Thursday, June 30, 2011

Over the Counter # 61

Looking for a pet? One that doesn't bark too much? Here's the answer! The latest book to catch my eye this week as it passed over my library counter and under my scanner was Knit Your Own Dog by Sally Muir and Joanna Osborne.

From the publisher Black Dog & Leventhal:

"The perfect gift for dog-lovers who knit! From a spotted Dalmatian to a wrinkly Bulldog, the step-by-step patterns in Knit Your Own Dog let you knit the dog you've always wanted.

The knitted dog is indeed the ideal companion: There's no feeding, barking, shedding, or vet's bills, and he'll live forever! Knit Your Own Dog is the irresistible guide to knitting the perfect pup. With patterns for 25 different pedigree pooches, Knit Your Own Dog lets you choose the dog you want, whether it's a pretty Poodle or a loyal Labrador. Or knit them all for a pack of canine fun!

The patterns are easy-to-follow for both new and veteran knitters. It should take only a few evenings to create a covetable companion for life. And yet each pattern is extremely detailed and includes all of the distinguishing features of each breed, from the startling blue eyes of the Siberian Husky and the long, woolly curls of the Old English Sheepdog to the lolling tongue of the German Shepherd.

Accompanying the patterns are a brief description of each breed, as well as expert tips on choosing yarns, stuffing and sewing the dogs, and adding personality to your creation. Beautiful color photographs of the finished dogs, as well as detail shots, both inspire and instruct. Knit Your Own Dog is the perfect book for knitters and devoted dog lovers.

Breeds include: Afghan Hound, Basset Hound, Border Collie, Cocker Spaniel, Corgi, Dachshund, Dalmatian, English Bulldog, English Bull Terrier, French Bulldog, German Shepherd, Jack Russell, Labrador, Miniature Schnauzer, Old English Sheepdog, Poodle, Portuguese Water Dog, Pug, Red Setter, Rough Collie, Scottish Terrier, Siberian Husky, West Highland Terrier, Whippet, Wire-haired Fox Terrier."

(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, June 29, 2011

Canada Day Blog Hop Giveaway- June 29 to July 2

Celebrate Canada Day with over 30 Canadian Bloggers for the first annual Canada Day Blog Hop, running from June 29th to July 2nd, co hosted by Aislynn of Knit, Purl, Stitch...Read and Cook and Chrystal of Snowdrop Dreams.

A Bookworm's World is offering up a never read ARC of Into the Heart of the Country by Canadian author Pauline Holdstock.

From the publisher Harper Collins Canada:

"Set in eighteenth-century Canada, this compelling new novel takes the reader deep into unexplored territory. Appearing only fleetingly in the historical record of the Hudson’s Bay Company are the Native women who lived at the company’s Prince of Wales Fort and served as companions to the European traders -- and whose survival was bound, for better or worse, to the fortunes of those men.

Across more than two centuries, the mixed-blood woman Molly Norton, daughter of Governor Moses and personal favourite of the explorer Samuel Hearne, speaks to us from her dreams. As the story of her liaison with Hearne unfolds, we move toward its tragic consequences. When their small society is torn apart, Molly and the other women find themselves and their children abandoned by their British masters. Now -- in one of history’s cruel ironies -- they must fend for themselves in the harsh country from which their own ancestors sprang.

Unflinching, powerful and rich in moral ambiguity, Into the Heart of the Country explores a tragic meeting of cultures that still reverberates in the present day." Read an excerpt.

Short and sweet folks - ends Sat. July 2nd at 6 pm EST. Open to Canada, US and International. Simply leave a comment to be entered. Here's the list of other participants - see what they're offering up!

Happy 144th Birthday Canada!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Map of Time - Félix J. Palma

Do you ever start a book , get a few pages in, recognize that  you are inextricably hooked already and jump for joy when you realize there are 600 more pages left to savour?

That's exactly how I felt after the first two chapters of Félix J. Palma's novel The Map of Time.

It started off in one of my favourite time periods - Victorian England - with an unknown narrator telling us of a young man's visit to Whitechapel in 1888- the time of Jack the Ripper - and more.

"Yes, I know that when I began this tale, I promised there would be a fabulous time machine, and there will be, there will even be intrepid explorers and fierce native  tribes - a must in any adventure story. But all in good time, isn't it necessary at the start of any game to place all the pieces on their respective squares first? Of course it is, in which case let me continue setting up the board, slowly but surely..."

At the heart of it all - Murray's Time Travel. Could the fourth dimension really have been discovered in 1896? ..."what was underneath the world, what was behind reality." Can the Murray Company really take travellers to the year 2000? All of Victorian England would like to believe so. Jules Verne and H.G. Wells and their futuristic novels are all the rage.

H. G. Wells plays a prominent role in this tale, as well as other historical figures including the Elephant Man, Henry James, Bram Stoker. Palma creates many other characters, all incredibly well drawn, leaping off the page and into my imagination with ease.

The book is written in three parts, with each part approaching time travel from a slightly different angle, with the third part tying it altogether. But not tying it all up with a neat little bow, for Palma plays with us many times throughout the 600+ pages. We are kept on our toes, wondering if time travel was/is possible....

There is no way to pigeonhole this book into any one genre. It is incredibly imaginative, ingenious, whimsical and addictive, combining history, mystery, romance, adventure and fantasy into a page turning, clever, keep you on your toes, thought provoking tale. What would you do if you could go back in the past or see what's coming in the future?

Palma is an absolutely fantastic storyteller. I was captured from first page to last. For those who are looking for something completely different, pick up The Map of Time, releasing today.

See for yourself - read the first chapter of The Map of Time. Or listen to an excerpt. Or the website for the book.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Graveminder - Melissa Marr

It was the cover of Graveminder that first encouraged me to pick up Melissa Marr's latest book. I love abandoned buildings and found this old structure quite appealing. Marr is an author I was unfamiliar with, but she is known for her Wicked Lovely series, aimed at young adult/teen readers. Graveminder is her first adult novel.

