Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!!

It's hard to believe that another year has passed. The older I get, the faster they go!

Plans for 2011? Keep reading, but balance it a little more with my other favourite thing - quilting (on my brand new computerized sewing machine! - thank you Santa) and to be more physically active. And find something everyday that brings me joy, even if it's as simple as petting my dog at the end of the day.

I wish all of my readers the best for 2011. What do you have in store for 2011?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Over the Counter #35

The latest book to catch my eye as it passed over my library counter and under my scanner was The Great Typo Hunt - Two Friends Changing the World One Cor^rection at a Time by Jeff Deck and Benjamin D. Herson. I have to admit - it drives me nuts when I see your and you're misused. Care to share what bothers you or any signs you've caught?

From the publisher Crown Publishing:

"The signs of the times are missing apostrophes.

The world needed a hero, but how would an editor with no off-switch answer the call? For Jeff Deck, the writing was literally on the wall: “NO TRESSPASSING.” In that moment, his greater purpose became clear. Dark hordes of typos had descended upon civilization… and only he could wield the marker to defeat them.

Recruiting his friend Benjamin and other valiant companions, he created the Typo Eradication Advancement League (TEAL). Armed with markers, chalk, and correction fluid, they circumnavigated America, righting the glaring errors displayed in grocery stores, museums, malls, restaurants, mini-golf courses, beaches, and even a national park. Jeff and Benjamin championed the cause of clear communication, blogging about their adventures transforming horor into horror, it’s into its, and coconunut into coconut.

But at the Grand Canyon, they took one correction too far: fixing the bad grammar in a fake Native American watchtower. The government charged them with defacing federal property and summoned them to court—with a typo-ridden complaint that claimed that they had violated “criminal statues.” Now the press turned these paragons of punctuation into “grammar vigilantes,” airing errors about their errant errand..

The radiant dream of TEAL would not fade, though. Beneath all those misspelled words and mislaid apostrophes, Jeff and Benjamin unearthed deeper dilemmas about education, race, history, and how we communicate. Ultimately their typo-hunting journey tells a larger story not just of proper punctuation but of the power of language and literacy—and the importance of always taking a second look."

(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!)

Winner - Tami Hoag 2 pack!

And the lucky winner of Tami Hoag's new book Secrets to the Grave and Deeper Than the Dead, courtesy of Dutton Books is:


Congratulations! I've contacted you by email for your mailing address. Please respond within 72 hours. Thanks to all who entered - check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways.

Winner - What I Thought I Knew

And the lucky winner of a copy of What I Thought I Knew by Alice Eve Cohen is:

Blue Violet

Congratulations! I've contacted you by email for your mailing address. Please respond within 72 hours. Thanks to all who entered. Check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Clinton St. Baking Company Cookbook - DeDe Lahman & Neil Kleinberg

Okay, here's another one that's definitely gift card worthy. Check out the cover - drooling yet?

DeDe Lahman and Neil Kleinberg own and operate the 32 seat Clinton St. Baking Company and Restaurant in New York City. Apparently the line up is always out the door - and once I read the book, I could see why.

It's comfort food, pure and simple.

"What's our secret? Neil says, 'It's love." I say it's that we make simple American classics using serious-chef techniques. Time and time again, we've been asked by devoted guests for our recipes, and now, without further ado, here they are."

I think that's why I found this cookbook so appealing - it's food that makes you feel good. Their first signature item was the classic buttermilk biscuit. Yep, I tried it on the boy who loves homemade biscuits in my house and he noticed that it wasn't my 'regular' recipe right away - as he grabbed another one.

The Clinton St. Baking Company specializes in (but isn't limited to) breakfasts and brunches. There are lots of variation on biscuit breakfasts. The muffin recipes are amazing as are the pancakes! The key is using fresh ingredients as much as possible.

Eggs. There's a great step by step full colour explanation of how to make a perfect three fold omelet. I've always flipped it to cook the 'inside' - wrong. I tried Neil's method and it makes for a 'fluffier' finished product.

Soups (the Maple Butter Squash was easy and delicious) paired with any of the great (simple!) sandwiches (grilled goat cheese - yummy) are perfect for a winter supper.

Sides, drinks and condiments are all featured as well. But the desserts....oh boy decadent. Flourless chocolate cake - simple but a hit!

Full colour glossy photos accompany every recipe. (And there are over 100 included)The instructions are clearly written as are the ingredient lists. I enjoyed the mini essays that DeDe has included explaining their background and thoughts on each entry.

Easy recipes that will impress everyone.  Take a look inside and you'll see what I mean!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Left Neglected - Lisa Genova

Are you looking for a book worthy of spending your Christmas gift card on? I've got one for you.

Lisa Genova had a New York Times bestseller with her first novel Still Alice. I know she's got another bestseller on her hands with her latest book Left Neglected - releasing Jan 4/11.

