Monday, February 29, 2016

Hidden Bodies - Caroline Kepnes

Caroline Kepnes's second book, Hidden Bodies has just released.

I really liked Kepnes's first book You. (my review) You introduced us to Joe, a sociopathic, narcissistic bookseller who thinks he's found the girl of his dreams. But the path to true love is a very bumpy one.....

Joe returns in Hidden Bodies. He's in love again. And again it's a bumpy road. You was told in  Joe's unending, seriously disturbed stream of consciousness narrative. That narrative continues in Hidden Bodies.

Kepnes had my attention in the beginning as Joe is up to his old tricks....

"You don't go to a party empty-handed and my reusable Pantry bag is stuffed with rope, my Rachael Ray knife, rubber gloves, plastic bags, duct tape, and Percocets from Dez."

....but I slowly found my attention wandering as the book progressed. (spoiler) Joe ending up in Hollywood was just - I don't know - too much of a stretch for me. I must admit, that plots involving stars, movies, Hollywood etc. bore me.

A big part of Joe's life revolves around his sex life. In You it made sense and was an integral part of the plot. But I found it overdone in Hidden Bodies. Honestly, I just grew weary of Joe and his d**k. (His words not mine) His detailed sexual escapades, exploits and fantasies lost the sense of shock or effect with so much repetition. Again, I grew bored.

I liked Joe in You and even felt sorry for him. As I read, I saw shades of Dexter. I didn't have the same reaction this read. Instead, I found Joe to be flat and just not as interesting the second time around. I already knew who and what he was - his actions weren't much of a surprise, but simply another helping of the same. I saw the book through to the end - which finishes up somewhat ambiguously - hinting at perhaps a third Joe book - one I won't be picking up.

I think I'm in the minority on this one. See for yourself - read an excerpt of Hidden Bodies.

Friday, February 26, 2016

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #94

- 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/Canadian cover
Crime writer Sharon Bolton is an author who is on my radar, but I haven't had a chance to try yet. Her next book, Daisy in Chains is due out in June in the UK and September in the US. The US cover is on the left and the UK/Canadian cover is on the right.  Hmm, so the flowers are crushed and dying on the US cover, but there's really nothing to say it's a crime book - it could be about a bad gardener? The flowers in the UK version are a little healthier looking, except for those blood streaked stems. And the streak across the stems is quite ominous. As a crime fiction lover, the UK cover would catch my interest over the US cover. So, have your read Sharon Bolton? Which cover do you prefer?
You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Good Liar - Nicholas Searle

The Good Liar is Nicholas Searle's first novel.

Roy is an octogenarian......conman. When we first encounter Roy, he is trolling Internet dating sites, looking for an older woman he can separate from her money. His latest date is Betty - and he thinks she's perfect for his needs. "I do it because I can, because I'm good at it. And these people, these stupid complacent people...They need shaking up."

But is she as clueless as Roy believes? Perhaps not - small snippets of dialogue led me to believe she wasn't. From Betty's thoughts..."Evidently he sees her as the gullible type."

Searle is very adroit in his storytelling technique. Chapters flip from current day to the past as Roy's life is exposed in reverse. We begin in the immediate past and travel back to his childhood, as the present unfolds. Searle has plotted an inventive, complex life for Roy. As each chapter revealed more, I had an inkling of where the end (or beginning) was going. Although I was partially correct, Searle still surprised me.

This is a slow building story, but Searle kept me engaged throughout. I was so curious after every chapter in Roy's life as to what would come next (or before) And throughout it all is Betty - an unknown quantity. What game is she playing at? Are they both good liars?

Roy is, quite frankly, despicable. I grew more and more disgusted as his past came to light. Although we don't know as much about Betty, I was quite drawn to her, hoping......well, I had a certain ending in mind.

I thought The Good Liar was quite a clever, unusual debut - one I enjoyed.  Read an excerpt of The Good Liar.

"Nicholas Searle grew up in the southwest of England and studied languages at the University of Bath and the University of Göttingen, Germany. He spent more years than he cares to remember in public service, in the UK and New Zealand, before deciding in 2011 to leave and begin writing fiction. The Good Liar is his first novel. Nicholas lives in Yorkshire, in the north of England." You can follow Nicholas on Twitter.See what others on the TLC book tour thought. Full schedule can be found here.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Giveaway! Friction by Sandra Brown

Calling all Sandra Brown fans! Sandra Brown's latest novel Friction is newly released in trade paperback - and I've got three copies to giveaway!

From Grand Central Publishing:

"From #1 New York Times bestselling author Sandra Brown comes a gripping story of family ties and forbidden attraction.

Crawford Hunt wants his daughter back. Following the death of his wife four years ago, Crawford, a Texas Ranger, fell into a downward spiral that left him relegated to deskwork and with his five-year-old daughter Georgia in the custody of her grandparents. But Crawford has cleaned up his act, met all the court imposed requirements, and now the fate of his family lies with Judge Holly Spencer.

Holly, ambitious and confident, temporarily occupies the bench of her recently deceased mentor. With an election upcoming, she must prove herself worthy of making her judgeship permanent. Every decision is high-stakes. Despite Crawford's obvious love for his child and his commitment to being an ideal parent, Holly is wary of his checkered past. Her opinion of him is radically changed when a masked gunman barges into the courtroom during the custody hearing. Crawford reacts instinctually, saving Holly from a bullet.

But his heroism soon takes on the taint of recklessness. The cloud over him grows even darker after he uncovers a horrifying truth about the courtroom gunman and realizes that the unknown person behind the shooting remains at large . . .and a threat.

