Tuesday, October 17, 2017

A Far, Far Better Thing to Do - Joelle Herr - Review AND Giveaway

Here's the dilemma I always have...what do you buy a book lover for a gift? Guessing at a title they haven't read is always risky. But, what about a book about books? An interactive book? And here's the answer - A Far, Far Better Thing to Do - A Lit Lover's Activity Book by Joelle Herr with illustrations by Lindsay Spinks.

From the introduction: "If you're reading this, chances are you're a card-carrying (library card, natch), TBR-stacking, unabashed book nerd. Bibliophile or bookworm, whichever moniker you prefer, if you consider yourself a lit lover, welcome - and get ready to experience and appreciate the classics in a whole new, super-fun and interactive way."

Check! That would be me. I adore books like this - books that challenge my brain, provide some distraction from the busyness of life and celebrate the written word.

Match the famous lines, characters, actors and more with the book title, mazes, crossword puzzles, connect the dots, word searches, knowledge quizzes and much more. A Far, Far Better Thing to do is printed in two tone, black and red. But....there are many line drawings that call out for pencil crayons or markers. There are sixty five activities tucked in between the covers. And if you get stuck.....the answers are included in the back. Have a peek inside here.

(And the title? Did you guess? It's a take on a quote from Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities.)

A great gift for a friend - or yourself! And thanks to Running Press, I have a copy to giveaway to one lucky reader. And your choice - gift it to a friend or keep it for yourself! Enter using the Rafflecopter form below. Open to US and Canada, no PO boxes please. Ends October 28/17.

Over the Counter # 388

What book caught my eye this week as it passed over the library counter and under my scanner. Hair stylin' this week....

Pin It!: 20 Fabulous Bobby Pin Hairstyles by Annamarie Tendler, photographs by Justin Ouellette.

From the publisher, Chronicle Books:

"Brightly colored pins styled into fun patterns and designs are the hottest new trend in hairstyling, and Pin It! gives short- and long-haired fashionistas the know-how to create 20 colorful bobby pin hairstyles for everything from an afternoon trip to the mall to an elegant party. Step-by-step photos make it easy for anyone to follow along, and the unique looks appeal to trendy teens and stylish young women as well as parents looking for a wholesome hair-styling book with fresh-faced appeal. With style tips to pull it all together and five DIY projects for personalizing bright and sparkly pins, this is the new must-have beauty book."

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

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Dark Lake - Sarah Bailey - Review AND Giveaway

The Dark Lake is Australian author Sarah Bailey's debut novel.

DS Gemma Woodstock is the lead investigator in a rural Aussie town. When a woman is found dead in a local lake, Gemma recognizes her from their high school days. But she downplays this connection. Why? "It's amazing what you can keep buried when you want to." The dead woman is an enigma - her students adored her and her colleagues admired her. But as the investigation continues, Gemma discovers that no one really 'knows' Rosalind, including her own family.

Bailey sets up the reader with not one, but two mysteries - who killed Rosanind and what event occurred in Gemma's past that she is so determined to keep hidden.

Gemma was an interesting lead character. She's smart and driven to find answers. But. She's also playing a dangerous game with her personal life. I didn't agree with the choices she was making and the actions she took to pursue that choice. I can't say that I liked her partner Felix either. I was intrigued by Rosalind. We only get to 'know' her from other's memories and observations though. I would have like a peek into her life from her own point of view.

Bailey's use of the 'then and now' technique gives the reader small glimpses into Gemma's past and then flips back to the present. The book is equally divided into a search for the killer and a character driven exploration of Gemma and her life.

Bailey gives us lots of options and characters to choose from for the closing 'whodunit' and the final answer was clever. I did find the reveal of Gemma's secret to be a bit of a letdown and the resolution she finds in her personal life in the final pages to be somewhat cliched. The book weighs in at 400+ pages. I feel this could have been tightened up a bit, as Gemma's dilemma became somewhat repetitive after awhile and I found my interest slipping.