Rebekkah Barrow has returned to the town of Claysville for the funeral of her beloved grandmother Maylene. Most folks don't ever leave the town....and if they do, they are inexplicably drawn back. For the town has made a deal with the dead. A graveminder and her protector - the undertaker - will take care of the dead and make sure they don't wander. And that was Maylene's job. But now that job has fallen to Rebekkah and her new undertaker, Byron Montgomery.

This isn't my usual genre of read, but I was curious to see what Marr had imagined. I found her depiction of an entire City of the Dead quite imaginative, populated without drooling bodies (although there are a few of those up top) It is those dead in Claysville that are the problem that the new graveminder and undertaker must deal with. Who has undermined the contract and why? Someone alive or dead?

I chose to listen to this book. The reader is Emma Galvin. Her voice is quite expressive with a gravelly quality that adds to her reading. I enjoyed her interpretation. But, she does sound young and on further investigation found that she has narrated pretty much only YA novels. If Marr's intention was to separate Graveminder as an adult book, perhaps an older sounding voice would have been more appropriate. I found some of the dialogue a bit repetitious and don't think I would have noticed it as much in written form. I also found Rebekkah and Byron's interactions somewhat 'teenish' and not that of two adults.

It's always good to step outside our comfort zone. For me, fantasy isn't a place I go very often, but I enjoyed Graveminder as something different for me.  Fans of YA books will love it.  I was fascinated by the City of the Dead and think that Marr could find more stories to write about there.

See what you think - read an excerpt of Graveminder or listen to an excerpt.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Canada Day Blog Hop coming soon....

Join myself and over 30 other Canadian Bloggers for the first annual Canada Day Blog Hop, running from June 29th to July 2nd, co hosted by Aislynn of Knit, Purl, Stitch...Read and Cook and Chrystal of Snowdrop Dreams.

Each blog will be celebrating Canada Day with a Canadian themed giveaway. Stop back on Wednesday to see what A Bookworm's World will have on offer. And here's the list of other participants.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Chevy Stevens - Never Knowing - Q & A

Chevy Stevens jumped onto the the book scene with her thriller debut Still Missing last year. (I reviewed Still Missing and loved it!) Her second novel Never Knowing will release on July 5th. A Bookworm's World is thrilled to have Chevy stop by to answer a few questions.

I'm sure you have been asked this in every interview so far, but please indulge me! Where did the idea for Never Knowing spring from? Real cases? Newspaper headlines? Your imagination?  

Never Knowing was inspired by a conversation I had with my editor about what it might feel like, if you were adopted, to find out that your birth father was a famous serial killer who had never been caught. The story took root and grew from there. I used a few other ideas that had been circulating in my mind for a while, for example there was a horrific murder in Wells Gray Park many years ago and when I read about it, it really upset me. Never Knowing isn’t based on that crime, but the image of a lonely campsite and the terrible things that could happen there, haunted me, so I explored those feelings in the book.

The Art of War by Sun Tzu plays a part in Never Knowing. Do you use the book in your own life? How did you choose the quotes you used?

I’d never read the Art of War before writing Never Knowing, but when I researched it, I found that the quotes and principles could be used in many situations. It was complicated, but also interesting and challenging to fit the quotes in, finding just the right one for a situation, then building dialogue off of it. I love solving puzzles, though, so I enjoyed that part of the process.

Belonging in many ways is a theme throughout Never Knowing - any thoughts to share on this idea?

Hmm. Good question. I think a lot of people struggle with a sense of not quite fitting in with their family. As they get older, things often change and they create a circle of peer groups or learn to accept their differences, but for many people, it can bring a lot of pain when they are children and a feeling of isolation, which is certainly something Sara struggles with.

Covers fascinate me - do you know the girl on the cover of Not Knowing?

I don’t know her. But I loved this cover from the first moment I saw it. The designer at St. Martin’s press did a great job. 

What does your writing day look like? Same time, same place everyday? 

Right now it’s a little chaotic because there is a lot of marketing going on, leading up to publication. The business side of a writing career can be time consuming. When I’m in the first draft stage, I try to have a set amount of pages that I want to reach per day. And then when I’m editing, it’s just whenever and however I can. I always write in my office, though sometimes to focus I will take my lap top to the kitchen table. I have to have complete silence around me and often wear ear plugs. Mornings are my most creative time, but lately I’ve also been writing in the evening because my day ends up disappearing as I deal with all the other demands.

I'm always curious - what are you reading currently? Are there any authors that have influenced your writing? Favourite childhood book?

It’s very hard for me to read when I’m working a lot. In the evenings I usually just watch TV because my eyes are tired and I’m burnt out. In the winter I like to read a little bit in the bath, but gone are the days where I could devote entire afternoons to reading books. I have a few books on my nightstand waiting for me, a couple of thrillers and some classic Stephen King. I read a lot of his books growing up, so I’m sure he influenced me. Same with Ed McBain and Lawrence Sanders. From my childhood, I liked Mists of Avalon, The Secret Garden, Heaven by V.C. Andrews, Clan of the Cave Bear, and I read a lot of fantasy, like the series by Piers Anthony.

Still Missing was a phenomenal success. Have you grown accustomed to the fame yet?    Did that success make it easier or harder to write Never Knowing? What changed in your life with that success?

I’ve slowly gotten used to my new world, but in my mind I’m still the same person, so it catches me off guard when people comment about my success. When I was working on Still Missing, it was challenging because I had the fear of not getting published. When I was writing Never Knowing, the challenge was to write a worthy follow up. I knew people’s expectations would be very high, but I just tried to write the story that was coming to me, to the best of my abilities.

Your books have gone global - do you plan on staying in Canada?

Yes, though I hope to travel to more countries. I’ve had the opportunity to take a few of trips to the States and last November I flew to Amsterdam to visit with my publishers. That was an amazing experience. Every time I walk out into my yard, I see the tulips I brought back and I feel very grateful.