Sarah Nickerson has it all and can do it all. Can't she? High powered job - minimum of 80 hours a week, gorgeous house in a sought after neighbourhood, vacation home in Vermont, 3 children and a devoted husband. The one thing she doesn't seem to have though, is enough time.

She can't make it to every soccer game and is sure that the other parents think that "Mothers who miss the games, like me, are bad mothers." "I love my children and know they're important, but so is my career and the life that career affords us." And her love life...well..."It's our typical morning good-bye kiss. A quick peck. A well-intentioned habit....It's a routine kiss, but I'm glad we do it. It does mean something. It's enough. And it's all we have time for."

You get the picture. It is while trying to multitask - driving while talking on the cell phone - that Sarah's world is turned upside down. She gets into a horrific crash - one that leaves her with a traumatic brain injury. She is unaware of the left side of anything, including herself.  And yes, the condition is real.

Unable to work, dependent on others and forced to accept that her life will never be quite the same, Sarah must reexamine her life, her priorities and her relationships - the things in her life that have been 'left neglected.' I found the rekindling of the relationship with her mother especially poignant.

Although the subject matter is serious, Genova handles it with candor and humour. Sarah's voice is so appealing and honest. Genova has a degree in Biopsychology and a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Harvard - her descriptions of a patient coping with brain injury are both accurate and informative.

But Left Neglected is simply a really, really good read. Genova's prose flow so easily, the story is addictive and I became invested in Sarah's journey. And maybe take some time to reevaluate your own priorities.

"What else is there? Maybe success can be something else, and maybe there's another way to get there."

Eminently gift card worthy. I think this is going to be one of 2011's best sellers too. Five stars for me.

Friday, December 24, 2010

And I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight ...

"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"

Wishing you and yours the very best of this holiday season...

Merry Christmas!


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Over the Counter #34

Two memoirs caught my eyes as they passed over my library counter and under the scanner this week. Confinement - enforced and chosen -  from two different viewpoints.....

Orange is the New Black - My Year in a Women's Prison by Piper Kerman.

From the publisher Spiegel & Grau:

"With a career, a boyfriend, and a loving family, Piper Kerman barely resembles the reckless young woman who delivered a suitcase of drug money ten years ago. But that past has caught up with her. Convicted and sentenced to fifteen months at the infamous federal correctional facility in Danbury, Connecticut, the well-heeled Smith College alumna is now inmate #11187-424—one of the millions of women who disappear “down the rabbit hole” of the American penal system. From her first strip search to her final release, Kerman learns to navigate this strange world with its strictly enforced codes of behavior and arbitrary rules, where the uneasy relationship between prisoner and jailer is constantly and unpredictably recalibrated. She meets women from all walks of life, who surprise her with small tokens of generosity, hard words of wisdom, and simple acts of acceptance. Heartbreaking, hilarious, and at times enraging, Kerman’s story offers a rare look into the lives of women in prison—why it is we lock so many away and what happens to them when they’re there."

Some Girls - My Life in a Harem by Jillian Lauren.

From the publisher Penguin Books:

"A jaw-dropping story of how a girl from the suburbs ends up in a prince's harem, and emerges from the secret Xanadu both richer and wiser.

At eighteen, Jillian Lauren was an NYU theater school dropout with a tip about an upcoming audition. The "casting director" told her that a rich businessman in Singapore would pay pretty American girls $20,000 if they stayed for two weeks to spice up his parties. Soon, Jillian was on a plane to Borneo, where she would spend the next eighteen months in the harem of Prince Jefri Bolkiah, youngest brother of the Sultan of Brunei, leaving behind her gritty East Village apartment for a palace with rugs laced with gold and trading her band of artist friends for a coterie of backstabbing beauties.

More than just a sexy read set in an exotic land, Some Girls is also the story of how a rebellious teen found herself-and the courage to meet her birth mother and eventually adopt a baby boy."

(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, December 20, 2010

Beautiful Buttons - Cathrine Ann

I enjoy reading memoirs - as I've mentioned before, I feel privileged to share the intimate details of someone's personal life. And Cathrine Ann spares no details in her affecting memoir Beautiful Buttons.

She grew up in poverty, neglected and abused in Toronto, Canada. I was familiar with many of the neighbourhoods described and was able to picture the settings as I read. Both of her parents were alcoholics who fought constantly. Often ignored by her parents, overlooked by teachers and without many friends, Cathrine made many bad decisions. Armed with a grade eight education, she became a mother at 15, landed in jail at 18 and by 20 was a sex trade worker. Through a set of circumstances, she ends up at the other end of the spectrum, married to a wealthy man. And.....loses it all. Back to the sex trade. And yet again claws her way back up, where she is currently the CEO of a customer service analysis company with many business accolades and is a sought after inspirational speaker.

