Thursday, October 19, 2017

Unraveling Oliver - Liz Nugent

I had not heard of Liz Nugent's debut book, Unraveling Oliver, until I read about it in a publisher's newsletter. It was quickly added to my TBR list after I read the premise -  and the accolades. It was Ireland's Crime Novel of the Year in 2014. That cover image is absolutely perfect - cracks in a picture, peeling back of layers, what lies beneath that facade?

The first line of the book is killer...."I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her."

Oliver Ryan is a successful children's book author and is happily married to his devoted wife Alice. So what would possess him to beat her into a coma? And that is the question at the heart of Unraveling Oliver. Who is Oliver really? What does the polished exterior he presents to the world hide?

Through Oliver's own ruminations and additional points of view from neighbours, friends and others from his life, we slowly see how and why he's come to be the way he is over fifty years. Each point of view was really well written. And can I say, I unexpectedly felt pity for him as I learned more and more. Nugent does a brilliant job of manipulating the reader's thoughts and emotions as the story progresses.

The publisher has promoted Unraveling Oliver promoted as a psychological suspense novel. I agree that it's an addicting, chilling exploration of a darkly drawn character. But, we know the end already and are working our way back to the beginning of the end. A clever, unique book, one I really, really enjoyed.

I chose to listen to Unraveling Oliver - and I found myself even more drawn into the story. Sam O'Mahony was the narrator. He has a lovely Irish accent that was easy to listen to and clearly understood. His understated interpretation of Oliver suited the character perfectly. His matter of fact tone is at odds with the horrible things Oliver does, but matches his mindset perfectly. He never raises his voice beyond a calm tone, which makes the revelations all the more chilling. Listen to an excerpt of Unraveling Oliver. Or if you prefer, read an excerpt.

You can connect with Liz Nugent on her website, like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter. I'm eager to get my hands on her next book - Lying in Wait.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Odd Child Out - Gilly MacMillan

Odd Child Out is the latest novel from Gilly MacMillan.

Detective Jim Clemo is coming back from a compulsory leave following his last case. His superior hands him what looks to be a simple 'welcome back' case  - a seeming accident. Two young men at the canal in the night - one falls in and is rescued, but..... A witness heard arguing and the second boy won't speak or answer questions. The first boy's mother insists that there is more to this than an accident. And she throws out the 'race' card. Noah is white and Abdi is black - a refugee from Somalia. And yes, there's much more to the case than a simple accident.

Macmillan combines a mystery with some great character studies and takes a page from current events headlines.

I initially thought the detective in the book was female. When 'he' was finally used and I realized it was a male, I went back to the opening chapter to confirm that I'd not missed something. I hadn't. I had not read MacMillan's first book, What She Knew, so I didn't realized this was the second book to feature Jim Clemo. Having not read that book, I didn't fully appreciate the references to a past case and the fallout from it. Still, you don't need to have read What She Knew to enjoy Odd Child Out. But,I found I didn't really bond with Clemo. His past angst, regrets and mistakes didn't overly engage me. The characters that did were Abdi's family. Their desire for a better life, their difficulty assimilating, the prejudice they face, the violence and hate that is visited on them and what they've left behind - both good and bad. I thought MacMillan did a wonderful job depicting this through the Mahad family. Just as well depicted is Noah's family - they too have heartache in their lives. Their anger, fear, hope, grief and frustration are just as well written.

We slowly learn what happened that night on the canal through a then and now timeline. I enjoy this technique, but it does always have me reading 'just one more chapter past my bedtime. I thought I had sussed out what the final 'whodunit' might reveal. I was right but it certainly didn't detract from my enjoyment of the book. Lots of action in the last chapters had me wanting to take a sneak peek at how things resolved, but I didn't. I expect there will be a third book featuring Clemo as there were some unresolved threads.

The title is effective - both boys can be described as the odd child out in many ways. Read an excerpt of Odd Child Out.

"Gilly Macmillan is the Edgar Nominated and New York Times bestselling author of What She Knew. She grew up in Swindon, Wiltshire and lived in Northern California in her late teens. She worked at The Burlington Magazine and the Hayward Gallery before starting a family. Since then she’s worked as a part-time lecturer in photography, and now writes full-time. She resides in Bristol, England." Find out more about Gilly at her website, and 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.

I received this book for review from HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours.

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.