Monday, January 31, 2011

The Janus Stone - Elly Griffiths

Crossing Places was the first novel of Elly Griffiths' Ruth Galloway series. ( I reviewed it here). I really enjoyed it and was happy to settle in with the second in the series - The Janus Stone.

This series takes place in the Norfolk region of England. Ruth has been called on to a construction site in her capacity as a forensic archaeologist. The skeleton of a child has been found underneath a doorway by the builders as they demolish the original building - a mansion that was also home to an orphanage.

Finding a child's skeleton impacts Ruth rather more personally than usual - she is four months pregnant. As she delves farther into identifying the remains, someone else is just as hard at work - making sure she doesn't succeed. They seem determined to go to any lengths to stop her.

Griffiths has created a great character in Ruth. She is highly intelligent, but insecure in social settings. She happily lives alone with her cat in a remote cottage. (I love the descriptions of the isolated salt marsh and it's beauty) She has come to terms with being pregnant for the first time at forty, but isn't concerned about being a single parent. Just about telling her quite religious parents. Not a cookie cutter protagonist at all.

The supporting characters are just as interesting. I am quite taken with her friend and colleague Cathbad - a self proclaimed Druid.  Recurring character DCI Harry Nelson is a man of many facets - the relationship between him and Ruth is quite complicated.

I'm intrigued with how much historical detail is woven into Griffiths' mysteries.  Janus is the god of beginning and endings, January is named after him and he is the god of doorways - transitions and change. The forensic and archaeological details are real and accurate as well, not sensationalized at all.

The Janus Stone is interspersed with random entries from the killer's diaries, but it is impossible to try and date them. I thought I had figured out who the suspect was early on, but was proven wrong as the story progressed. Lots of twists and turns keep you guessing.

As much as I enjoyed the mystery part of the story, it is the characters and their interactions - especially those of Harry and Ruth that capture me. I cannot wait to see where Griffiths takes them - and us - next. Watch for the third in the series - House at Sea's End -  I will be.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Winner - Love Me to Death - Allison Brennan

And the randomly chosen lucky winner of a copy of Love Me to Death by Allison Brennan, courtesy of Ballantine Books is:

Winnie!

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, January 28, 2011

Q and A with Suzanne Desrochers - Bride of New France

I started off this week with a review of Suzanne Desrocher's wonderful debut novel Bride of New France - a fantastic Canadian historical piece that I really enjoyed.(review can be found here) And I am thrilled to end the week with a Q&A with Suzanne. Thank you so much for stopping by!

1. As an academic, what was the impetus to write a novel? 

I actually decided to do an MA degree so that I could write a novel. I had been writing poetry and short stories since I was an undergraduate, but I thought it would be good to do a two-year degree where I could concentrate on a single project and really develop it. The novel I wanted to write had a historical setting so I combined Creative Writing with History in an interdisciplinary degree at York University. As it turned out, I really enjoyed the archival research and so I have begun a PhD in History. But it’s an interesting challenge to write both “truth” and “fiction” particularly when you don’t find there is really a clear distinction between the two. In this regard, I was very inspired by Len Early’s historical fiction course at York and by Leonard Cohen’s “Beautiful Losers” which I think should be on every reading list, Douglas Glover’s “Elle”, Margaret Atwood’s “Alias Grace”. These are all novels that I feel engage with the question of what is a true representation of the past. They don’t claim to present one, but simply to show how what we are left with from the records, the artifacts, the landscape and the legends is fragmented and ghostly but so important nonetheless.

2. How did you find Laure's voice?
I began the novel writing from the perspective of Madeleine, Laure’s angelic friend. But this character was too static for me to work with in terms of exploring the territory of Canada. I needed a figure who was less religious, more open to change and more engaged with the world she was encountering. Laure was always there, but she had been the secondary character. I simply woke up one morning and thought, wow, how much more exciting would it be to write the novel from this woman’s perspective.
3. What was the most surprising/memorable thing you discovered or that stayed with you from your research into the Filles du Roi?

From the beginning I was surprised to learn that so many of them had come from the Salpetriere in Paris. I had thought they were good country girls looking for decent husbands. My childhood impressions changed completely when I realized that many were basically poor, institutionalized urban women who had little choice in the matter. Most were likely terrified to leave behind the only life they knew in exchange for a dangerous sea journey and a cold wilderness peopled with rough French men, ascetics, and inhospitable native tribes.
4. Your PHD thesis compares the migration of French and British women to North America. Any thoughts of writing a similar novel from the British perspective? Or any other ideas for future books. (Because you can't stop now!)