Beautiful Buttons almost reads as a personal purging - a litany of all the hurt, anger and sadness stored up and finally released to the written page. The narrative jumps around a bit, often covering early years, jumping ahead and then back to an earlier time within the same chapter. But again, I think this speaks to the author's frame of mind and memories. I was alternatively appalled by the treatment she received as a child and stunned by some of the choices she made as an adult, especially as a mother.  But I think this quote explains a lot...
"The thing is, if you aren't sure what love really is you can't be sure where you'll find it or what it looks like if you do find it. And so maybe you find yourself looking in a lot of the wrong places."

I found myself turning page after page, knowing that she lands on her feet, but totally caught up in her story. The end felt a bit rushed and compacted after so much detail, but I think that her story is still being written. Although she has found success in her career and has met and married a man she loves, she is estranged from her son. "I can forget the past. I remain hopeful that others around me can forget it as well." I don't know if the past can ever be forgotten - forgiven perhaps, but not forgotten.

Cathrine Ann is a testament to the power of the human spirit and the will to do more than just survive. She has beaten the odds many times and is living proof that when you hit bottom, there's nowhere to go but up. Her motto is now Dream It, Believe It, Be It.
Read an excerpt of Beautiful Buttons.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Winner - The Wave - Susan Casey

And the two lucky winners of a copy of The Wave by Susan Casey, courtesy of Doubleday Publishing are:

1. Susan
2. Laura C.

Congratulations! I've contacted you by email for your mailing address. Please respond within 72 hours. Thanks to all who entered - check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways.

Winners- Forever Romance Holiday Giveaway

And the three lucky winners of a four pack of Steamy Reads for Snowy Nights, courtesy of The Hachette Book Group are:

1. Jeannine
2. Cynthya
3. About the Book

Congratulations! I've contacted you by email for your mailing addresses. Please respond within 72 hours. Thanks to all who entered - check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Simple Times - Amy Sedaris

Subtitled: Crafts for Poor People.

Okay, tongue firmly planted in cheek? Well, following the success of her last book I Like You (a New York Times bestseller and reviewed by me here), comedienne Amy Sedaris has come out with another definitive guide - Simple Times. This time crafting and crafters are the focus (target?)

To quote Amy - " Crafting is putting ideas into action and then holding them together with an inexpensive adhesive."
Where to get those ideas?Where to craft? Who is crafting?

"More than 8 out of 10 households have at least 4 out of 5 family members engaging in 2 out of 3 crafts 78% of the time. A staggering 98% of this group are homosexual men."
The chapters and crafts covered are totally eclectic. Think of those crafts you made in grade 2 that your mom hung on to. Some of the chapter headings? Crafting for Jesus, Handicraftbles, Shut ins, Teenagers Have a Lot of Pain, Sausages, Making Love or Fornicrafting and oh boy so many more.

Every page features full colour photographs of the crafts. These are so much fun to look at - I loved the miniature sets. But the centerfolds of stretching before and after crafting were priceless. I couldn't stop laughing. The costumes Amy wears are perfectly crafted, utilizing gingham, rick rack and pom poms to their fullest potential.

Yes some of the ideas are totally whacked, but a lot of them have merit. It is the presentation of the ideas that is priceless. And read the instructions very carefully - lots of jokes hidden in there. There are some actually really good recipes included. Really, you have to read an excerpt to get the picture.

You're either to going to love this book or go 'huh I don't get it?' Sedaris's humour is left of centre for sure and not politically correct all the time. Check out this video of Sedaris on Letterman to get an idea.
But really, we all know someone who would love this book!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Over the Counter #33

Lowe's just came to my neck of the woods in Canada, so of course DH wanted to check it out. So, the latest book to catch my eye as it passed over my library counter and under the scanner was Home from the Hardware Store by Stephen Antonson and Kathleen Hackett. Subtitled 'Transform Everyday Materials into Fabulous Home Furnishings."

From the publisher Rodale Books:

"In Home from the Hardware Store, artist and designer Stephen Antonson and his wife, Kathleen Hackett ply the aisles of the home improvement center and emerge with a host of ideas for clever, original decorative objects any interior designer would love. Antonson and Hackett cast their eyes on pedestrian materials—drain covers, cork matting, plumbing parts, light sockets, brass nails—and see lamps, wallpaper, table runners, side tables, even cuff links. Organized by decorating challenge, chapters include ideas for lighting, windows and walls, furniture, tabletop, and storage. Beautiful full-color photos, including how-to pictures along with clear, concise, yet friendly instructions, accompany every project. Sidebars and quick tips are scattered throughout, providing DIYers with gentle reminders and instructions for basic tool and equipment use. Design lovers, crafters, and penny pinchers alike will find much to inspire in Home from the Hardware Store."