What's up next on your vision board for your third novel?

The same things have been on my vision board for all three books, and I have a superstition of not taking down anything, in case it reverses the process! I have now started branching off into mini-vision boards for specific things. This question was a good prompt to start working on one just for Always Watching.

What do you do to relax? Hobbies? Popcorn addiction?

Well, popcorn and a movie (or really, any good TV show because it doesn’t take much for me to justify a bowl of popcorn) are definitely on the top of the list, but I also enjoy walking my dog and spending time with my husband. Exercise is a great stress relief and I feel wonderful after, but the process isn’t very relaxing. Dinners with friends always make me happy!

Anything else you'd like to share with us?

I’m very excited about my third book. This one, Always Watching, is from the perspective of the therapist who is in the first two books, Nadine. I set her early years in Shawnigan Lake, on Vancouver Island, which is where I grew up, so I’ve really enjoyed sharing my love for the location. Also, I’ve found the research for this book, on psychiatry and cults, fascinating. 

Thanks so much for stopping by Chevy. Watch for my review of Never Knowing on July 5th. Until then - read an excerpt of Never Knowing.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Over the Counter # 60

The latest book to catch my eye this week as it passed over my library counter and under my scanner was Homemade Soda by Andrew Schloss. I had never thought about making soda from scratch before...and the 'shrubs and switchels' category caught my eye. (They're soft drinks spiked with vinegar, developed as temperance beverages in the 18th and 19th century with the vinegar taking the place of alcohol)

From Storey Publishing:

"Making your own soda is easy and inexpensive. Best of all, you control the sweetness level and ingredients, so you can create a drink that’s exactly what you want. Using a few simple techniques, anyone can make a spectacular variety of beverages. Try Pomegranate Punch, Chai Fizz, Fruity Root Beer, Sparkling Orange Creamsicle, Honey Cardamom Fizzy Water, Sparkling Espresso Jolt, Cold Fudge Soda, Lightly Salty Caramel Seltzer, Sangria Shrub, Maraschino Ginger Ale, Malted Molasses Switchel, or Berry Vinegar Cordial. Some recipes show you how to re-create the flavors of favorite commercial soft drinks, and others show you how to use homemade soda in decadent desserts and adult cocktails. The delicious possibilities are endless!"

(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, June 22, 2011

The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes - Marcus Sakey

I've been recommending Marcus Sakey books for a while now to library patrons who are looking for a new thriller/suspense author. Many have never heard of Sakey, but they always come back after that first read, looking for another of his titles. The Two Death of Daniel Hayes is going to propel Sakey right up to the top of the thriller/suspense genre.

A man wakes up half dead and naked on a deserted beach. He has no idea who he is, where he is, or how he got there. But... there's a BMW with the keys in it parked up the road. The clothes on the seat fit him, as do the shoes. There's a wad of cash in the glove box and the registration is made out to Daniel Hayes of Malibu California. Oh, there's also a gun...

'Daniel' sets off in the car, stopping at a motel to try and figure things out. An actress on a prime time soap triggers a memory. He can't know her, can he? Who is he? When the motel door is kicked in by the cops, he hightails it out the bathroom window. What has he done? Why are they after him? Who the hell is he!?

And I'm not going to give you any more plot, because it's just too good to spoil. Sakey drew me in with the unknown and kept me frantically turning pages as Hayes discovers more and more about who he is and what he has done. Or not done. Are his memories real or "just stories we tell ourselves to explain how we got where we are." Because nothing is as it seems. The plot twists and turns and doubles back on itself numerous times. I was happily kept totally off kilter. I loved that I wasn't able to figure the 'who and why' out until the very end. What a breakneck read - highly recommended!

See for yourself - read an excerpt of The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes. You can find Marcus Sakey on Facebook and on Twitter.

(And you might find a certain blogger's name as one of the characters as well - anyone else catch it?

Marcus Sakey: "I'm a novelist, which means I make a living telling lies. Hopefully they keep you up at night or make you miss your train stop." Oh yeah, they do!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

212- Alafair Burke

I've just turned the last page of 212 by Alafair Burke and am sitting here wondering how I've missed adding this author to my list of must read authors.

212 features recurring lead character Ellie Hatcher, an NYPD Detective. In 212 Ellie and her partner Rogan catch a homicide in a penthouse belonging to one of the city's wealthiest men. Although he claims no knowledge of how and why his bodyguard was using the suite, he seems to be trying to control the direction of Ellie's investigation. As does the judge involved....

Rogan and Ellie catch a second murder case. A young college student had previously complained to the police about anonymous online threats directed at her. Those threats escalated - to murder.  As they dive into their latest case, the detectives discover a link between the two murders. One that someone doesn't want found...

Ellie is a great protagonist. She smart, tough, dogged and determined. The partnership between her and Rogan works - they're quite opposite personalities. I enjoyed the secondary story lines featuring her brother Jess (a dark horse I'm sure we'll hear more about) and Ellie's love life. The dialogue flows easily and the cases are realistic and not cut and dried. It was only on reading the author notes at the back, that I discovered the ideas for this book did indeed spring from newspaper headlines. That note of reality also springs from Burke's background. She herself is a former prosecutor and now teaches criminal law.

212 was a really good read and a series I will now be following. ( But I had no problem reading 212 as a stand alone.)  I'll also be checking out the other series Burke pens featuring Portland Deputy District Attorney Samantha Kincaid. Read an excerpt of 212. Burke's new novel Long Gone releases today.

Fans of police procedurals and authors such as Karin Slaughter and Linda Fairstein would enjoy this author.

You can find Alafair Burke on Facebook and on Twitter. (And an interesting sidenote - Alafair Burke is the daughter of lengendary author James Lee Burke)

See what others on the TLC tour thought.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Before I Go To Sleep - S. J. Watson

You might have heard about Before I Go To Sleep - the debut novel of S. J. Watson. You might have heard that it's an addicting, incredibly well crafted, finely honed suspenseful tale that will leave you turning pages long into the night.