At the moment, I see my PhD thesis as somewhat separate from my fiction writing, other than the theme of course. I am still very much at the archival research stage, but I think it will be written as a history text. Mainly because to write a novel on the subject as well would be like crossing the same territory twice. I do really want to write a novel that picks up from “Bride of New France” a few decades later when the Iroquois are very brutally burned off their lands by the French. Also the story of the migration of women from Montreal to the mills of Massachussetts in the nineteenth century and the conflict this caused with the Catholic Church who saw these women as having gone to hell by going to the United States.
5. You've travelled extensively - what was your favourite destination? Why?

Travel is exhilarating. It is always amazing to see how other people live in a different climate, with a different language, religion, food. I can’t say that there is one particular place as I feel there are so many I would like to return to, but definitely France and India have profoundly marked my philosophy and sense of who I am. Although home for me is always Canada. I have this silly fear of dying somewhere else and that being a terrible thing. So each time I return to Canada, I think, OK now I could die and it wouldn’t be so bad. My spirit belongs there. I suppose it’s because of my ancestry- 400 years on my dad’s side and less on my mom’s (she was Irish and her grandmother migrated in the twentieth century) so maybe that’s where the wandering comes from. I admire people like my husband who can feel at home wherever they live. He doesn’t have that internal magnet always pulling him back.
6. What are you reading for entertainment right now? Favourite author? Influential author?

At the moment I am reading Deepak Chopra’s “Life After Death” and Paul McKenna’s “Control Stress”. I am a self-help junkie. I’m also reading Foucault’s “Birth of the Prison” which is all about cruelty and torture beyond imagining, crazy to think of all of this as forming part of the foundation of our current culture. Otherwise my reading is filled with children’s stories: Tatty McTat, Dr. Seuss, The Cat Who Came for Tea, … My two-year old son is a much more voracious reader than I am. He can sit through 5 or 6 books in a row, some read twice, and still want more!
I would have to say that Leonard Cohen is right up there, a mystic and a poet. What more could you ask for? Margaret Atwood’s engagement with Greek myth is spectacular as well.
7. Anything else you'd like to share with our readers?

Not at the moment, but I loved those questions! Thanks for reading my novel and I hope to write a few more!
Thank you Suzanne - and I will be watching for your next novel!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Over the Counter #39

Well, the latest book to catch my eye as it passed over my library counter and under my scanner this week was Socks Appeal by Brenna Maloney. C'mon how cute is that sock hamster!?

From the publisher Stash Books - a division of C&T Publishing:

"Turn your favorite socks into adorable bunnies, kittens, hamsters, turtles, penguins, and more. 15 projects are categorized by skill level, from super-simple to more advanced. Your dryer ate a brand new sock? No worries—stray singles can now become the perfect gift in just an hour.

Enjoy making whimsical stuffed animals using baby socks, knee socks, crew socks…any kinds of socks rock! Give your critter’s face plenty of creative expression by embellishing with your favorite buttons and embroidery. Several projects are easy enough for children to make for their own toybox, but you’ll want a bunch of these irresistible cuties for yourself, too! Check out the Socks Appeal website."

(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, January 26, 2011

Matched- Ally Condie

I don't usually read anything but adult fiction. But one of my avid teen patrons insisted I read the Suzanne Collins Hunger Games series. I ended up listening to the first two in audio format (#3 is cued up on my MP3 player), and had to admit - I was hooked.

So when Ella mentioned that she had just read the first book in a new dystopian trilogy that she thought I should read, I agreed. I chose to again 'read' the book in audio format.

Matched by Ally Condie tells the story of Cassia, who lives in a world run by The Society - who dictate anything and everything that happens. What to wear, what to eat and when, leisure activities, the job you will have for life, monitor your dreams and... who you will be 'matched' or married to . Big Brother is indeed watching. I found the world Condie has created quite fascinating and thought provoking.

At Cassia's matching ceremony, she is paired with Xander, a friend she has known since childhood. But ever so briefly, another picture appeared. That of Ky - branded as an aberration - from the outer provinces. As her friendship with Ky blossoms, she is exposed to new thoughts, new feelings and choices to be made.

Matched is not as action driven or as violent as The Hunger Games. The focus is more on the romantic triangle between Cassia, Xander and Ky. The story moves at a slower pace and I did find myself wanting something to 'happen'. Now, that being said, I did enjoy the book - it certainly pays homage to Lois Lowry's The Giver.
The reader for the audio book version - Kate Simses -  has a very innocent, sweet voice that actually was perfect for the character.

The second book - Crossed - is due out in Fall 2011. I'll be listening. I'm curious about those outer provinces.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Create, Update, Remake - Canadian Living

Okay, I'm a bit of a crafty little devil. No, no not that kind. The kind that is obsessed with crafts, craft stores (love those 40% off coupons), craft books, craft magazines and yes, has her own room in the house dedicated to all my hobbies.

And you can never have enough ideas... I subscribe to Canadian Living Magazine and I admit it - I always flip through to the crafts first, then go back and read the rest. Well, Transcontinental  has just released Create, Update, Remake edited by the staff of Canadian Living and there they are - 100 of their favourite crafts from the last ten years -  all in one place!