I think this may be the first in a series. If so, I would be curious to see where Bailey next takes her character. Read an excerpt of The Dark Lake.

I think The Dark Lake is a solid debut, but the publisher's comparisons to Tana French and Paula Hawkins may be a bit ambitious at this stage of Bailey's career. I think I'm in the minority on this one, so please weigh in if you've read it already.

If you'd like to read The Dark Lake, I have a copy to giveaway. Enter using the Rafflecopter form below. Open to US and Canada, ends Oct. 28/17.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

My Encyclopedia of Very Important Animals - DK Canada

Little Guy loves visiting the zoo, farms, pet stores and more. DK Canada has a great selection of books in their All Creatures Great and Small Boutique that seemed like it would cover a wide variety of animals. And it did!

The cover was colourful with a mixture of real and drawn picture of various animals. It invited opening up to see what was inside. The boarding used for the covers was slightly padded, making it nicer for holding. The contents are divided between four categories: All About Animals, Amazing Animals, Animal Antics and More Very Important Animals. Now, while Gramma is a front to back reader, Little Guy is not. There is an attached bookmark to keep your place if you do manage to read front to back!

The first few passes through, he just picked pages at random, looking at pictures and stopping at what caught his eye. Subsequent readings slowed down. We would finish looking at each double paged entry. He happily pointed out those he recognized. The entries are a mixture of actual photos and drawings. The majority are photos, which Gramma preferred. The drawing are well done though and not 'cartoonish'. Little Guy loves 'interesting things.' (Yes he actually calls it that) It can be something he finds outside or something he learns. There are many interesting things to be learned in the entries of this book. Gramma learned too - did you know that Dalmatian puppies are born white and only acquire their spots as they grow? And a few new names for groups of animals....a flamboyance of flamingos, a prickle of porcupines.

The publisher recommends for ages 4-8. Best suited for the younger end of that I think. Thumbs up from both Little Guy and Gramma. Gramma's only dither is the title. I'm not sure about the VIP, but have no alternatives suggestions. Still, it was what was inside that counted. Read an excerpt of My Encyclopedia of Very Important Animals. 

The Last Magician - Lisa Maxwell

I loved the age recommendation for Lisa Maxwell's New York Times bestseller, The Last Magician......14-99. Because really, who doesn't love a magical tale? At any age.

The Last Magician is set in New York City in the early 1900's. Esta has travelled back in time from the present day to steal one last artifact from a sinister group that has been killing off those that are truly magic. Can she do it - and save the magic?

Ahh, what's not to love - time travel, magic, good vs. evil, romance. Yes, romance - a lovely yes/no/maybe so attraction! Dastardly villains, thrills, dangers, intrigue, action and much more. Maxwell's world building was excellent, the plotting detailed, the characters engaging and the story moved forward at a good pace.

I chose to listen to The Last Magician. As I've mentioned many times before, I find I become more immersed in a story while listening. A magical world seemed like the perfect book to get lost in.

The reader was Candace Thaxton. She has an unusual voice - it is very, very expressive with intonations that rise and fall in tone many times in each sentence. Her voice is somewhat gravelly and quirky, if that makes sense. I liked it and thought it matched the book she was narrating. She enunciates well - her words were clear and easy to understand. She conveyed the emotions of the characters well. Actions, time, place and tone of the story as well. See for yourself listen to an excerpt of The Last Magician.Or if you prefer, read an excerpt.

And at the end I wondered.....what if there was still a bit of magic in the world? Even better - there's a sequel in the works!