Everything you've heard? All that and more! What an amazing debut! Rights have been sold in thirty countries already and the film rights are sold as well.

Christine wakes up early and finds herself in bed with a middle aged man. One she doesn't know and can't quite remember how she got there.

"Usually I can remember how I get into situations like this, but not today. There must have been a party, or a trip to a bar or a club. I must have been pretty wasted. Wasted enough that I don't remember anything at all. Wasted enough to have gone home with a man with a wedding ring and hairs on his back."

She creeps into the bathroom, but the hand that flushes the toilet looks wrong. And when she looks into the mirror, there's a middle aged woman looking back. That can't be her - she's twenty five, that woman is at least 45... And then the man wakes up and tells her who she is - his wife. His wife who had a bad accident that left her with head injuries and severe amnesia. She literally cannot remember anything from day to day.

"You've had amnesia for a long time. You can't retain new memories, so you 've forgotten much of what happened to you for your entire adult life. Every day you wake up as if you are a young woman. Some days you wake as if you are a child."
Ben her husband goes off to work. The phone rings and she answers it - it's a man who says he is a doctor treating her and tells her to look in her closet for her journal. And along with Christine, we read what she remembers. Until she goes to sleep and forgets it all again.....

Can you just imagine waking up with no memory and reading a journal you've written with what you've learned or remembered about yourself? Every day. As we get further and further into her journal everyday, the questions arise - should Christine trust the doctor  - or her husband?

S. J. Watson has done a phenomonal job at intensifying the suspense and building on it in subtle layers. I was reminded of classic Alfred Hitchcock films. The ratcheting tension is thoroughly delicious. The cover art is great too, with the fogged mirror and the woman peering through. Loved it, loved it, loved it!!

Be warned - you won't be getting too much shut eye yourself until you turn the last page of Before I Go To Sleep.  Get a sneak peek yourself - read an excerpt.

You can find S. J. Watson on Facebook as well. Or check out the Facebook page for Before I Go To Sleep.
Check out what others on the TLC book tour think of this book. Lucky Torontonians can catch S.J. Watson at Harbourfront on June 22. Details here.

I can't wait to read his second novel!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Winners - The Arrivals

And the two lucky winners of a copy of The Arrivals by Meg Mitchell Moore, courtesy of The Hachette Book Group are:

1. Mike Draper

2. StereoQueenBee

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

Friday, June 17, 2011

Delirium - Lauren Oliver

Continuing to feed my fascination with YA dystopian fiction, I picked up Lauren Oliver's latest book Delirium - the first in a planned trilogy.

Lena Holoway is happily counting down the days to her 18th birthday. Happy, because she will then undergo the government ordered procedure to be cured and therefore safe. Safe Because in her world, love is a disease that causes delirium.  And without this disease, your life will be safe,  predictable, and happy. Lena will then be paired with a suitable candidate and married when she finishes the schooling chosen for her.

And, all is going to plan, until she meets Alex. Alex is 19...and he is an 'invalid'. Invalids are those who have not had the cure and live outside the electrifed fences of the cities in The Wilds. Alex is living inside the fence, pretending to be a citizen of the city.  And, yep you guessed it...Lena and Alex fall in love.

I'll leave you to imagine where the tale heads next.  Delirium lacks the excitement and tenseness of  The Hunger Games, but has more action than Matched. The story borrows from Shakespeare to a certain degree. I'm not thrilled with the ending, but as always, I just can't wait to see what's out there in The Wilds.

For those who enjoy this genre - a must. Read an excerpt of Delirium. Or listen to an excerpt.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Over the Counter # 59

Well, two books caught my eye this week as they passed over my library counter and under my scanner. It seemed to be big number + food week. I was tempted to go looking for 200, 300 and more.

First up was 400 Best Sandwich Recipes by Alison Lewis. (Really - you could have a different sandwich every day for a year in your lunch with a few to spare!) From Robert Rose Publishing:

Simple to prepare yet sublime to eat -- sandwich recipes for every occasion.
This is the go-to book on sandwiches. These recipes can be enjoyed at any mealtime -- not just lunch -- and include a wide array of snacks, appetizers and desserts. In addition to the standard fare, there is a selection of wonderful, intriguing and creative new recipes.
With hundreds of choices, 400 Best Sandwich Recipes has the perfect sandwich for anyone's craving, and every recipe can easily be prepared by the home chef. The recipes are organized into:
  • Breakfast and brunch sandwiches
  • Appetizers
  • Lunchbox sandwiches
  • The classics
  • Grilled cheeses
  • Burgers and sliders
  • Wraps
  • International sandwiches
  • American favorites
  • Light and healthy sandwiches
  • Desserts
  • Condiments
These outstanding recipes are ideal for the busy home cook who wants to serve tasty, healthy, portable and economical dishes made with fresh ingredients. Very little equipment is needed, and the condiment recipes will enhance any sandwich, turning it into a gourmet meal"

 And next up was 300 Best Taco Recipes by Kelley Cleary Coffeen. From Robert Rose Publishing:

The most extensive collection of taco recipes, with perfect pairings for salsas, relishes and beverages.
A spectacular taco bible, this cookbook delivers the best recipes ever. From the crucial choice of the right tortilla to the correct preparation of ingredients and toppings, Kelley Cleary Coffeen's recipes are fun, simple, delicious and economical.
She has included a taco for every member of the family and any and every guest, from authentic Mexican tacos to traditional Americanized tacos as well as an array of creative culinary tacos that have never been done before. Here is a sample of the offerings:
  • Chicken and turkey tacos, such as pollo verde tacos, sonora chicken flautas, 10-minute chicken tacos
  • Beef, roast and steak tacos, such as gingered short rib tacos, green chili stew tacos, tres taquitos with guacamole
  • Pork and lamb tacos, such as Southern pulled pork tacos with honey mustard glaze, spicy chorizo tacos
  • Coastal, veggie and meatless tacos, such as Cajun shrimp tacos, mahi mahi tacos with citrus salsa, artichoke & spinach tacos
  • Dessert tacos, such as honey pecan tacos, apple caramel streusel flautas, cherry cheesecake cupitas
  • Salsas, sauces, relishes and more, such as peach & red onion salsa, roasted tomato salsa, blue cheese & onion relish, guacamole
The taco recipes are complemented by recipes for cocktails that are the perfect accompaniment, such as pink Cadillac margarita, Mojito de Mexico, tequila grand and mesilla sangria. The book also includes recipes for authentic flour and corn tortillas, roasted and grilled meats and poultry, refried beans and 100 different vegetables, cheeses and salsas and other sauces. Everything needed to make outstanding taco meals can be found here."