First thing to catch my eye was the cover shots. I have a whole collection of those retro kitchen gadgets (another hobby....) and love the idea of displaying them in white shadow boxes like this. Definitely going to copy this idea.

The book starts off with a chapter on sewing. There's a great little totebag pattern that even a beginner could handle. I'm thinking gift idea, or the bag for the gift. Reusuable and no waste. Some of the ideas are simple one, yet add that little extra touch, such as adding satin edging to your pillowcases and sheets. Many of the sewing crafts incorporate vintage linen finds. (Yay - because I just happen to have a lot of these too!)

The next chapter covers knitting and crocheting with clear, easy to read instructions for many ideas - socks anyone?

I loved the Around the House chapter. Lots of great ideas here. One of my favourites was turning flea market glass sugar bowls into hanging garden lights. And I love the instructions for making your own garden stepping stones. I'm going to give that a go once the snow melts! Framed pressed flowers from the garden would make a nice grouping on my stairwell. Ever wonder how to upholster a chair - detailed how-to's are included.

There's a great seasonal section as well, with lots of ideas for younger crafters. I've used the clothespin butterflies for a pre school craft at the library and it went over well. I loved the Spring craft - plastic spoons turned into crocuses.  

And the last chapter covers food and drink and inventive ways to package them as gifts. There are recipes for human treats, but I'm going to try the Classic Canine Cookies first.

Patterns are included at the end. Each craft includes a full colour photograph. Lots of ideas and lots of fun for all ages and levels of craftateers!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Bride of New France - Suzanne Desrochers

Bride of New France is a debut novel by Canadian Suzanne Desrochers. It arrived with a 'must read' recommendation that it definitely lived up to.

Bride of New France tells the story of the filles du roi - the King's Daughters. In 1659 France is acting on the King's decree to "clean the streets". Clean the streets of the poor, the destitute, the beggars - "...troublesome sights for the young King and his regents". Seven year old Laure Beausejour is taken from her family and placed in the Salpêtriére Hospital - a building that housed prostitutes, criminals, the insane and the poor. It is here that Laure works in a dimly lit sewing room producing lace. She dreams of one day leaving, opening her own business and getting married.

She does get to leave, but not in the manner she had planned. The King is eager to populate New France - the French colony in Canada.  In 1669 Laure and her friend Madeleine are chosen to be sent to Canada as brides for the male colonists and to produce children. Rumours of life in New France tell of a terrible climate and danger from all sides. They turn out to not be rumours.

I enjoy reading historical fiction, but this was even more of a treat as it was Canadian. Names and events brought to mind history lessons learned long ago. But Desrochers does more than bring it to mind - she brings it to life. The settings are full of fact based details that paint a vivid picture of both France and Canada. Desrochers' academic background in history serves her well. But it is the character of Laure I became so engrossed in. Her life in Salpêtriére is harsh, yet she dreams of something better and a future. When confronted with the brutal life that is New France, she still does not give in, despite being driven to the edge.

The first half of the book, in France, involves more detail and serves almost as  set up for the Canadian part of the novel. Desrochers surprised me here - Laure's character does not follow the path I expected. Her choices lead to some interesting plot lines and an ending I didn't expect. My only criticism - I wanted more of the Canadian life. The focus is on Laure, but I was interested in some of the secondary characters as well. Madame Rouillard, the bar owner/midwife has stories of her own to tell. And I'm curious as to what was in store for Laure after the book ended.

A fascinating historical read about a period and place not as well documented as the English settlements. I look forward to more fiction from Suzanne Desrochers.

Suzanne will be stopping by for some Q&A in the near future!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Winner - Arranged - Catherine McKenzie

And the randomly chosen winner of a copy of Arranged by Catherine McKenzie, courtesy of Harper Collins Canada is:

Sandra !

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, January 21, 2011

Incendiary - Chris Cleave

I read Chris Cleave's New York Times bestseller Little Bee last year around this time. (Review here) It was a stunningly powerful read.  When the chance to read his re-issued first novel, Incendiary, came up I was hesitant. Frankly, I didn't know if I wanted to experience the subject matter, but I find Cleave's writing compelling, so I said yes. And I'm glad I did.

Incendiary is told in the form of a long rambling letter to Osama Bin Laden by an unnamed female narrator. Osama's forces bombed the football stadium where her husband and son were attending a game. They, along with thousands of others, were killed.

"I want to be the last mother in the world who ever has to write a letter like this. Who ever has to write to you Osama about her dead boy."

The narrative rambles and meanders as she attempts to deal with her loss and grief. The lack of puncuation and run on sentences only serve to emphasize her state of mind. Her sorrow and anguish are palpable. The terror and confusion of the aftermath of an attack to both the city and it's citizens is sharply drawn. I was appalled and horrified by some of the situations she finds herself in - the other two supporting characters were quite ugly in many ways - but I couldn't stop turning page after page.