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!)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Tiny Bit Marvellous - Dawn French

I have loved actress and comedienne Dawn French for years. (The Vicar of Dibley still makes me laugh) I was curious to see if her wonderful sense of humour translated to the written page. No worries - it did... and more.

In A Tiny Bit Marvellous we meet the Battles. And the name is somewhat apropos as battles seem to be the order of the day for this family. Mom Mo is an almost 50 child psychologist. She and daughter Dora (17) can't seem to speak to each other without a war of words igniting. Peter(16) prefers to be known as Oscar, as in Oscar Wilde, who he emulates in both style and syntax. Dad - well he's just Dad. Oh, and the dog - Poo.

Each chapter is told in first person through the eyes of each character. The same event (or affront) is told in their voice and viewpoint, often varying wildly. Each Battle is sorting through their own issues.

French had me laughing from the first few pages. She has captured the voices of these characters perfectly. The language, the tone, the scenarios - all were spot on. Oscar's voice was my favourite. I reread many of his sentences as I enjoyed them so much. But as the book continues, additional layers are added to the narratives, with deeper subjects explored - homosexuality, bullying, infidelity and more. All are handled with wit, candor and a deft touch. I was drawn into each member's narrative, quickly turning pages so I could find out what happened next in each of their spheres.

At first I identified with Mo and empathize with her restlessness. Perhaps because we're of similar age. However by the end of the book, I still respected her decisions, but wasn't overly enthralled with her. Instead it was Oscar who I fell in love with. His unfaltering sense of direction, his heart and his caring endeared him to me. There are two 'quiet' characters that we don't hear much from, but they both have a profound impact on everyone's lives. The first is Dad. The second is Grandmama - her unerring directness and intuition added much to the novel.

French's first novel is an absolute gem. Lots of laughter and real life. It's much more than a tiny bit marvellous!

Read an excerpt of ATiny Bit Marvellous. Read an interview with Dawn French or catch her discussing her book on You Tube.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Okay - I'm going to toot my own horn......

Check out Penguin Canada's latest newsletter - this bookworm was their featured blogger this month! Okay, besides moi, there's great features, spotlights and contests! And if you're not done shopping.....

Not a subscriber? Sign up here.

In the National Parks - Ansel Adams

I was fortunate enough to review Ansel Adam's In Colour last year and was eager to read the newest release - In the National Parks.

Adams travelled and photographed forty national parks during his 50+ year career. This newest volume contains over 50 photographs never before published.

Ansel is one of the greatest photographers in the world. His stunning pictures are all the more incredible as he worked with what we would now consider 'basic' equipment. Prints were developed by hand, a skill he excelled at. His black and white work is instantly identifiable.

"For Ansel, the creative process began at the camera but did not end until he felt a sense of satisfaction in the darkroom. His photographic prints are a personal intensification of what was in front of the camera. They reveal not only the photographic process, but also the photographer." To quote Adams - "A photograph is made, not taken."

Ansel was an ardent proponent of preserving 'America's wild places.' Through his photographs, campaigns, and Sierra Club activities, he was successful in his raising awareness and affecting change.

As I slowly perused each page, I was struck by the beauty of each and every photograph. Stand outs for me were Redwood Stumps and Ferns/California on Pg33 and  Forest/Alaska pg186 . These two images radiate movement and fairly leap off the page. The play of shadows in Grand Canyon/Arizona 1942 on pg35 was breathtaking. It accentuated the timeless and enduring quality of the stone. The detail captured in the waves and mist of Grand Prismatic Spring/Wyoming pg36 is again a testament to Adam's skill with a camera, but also his ability to see the beauty in our natural world. I think perhaps my favourite shot is Aspens at Dawn/Colorado 1937 on pg66. The lighting makes the trees look so eerily beautiful.

Accompanying many of the pictures are letters from Adams, setting the time and place, along with his thoughts. Also included are essays from Andrea G. Stillman and essays by Wallace Stegner, William A. Turnage of The Ansel Adams Trust, and journalist and critic Richard B. Woodward. These are intriguing as well, describing Adam's thoughts, actions and processes. Also included at the end are selected additional notes for certain images.

"Ansel often said ' I go out into the world, I make a photograph, and I give it to you as the equivalent of what I saw and felt."

Thank you. These timeless images are a reminder of the beauty of our natural world. And why we need to look after it.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Peanuts Collection - Nat Gertler

The Charlie Brown Christmas special was on tv the other night. The very same one since - do you believe this - 1965! Forty five years. And I still enjoy watching it. It's a classic and brings back so many memories.

And memories are the order of the day in Nat Gertler's new book The Peanuts Collection. Subtitled; Treasures From the World's Most Beloved Comic Strip.