(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, June 15, 2011

The Witch of Babylon - D. J. McIntosh

I devoured all of the Dan Browns when they came out, have worked my way through all of Steve Berry's books so I was thrilled to get my hands on a copy of D. J. McIntosh's debut novel The Witch of Babylon - the first book in The Mesopotamian Trilogy.

McIntosh introduces us to John Madison, a Turkish-American art dealer who has a bit of a checkered past. His older brother Samuel dies unexpectedly and it is only after his death that John learns of Samuel's desperate attempt to save a priceless relic from looting in Iraq. The relic has been stolen by Hal, a rival of John's. Hal is killed by factions determined to have the relic for themselves. But before he died, Hal secreted the relic away, leaving a series of intricate puzzles John must solve to find the treasure. And what is this relic that everyone is so desperate to save and to steal?
"Samuel had recognized Nahum's text as a prophetic Old Testament book called the Burden of Nineveh. He believed that not only was the text genuine but it contained a hidden message. Something to do with alchemical processes to make gold"
The detail and history McIntosh weaves into her story is impeccably researched. I often stopped midway through a chapter to hop on the computer and look up the past and events she writes about. And the Bible as well - Nahum is a small book in the Old Testament. The puzzles are included in the book, allowing the reader to 'play' along. (There's also a great website where you can play one of the puzzles - Babylon Squares.)

McIntosh successfully combines the fascinating world of historical fact and lore with the all too real problem of antiquities looting. Toss in action, travel, bad guys and a little romance and the result is a page turner that will surely land on the bestseller lists.

D.J. McIntosh talks about her lead character - John Madison:

My Leading Man

I’ve developed a steady relationship with a certain guy over the last couple of years and we just seem to grow closer as time goes on. He’s exceptionally good looking, comes from an exotic background, is smart though no snooty intellectual, has great social skills, oh….and, did I mention he’s thirty-three years younger than me?

He does have his failings. A tendency to skim the edges of legality if the money is good enough, a proclivity that stands him in good stead in his profession as an art and antiquities dealer. He has a strong sense of self-doubt that he covers up with bravado and occasional flashes of quick temper. But, hey, no one’s perfect. And he loves rock/blues guitar just as much as I do. That pretty much restores the balance for me.

I speak, of course, about my leading man – John Madison – the central character in The Witch of Babylon and the next two books in the Babylon Trilogy to come.Authors use many approaches to form a central character. Some draft a long list of attributes, interests and qualities that, like paint strokes on a canvas, eventually make up a coherent picture. Others model their protagonist after someone they know well or find many of their own personality traits reflected in their creation. And some writers create a hero or heroine who is symbolic of an ideal.

When it comes to plot development I need to work off a very detailed palette before putting words on the page. But with my lead character it’s just the reverse. He sprang, as it were, fully formed from my imagination. One day he was just “there” - his physical image, personality, even, John, his first name. I’d wished in fact to name him Edward or James, two of my favourite male names, but he wasn’t having any of that!

At the time the manuscript entered its first major revision, it was suggested that a tough, take no prisoners female protagonist was in vogue and would likely have more appeal in the publishing world. This notion has certainly proven itself true with the very successful work of Mr. Larsson. In fact it would have been the safer way to go if only because I’m female and writing what you know does tend to result in a richer reading experience.

But while my novel has undergone many changes since those early days – alterations that considerably improved the book – the prospect of wiping John off the page produced a gut clenching reaction. I just couldn’t do it."

And we're glad you didn't!  You can find D.J.McIntosh on Facebook and on Twitter.

Check out what others on the tour think:

Just a Lil Lost  June 13
The Literary Word  June 14  

My Ever Expanding Library June 16
Serendipitous Readings June 17
Let's Book It June 20  

Evie Bookish June 22
Lost for Words June 23
Snowdrop Dreams of Books June 24

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Father's Day Roundup Giveaway!!

Any of these titles would make a great Father's Day gift....or maybe one for yourself as well!? Thanks to Little, Brown and Company, I have TWO sets of five books to giveaway. That's right - 2 full sets! Including:

The Ridge by Michael Koryta 

"On an isolated ridge in the Kentucky woods stands a homemade lighthouse, hundreds of miles from any substantial body of water. Local reporter Roy Darmus has always found it an amusing oddity- until he is selected as the recipient of a suicide note from its builder. Roy enters the bizarre structure to find the walls covered in maps bearing the names of the dead--including his own parents, who were killed in a car accident when he was a boy. Roy soon has a storytelling assignment more daunting than anything he's seen before: convincing people that an age-old legend has in fact come to life. With haunting atmosphere and tension-coiled plot, The Ridge is a terrifying journey into the heart of darkness."