Powerful, moving, yes - humourous, frightening, disturbing, heart breaking, but oh, what an addicting read. See for yourself - read an excerpt of Incendiary

I'm saddened to think that she won't be the last mother in the world who will want to write a letter like this....

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Over the Counter #38

Well the latest book to catch my eye as it passed over my library counter and under my scanner was Playing With Books by Jason Thompson. Some very cool ideas!

From the publisher Quarry Books:

"In these pages, Jason Thompson has curated an extensive and artistic range of both achievable upcycled crafts made from books and book pages and an amazing gallery that contains thought-provoking and beautiful works that transform books into art.

The content encompasses a wide range of techniques and step-by-step projects that deconstruct and rebuild books and their parts into unique, upcycled objects. The book combines in equal measure bookbinding, woodworking, paper crafting, origami, and textile and decorative arts techniques, along with a healthy dose of experimentation and fun.The beautiful high-end presentation and stunning photography make this book a delightful, must-have volume for any book-loving artist or art-loving book collector."

(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, January 18, 2011

The Girl in the Green Raincoat - Laura Lippman- Review & Giveaway

I'm a big fan of Laura Lippman. I've enjoyed her last two books which were stand alones, but I was thrilled to see that The Girl in the Green Raincoat featured her recurring character - PI Tess Monaghan.

The Girl in the Green Raincoat finds Tess exactly where she doesn't want to be - sitting still. And for a very good reason. She's in the last trimester of a difficult pregnancy. Camped out in the sun room of her home, she whiles away the time watching out the window at the local dog park. She becomes fascinated by a woman who arrives at the same time every day in a green raincoat with her greyhound. Until the day when it's just the dog - trailing his leash...

Unable to get up and out herself,  Tess sends her partner Crow to corral the dog. What seemed like a simple search and rescue to return a lost dog turns into
something more. Attempts to find the girl in the green raincoat leads to a trail of crimes that Tess slowly pieces together from her bedroom. Think Rear Window.

This novella originally appeared serialized in the New York Times two years go. Once I discovered this, it explained why each chapter seemed to have a little story within the story. We get extra glimpses into the character's lives. Tess's doubts about her relationship and impending motherhood make the character even more realistic. I have always enjoyed the character of Whitney, Tess's best friend - we get to see some of her emotional make up this time around. I can't wait to see more about Mrs. Blossom, who is running the agency while Tess is laid up - she is a character just waiting to be fleshed out.  Lippman's characters are engaging, the plots believable and the dialogue witty - I love the way Tess's mind works.

For fans of Tess this is a must. I can't wait to see where Lippman takes the storyline next. For those new to this series, you may want to start with an earlier book to get a sense of the characters and the background. Now that's not to say you wouldn't enjoy this easy, one sitting read - you definitely will - but I know you'll be hunting down the rest of the series!

Read an excerpt of The Girl in the Green Raincoat. You can find Laura Lippman on Facebook too.

Thanks to Harper Collins Publishers, I have TWO copies of The Girl in the Green Raincoat to giveaway. Let's make this one open to everyone, US, Canada and international. Simply comment to be entered. Ends Sat. Feb. 12/11 at 6 pm EST.

Check out what the other stops on the TLC Book Tour think of The Girl in the Green Raincoat.


Monday, January 17, 2011

The Poison Tree - Erin Kelly

The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly is a debut novel that has just landed on Indie Bound's January 2011 Indie Next list.

Karen is a straight-laced, play by the rules, do well in school university student in London, England in 1997, when she meets Biba. Biba enthralls Karen from the first time they meet. Her bohemian lifestyle, the parties, the drugs and Biba's attentions finally make Karen feel like she is living, not existing. She moves in with Biba and her brother Rex into their crumbling mansion that summer.

"I have spent a lot of time since then, at least an hour a day, wondering where the cutoff point was in the chain of events that led me to where we all are - or aren't - today. my life, had it continued along its predicted trajectory, would have been unrecognizable. No Alice. No Rex. But if I'm honest with myself, my fate, and hers, and the fate of the others, was sealed the second I first saw her."
 
The narrative switches to 10 years in the future. Karen and her daughter Alice have just picked up their husband and father Rex, newly released from prison. As they attempt to pick up the pieces of their relationship and live a 'normal' life, we learn the story of what lead to Rex's incarceration.

What happened between that initial meeting and where Karen's life is now is charted back and forth. This initially happens in alternating chapters, but as the book progresses it disconcertingly happens within the same paragraph numerous times, leading to a very disjointed read at times. I did feel a little cheated as we knew the beginning of the story as well as the end - all that needed filling in were the details. I prefer a mystery that unfolds in a more linear fashion.