And that it is. You'd be hard pressed to find anyone in North America who doesn't recognize the characters. When the strip began it was carried in 7 newspapers and topped out at 2600 papers! Charles Shulz created the Peanuts comic strip and created 18,000 strips over the course of 50 years. Reprints are still carried by over 2200 newspapers.

The introduction by Shulz's daughter Amy says it best..." My dad believed that he was born to draw his comic strip, and his fans refer to him as a genius. If he is a genius, then I believe it is because of his ability to create characters that were loved as thought they were real and to draw fifty year's worth of strips that had relevance in the lives of millions of people."

Gertler has combed through both family mementos and the archives of The Charles M. Shulz Museum  to showcase Peanuts materials, items, stories, pictures and ephemera - many not seen before.

Each of the characters is covered, from their early look to the nineties, complete with their contributions to the strip. There was so much included - toys and games based on the characters, advertising(the amount of products was amazing!) social causes, books, colouring pages, television specials. I appreciated the level of detail.  The book is filled with beautifully glossy pictures. It's an interactive book as well. There are lots of little pockets with reproduction of letters, baseball cards, greeting cards, sketches, songbooks and more. There is even a set of prints included that could be framed. Here's a shot of what's inside. Or check out this slideshow.

It's the season for gorgeous coffee table and collector books and this is one you don't want to miss. Perfect for a Peanuts fan or nostalgia buff. It's a fitting tribute to an American icon.

Now who is your favourite character? I always wanted to see the inside of Snoopy's doghouse. And I always had a soft spot for Peppermint Patty.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Winner - Sundays at Tiffany's

And the lucky winner of a copy of Sundays at Tiffany's by James Patterson, courtesy of The Hachette Book Group is:


Congratulations! I've contacted you by email for your mailing address. Please respond within 72 hours. Thanks to all who entered - check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Winners - Knit the Season - Kate Jacobs

And the two lucky winners of a signed copy of Knit the Season by Kate Jacobs are:

1. Zoe
2. Pippirose

Congratulations! I've contacted you by email for your mailing addresses. Please respond within 72 hours. Thanks to all who entered - check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways!

Winner - Dewey's Nine Lives - Vicki Myron

And the lucky winner of a copy of Dewey's Nine Lives, courtesy of Dutton Publishing is:


Congratulations! I've contacted you by email for your mailing address. Please respond within 72 hours.Thanks to all who entered - check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways.

Friday, December 10, 2010

My 60's Trivia Notebook - Scribbler Mania

Here's a fun little book for that hard to buy for person of a certain age or your favourite trivia buff.

Do you remember the 'scribblers' you learned to print and write in? That's the size of My 60's Trivia Notebook and yes, those familiar lines are there so you can practice your cursive letters. Remember dot to dots? Those are scattered throughout as well.

Every month in every year of the decade features highlights from that time period. Iconic news events, pop and culture references fill the bottom half of each page. Most fun though were the quiz questions. I surprised myself with how many I was able to answer!

My 60's Trivia Notebook is a fun little interactive book to read yourself or take along to your next get together to share those quiz questions with friends. Have a peek inside. Or stop by their Facebook page to share your memories.

Kudos to the three Canadian women who took a great idea to the next level. You can buy My 60's Trivia Notebook online direct from Scribbler Mania or from a number of retailers in the Toronto area. Watch for the next book in the series.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Over the Counter #32

A colleague at work is an avid card maker and brought in a few she had made for Christmas. Gorgeous. So the latest books to catch my eye as they passed over my library counter and under the scanner were both card related this week.

A Card a Day by Leisure Arts Publications:

"Just as greeting card shoppers spend time selecting a card that best reflects their personality and that of the recipient, paper crafters like to browse for inspiration to create a handmade card. That's why Paper Crafts magazine editors have gathered more than 365 card ideas, making this book the ultimate resource for inspiration, design, tips and techniques. Like a yearly calendar, the book is divided into months, to guide card makers through tons of new ideas for every occasion imaginable. There also are helpful sections on basic tools and supplies, using color combinations, and hints for basic organization and storage, as well as dozens of sketches for all shapes and sizes of cards. "

And you'll need an envelope as well....

Pushing the Envelope by Marthe Le Van.

From the publisher, Lark Crafts:

"So often we focus on what’s in the envelope, we forget the envelope itself. But this collection embraces the envelope as a creative form. Devised by a group of talented designers, these unique handmade envelopes come in all shapes and sizes. Some involve embellishing commercial envelopes with surface treatments, such as stamping. Others require folding techniques, and a few use unconventional and recycled materials. There are projects for packaging CDs, photographs, gift cards, and more."

(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!)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

At Home - Bill Bryson - Review and Giveaway

Subtitled: A Short History of Private Life.

I'm a long time fan of Bill Bryson. I jumped at the chance to read his newest book At Home.