Catching the real culprit becomes a personal fight for Crawford. But pursuing the killer in his customary diehard fashion will jeopardize his chances of gaining custody of his daughter, and further compromise Judge Holly Spencer, who needs protection not only from an assassin, but from Crawford himself and the forbidden attraction between them.

Friction will keep you on the edge of your seat with breathtaking plot twists and the unforgettable characters that make Sandra Brown one of the world's best-loved authors. It is an extraordinary novel about the powerful ties that bind us to the ones we love and the secrets we keep to protect them."  Read the first five chapters now!

"Sandra Brown is the author of over sixty-seven New York Times bestsellers. There are over eighty million copies of her books in print worldwide, and her work has been translated into thirty-four languages. She lives in Texas." For more information you can visit Sandra on her website, find her on Twitter and connect with her on Facebook.

I have three copies to giveaway! Enter to win a trade paperback edition of Friction using the Rafflecopter form below.  Open to US and Canada, no PO boxes please. Ends March 12/15.

Over the Counter #303

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

First up is City of Thorns: Nine Lives in the World's Largest Refugee Camp by Ben Rawlence.

From Random House Canada:

"To charity workers, Dadaab refugee camp is a humanitarian crisis; to the Kenyan government, it's a "nursery for terrorists"; to the western media, it's a dangerous no-go area; but to its half a million residents, it is their last resort.

Situated hundreds of miles from any other settlement, in the midst of the inhospitable desert of northern Kenya where only thorn bushes grow, Dadaab is a city like no other. Its buildings are made from mud and its citizens survive on rations and luck. Over the course of four years, Ben Rawlence became a first-hand witness to a strange and desperate limbo-land, getting to know many of the individuals who have sought sanctuary in the camp. Among them are Guled, a former child soldier who lives for soccer; Nisho, who scrapes together an existence by pushing a wheelbarrow and dreaming of riches; Tawane, the indomitable youth leader; and schoolgirl Kheyro, whose future hangs upon her education.

With deep compassion and rare eloquence, Rawlence interweaves the stories of nine individuals to show what life is like in the camp and to sketch the wider political forces that keep the refugees trapped there. Lucid, vivid and illuminating, City of Thorns is an urgent human story with profound international repercussions, brought to life through the people who call Dadaab home."

Next up is The Lovers: Afghanistan's Romeo and Juliet, the True Story of How They Defied Their Families and Escaped an Honor Killing by Rod Nordland.

From Harper Collins Canada:

"A riveting, real-life equivalent of The Kite Runner—an astonishingly powerful and profoundly moving story of a young couple willing to risk everything for love that puts a human face on the ongoing debate about women’s rights in the Muslim world.

Zakia and Ali were from different tribes, but they grew up on neighboring farms in the hinterlands of Afghanistan. By the time they were young teenagers, Zakia, strikingly beautiful and fiercely opinionated, and Ali, shy and tender, had fallen in love. Defying their families, sectarian differences, cultural conventions, and Afghan civil and Islamic law, they ran away together only to live under constant threat from Zakia’s large and vengeful family, who have vowed to kill her to restore the family’s honor. They are still in hiding.

Despite a decade of American good intentions, women in Afghanistan are still subjected to some of the worst human rights violations in the world. Rod Nordland, then the Kabul bureau chief of the New York Times, had watched these abuses unfold for years when he came upon Zakia and Ali, and has not only chronicled their plight, but has also shepherded them from danger. The Lovers will do for women’s rights generally what Malala’s story did for women’s education. It is an astonishing story about self-determination and the meaning of love that illustrates, as no policy book could, the limits of Western influence on fundamentalist Islamic culture and, at the same time, the need for change."

(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, February 23, 2016

Death of a Nurse - M.C. Beaton - Review AND Giveaway

I don't read a lot of 'cozy' mysteries, but when I do my choice is M.C. Beaton. She is the author of two very light hearted mystery series set in Scotland. Of the two, I enjoy the Hamish Macbeth tales just a tad bit more than Agatha Raisin, although they're both wonderful.

The latest MacBeth (#31!) is Death of a Nurse. It releases today - and I have a copy to giveaway!

Death of a Nurse happily returns us to the small Scottish village of Lochdubh, where Police Sergeant Hamish MacBeth is based. (with no plans to leave or moved up in rank) I happily settled down to catch up with familiar characters and places - Patel's grocery, the Currie sisters, Priscilla Halburton-Smythe, Jimmy Anderson, Hamish's nemesis DCI Blair and more.

Hamish's beat covers a large territory. (And a seemingly inordinate amount of murders!) While introducing himself to a new resident, he meets not just the wealthy older gentleman but his attractive nurse. Hamish has an eye for the lassies, and asks her out. Gloria is a no show for dinner.....but her body appears on the beach a few days later.

Beaton's books follow a comfortable, comforting, cozy pattern. Hamish is usually the one to solve the murders, but eschews the limelight, for fear of having to leave his beloved live-in police station. Daviot and Blair do their best to try and rid themselves of MacBeth, but haven't been successful yet. Hamish himself is still looking for love, but he too has been unsuccessful. Beaton introduces new characters as the books progress - usually a new Constable for Hamish to work with.  One longstanding character departs in this book, to my surprise.

The mysteries aren't overly complicated, but it's the journey to the whodunits that's the most enjoyable. Death of a Nurse is another fun entry in this long-running series. Read an excerpt.