Kelly employs a lot, repeat, a lot of foreshadowing in her writing. At first this is tantalizing and adds to the atmospheric tone of the book. By the midway point though, I was growing tired of it appearing at the end of almost every chapter.

I think Kelly has crafted a strong debut. I did enjoy the story and definitely wanted to finish it - the ending provided a good twist. For me the book was more about the characters and their relationships - the crime being a result of those interactions. I do  think the back cover comparisons to Kate Atkinson are premature. An author to watch though.

For other opinions, The Poison Tree was also reviewed by Bookbound, Serendipitous Readings and Linus's Blanket. Read an excerpt of The Poison Tree.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Life - Keith Richards

I've had Life on my nightstand for a couple of months now. I've got some old vinyl (High Tide and Green Grass - the original 1966 release) on the turntable while I try to put thoughts to paper. Now, I wasn't buying music myself in '66 - but my youngest uncle was. I grew up listening to and loving all things rock 'n roll.

And really - Keith Richards is all things rock 'n roll. The Rolling Stone's longevity (creeping up on 50 years) is legendary. Just as legendary is guitarist Richards's longevity. Indeed - it has been asked many times - how is he still alive?
Richards is known for his excessive drug and alcohol use. I think what I expected when I started reading Life was a tell all book. But I was pleasantly proven wrong. Richards is intelligent, thoughtful, honest and funny. Much more complex than I would have thought. Yes,of course there are the drugs - they did play a huge part of his life, but he makes no excuses for it. It's part of his life, part of his past, part of what made him who he is.

It is his love of music that shines through the most though. The beginnings and birth of rock and roll in Britain, the exodus to the US, the players who started it all. Richards was there. These are the reminiscences I enjoyed the most. The 'gossip' is there as well. The friendship and rifts with Jagger are also an integral part of Richards' life.  His relationship with women, his children and his love for his family. Lots of surprising details about the man himself as well. A human face to put with the legendary tales.

Life reads as a rambling conversation with a darn good storyteller. And there's always another story after that last one. I enjoyed reading this over the course of a couple of months. I like the pictures included in the book - lots of personal shots as well as band shots.

Life has been steadily on The New York Times Bestseller list since it's release. And it deserves to be. Recommended rock and roll reading.

Official Keith Richards website. Twitter and Facebook.

Get a sneek peek - read an excerpt of Life.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Over the Counter #37

Two books caught my eye as they passed over my library counter and under my scanner this week. Both are about libraries - albeit from one end of the spectrum to the other.

The first is The Most Beautiful Libraries in the World - an absolutely gorgeous coffee table book. Photographs by Guillaume De Laubier, text by Jacques Bosser.

From the publisher Abrams Books:

"All of the libraries in the world-whether small or large, public or private-serve the same purpose: to preserve, cherish, or show off the riches of human knowledge. Now, for the first time, an internationally renowned photographer takes the reader on a journey to more than 20 of the most historic of these magical places, all architectural treasures. From the dramatic, baroque Library of the Institut de France in Paris, to the splendid Vatican Library in Rome; from the majestic Royal Library in El Escorial, Spain, to the famed New York Public Library, a Beaux-Arts masterpiece—here are some of the most exquisite libraries of the Western world. Included are national, scholarly, and religious libraries from 12 countries, which have in common a distinguished heritage and an architectural setting that emphasizes art and culture. The accompanying text traces the history of libraries to the present day, and describes how they came to serve famous personalities and men of letters. Libraries must be counted among civilization's crowning achievements; this elegant book is a fitting tribute to that accomplishment."

The second is a look at libraries and life from a completely different perspective. Running the Books by Avi Steinberg. Subtitled: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian.

From the publisher Random House:

"Avi Steinberg is stumped. After defecting from yeshiva to Harvard, he has only a senior thesis essay on Bugs Bunny to show for his effort. While his friends and classmates advance in the world, he remains stuck at a crossroads, unable to meet the lofty expectations of his Orthodox Jewish upbringing. And his romantic existence as a freelance obituary writer just isn’t cutting it. Seeking direction—and dental insurance—Steinberg takes a job as a librarian in a tough Boston prison.
The prison library counter, his new post, attracts con men, minor prophets, ghosts, and an assortment of quirky regulars searching for the perfect book and a connection to the outside world. There’s an anxious pimp who solicits Steinberg’s help in writing a memoir. A passionate gangster who dreams of hosting a cooking show titled Thug Sizzle. A disgruntled officer who instigates a major feud over a Post-it note. A doomed ex-stripper who asks Steinberg to orchestrate a reunion with her estranged son, himself an inmate. Over time, Steinberg is drawn into the accidental community of outcasts that has formed among his bookshelves — a drama he recounts with heartbreak and humor. But when the struggles of the prison library — between life and death, love and loyalty — become personal, Steinberg is forced to take sides.
Running the Books is a trenchant exploration of prison culture and an entertaining tale of one young man’s earnest attempt to find his place in the world while trying not to get fired in the process."

