but somewhat hesitant because of that background. The listener can't help but wish the world for her.

And speaking of wishes...we don't always get what we want do we? Does Emmie get her wish for a deeper relationship with Lucas? I'm not going to spoil things for you, but the path to true love is not always a straight line. And again, kudos to Louis for the excellent romantic plotting - so well written, believable and well, wishable. There are a number of supporting players - some you will happily dislike and others you'll adore. And you will need tissues at a few points.

Louis tackles some harder topics with a gentle and understanding touch. Well done. I really enjoyed Dear Emmie Blue and for me it was a five star listen.

As I said, I chose to listen to Dear Emmie Blue and I am so glad I did. I've often said it - I truly feel more immersed in a story when I listen. The reader was Katy Sobey and she was excellent. Her voice completely suited the mental image I had created for Emmie. Her voice is pleasant to listen to, easy to understand and well paced. She has a lovely British accent. The voices she created for the male characters were good as well and differentiated enough that you knew who was speaking. I feel like she 'got' the book and the plot and it showed in her interpretation of Louis's story. And those really emotional bits of the story? Yep, she had me in tears. Hear for yourself - listen to an excerpt of Dear Emmie Blue.