Friday, October 13, 2017

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #180

- 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 20th book in the Harry Bosch series from Michael Connolly releases on Oct. 31 on both sides of the pond. I've read the entire series and will be picking this one up too.The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. Two very similar looks this week. I must admit to being slightly underwhelmed by both though. Obviously a large metropolis and interstate play a part. From the UK cover I would guess somewhere warm from what looks to be palm trees. The US cover could be anywhere. I find the US cover to be bland, so this week I am going with the UK cover. The blue and yellow perk it up a bit for me. What about you? Any plans to read Two Kinds of Truth? Which cover do you prefer?
You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Chalk Pit - Elly Griffiths

Elly Griffiths' Ruth Galloway mysteries are hands down one of my favourite series. The ninth entry is The Chalk Pit.

The series takes place in the Norfolk area of Britain. The area is home to lots of history - and bones. (I find I always learn a little something reading these books.) Ruth Galloway is a forensic archaeologist. She is a lecturer at the university, but is often called by the police for assistance. This time 'round, Ruth is called in when bones are found in an old chalk mine tunnel that an entrepreneur is turning into an underground restaurant. DCI Nelson and his team are also busy - a number of 'rough sleepers' have disappeared - amongst rumours that they may have gone 'underground'.

Griffiths' blending of historical fact with a mystery is always fascinating. Her plotting is excellent and always captures my interest. But what brings me back, book after book, are the characters. I have become so engaged in their lives. As I've said before.."Griffiths has created a wonderful protagonist in Ruth. I just really like her. She's decidedly unique and different. She is a single mother at forty plus, overweight, messy, introverted, but highly intelligent and curious. 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 interesting and engaging. Cathbad, the enigmatic, self proclaimed Druid is a perennial favourite of mine.  For those that also follow this series and taking care not to spoil things....Griffiths provides some surprising twists in the lives of Ruth....and Harry. I can't wait to see what transpires next!

This is the first time I've chosen to listen to one of the series. I always find that I become more immersed in a book through listening. And it depends on the narrator doesn't it? Well, reader Jane McDowell did an excellent job of interpreting Griffiths' work. My mental image of Ruth didn't change - it was only enhanced by McDowell's voice. She provides different tones and inflections for other supporting characters. Her voice is easy and pleasant to listen to. I think I would chose to listen to the upcoming tenth novel as well. The Dark Angel, due out mid 2018.

The Chalk Pit is wholeheartedly recommended! (As is the entire series - do yourself a favbour and start at the beginning with The Crossing Places) Listen to an excerpt of The Chalk Pit.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Giveaway - Dark Signal - Shannon Baker

Dark Signal is the second entry in Shannon Baker's Kate Fox series. It releases on October 17/17 - and I have a copy to giveaway to one lucky reader!

From Forge Books:

"Dark Signal by Shannon Baker is the second installment in the Kate Fox mystery series, called "A must read" by New York Times bestselling author Alex Kava, starring a female Longmire in the atmospheric Nebraska Sandhills.

Reeling from her recent divorce, Kate Fox has just been sworn in as Grand County, Nebraska Sheriff when tragedy strikes. A railroad accident has left engineer Chad Mills dead, his conductor Bobby Jenkins in shock. Kate soon realizes that the accident was likely murder.

Who would want to kill Chad Mills? Kate finds that he made a few enemies as president of the railroad workers union. Meanwhile his widow is behaving oddly. And why was his neighbor Josh Stevens at the Mills house on the night of the accident?

While her loud and meddling family conspires to help Kate past her divorce, State Patrol Officer Trey closes in on Josh Stevens as the suspect. Kate doesn’t believe it. She may not have the experience, but she’s lived in the Sandhills her whole life, and knows the land and the people. Something doesn’t add up—and Kate must find the real killer before he can strike again." Read an excerpt of Dark Signal.

"Now a resident of Tucson, Baker spent 20 years in the Nebraska Sandhills, where cattle outnumber people by more than 50:1. Shannon is proud to have been chosen Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ 2014 and 2017 Writer of the Year. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Western Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers.

Baker moved seven times in less than ten years, from the Nebraska Sandhills, to Boulder, CO, Flagstaff, AZ, back to Boulder and a short stint in southwestern Nebraska. It might be schizophrenic, but helpful for writing great western settings. She’s hoping to let a little moss grow on the rolling stone, as she’s settled in Tucson with her favorite person, and her dog, Jezebel, the crazy Weimaraner." You can connect with Shannon on her website and follow her on Twitter.