The premise for the book was fascinating. Bryson lives in a Victorian parsonage in a quiet part of England. He decided to go room by room and write about the history and impact on personal lives. So, for example the bedroom investigates sex, death, sleep, the bathroom - hygiene, the nursery- children's lives, the kitchen provides a wealth of subject matter. Indeed Bryson covers 17 different areas of his home, including the attic, stairs, the fuse box, the garden and many more. But if you think it's just household minutiae, you're mistaken. The narrative begins in the house buts slips out on tangents to encompass a much broader picture and then comes back full circle.

I loved At Home. It's not a book to be devoured, but rather slowly sipped and enjoyed. Bryson's investigative skills combined with his talent for turning those facts into absolutely captivating anecdotes made this a truly enjoyable read. I love British history and At Home was an entertaining account told in a totally unique manner.
Read an excerpt of At Home.
Two lucky readers will win a copy of At Home for their home, courtesy of Doubleday Publishing. Simply comment to be entered. Open to the US only, no PO boxes please. Ends Jan 2/11 at 6 pm EST.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What I Thought I Knew - Alice Eve Cohen - Review, Guest Post & Giveaway!

I always feel privileged to read someone's memoir. Sharing their thoughts, feelings and experiences is an intensely intimate read.

Alice Eve Cohen's story is so unbelievable it almost reads like fiction. As a young woman, Cohen was told she was infertile. So, when she married, she and her husband adopted instead. The marriage ended, but at age 44 Cohen is happy in a new relationship, her career has taken off and everything seems to be going her way until...she begins to experience symptoms that no one doctor can seem to diagnose. A CAT scan finally reveals the cause....she is six months pregnant.

I truly was unable to put What I Though I Knew down - I devoured it in one afternoon. Cohen works as a storyteller and performer and her skills as a raconteur shine through in this deeply honest and open memoir. Cohen takes us along with her through a gamut of emotions as she deals with having to make unimaginable choices. I found myself wondering what choices I would have made in the same situation.  A highly recommended read. This would be an excellent choice for book club discussions. Read an excerpt of What I Thought I Knew.

I asked Eve if her daughters had read the book or discussed it with her and here's the reply....


A pro-choice mother’s conundrum

By Alice Eve Cohen

I once attempted to censor my own book…That, of course, was a dumb idea.

I was hell-bent on hiding the book from my daughter, who is central to the story of my memoir. She quickly let me know just how dumb an idea it was.

My memoir begins eleven years ago, with my unexpected and terrifying pregnancy at the age of 44. I was so desperate that I scheduled an appointment for a late term abortion with Dr. George Tiller, in Wichita, Kansas; but at the last minute, I decided to have the baby.

Eliana was nine when my book came out. As my July 2009 publication date approached, I feared that she would be traumatized by the knowledge that I had considered an abortion.

The truth is, I had censored my story for many years. I bottled it up inside me, unable to talk to anyone about it, until I was finally able to write the book. Given that I’ve always been an ardent advocate of women’s reproductive rights, why was I was so wracked with guilt at having considered a late term abortion?

Even after my book was complete, I held on to the half-baked idea that I could publish my memoir, while at the same time selectively censoring myself on the subject of abortion. I told my publisher that in order to protect Eliana, I would not take any media interview questions about abortion, to which the publicist reluctantly agreed.

...Until May 31, 2009, when Dr. George Tiller was murdered in Wichita, Kansas by an anti-abortion terrorist.

I mourned Dr. Tiller’s death and reflected on the vital importance of knowing, in the midst of my terrifying pregnancy, that I had the right to choose whether or not to have the baby. I realized that having that right saved my life and, by extension, Eliana’s life.

I decided that it was irresponsible of me to censor my abortion story. I called my publicist to say I’d changed my mind, and would welcome interview questions about abortion. I wrote an essay for the Huffington Post, titled “Dr. George Tiller Saved My Life…and my Baby’s Life.”
But even after that, I still wanted to hide my book and my abortion story from Eliana. My husband and I tried to persuade Eliana not to read it until she was a teenager, but she let us know that was out of the question.

“This book is about my birth,” Eliana said, “so of course I’m going to read it. And I’m going to read it before the public gets to read it in July!”

“OK,” we said, with trepidation. “But on one condition: We want you to read it when Mommy or Daddy is home, so that you can ask us questions.”

For two days in June, Eliana and I lay down on my bed with two copies of my book, reading side-by-side. I regularly peeked over to see what page she was on. She was laughing in all the right places, but I knew she’d have hard questions.

She finished the chapter where I scheduled a late-term abortion. For years, I’d dreaded her ever finding out about this moment, fearing that she would be devastated.

“Did that upset you?” I asked.

“No.” she said. “Why would I care what you thought about me before I was born? I was only a fetus.”