(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, January 12, 2011

The Sentry - Robert Crais

Robert Crais is firmly planted on my list of favourite authors. He has written some great stand alone novels, but it is the recurring characters of Elvis Cole (self proclaimed World's Greatest Detective) and his partner Joe Pike that I can't get enough of.

"Cole was a licensed private investigator Pike met back in the day when Pike still worked the badge. Not the likeliest of pairings, Pike being so quiet and remote, Cole being one of those people who thought he was funny, but they were more alike then most people knew."

The Sentry opens with a prologue featuring a truly creepy killer in New Orleans in 2005. Fast forward to present day in L.A. Joe Pike is just filling up his jeep with gas and the tires with air when he notices two gang bangers heading into a small sandwich shop. Instinct sends him across the street in time to stop the beating the two are giving the shopkeeper. But that simple good Samaritan acts leads to a whole lot more...gang wars, drug cartels, a deranged assasin and....a woman. Who has her own secrets...

"If Pike had not stopped for air, he would not have seen the men or crossed the street. He would not have met the woman he was about to meet. Nothing that was about to happen would have happened. But Pike had stopped. And now the worst was coming."

Oh, how's that for great foreshadowing! And the plot Crais has crafted absolutely delivers. Page turning, riveting, non stop action. But those of us who have come to love these characters have been waiting for Crais to reveal a little more of the enigma that is Joe Pike. In The Sentry, we get a glimpse behind Pike's ever present sunglasses into what makes him tick.  The relationship with Elvis is explored in more depth as well.

What is the appeal of Joe Pike? Well, he's fearless with a strong moral compass that he can't help but follow. It doesn't hurt that he's strong, attractive and sexy. But he's everything you wouldn't expect as well - he's a vegetarian who practices yoga. Just a great character that I can't get enough of.

The Sentry kept me turning pages non stop. Robert Crais is one of the best thriller/crime writers out there. Fans of the Jack Reacher books would enjoy this series.

You can find Robert Crais on Facebook. Listen to him talk about The Sentry in the video below.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Secret Daughter - Shilpi Somaya Gowda

I'm thrilled to welcome resident guest blogger Julia back to A Bookworm's World (We hope to see more of her in 2011!) A Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda is a book I've heard lots of good things about and Julia's review confirms it. Another book for my TBR list!

"Apparently international bestseller, Secret Daughter, has been made such a hit, in part, by the fact that Canadians loved this book. I count myself as one of those admirers.

First, the story. Secret Daughter is about a woman, Kavita, from a small village in India who takes her second daughter to an orphanage, after her first daughter is taken away at birth and murdered by her husband’s family. Across the ocean, in California, a young couple, Somer and Krishnan, are faced with the fact that they will not be able to have children of their own. The husband is from India, and his mother helps to facilitate an adoption from an orphanage in India. Of course, the baby they adopt is the one given up by Kavita.
From there, the novel switches back and forth between the two families. We read about the struggle of living in India, and the forever pain that Kavita has at losing her daughter. In California, Somer is living with a different kind of pain as her teenage daughter begins to demand answers about her real family, and yearns to learn more about India, a country and culture that are foreign to Somer.
Eventually the novel switches to focus on Asha, the daughter. She travels to India and spends time with her grandmother, learning to love her native country.
This book has so many thought-provoking themes. We read about India, seen through the eyes of different people. The smells, the sounds, the food, are all brought to life in vivid detail. There are stories about finding your self – both literally, as Asha tries to discover her roots, and also for Somer as she tries to rediscover the person she once was.

For me, the theme in this book that touched me the most was the story of moms and hope and love. The main characters tell their stories of what it means to be a mom – Somer, Kavita, Krisnan’s mother (Dadima). But there are also the stories of the mothers that Asha meets in the Dubai slums. The book is a reminder that families come in many different forms, are constituted out of the most unlikely relationships. They endure in large part because of the deep love we, as mothers, have for our children.

So, give yourself a little gift, curl up before the fire on a snowy afternoon this winter and read Secret Daughter. I promise you it will enrich your understanding of your own family."

Read an excerpt of Secret Daughter. This would be a great selection for a book club as well - Gowda has provided a set of discussion questions.

A great review - thanks Julia! Also reviewed by Mystica, who also gave it a resounding thumbs up. And also just chosen as a certified 'Savvy Read' by Harper Collins Canada.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Giveaway - Get Energy - Denise Austin

It's that time of the year - resolution time. Well, thanks to the lovely folks at The Hachette Book Group, I have three copies of Denise Austin's latest book - Get Energy - to giveaway that might help you meet some of your goals.