"M. C. Beaton has won international acclaim for her New York Times bestselling Hamish Macbeth mysteries. The BBC has aired 24 episodes based on the series. Beaton is also the author of the bestselling Agatha Raisin series, which will air as an eight-episode dramatic series on Sky1, starring Ashley Jensen. She lives in the Cotswolds with her husband. For more information, you can visit Beaton on her website or connect with her on Facebook."

And if you think you'd like to read the full book, enter to win a copy using the Rafflecopter form below! Open to US and Canada, no PO boxes please. Ends March 5/16.

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Quality of Silence - Rosamund Lupton

The Quality of Silence is the third book from Rosamund Lupton. I've quite enjoyed her previous two books.

Yasmin leaves England to connect with her wildlife photographer husband Matt, currently in Alaska. The visit was planned, but Yasmin moved up the timetable after the two argued on the phone. With Yasmin is their ten year old daughter Ruby. But, when they arrive, Yasmin is told that her husband has died in a terrible accident. She refuses to accept this and instead sets out to find him or more concrete answers as to what happened. She takes Ruby with her. Ruby is profoundly deaf...

"My name is a shape, not a sound. I am a thumb and fingers, not a tongue and lips. I am ten fingers raised old - I am a girl made of letters. R-U-B-Y. And this is my voice."

Lupton's previous books have featured a female protagonist thrust into extraordinary circumstances, going beyond what they thought they could do.

Yasmin is thrust into that position as well as she attempts to navigate the unyielding cold and darkness of the Alaskan winter, searching for answers. This made for an excellent backdrop for the story - the dark, the danger and the unknown. The desolation of the landscape mirrors Yasmin's angst and fears. But Alaska is beautiful as well and this is mirrored in Ruby's observations and hopes. Lupton does a great job describing her setting. The cold became a palpable entity, chilling me as I read. But, I did have some reservations ....Spoiler alert - stop here.

Could Yasmin really have really driven a heavy duty hauler loaded with a pre-fab house over the treacherous ice roads that are the Alaskan winter? In a storm? Risking their lives? When the 'real' drivers pull over? Yep, I've watched Ice Road Truckers.

It seems someone is just as determined that Yasmin not search for Matt. Again, Lupton does a great job building tension making an ordinary pair of headlights quite ominous.

For me, The Quality of Silence belonged to Ruby. She was a wonderfully engaging character, I loved her outlook on life and her determination to decide how her 'voice' is heard. Her emails to her missing father are quite heartbreaking. I had a hard time with Yasmin - quite frankly, I just didn't like her.

Lupton ramps up the tension as the book progresses. I was invested in the journey - and then the road to the final answers came (too) quickly into view - and I was slightly disappointed. I guess I was looking for more a traditional thriller ending - which was there. But, I thought it too stretched credibility.

Still, The Quality of Silence kept me reading to the last pages. Not my fave of Lupton's three books, but I will pick up the next one without question. Read an excerpt of The Quality of Silence.

You can connect with Rosamund Lupton on her website, on Twitter as well as on Facebook.

Friday, February 19, 2016

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #93

- 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/Canadian cover
Michael Robotham is one of my favourite crime authors. His newest book, Close Your Eyes releases in the US (cover on the left) in April and the UK and Canada in August (cover on the right). Now with a title like that, I can see why the publisher has chosen the photo they have. But...I am sick to death of half-pictures, behind their shoulder pictures/in a mirror pictures of a girl/woman that is probably in danger. So, you probably guessed I'm going with the UK/Canadian cover this week. I find it visually appealing, the stormy clouds hint at something dark as does the beacon of light from the isolated house. So, is Close Your Eyes on your TBR list? Which cover do you prefer? 
You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Ginny Gall - Charlie Smith

Ginny Gall is the latest work from prize winning author Charlie Smith.

The title? Ginny Gall is a word coined by 1920's and 1930's blacks meaning..."a suburb of Hell". And that's where Smith takes the reader to start - to the Jim Crow south in Tennessee.

The lead character is Delvin Walker born in Chattanooga in 1913 to a prostitute. He's left alone too soon as his mother flees, accused of killing a white man.  Smith takes the reader on Delvin's journey through life as he makes his way - first finding a home with the local black funeral director and then mirroring his mother as he too is accused of killing a white boy and flees Chattanooga. He rides the rails, exploring America, hoping for more, hoping for better. But it seems he can't outrun prejudice, inhumanity and injustice.

I loved Delvin's voice, his hopes and his thoughts. I wept at the fact that you could change the dates of the story and still post it under today's newspaper headlines.

Smith's prose reminded me of black strap molasses - richly coloured and glowing when the light shines through as it is poured. But also viscous and opaque when not moving. I had to put the book down a number of times and come back to it. The prose are beautiful and lyrical, but I found them overwhelming in large doses. Smith details every bit of the book, sometimes to the detriment of his protagonist and his message.

This one's going to be hard to rate - I think there's a very important message here, I think Smith's writing is beautiful and I liked the protagonist very much, but I just got bogged down in detail. Read an excerpt of Ginny Gall.

Charlie Smith, the author of seven novels and seven books of poetry, has won the Aga Khan Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, the Paris Review, Harper's, the New Republic, the New York Times, the Nation, and many other magazines and journals. Three of his novels have been named New York Times Notable Books. He lives in New York City and Key West. See what others on the TLC book tour thought - full schedule can be found here.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Over the Counter #302

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Literary offerings this week - from knits to hoaxes.....

First up is Pride and Preju-Knits by Trixie Von Purl.