And if you'd like to read Dark Signal, I have a copy to giveaway to one lucky reader. Enter using the Rafflecopter form below. Open to US only. Ends October 21/17.

Over the Counter #387

What book caught my eye this week as it passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Lost words this week......

A Life Discarded by Alexander Masters.

From the publisher,  Farrar, Straus and Giroux:

"Alexander Masters, the bestselling author of Stuart: A Life Backwards, asks you to join him in celebrating an unknown and important life left on the scrap heap

In 2001, 148 tattered and mold-covered notebooks were discovered lying among broken bricks in a bin on a building site in Cambridge, England. Tens of thousands of pages were filled to the edges with urgent handwriting. They were a small part of an intimate, mysterious diary, starting in 1952 and ending half a century later, a few weeks before the books were thrown out. The anonymous author, known only as “I,” is revealed as the tragicomic patron saint of everyone who feels their life should have been more successful. Over five years, the brilliant biographer Alexander Masters uncovers the identity and real history of this secret author, ending with an astounding final revelation.

A biographical detective story that unfolds with the suspense of a mystery—but has all the dazzling originality that made Masters’s Stuart: A Life Backwards such a beloved book—A Life Discarded is a true, poignant, often hilarious story of an ordinary life."

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

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Bellevue Square - Michael Redhill

Bellevue Square is the latest book from Michael Redhill. It's also a Scotiabank Giller Prize Finalist.

The premise? A customer in Jean Mason's bookstore tells her that she has a double, a doppelganger. Jean is intrigued and heads to Bellevue Square (a park) to see if she too can see this woman.

I was intrigued by the idea of the double. And my interest was further piqued by this early line..."I put the phone away and at that exact moment a woman I would later be accused of murdering walked into my shop."

And with those two pieces, I thought I was in for a mystery. And I was - but the book certainly did not unfold in any way I could have predicted. There is so much more to Jean's tale. The facade that Jean presents to the world - and her family - has cracks in it.

Redhill's writing in Bellevue Square is fiendishly clever. The reader must pay close attention as Jean's world turns on a dime. What is truth? What is fiction? There is no way to tell as we see everything from Jean's viewpoint - and she is most definitely an unreliable narrator. Her mind is frightening, yet brilliant.

What I really enjoyed were the conversations and interactions between Jean and those that frequent Bellevue Square. While somewhat nonsensical at times, these interactions seem the closest to 'real' for Jean, often overshadowing the relationship with her husband and children.

Take your time reading Bellevue Square. There is much to consider as Jean seeks answers. There are hints and references dropped along the way that had me forming in my mind what I thought was 'the answer.' And I was wrong. I think I hooted out loud when I realized what was happening in the final chapters. I don't want to say anymore and spoil the book, but overlapping is a word I'll throw out there. I am still not sure if I completely 'got' everything that Redhill has woven into his book, as some of it is a bit confusing. In an interview with the Globe and Mail, Redhill mentions that Bellevue Square explores loss and "is about the surprising (and disturbing) plasticity of the self and what happens when the sense you've made of things stops making sense."

Bellevue Square is set in the streets and area around Kensington Market in Toronto. Redhill has lived and worked in the Toronto area for many years and his descriptions benefit from his first hand observations. References to Canadiana - Dominion grocery stores, Tim Hortons, Shopper's Drug Mart will be familiar to Canuck readers.

Inger Ash Wolfe is Redhill's nom de plume. I was delighted to find references to the Hazel Micallef books. And it was only on reading the acknowledgements that I discovered Bellevue Square is "part one of a Modern Ghost, a triptych." I will pick up the next book, as I truly want to see where and what could transpire next.

Thought provoking and fiendishly clever. Read an excerpt of Bellevue Square.