She got to page where she was finally born, after my horrific 47-hours of labor.

“Wow, Mom this is like a non-fiction book that teaches you a lot about pregnancy!”

She got to Epilogue—which is virtually a love song to my two daughters, Eliana and Julia. When she finished, she turned to me and smiled. “Good book, Mom. I really liked it.”

“Thank you, honey, I’m so glad. Did anything in the book upset you?”

“Nope! Because I knew exactly how everything was going to turn out.”

Eliana wasn’t devastated to learn that I’d considered a late term abortion. Rather, I had injured myself by keeping it a secret for so many years. Note to self: knowledge isn’t traumatizing. Secrets, lies, and censorship are."
You can find Alice Eve Cohen on Facebook and Twitter.
Thank you so much for sharing both your story and this conversation with Eliana.
Want to read What I Thought I Knew? One lucky reader will win a copy! Open to US and Canada, no PO boxes please. Simply comment to be entered. Ends Wednesday Dec 29/10 at 6 pm EST.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Review & Giveaway - Secrets to the Grave - Tami Hoag

Tami Hoag returns with her new book - Secrets to the Grave - another chapter in the lives of the characters originally introduced in last year's thriller Deeper Than the Dead.

Secrets to the Grave opens with a brutal murder scene...

"She lay discarded like a life-sized broken doll - made up, torn up and cast aside, her brown eyes cloudy and lifeless. Beside her lay a smaller doll - her child - head resting on her shoulder, face streaked with the last of her mother's life's blood.

The telephone receiver dangles near the floor, stenciled with small bloody fingerprints. The last words spoken into it were a whisper still hanging in the air: "My daddy hurt my mommy..."

The she in the tableau is Marissa Fordham. Marissa and her daughter Haley were recent additions to the population of Oak Knoll, CA. With a local wealthy patron, Marissa had been making her living as an artist.

Detective Tony Mendez is the lead on the case. He calls in child advocate Anne Leone to protect four year old Haley's interests, with the hope that the child can give them something to go on. Anne herself is still recovering from the brutal attack on her life by the See No Evil killer that terrorized Oak Knoll last year. She is a newlywed, having married Vince Leone, the FBI agent called in to handle that case. Mendez calls in Vince as well to help him with this new horrific case. Their investigation uncovers no records of a Marissa Fordham ever existing before her arrival in Oak Knoll... who was she really, who would have wanted her dead, who is the child's father? Could this case have ties to last year's brutal murders?

I really enjoyed the characters introduced in Deeper Than the Dead and was thrilled to see that Hoag had reprised them and carried on with the story of Oak Knoll. The neat thing is that these books are set in 1986. So, forensic methods and tools such as DNA banks as we know them from current tv shows and current headlines just don't exist yet, although they are hoped for. Mendez and Leone must use 'old fashioned' methods to investigate. I quite enjoyed the 'historical' references to movies, style and culture inserted into the story.

Hoag has created a multi level plot with some red herrings, but also some subtle clues tucked in if you read carefully. Watch for those sneaky little sentences at the ends of the chapters. Details are teased out from each character on the way to the solution - it seems that every one in Oak Knoll has secrets. Fair warning - the crime is somewhat gruesome in description,some readers may be offended.

Hoag has crafted another fast paced, page turning thriller. And I like that the door has been left open for more from these characters! Read an excerpt of Secrets to the Grave.

Secrets to the Grave is on tour with TLC Book Tours - check out what other bloggers are saying.

Secrets to the Grave can certainly be read as a stand alone. But the references to the past case are tantalizing to those who haven't had a chance to read Deeper Than the Dead. So....thanks to the publisher Dutton, one lucky winner has a chance to win a copy of both books!! Simply comment to be entered. Ends Wednesday December 29 at 6 pm EST. Open to US and Canada, no po boxes please.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Winner - A Christmas Carol pop up book - Chuck Fischer

And the very lucky winner, courtesy of The Hachette Book Group of a copy of the beautiful pop up book A Christmas Carol by Chuck Fisher and Bruce Foster is:


Congratulations! I've contacted you by email for your mailing address. Please respond within 72 hours. Thanks to all who entered - check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways.

Winners - Katie Up and Down the Hall

And the three lucky winners of an audio book copy of Katie Up and Down the Hall by Glenn Plaskin, courtesy of The Hachette Book Group are:

3.Jim Coyne

Congratulations! I've contacted you by email for your mailing addresses. Please respond within 72 hours. Thanks to all who entered - check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways.

Winners - The Swan Thieves - Elizabeth Kostova

And the three random, lucky winners of a copy of The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova, courtesy of The Hachette Book Group are:


I've contacted you by email for your mailing addresses. Please respond within 72 hours. Thanks to all who entered - check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways.