From the publisher, Harper Design:

"Knit your way through the incredible world of Jane Austen’s beloved novels, from Pemberley to Mansfield Park, and create your favorite Austen characters, including Elizabeth Bennet, Mr. Darcy, Emma Woodhouse, and more with this delightful collection of twelve knitting projects from the famed craftsman, Austen enthusiast, and author of Knit Your Own Kama Sutra, Trixie von Purl.

Knitting maven Trixie von Purl helps knitters and Austen fans create the world of Jane Austen like never before with this inventive and unique craft book. Featuring a high-class art, Pride & Preju-knits gathers together the best sassy heroines and brooding heroes from all six of Austen’s beloved and widely acclaimed novels, including Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, Emma Woodhouse and Mr. Knightley, and Marianne Dashwood and Mr. Willoughby.

Following the complete pattern instructions for stitching each character, knitters can also recreate scenes involving these handsome Regency ladies and gentlemen. Capture Mr. Darcy’s proposal to Elizabeth, the Netherfield Park ball, and Willoughby rescuing Marianne in the rain. Engage your yarn skills to fabricate extravagant stately homes, opulent tea parties, the rolling English countryside, and other genteel settings that are the essence of Austen. Pride & Preju-knits also features a wide-variety of additional patterns for bonnets, breeches, lacy parasols, and other charming accessories.

Each scene featured in Pride and Preju-knits is accompanied by Trixie’s own hilarious interpretation, clear, easy-to-follow knitting patterns, and instructions to guide readers through every stage of the project. Specially commissioned photographs accompany the instructions throughout so that readers can easily visualize every step."

Next up is Literary Hoaxes: An Eye-Opening History of Famous Frauds by Melissa Katsoulis.

From Skyhorse Publishing:

"The famous fakes and fakers of literary history.

When Dionysius the Renegade faked a Sophocles text in 400 BC (cunningly inserting the acrostic “Heraclides is ignorant of letters”) to humiliate an academic rival, he paved the way for two millennia of increasingly outlandish literary hoaxers. The path from his mischievous stunt to more serious tricksters like the fake Howard Hughes “autobiography” by Clifford Irving and Oprah-duper James Frey takes in every sort of writer, from the religious zealot to the bored student, via the vengeful academic and the out-and-out joker.

But whether hoaxing for fame, money, politics, or simple amusement, each perpetrator represents something unique about why we write. Their stories speak volumes about how reading, writing, and publishing have grown out of the fine and private places of the past into big-business, TV-book-club-led mass-marketplaces which, some would say, are ripe for the ripping.

For the first time, the complete history of this fascinating subgenre of world literature is revealed. Suitable for bookworms of all ages and persuasions, this is true crime for people who don’t like true crime and literary history for the historically illiterate. A treat to read right through or to dip into, it will make you think twice next time you slip between the covers of an author you don’t know."

(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, February 16, 2016

The Widow - Fiona Barton

Fiona Barton's debut novel, The Widow has just released. And it only took me a day to devour it.....

Jean's husband has just accidentally died - hit by a bus as they waited at the corner to cross. "You see, my husband died last week. Everyone was very kind and trying to stop me from seeing his body, but I couldn't tell them I was glad he was gone. No more of his nonsense."

That's from the opening pages - and I was immediately hooked. Why is she glad? What nonsense? Well, Glen was a suspect in the disappearance of a little girl - never found. Glen vehemently denied he had anything to do with it and Jean, being a good wife, stood by him.

Barton tells her story from the present - after Glen's death as a reporter tries to get 'the real story' out of Jean and the past - as a detective desperately tries to find the little girl. We're privy to not just Jean's thoughts, but also those of the mother of the missing child and the detective.

Barton deliciously ekes out the story - each new chapter reveals a little more. Cutting back and forth between time lines only serves to heighten the tension and draw the reader in further. And as I read, my thoughts on Jean changed many times - what did she know, was she protecting Glen or was she involved?

I'm always curious as to where an author's idea for a book comes from. Barton says this about The Widow... "The worm of this book infected me long ago when, as a national newspaper journalist covering notorious crimes and trials, I found myself wondering what the wives of those accused really knew – or allowed themselves to know." Let's just say everyone lies in The Widow.

The Widow was an utterly addictive read that I couldn't put down. What a great debut - I'm already looking forward to Barton's next book.  You can connect with Fiona Barton on her website as well as on Twitter.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Everything, Everything - Nicola Yoon

Every so often, I take a break from my usual murder and mayhem reading and tuck into a 'teen' read. But honestly, I hate labelling a book - 'teen' reads aren't just for teens. So let's say I enjoy a change of reading style.

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon was a great choice.

Seventeen year old Madeline Whittier has Severe Combined Immunodeficiency Disease. "Basically I'm allergic to the world. I don't leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years."

And then Olly moves in across the street....."Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster."

Oh, but it's a wonderful book!  It's clever in so many ways - the dialogue, the plotting and the actual presentation of the book. The story of Maddie and Olly is told in texts, post-its, messages, emails, blog posts, drawings, diary entries and charts. (and yes, actual writing!)

Maddie's voice was so engaging - her outlook on life and her sense of humour. Olly is well, swoon-worthy - kind, thoughtful, clever and oh, yeah good-looking. I enjoyed watching their relationship bloom in such an unusual setting and manner. But not all is sweet and light - Olly too has his own set of problems. Yoon tackles love, loss, grief, mental illness, friendship, relationships and more. And all of it done in a wonderfully entertaining format.

But, just when I thought I knew where the book was headed (there's a lot of 'dying/sick teenage girl' books out there), Yoon surprised me with a nice little twist.