The Fifth Witness by Michael Connelly

"Mickey Haller has fallen on tough times. He expands his business into foreclosure defense, only to see one of his clients accused of killing the banker she blames for trying to take away her home. Mickey puts his team into high gear to exonerate Lisa Trammel, even though the evidence and his own suspicions tell him his client is guilty. Soon after he learns that the victim had black market dealings of his own, Haller is assaulted, too--and he's certain he's on the right trail. Despite the danger and uncertainty, Haller mounts the best defense of his career in a trial where the last surprise comes after the verdict is in" 

The House That Ruth Built by Robert Weintraub

"The untold story of Babe Ruth's Yankees, John McGraw's Giants, and the extraordinary baseball season of 1923.
Before the 27 World Series titles--before Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and Derek Jeter-the Yankees were New York's shadow franchise. They hadn't won a championship, and they didn't even have their own field, renting the Polo Grounds from their cross-town rivals the New York Giants. In 1921 and 1922, they lost to the Giants when it mattered most: in October. But in 1923, the Yankees played their first season on their own field, the newly-built, state of the art baseball palace in the Bronx called "the Yankee Stadium." The stadium was a gamble, erected in relative outerborough obscurity, and Babe Ruth was coming off the
most disappointing season of his career, a season that saw his struggles on and off the field threaten his standing as a bona fide superstar. It only took Ruth two at-bats to signal a new era. He stepped up to the plate in the 1923 season opener and cracked a home run to deep right field, the first homer in his park, and a sign of what lay ahead. It was the initial blow in a season that saw the new stadium christened "The House That Ruth Built," signaled the triumph of the power game, and established the Yankees as New York's-and the sport's-team to beat. From that first home run of 1923 to the storybook World Series matchup that pitted the Yankees against their nemesis from across the Harlem River-one so acrimonious that John McGraw forced his Giants to get to the Bronx in uniform rather than suit up at the Stadium-Robert Weintraub vividly illuminates the singular year that built a classic stadium, catalyzed a franchise, cemented Ruth's legend, and forever changed the sport of baseball."

Life by Keith Richards

The long-awaited autobiography of the guitarist, songwriter, singer, and founding member of the Rolling Stones. Ladies and gentlemen: Keith Richards. With The Rolling Stones, Keith Richards created the songs that roused the world, and he lived the original rock and roll life. Now, at last, the man himself tells his story of life in the crossfire hurricane. Listening obsessively to Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters records, learning guitar and forming a band with Mick Jagger and Brian Jones. The Rolling Stones's first fame and the notorious drug busts that led to his enduring image as an outlaw folk hero. Creating immortal riffs like the ones in "Jumping Jack Flash" and "Honky Tonk Women." His relationship with Anita Pallenberg and the death of Brian Jones. Tax exile in France, wildfire tours of the U.S., isolation and addiction. Falling in love with Patti Hansen. Estrangement from Jagger and subsequent reconciliation. Marriage, family, solo albums and Xpensive Winos, and the road that goes on forever. With his trademark disarming honesty, Keith Richard brings us the story of a life we have all longed to know more of, unfettered, fearless, and true.

The Pale King by David Foster Wallace

"The agents at the IRS Regional Examination Center in Peoria, Illinois, appear ordinary enough to newly arrived trainee David Foster Wallace. But as he immerses himself in a routine so tedious and repetitive that new employees receive boredom-survival training, he learns of the extraordinary variety of personalities drawn to this strange calling. And he has arrived at a moment when forces within the IRS are plotting to eliminate even what little humanity and dignity the work still has. The Pale King remained unfinished at the time of David Foster Wallace's death, but it is a deeply compelling and satisfying novel, hilarious and fearless and as original as anything Wallace ever undertook. It grapples directly with ultimate questions--questions of life's meaning and of the value of work and society--through characters imagined with the interior force and generosity that were Wallace's unique gifts. Along the way it suggests a new idea of heroism and commands infinite respect for one of the most daring writers of our time."

Open to residents of the U.S. or Canada. No P.O. Boxes, please. (Winners will be subject to the one copy per household rule, which means that if you win the same title in two or more contests, you will receive only one copy of the title (or one set in the case of grouped giveaways) in the mail.)

To be entered - let me know which book you'd keep for yourself! Ends Sunday July 3rd! Good luck!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Don't Breathe a Word - Jennifer McMahon

I first discovered  Jennifer McMahon when I reviewed  her novel, Island of Lost Girls, back in 2008.

Her latest book, Don't Breathe A Word, is a page turning thriller, drawing again  on the exploration of past influencing present, and how childhood beliefs shape the future. But, boy oh boy, does she do it in a very creepy fashion!

Fifteen years separate the two stories being told. In the past, Lisa, her brother Sam and cousin Evie all lived in the small Vermont town of Harmony. They often played in the woods behind their house. And in those woods there once was a small village called Reliance. All that is left are the stone foundations. Or is it? It is said that all the residents simply vanished one day, leaving only a baby crying in his cradle - Sam and Lisa's great grandfather. And then Lisa vanishes too....
"Three nights ago, she went into the woods behind her house and never came out again. She said there was a door in those woods, somewhere in the ruins of an old town long abandoned. She told her little brother she'd met the King of the Fairies and he was going to take her home to be his queen."
 Phoebe is just drifting through Harmony that day and follows a strange little girl into the woods to 'just have a look'.

Fast forward 15 years. Sam and Phoebe are lovers, a chance meeting bringing them together before Phoebe realizes who Sam really was. When Lisa's 'fairy book' resurfaces and they start receiving calls from someone claiming to be Lisa, the past is reopened, re-explored and remembered in alternating chapters, past and present.

When we're little we pretend there are fairies and fairytales enthrall us. But some of them are frightening as well. 
"You know how sometimes, sometimes when you're just sitting there, you catch this movement in the corner of your eye - just a shadow, really  - and you blink, sure you imagined it?"
What if those tales were based on reality? Or could it be some lowlife using those tales to lure a girl away?

I have to say that McMahon kept me guessing right up until the very last page. One moment I was convinced the story was headed one way, only to be proven wrong in the next chapter. A truly odd mixture of suspense, thriller, mystery and fantasy. But intriguing? Oh yes!

On a side note, I've always been intrigued by McMahon's choice of cover art. All of her novels involve children and each cover has featured a child with striking eyes that seem to look right at you.