Winner - The Distant Hours - Kate Morton

And we have an international lucky winner of an ARC of The Distant Hours by Kate Morton, courtesy of Simon and Schuster Canada is:


Congratulations! I've contacted you by email for your mailing address. Thanks to all who entered - please check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Reversal - Michael Connelly

I've been a fan of Michael Connelly and his recurring character Harry Bosch since the first book - The Black Echo- in 1992. When Connelly introduced a new series featuring lawyer Mickey Haller, I was a little miffed that it wasn't a new Bosch book. I was wrong - I loved the Haller character just as much. Bosch and Haller have been appearing in each other's world over the last few books in each series and The Reversal finds them working together.

Haller has been asked to lead the prosecution in the retrial of convicted killer Jason Jessup. He has served 24 years for murder, but recent DNA evidence may clear him. Haller asks Bosch to be the investigator on the case. Out on bail, Jessup isn't acting like an innocent man....And the defense attorney is crossing all sorts of lines....

As always, the case is intriguing and the suspense builds.  I really enjoyed the courtroom scenes with Haller and the defense attorney verbally sparring. Connelly has taken Bosch is a bit of a different direction with the last few books. He has his daughter living with him and must now stop to consider her safety and well being first. It's a side of Harry that we haven't seen before. I thought the story would end differently, but upon reflection realized that it was right for the story.... and the stories that will follow.

I chose to listen to The Reversal in audio format. The reader Peter Giles was excellent. He has covered previous Connelly books and does an excellent job. His voice is calm and modulated for Haller, but changes to a rougher tone for Bosch, effectively conveying the difference between the two and capturing their personalities.

Another page turner for me, one that had me driving just a little slower on the way home from work, so I could start another disc. Connelly remains firmly on my must read list with both series. Listen to an excerpt of The Reversal. Or read an excerpt. I can't wait for The Fifth Witness due out in April 2011.

You can find Michael Connelly on Facebook.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Over the Counter #32

Well, the snow is here to stay I fear, so the latest book to catch my eye as it passed over my library counter and under my scanner was Snow Play by Birgitta Ralton.

From the publisher Thomas Allen:

"DIY goes outdoors, giving winter enthusiasts more than 25 new ways to play in the snow! Calling all snow lovers young and old alike! When you re surrounded by the white stuff, it s time for Snow Play! With crazy creatures to build, challenging games to play, and outrageous spaces to sculpt, author Birgitta Ralston, a Europe-based designer, has imagined the most creative ways to play in the snow. From a looming Loch Ness monster to a slippery Ice Slide, from a Snowball Lantern to brighten a yard to Curious Footprints to mark freshly fallen snow, the book includes 25 projects and games to draw you outdoors on a snow-filled day. Celebrate a winter birthday by building a giant Frosted Cake (and use food coloring to dye the snow!), or light your walkway with the flickering flames from a set of snowy Glow Cones. You'll find hours of entertainment to brighten even the coldest winter days and nights. Snow Play is filled with projects and games for any age, ability, and number of people. Each entry includes complete step-by-step text instructions, plus explanatory line drawings. The full-color photographs show how each project is finished in all its frozen glory."

(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!)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Ex-Boyfriend's Handbook - Matt Dunn

The cover of the Ex-Boyfriend's Handbook by Matt Dunn caught my eye, but it the cover blurb by Sophie Kinsella definitely intrigued me. One of my favourite chick lit authors recommending a male 'chick lit' author? was a good recommendation! What a fun read this was!

Edward Middleton is happily settled into a ten year relationship with Jane. But Jane isn't as happily settled...Edward comes home one day to an empty apartment and a note from Jane, who has headed off to Tibet for three months to 'sort some things out'.

"I suggest you use this opportunity to take a long hard look at yourself in the mirror. P.S. I realize at this point I'm supposed to say something like 'it's not you, it's me', but in actual fact, it is you."

With the help of his friend Dan, Edward sets out to be the new, improved Edward when Jane returns in three months.

Dunn has perfectly captured the 'other side of the coin' if you will - chick lit from the male point of view.  I loved the character of Edward - he was warm and real, someone you would like to have as a friend - or a boyfriend! His journey towards 'the new Edward' is by turns hilarious, heartbreaking and eye opening.  The character of Dan is pretty much a polar opposite - a walking talking cliche overly consumed with the mirror and himself.  The dialogue between the two is quite witty. I quite enjoyed the supporting character of Wendy - the local barmaid. I think she has a story to tell as well.

I enjoy chick lit and was pleasantly surprised by Dunn's writing. This was such an easy, entertaining read. I enjoyed the male perspective and protagonist. I would definitely pick up another book by this author.

Dunn's 6th novel - The Accidental Proposal - will be a sequel to The Ex-Boyfriend's Handbook. You can find Matt Dunn on Twitter.