I love book covers - and I have to say this one is beautiful and is absolutely perfect for the story. The stark white Everything and the contrasting busy, blossoming Everything mirrors and depicts the novel perfectly. (And there's many little images hidden in the colour that also tell their own story)

Everything, Everything offers up some nice quotes."…Life Is a Gift. Don’t Forget to Live It …" And the title? Maddie..."To want everything, everything the world has to offer."

Read an excerpt of Everything, Everything. Fans of The Fault in Our Stars will love this book. Kudos to Yoon for such a great debut novel.

You can connect with Nicola Yoon on her website, as well as on Twitter.  Watch for the movie - MGM has bought the movie rights to Everything, Everything.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

#BingeReading Justin Cronin

After a very long week and very cold (it's a balmy -23C this morning - for my US readers that's -10F.) week, I am settling down and curling up with a good book - or three.

I had the best book mail ever from Penguin Random House Canada on Friday - a mysterious BingeBox that included Justin Cronin's The Passage, the second book, The Twelve and and an ARC of the coming soon  (May 23/16) third book in the trilogy - The City of Mirrors. Squeeee!

And that's not all that was in the box - the #BingeReading supply kit included popcorn, an energy drink, a book light to keep going through the night, a Project Noah prescription and a collector postcard.

I know what I'm doing this snowy day...and night....1936 pages....

Have you read any of this series? Are you looking forward to the final book, The City of Mirrors? Join in! #BingeReading

Friday, February 12, 2016

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #92

- 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
M.C. Beaton's Hamish MacBeth series is a favourite cozy mystery series of mine. The 31st book (!) Death of a Nurse, releases later this month. The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right.  Hmm...given the water on the cover, I'd say that drowning might be the cause of the death? There's a 'style' the US covers that's been very consistent in regards to font and style with past books. I've actually never looked at the UK covers before now. I think I might prefer the picture on the UK cover better, but prefer the font on the US cover. It's interesting that it's a 'mystery' on the US cover, but a 'murder mystery' on the UK cover. So, I think it's a tie for me this week. Any plans to catch up with Hamish?
Which cover do you prefer?
You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is now a regular Friday feature
at A Bookworm's World.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Giveaway - Be Frank With Me - Julia Claiborne Johnson - 5 copies!

If you enjoyed today's review of Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson, you're going to love this....

Courtesy of William Morrow, I have FIVE copies to giveaway!

From the publisher:

"A sparkling talent makes her fiction debut with this infectious novel that combines the charming pluck of Eloise, the poignant psychological quirks of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and the page-turning spirit of Where’d You Go, Bernadette.

Reclusive literary legend M. M. “Mimi” Banning has been holed up in her Bel Air mansion for years. But after falling prey to a Bernie Madoff-style ponzi scheme, she’s flat broke. Now Mimi must write a new book for the first time in decades, and to ensure the timely delivery of her manuscript, her New York publisher sends an assistant to monitor her progress. The prickly Mimi reluctantly complies—with a few stipulations: No Ivy-Leaguers or English majors. Must drive, cook, tidy. Computer whiz. Good with kids. Quiet, discreet, sane.

When Alice Whitley arrives at the Banning mansion, she’s put to work right away—as a full-time companion to Frank, the writer’s eccentric nine-year-old, a boy with the wit of Noel Coward, the wardrobe of a 1930s movie star, and very little in common with his fellow fourth-graders. As she slowly gets to know Frank, Alice becomes consumed with finding out who Frank’s father is, how his gorgeous “piano teacher and itinerant male role model” Xander fits into the Banning family equation —and whether Mimi will ever finish that book.

Full of heart and countless “only-in-Hollywood” moments, Be Frank with Me is a captivating and unconventional story of an unusual mother and son, and the intrepid young woman who finds herself irresistibly pulled into their unforgettable world." Read an excerpt of Be Frank With Me.

Enter for a chance to win one of five copies using the Rafflecopter form below. Open to US only, no PO boxes please. Ends Feb. 28/16

Be Frank With Me - Julia Claiborne Johnson

Okay, I'm just going to start this post off by saying that Julia Claiborne Johnson's debut novel, Be Frank With Me, is going to be one of my favourite reads of 2016.

Mimi Banning wrote one book twenty years ago - a brilliant book that brought her wealth and fame. But Mimi is a recluse. And now she's a broke recluse, having fallen victim to a Ponzi scheme. So, she needs to write a new novel. You see, it's not just Mimi - she has a nine year old son named Frank to support.  She needs someone to watch Frank and run her household while she writes, so her long time publisher sends her twenty something Alice.

That's the basic premise. But the premise is only a vehicle for the most wonderful character I've met in a long time. Okay, all of the players in Be Frank With Me were well written - and they're all flawed in some fashion, but it's Frank that will capture your heart.

I loved him from the first page..."Before we left the house that morning, he'd shellacked his hair like a mini Rudolph Valentino, put on a wing-collared shirt, white tie and vest, a cutaway coat, morning pants and spats. Also a top hat...."

Frank chooses his outfit carefully each day, matching plans, excursions and adventures to his outfits. That's the outside of Frank. Inside is a boy with a brilliant mind, who doesn't quite see the world as everyone else does. But despite that brilliant mind, he's still a young boy who is fragile as he tries to make sense of relationships and interactions in that world.