Read an excerpt of Don't Breathe a Word. You can find Jennifer on Twitter.
Check out what others on the TLC tour thought. And remember - fairies lie.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Winner - A Time for Patriots - Dale Brown

And the lucky winner of a copy of A Time for Patriots by Dale Brown is:


Congratulations! I've contacted you by email for your mailing address. Please respond within 72 hours.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Winner - When God Was a Rabbit

And the lucky winner of a copy of When God Was A Rabbit by Sarah Winman, courtesy of Bloomsbury 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, June 10, 2011

Live Wire - Harlan Coben

Many readers have come to know Harlan Coben through the stand alone thrillers he writes - most of which are bestsellers. And really really good. But he also writes a great series featuring recurring character Myron Bolitar  - a sports and entertainment rep who is also a lawyer - and his sidekick the enigmatic Win.hi  Win is a very dapper, very wealthy, very scary kind of guy.

Live Wire finds Myron dealing with problems much closer to home than ever before. His estranged brother's wife ends up on a video in a club, showing her shooting up and more. When Myron approaches her she runs.  Two of his high profile clients - Lex, a musician and Suzze, a tennis star. are expecting their first child. But Lex has disappeared and online postings insist the child isn't Lex's. As he digs deeper, he finds an unlikely connection between the two mysteries.

This is a fun series. The witty banter between Win and Myron is amusing. It's an unusual pairing that really works. Myron's ability to get himself in (and sometimes out) of problems using his silver tongue is always entertaining. The cases themselves are well plotted and move quickly. In Live Wire though, we get to see beneath the shiny surface of Myron and see some emotional underbelly.

A great set of recurring characters to get hooked on. Read an excerpt of Live Wire.

You can find Harlan Coben on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Over the Counter # 58

Books about recycling seemed to be what caught my eye this week as they passed over my library counter and under my scanner. First up was trash-to-treasure papermaking by Arnold E. Grummer.

From Storey Publishing:

"Make Your Own Recycled Paper from Newspapers & Magazines * Can & Bottle Labels * Discarded Gift Wrap * Old Phone Books * Junk Mail * Comic Books * and More
Transform junk mail, newspapers, comic books, wrapping paper, labels from cans and bottles, old phone books, and more into beautiful handmade paper in just minutes! Trash-to-Treasure Papermaking shows you how to create unique sheets in a variety of shapes, colors, textures, and sizes, using just a blender and some water. The book also features dozens of fabulous projects you can make with the newly created paper—such as cards, invitations, little bound books, paper bowls, wreaths, and ornaments. This fun, easy craft is suitable for everyone in the family, even preschoolers!"
Next up was Eco Books by Terry Taylor. 

From the publisher Lark Books:

"More than just earth-friendly, these 40 innovative book-making ideas are also beautiful, clever, and stitched with traditional binding techniques.  Egg cartons, beer cans, and cassette tapes morph into covers, while brown bags and coffee filters are transformed into pages. Create a boxed set of cereal box books or even a faux leather journal made from teabags."

(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, June 7, 2011

Giveaway - Prophecy - S. J. Parris

Ohhh. here's one for the mystery and history fans in the house! Newly released from author S. J. Parris is Prophecy.

What's it about? From Doubleday Publishing:

"S. J. Parris returns with the next Giordano Bruno mystery, set inside Queen Elizabeth’s palace and steeped in period atmospherics and the strange workings of the occult.

It is the year of the Great Conjunction, when the two most powerful planets, Jupiter and Saturn, align—an astrologi­cal phenomenon that occurs once every thousand years and heralds the death of one age and the dawn of another. The streets of London are abuzz with predictions of horrific events to come, possibly even the death of Queen Elizabeth.

When several of the queen’s maids of honor are found dead, rumors of black magic abound. Elizabeth calls upon her personal astrologer, John Dee, and Giordano Bruno to solve the crimes. While Dee turns to a mysterious medium claiming knowledge of the murders, Bruno fears that some­thing far more sinister is at work. But even as the climate of fear at the palace intensifies, the queen refuses to believe that the killer could be someone within her own court.

Bruno must play a dangerous game: can he allow the plot to progress far enough to give the queen the proof she needs without putting her, England, or his own life in danger?

In this utterly gripping and gorgeously written novel, S. J. Parris has proven herself the new master of the historical thriller."

Read an excerpt of Prophecy. You can find S.J. Parris on Facebook. A Reader's Guide is available as well.

And I have two copies to giveaway to two lucky readers. US only. Ends Sat. July 2nd. Simply comment to be entered. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Ranger - Ace Atkins

Ace Atkins was a new to me author. But he was quickly added to my 'must read authors' list. His latest novel The Ranger (releases June 9th) is phenomenal!

Quinn Colson, an Army Ranger, returns to his hometown of Jericho in Tibbehah County, Mississippi. He's on leave to attend the funeral of his Uncle Hamp, who was the sheriff of Jericho. Quinn hasn't been home in almost seven years. As he reconnects with his past, the underbelly of Tibbehah County shows itself. Meth dealers, crooked politicians and wounded souls populate the county. Determined to hold on to a piece of family property, Quinn decides to stick around for a bit. Aided by his old friend Boom, back from Iraq minus an arm, and Lillie Virgil - a female deputy as tough as nails, Quinn goes head to head with the slime bent on taking whatever they want in Tibbehah County.

Atkins has put a great spin on the old fashioned western. Our heroes are those who have faced the horrors of war and have come home to find just as ugly a war on the home front. Racism, drugs and corruption are all coiled like a snake under the front porch, waiting to strike.

The dialogue is short and terse, with no unnecessary speeches to clutter up the action. It just adds to the overall tone of the book. Much is said by the words left unspoken. The characters populating the novel are all vividly drawn. The landscape and settings are just as stark and gritty. I had a clear picture in my head as I read.

Or rather, raced through the book. I literally could not put it down.The action is fast and furious. Secondary plots involving past relationships and new relatives do add a human touch to Quinn's character.

The ending is set up for the second book in the series - due out in summer of 2012. One I will be picking up for sure. 'Cause we all need a hero...