"With busy schedules, demanding careers, and little time, many of us battle just to stay awake. But energy is something that is in our control, enven when time is short. Now 50 years young, fitness guru Denise Austin shows readers how to super-charge their lives, using her innovative lifestyle plan. She eats the right foods at the right time of day. She uses the power of stretching and breathing to feed her body with energy-enhancing oxygen. She uses mini-workouts to get energy even on her busiest days--and now you can too!

Denise shows how simple changes can add up to increased energy levels throughout the day. From the foods they consume to the way they sit in their chairs, readers won't believe how Denise's quick and easy plan will dramatically increase their energy levels. In as little as a week, results will be felt: radiant skin, more restful sleep, and a sharper mind...so follow Denise Austin and prepare for a fitness wake-up call!"

I'm looking forward to reading this one. You can find Denise on Facebook, on Twitter and there's even a feee iPhone app. Read an excerpt of Get Energy.

Sound good? Simply comment to be entered. Open to US and Canada, no po boxes please. One winner per household. Closes Sat. Feb 5/11 at 6 pm EST.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Over the Counter # 36

Oh this one definitely caught my eye it passed over my library counter and under my scanner this week. Truly amazing little decorated cakes! On sticks.

Cake Pops by Bakerella. (AKA Angie Dudley)

From the publisher Chronicle Books:

"What's cuter than a cupcake? A cake pop, of course! Wildly popular blogger Bakerella (aka Angie Dudley) has turned cake pops into an international sensation! Cute little cakes on a stick from decorated balls to more ambitious shapes such as baby chicks, ice cream cones, and even cupcakes these adorable creations are the perfect alternative to cake at any party or get-together. Martha Stewart loved the cupcake pops so much she had Bakerella appear on her show to demonstrate making them. Now Angie makes it easy and fun to recreate these amazing treats right at home with clear step-by-step instructions and photos of more than 40 featured projects, as well as clever tips for presentation, decorating, dipping, coloring and melting chocolate, and much more.

Angie Dudley is the creator of Bakerella.com, her very popular blog that chronicles her adventures in baking."


(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, January 5, 2011

Love Me To Death - Allison Brennan - Review & Giveaway

Allison Brennan is an author I'd definitely heard of, (she's a New York Times bestselling author) but one I'd not had a chance to read yet.

Love Me to Death is the first in a series that will feature Lucy Kincaid. This book picks up 6 years after Lucy was horrifically attacked and almost killed by a man she met online. Rather than hide away from the world after her terrible experience, she has decided to join the FBI. She specifically wants to target on-line predators. Until she has final acceptance from the Bureau, Lucy volunteers with a victim's rights group, tracking predators in chat rooms and passing on the information to the police.

When the predators that Lucy identifies start turning up dead, as does her attacker's partner, suspicion is turned on Lucy herself.  With the help of her brothers' security partner, Sean Rogan, she sets out to find the truth, danger be damned.

Lucy is an interesting choice for a protagonist, in that she is very young and not fully a member of the law establishment yet. I liked her and think Brennan has a solid character to build further books on. The premise of the plot is certainly current - cyber predators are a real and current threat. (Some readers may find the crimes described a bit too graphic) The action is definitely fast paced, there are lots of twists and turns and some red herrings that will keep you on your toes.

There are numerous references to the case in which Lucy was attacked, which was no problem. Where I did have a problem was keeping track of the huge cast of supporting characters. The references to this brother and that brother did confuse me. I think if I had read the previous book (Fear No Evil), I would have been a little more up to speed.

Love Me to Death is described on the cover as a novel of suspense - and yes it is. But I think romantic suspense is a better descriptor. The romantic and sexual tension smolders between Sean and Lucy and is a large part of the book.

Fans of Iris Johansen and Tami Hoag would enjoy Allison Brennan.

Check out what the other stops on the TLC tour  think of Love Me to Death.

The second book in the Lucy Kincaid series is due out Feb 22/11. If you'd like to read Love me to Death, I have a copy to giveaway courtesy of the publisher Ballantine Books. Open to the US and Canada, simply comment to be entered. Ends Sat. Jan 29/11 at 6 pm EST.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Lake of Dreams - Kim Edwards

I think I am one of the few people who hasn't read The Memory Keeper's Daughter - Kim Edward's New York Times bestselling first novel. So I jumped at the chance to read her latest book - The Lake of Dreams. Now I know why everyone kept recommending her!

Lucy Jarrett lives in Japan with her boyfriend Yoshi. She is between jobs and somewhat uncertain of what the future holds for her. When an email from her brother arrives, mentioning that her widowed mother has been slightly injured in a fall, Lucy decides to go home for a visit. The visit stirs up memories of her father's death. Nothing is as it was, her mother and her brother Blake are moving on with their lives.

"All these years I'd taken such comfort in my wandering life, but really I'd been as anchored to the night my father died as Blake had been, circling it from afar, still caught within its gravity. Now Blake was moving on, and my mother was, too; the feeling I'd been fighting all day, the feeling of being adrift by myself in a vast dark space, engulfed me for a moment."