The dialogue in Be Frank With Me is superb - Frank's voice is wonderful and as we come to know Frank, his declarations and antics really do make sense. I loved his recollection of facts, movies and music. (And actually learned a few things as well!) But those facts serve another purpose as well..."Facts were all the protection he had. Facts were his force field."  Mimi is quite prickly and at first I didn't like her. But as the novel progressed, my opinion changed. As did my views on Alice - good to bad to good. And that's what I enjoyed - no one was perfect and the ending wasn't all happy campers.

By turns, Be Frank With Me is heartbreaking, humourous and oh so very, very good. As one character says" I love that kid". Trust me - you will too. Read an excerpt of Be Frank With Me.

Julia Claiborne Johnson worked at Mademoiselle and Glamour magazines before marrying and moving to Los Angeles, where she lives with her comedy-writer husband and their two children.Connect with Julia on Facebook and Twitter. See what others on the TLC book tour thought - full schedule can be found here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Over the Counter #301

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

First up is Dude Making a Difference: Bamboo Bikes, Dumpster Dives and Other Extreme Adventures Across America by Rob Greenfield.

From New Society Publishers:

"You want to do something for the planet, but what? Change a light bulb, install a low-flow faucet, eat organic? How about ride 4,700 miles across America on a bamboo bicycle, using only water from natural sources, avoiding fossil fuels almost completely, supplying your few electrical needs with solar power and creating nearly zero waste?

Sound crazy? Maybe. But not if you're Rob Greenfield. Then it sounds like a pretty amazing way to bring your message to as many people as possible, and to have a great time doing it. Dude Making a Difference is Rob's first-person account of his incredible adventure in radical sustainability. Join him as he pedals from coast to coast in 3-½ months while:

Creating only 2 pounds of trash. Using just 160 gallons of water. Eating 284 pounds of food from grocery store dumpsters.This one-of-a-kind travelogue will inspire you to reexamine your relationship with the earth's resources. Rob's captivating stories of life on the low-impact road are rounded out by practical guides to help you reduce your personal ecological footprint and plan your own larger-than-life adventures."

Next up is No Baggage: A Minimalist Tale of Love and Wandering by Clara Bensen.

From Running Press:

"One Dress, Three Weeks, Eight Countries—Zero Baggage

Newly recovered from a quarter-life meltdown, Clara Bensen decided to test her comeback by signing up for an online dating account. She never expected to meet Jeff, a wildly energetic university professor with a reputation for bucking convention. They barely know each other’s last names when they agree to set out on a risky travel experiment spanning eight countries and three weeks. The catch? No hotel reservations, no plans, and best of all, no baggage. Clara’s story will resonate with adventurers and homebodies alike—it’s at once a romance, a travelogue, and a bright modern take on the age-old questions: How do you find the courage to explore beyond your comfort zone? Can you love someone without the need for labels and commitment? Is it possible to truly leave your baggage behind? "

(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, February 9, 2016

The Promise - Robert Crais

Robert Crais is another author I pick up without bothering to see what the book is about. He's never disappointed me yet.

The Promise is his latest book and it's the 16th book featuring private eye Elvis Cole and the enigmatic Joe Pike. But Crais really mixes it up this time, bringing in characters from other series. LAPD officer Scott James and his K9 partner Maggie and the also enigmatic Jon Stone make appearances.

Elvis is hired to find a missing woman as her employer is quite worried - for a number of reasons. Elvis's initial search takes him to a house in LA's Echo Park - and lands him in a load of trouble. There's a dead guy in the house, along with a huge amount of explosives. And Elvis talked to the guy who left the house and disappeared.

I always enjoy Elvis's sense of humour, snappy comebacks and his attitude. He's loyal to his customers, dogged and determined. Not always by the book, but he gets results. Joe Pike is the quiet one, the dangerous one and yes, the mysterious, kinda sexy one. Scott James is a bit of an innocent, but his loyalty to his dog makes for a great look at K9 policing. And as he's fairly new to readers, it's nice to get to know him a bit better. Jon Stone is a friend of Pike and I enjoy the glimpses we get to see of this mysterious man. (I think it's time for Jon to have a book of his own.) There's a fifth character and she has her own voice in The Promise. That's Maggie - the K9 officer. I have to tell you, I was sniffling during her chapters. (and then I went and hugged my dog)

Although I enjoyed seeing so many favourite characters in one place, it ended up being a very busy book. Lots of POV's. It changed the tone and timbre of the book, giving Elvis less time and space to be, well, to be Elvis. And I always want more Pike. Mr. Rollins, the antagonist in the book, is also given a voice. So many POV's took away from the plot for me. But The Promise was still a good read for me.  On the other hand, if you haven't sampled Crais' writing yet, this is a great book to meet his protagonists and choose what series to delve into next. Read an excerpt of The Promise.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Perfect Days - Raphael Montes

Raphael Montes's novel Perfect Days was 'hugely celebrated' in his native Brazil. Thirteen other countries have snapped up publishing rights, including the US, where Perfect Debut releases on February 16/16.

Book covers are the first thing that grab my attention. How does the image used relate to the story? Vacation? Marriage breakup? It could be anything. But I doubt you'd ever guess the connection in this case. Let me explain.....

Teo is a loner, living with his paraplegic mother. He is quite brilliant and does well at medical school. Well, technically, he does well, but socially not so good. "He learned that if his playacting seemed real, it was all a lot easier." Teo counts the cadaver he works on as his best friend. Uh, huh, starting to get creepy isn't it? Not done yet...

Teo is surprised when he spots Clarice at a party - he actually feels something - he's attracted to Clarice. He begins following her, imagining how perfect their relationship is going to be. And of course there will be a relationship - why wouldn't there be? Except Clarice isn't quite on the same page....but Teo takes things into his own hands. Ready?