Fans of Lee Child's Jack Reacher will find a new favourite character in Quinn Colson. This would also appeal to fans of Randy Wayne White and James Lee Burke where setting is such an important part of the book. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Brendan Brazier giveaway winner

And the lucky winner of a prize pack containing six Vega smoothie mixes (either Shake & Go Smoothie mixes or Complete Whole Food Health Optimizer mixes) in an assortment of flavours like Vanilla Chai, Bodacious Berry, and Choc-a-Lot to celebrate the release of Brendan Brazier's new book Whole Foods to Thrive is:


I've contacted you for your mailing address. Please respond within 72 hours.Thanks to Penguin Canada and Vega.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Winner - Eric Van Lustbader titles

And the lucky winner of a copy of Blood Trust AND First Daughter by Eric Van Lustbader, courtesy of Tor-Forge 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.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Ex-Girlfriends United - Matt Dunn

I read and reviewed Matt Dunn's book The Ex- Boyfriend's Handbook last year and quite enjoyed it. Dunn writes - well - chick lit or rather lad lit if you will. It's the same light fun hearted read, but from a male perspective.

Dunn reprises the two lead characters - Edward, who turned his life around after being dumped by his girlfriend. And Dan, Edward's best friend - a womanizer whose best friend is his mirror.

The tables are turned in Ex-Girlfriends United. Dan's womanizing has caught up to him. His past girlfriends are rating him at an online review site Slate Your Date. And it's not good... Dan and Edward set out to to clean up Dan's reputation - and maybe win back the one girl he did love. But Edward has his own issues when his ex - Jane - decides she wants Edward back.

What makes Dunn's books for is that other side of the coin view. The 'what does it mean if she does this?' or 'Should I call and when?' and more. Dan, of course, has very set 'rules' of engagement. Edward is more naive and sweeter. Edward is the boyfriend you'd want to have. Dan, well.... Dan's dialogue sometimes veers past funny and crude into just plain crass. I think this is my only complaint about the book.The repartee between the two characters is quick and witty. But I do wonder how and why the two of them are friends, being such polar opposites.

Other than that (and really it wasn't that bad) Ex-Girlfriends United is perfect for the beach bag. It won't tax your brain, but will provide an entertaining read with some laughs along the way.

Cover blurb from Sophie Kinsella - " A hilarious insight into the male mind"

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Over the Counter #57

A pair of interesting memoirs caught my attention this week as they passed over my library counter and under my scanner.

First up was My Korean Deli - Risking it All For a Convenience Store by Ben Ryder Howe.

From the publisher Doubleday Canada:

This sweet and funny tale of a preppy literary editor buying a Brooklyn deli with his Korean in-laws is about family, class, culture clash, and the quest for authentic experiences in an increasingly unreal city.

It starts with a simple gift, when Ben Ryder Howe's wife, the daughter of Korean immigrants, decides to repay her parents' self-sacrifice by buying them a store. Howe, an editor at the rarefied Paris Review, reluctantly agrees to go along. However, things soon become a lot more complicated. After the business struggles, Howe finds himself living in the basement of his in-laws' Staten Island home, commuting to the Paris Review offices in George Plimpton's Upper East Side townhouse by day, and heading to Brooklyn at night to slice cold cuts and peddle lottery tickets. The book follows the store's tumultuous lifespan, and along the way paints the portrait of an extremely unlikely partnership between characters across society, from the Brooklyn ghetto to Seoul to Puritan New England. Owning the deli becomes a transformative experience for everyone involved as they struggle to salvage the original gift — and the family — while sorting out issues of values, work and identity."

And second up was Poser - My Life in Twenty Three Yoga Poses by Claire Dederer.

From the publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux:

Ten years ago, Claire Dederer put her back out while breastfeeding her baby daughter. Told to try yoga by everyone from the woman behind the counter at the co-op to the homeless guy on the corner, she signed up for her first class. She fell madly in love.

Over the next decade, she would tackle triangle, wheel, and the dreaded crow, becoming fast friends with some poses and developing long-standing feuds with others. At the same time, she found herself confronting the forces that shaped her generation. Daughters of women who ran away to find themselves and made a few messes along the way, Dederer and her peers grew up determined to be good, good, good—even if this meant feeling hemmed in by the smugness of their organic-buying, attachment-parenting, anxiously conscientious little world. Yoga seemed to fit right into this virtuous program, but to her surprise, Dederer found that the deeper she went into the poses, the more they tested her most basic ideas of what makes a good mother, daughter, friend, wife—and the more they made her want something a little less tidy, a little more improvisational. Less goodness, more joy.

Poser is unlike any other book about yoga you will read—because it is actually a book about life. Witty and heartfelt, sharp and irreverent, Poser is for anyone who has ever tried to stand on their head while keeping both feet on the ground."

(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, June 1, 2011

Roads - Mark Schacter

I initially picked up Roads by Mark Schacter with the intent of using it as an Over the Counter feature. I started leafing through and quickly changed my mind. I knew I had to sit down with the book and savour every detail of each photograph and the accompanying essays.

Schacter travelled around Canada in 2009, taking photographs across the country. His criteria-

"The connected thread was the road, the ubiquitous sign of human presence in and movement across the landscape.Everywhere, in every image, the road is a reminder of the human urge - benevolent or malignant, as the case may be - to conquer, to overcome, to withstand, to appropriate, to build, to make a mark, to communicate, to carve out territory and, above all, to get somewhere."

In our haste to 'get somewhere' we often miss what's right in front of us. Schacter has an amazing eye. I enjoyed every last one of the more than 150 photos. There were some that I recognized - it was fascinating to see a familiar intersection captured with a fresh eye. It provided a whole new look at what at been heretofore mundane. There were shots of places I plan on visiting this summer - I've seen them through Schacter's lens and can't wait to see them with my own eyes (and lens!) Many locations sent me to the Internet to look at them further.

Roads is a fascinating pictorial essay from a man "drawn to emptiness: its look and sound and feel." I truly enjoyed the book and his unique look at our country.