In the cupola of the family home, Lucy discovers a cache of items that suggest the family history as she knows it, isn't quite the whole story. As Lucy pursues the story behind the items, history reaches forward to change the course of the present.

The characters were especially well drawn, each entirely believable. The emotions and situations were convincing and rang true - Lucy's exploration of her feelings with an old flame, her mother's burgeoning relationship with a new flame and more. It was the exploration of the past that enthralled me though. I found myself flipping ahead, looking for the italicized type that indicated a letter from the past. These letters were especially poignant - the emotions and circumstances that surround them were both addicting and heart rending. 

The story flows seamlessly, blending the past and present together with vibrant details. The descriptions of glass blowing are vivid and sensual. The use of unsettled weather to mirror Lucy's emotional state is particularly effective. The settings are lushly depicted.

Edwards has crafted an incredibly rich, multi layered story, with threads reaching from one storyline to the next, finally joining them together in a satisfying conclusion.

"Whatever its beginning, the story had unfolded, one event leading to the next, beauty and loss surfacing in every generation, until I sat here, a hundred years away from the comet, woven into the story in ways no one could ever have imagined."

A satisfying read - definitely recommended. Read an excerpt of The Lake of Dreams.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Arranged - Catherine McKenzie - Review & Giveaway

I adored Catherine McKenzie's first book Spin (review found here). An unexpected day off and my Christmas list done = a perfect time to tuck into my favourite chair with Arranged. (Loved the cover)

Anne Blythe has a pretty good life - a job she likes, great friends and she's just landed a book contract. It's just that she keeps picking the wrong guy, over and over again.

"Have you ever noticed how no story that begins, ' I read his emails' ever finished with, 'I was completely wrong, he wasn't cheating on me'?"

When she picks up a business card that reads Blythe & Company - Arrangements Made, she sees it as a sign. She'll give arranged dating a try. But, it's not dating...it's arranged marriages. Why would anyone..?? Why not...??

And so Anne does. I was frantically flipping pages at this point, eager to see who Blythe & Company had chosen for Anne. And the teaser from the back cover had me wondering ..."until Anne learns that Jack and the company that arranged their marriage are not what they seem at all." More frantic page flipping until the book was finished.

What a fun premise for a book. It's a great fairy tale idea - what if someone could help you find 'the one', the perfect match for you? Would you do it?  (There's a reading group guide that includes that very question).

I enjoyed the character of Anne -she was an interesting mix of confidence and uncertainty. I also enjoyed the supporting cast, especially Anne's brother Gilbert and his family. Anne's friends Sarah and William also rang true. But I wasn't enamoured with Jack. I just never found him as emotionally attractive as Anne did. There were a number of reasons for this, but I don't want to give the plot away. The ending is of the fairy tale variety, but isn't what I would have predicted or wanted. Arranged was an enjoyable read though - 4/5 for me.

Catherine McKenzie has firmly established herself in the chick lit genre. I'll be watching for her next book. Read an excerpt of Arranged.

Keep up with what's going on at Harper Collins Canada through their great website - The Savvy Reader.

And thanks to Harper Collins Canada, I have a copy of Arranged to giveaway. Open to Canadian addresses only. Ends Saturday Jan 22/11 at 6 pm EST. Simply comment to be entered.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Winners- At Home - Bill Bryson

And the two lucky winners of a copy of Bill Bryson's latest book At Home, courtesy of Doubleday Publishing are:

1. Maureen
2. garretsambo

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.

Criminal Plots Reading Challenge - 2011

I joined the 100+ Reading Challenge last year finishing up with 145 books. (which oddly enough was the very same total as 2009!) This year I've decided to keep track of my 2011 reads on a separate page on my blog. For challenges, I'll continue The Great Canadian Challenge 4 and I've decided to join Jen's Criminal Plots 2011 Challenge.

"Rules of the Road:

So, what's involved in this challenge you ask? It isn't too difficult. It involves reading six books throughout 2011 (January 1 through December 31, 2011). One book should be read that fits into each of the following categories:

1. A book by a new to you author who's blurbed a book you enjoyed. So check out the cover of a crime fiction book you've enjoyed and see who blurbed that book and is also an author you've never read before.

2. A book that has been made into a movie. It doesn't have to be a movie you've seen but it can be. The book, however, should be one you haven't read before. (Examples: MYSTIC RIVER, L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, LONDON BOULEVARD, HOSTAGE, etc.)

3.A book with a protagonist opposite your own gender. So if you're female, the protagonist should be male; if you're male the protagonist should be female.
4.A book set outside the country in which you live.


5.A book that's the first in a new-to-you series.
6.A book by a 2011 debut author."


That's it! Want to join in? Sign up here.