"By stuffing Clarice in a suitcase and bringing her home, had he become a criminal? It hadn't been premeditated, nor was he interested in a ransom. He just wanted what was best for Clarice."

Now, you may be thinking I've given away the entire plot and spoiled the book for you. Nope, not even close! Teo just needs a bit more time to convince Clarice that they're meant to be together. Road trip maybe?

Perfect Days is twisted, creepy and completely unpredictable. I had no idea where Montes was going to take the story (and was somewhat frightened to see what was next) but was unable to put the book down. You know, like watching a scary movie and telling the characters to not go down the basement stairs. Teo's inability to see that what he is doing is wrong and his rationalizing is downright terrifying. Or perhaps I should be more worried about the author? Perfect Days is definitely one of the creepiest books I've read in a long time. And there's one last gotcha in the final pages that was unexpected. Read an excerpt of Perfect Days.

Perfect Days is probably not for the faint of heart.....I loved the book trailer and reaction clip from Penguin...

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Books, Be Mine - Valentine's Day 2016 - Simon and Schuster Canada

Simon and Schuster Canada is running a fun Valentine’s Day event called Books, Be Mine.....and you're invited!

"Valentine's Day is meant to be spent with your one true love and we could not agree more, which is why we’re spending it with the light of our lives: books. Book lovers, unite!"

Join this event if you’re going to be snuggling up with a book on February 14th just like me. Be sure to check the Facebook page daily for reading recommendations, excerpts, and other fun, bookish things! See you there!  #ValentinesDay2016

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Look Book - Simon and Schuster Canada

Oh, who doesn't love a sneak peek of coming soon books! Simon and Schuster Canada is giving readers a chance to do just that -  from their Spring 2016 Fiction Sampler!

"The Look Book sampler offers the best in fiction from across the Simon and Schuster Canada Spring 2016 list. This array of debut authors and perennial favourites will allow you to step back in time with our historical fiction, time travel with our fantasy writers, fall in love with our inspirational romance, marvel at our literary stylists, and be enthralled by our dark thrillers. With chapter excerpts from the following Spring 2016 new releases:

Dark Territory, by Susan Philpott
He Will Be My Ruin, by K.A. Tucker
Owl and the City of Angels, by Kristi Charish
Black Apple, by Joan Crate
Still Mine, by Amy Stuart 
Glory Over Everything, by Kathleen Grissom
The Rivals of Versailles, by Sally Christie
Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety, by Ann Y.K. Choi
Nightfall, by Richard B. Wright
Mannheim Rex, by Rob Pobi
I’m Thinking of Ending Things, by Iain Reid
Umbrella Man, by Peggy Blair

Oh, there's quite a few on this list I'm looking forward to! How about you? Share your thoughts using #TheLookBook.  You can download the Look Book Sampler From All Ebook Retailers!

Friday, February 5, 2016

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #91

- 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
Try Not to Breathe is Holly Seddon's debut novel. And of course I'm drawn to descriptions that read..."For fans of Gillian Flynn, Laura Lippman, and Paula Hawkins comes Holly Seddon’s arresting fiction debut—an engrossing thriller full of page-turning twists and turns, richly imagined characters, and gripping psychological suspense." So, yes, it's been added to my TBR pile. The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. Again, very similar - sideways woman, white tones. But given the description of the book, I find it interesting that one has eyes open and one has eyes closed. A bit of a tie for me this week, but I'm going to go with the UK cover - I like the font better as well as the font colour. Any plans to read Try Not to Breathe? Which cover do you prefer?
 You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Ex - Alafair Burke

I don't even look at the flyleaf when I see Alafair Burke's name on the cover - I just know I'm going to enjoy it. Burke's latest is The Ex.  

The first few chapters of a book are always important to me - is my interest piqued? Do I want to know what happens next? Burke absolutely had me curious. The first few pages are the transcript of a police interview. Jack Harris believes he's helping the police with their investigation - he was in the vicinity when a shooter killed three people. Instead, it turns out they think Jack did it......

Olivia Randall is a powerhouse criminal defense lawyer - tough, brash and dedicated to her clients. She's also the woman who broke Jack's heart twenty years ago when she walked out on him. When Jack's daughter approaches her to defend Jack, she immediately says yes. After all, the Jack she knows couldn't kill anyone...........could he?

I liked the character of Olivia - flaws and all - she's someone you would want in your corner. The flaws and doubts made her believable. Jack was a tricky one - he comes across as likable, but there was just something about him. And that niggling doubt kept me reading another chapter...and another. Burke drops hints, teasers and memories as the book progresses. I did have my suspicions as the end neared, but Burke's gotcha at the end was well played.

Burke herself is a lawyer - the legal and courtroom scenes in the book benefit from her expertise. I would love to see another book with Olivia - perhaps she'll get her own series?

Burke has done it again - an excellent premise, great plotting and an entertaining, addictive, satisfying read. See for yourself - here's an excerpt of The Ex.

"Alafair Burke is the New York Times bestselling author of ten previous novels, including the standalone thrillers Long Gone and If You Were Here, and the Ellie Hatcher series: All Day and a Night, Never Tell, 212, Angel’s Tip, and Dead Connection. She is also the coauthor of the Under Suspicion series with Mary Higgins Clark. A former prosecutor, she is now a professor of criminal law and lives in Manhattan."  Find out more about Alafair at her website, connect with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter. See what others on the TLC book tour thought - full schedule can be found here.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Over the Counter #300

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter. Two blasts from the past that are generating another generation's interest - roller derby and vinyl....

First up is Scars and Stripes: The Culture of Modern Roller Derby by Andréanna Seymore.

From Schiffer Publishing:

"Join photographer and skater Andréanna Seymore on her fearless journey through the world of roller derby, beginning with her serendipitous introduction to the sport in 2008. Modern roller derby is a vibrant, empowering, and revolutionary movement transitioning from obscure subculture to mainstream pastime on both a national, as well as global, stage. Action-packed and emotionally provocative photographs taken over a five-year period reveal the joy, pain, and dedication of these athletes on and off the track.

Enriched by riveting and often touching commentary from nearly one hundred skaters, coaches, fans, and referees, this book captures the daring, entrepreneurial spirit of the participants, the extraordinary bonds that form, and the invigorating and infectious fanaticism that characterizes every bout. An increasing number of male, co-ed, and junior leagues all share a strong, do-it-yourself ethic that combines fierce athleticism with elements from punk, camp, and third-wave feminist aesthetics. In part because of this non-discriminatory nature, roller derby is currently the fastest growing sport in America."

Next up is Vinyl: The Art of Making Records by Mike Evans.

From Sterling Publishing:

"In our increasingly digital world, audiophiles know that the real recording is on vinyl. That’s why sales of vinyl continue to soar. Mike Evans offers a sumptuous visual celebration of this medium’s fascinating history and triumphant rebirth. From weighty 78s to feisty 45s, from eccentric EPs to legendary LPs, he brings vinyl recordings off the shelves and out of the crates, spotlighting:

· The development of discs from shellac to vinyl · Run-out groove messages, picture discs, limited editions, colored vinyl, and deluxe 180g reissues that make fans and collectors rejoice · The records’ iconic packaging and art, including the work of Reid Miles, Roger Dean, Peter Saville, and Hipgnosis · The history and development of various leading labels, such as Atlantic, Audio Fidelity, Casablanca, Decca, Def Jam, Motown, Verve, and more · Groundbreaking artists and their game-changing releases, from the first 45, Eddy Arnold’s “Texarkana Baby,” to the vinyl revival as led by Jack White’s Lazaretto.  No collection is complete without it."

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

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

No Priors - Sophie Bérubé

No Priors is Sophie Bérubé's debut novel. Originally published in French in Canada under the title Sans Antécédents in 2011, it has been recently released in English.

Thomas is a bookseller who can 'read' his customers. He just seems to know what books they will like and how to make them all feel 'special'. When a lawyer named Roxanne walks into the bookstore, Thomas is surprised to find himself attracted to her - more than he imagined. The attraction is mutual and a relationship begins....

The reader is privy to that relationship - the ups and downs, ins and outs, the arguments and make ups and more. Bérubé pulls no punches in depicting a dark and troubling union.

But, No Priors is a 'he said, she said' story that will have you wondering who is telling the truth. The first half of the book is Thomas's view of the relationship and the second half is Roxanne's viewpoint. I must admit - I was fooled. I believed one over the other and was proven wrong. Bérubé does a great job of depicting Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Many of the scenes were disturbing, albeit believable. Both characters are 'damaged' and their willingness to stay in such a dysfunctional relationship is sad and hard to read.

As someone who rarely reads a book twice, I did find myself becoming a wee bit bored re-reading of the same events a second time. It was like reading about the same event but with a different ending each time. But, it is those opposite endings and differing views that will have you questioning who is telling the truth. Or is there a truth?  Bérubé's depiction of this toxic relationship seems scarily accurate.....Read an excerpt of No Priors.

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Night Bell - Inger Ash Wolfe

I have been eagerly awaiting the fourth book in Inger Ash Wolfe's fantastic Hazel Micallef series - The Night Bell. I got my hands on a copy - and devoured it in two days. I will now be eagerly awaiting the fifth book!

The Night Bell takes us back to Port Dundas, Ontario and Inspector Micallef of the Ontario Police Service.

Wolfe employs one of my favourite narrative techniques in The Night Bell - past and present - with the resolution coming as the storylines finally fit together in the end.

We meet young Hazel in 1957 and get a glimpse into an unsolved crime from those days -  the disappearance of a young Port Dundas girl. We also meet Hazel's adopted brother and get to see Hazel's mother Emily in her prime. (I really enjoy Emily's wicked sense of humour and caustic one-off's.) The present is 2007. Bones are found on a housing development site - are they human? Two residents of that housing enclave are found brutally butchered and a cop goes missing - or was he taken? And Hazel is told to back off, as the RCMP come in and take over the case.

Well, that's like waving a red flag in front of a bull. Hazel's temperament and drive simply won't let her accept that order. She's obstinate, intelligent, tenacious and not the easiest person to get along with. Hazel finds some wiggle room in the order and begins investigating the bones case on her own - with help from still recovering Sergeant James Wingate. Where that investigation takes them is a page ripped from today's newspaper headlines. As are the political machinations amongst the varying police forces.

New faces and old populate the pages of The Night Bell. The mysteries in Wolfe's books are always well-plotted, engaging and intriguing. But, it is the characters that have captured me. Wolfe pulls no punches in their personal lives - I'm both hopeful and worried about what the next book will bring. Hazel is nearing retirement age - but I really don't want to see the end of this series. I also enjoy the 'local' settings of Ontario, Toronto and the mythical but very vivid in my mind, Port Dundas.

This is such a fantastic series! Although you could read The Night Bell as a stand-alone, do yourself a favour and start from the beginning with The Calling. Read an excerpt of The Night Bell.