Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Over The Counter #99

What book caught my eye this week as it passed over my library counter and under my scanner? Austentatious Crochet by Melissa Horozewski. Crafty Jane Austen fans out there could have a lot of fun at book club with this one!

From the publisher Running Press Books:

"The timeless appeal of Jane Austen is evidenced not only by perpetual interest in her classic novels but also by countless book clubs, movies, plays, books, and sundry products which celebrate her work. Austentatious Crochet presents Austen fans with a unique opportunity to step into the scarf, skirt, or chemise of Elizabeth Bennett, Emma Woodhouse, and a host of other favorite Austen characters.The book features thirty-two original crochet projects inspired by Austen novels but fabulously brought up to date and wearable today. The designs focus on women’s wear, such as dresses, sweaters, cardigans, and capelets, but also encompass accessories such as handbags, scarfs, and pillowcases and clothing for children.Introductions to each project include favorite bits of dialogue from the original novels. Fully illustrated with evocative photos, Regency-style illustrations, and step-by-step schematics, Austentatious Crochet is certain to please the devoted Austen lover as well as craft enthusiasts."

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

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Beggar's Opera - Peggy Blair - Review AND Giveaway

Peggy Blair worked as a Canadian lawyer for over thirty years, on both sides of the fence -  defense and prosecution. A Christmas vacation in Havana, Cuba one year "where she watched the bored, young policemen on street corners along the Malecon, visited Hemingway's favourite bars, and learned to make a perfect mojito" provided some great inspiration for her debut fiction novel - The Beggar's Opera.

2006. Michael Ellis, a Canadian police detective from Ottawa and his wife Hillary head to Cuba for some warm weather over the Christmas vacation. Mike is also suffering some fallout from the death of his partner. There seems to be more to this story than we are intially led to believe. Their marriage suffers a blow when Hillary cuts her time short and heads back to Canada. Mike decides to drown his sorrows in one of Hemingway's favorite bars. But when he wakes up the next day, he can't find his wallet, has no idea what he did the night before.....and finds himself being arrested for the rape and murder of a young street boy. He remembers giving the begging child some pesos the day before - but murder....

Inspector Ricardo Ramirez of the Havana Major Crimes Unit has 72 hours to secure an indictment. He'll be moving fast on this horrific crime. And the possible sentence? The firing squad is still in use in Cuba. Mike's commander at home sends a female lawyer, Celia Jones, to Cuba to see if she can help Mike in any way.

The Beggar's Opera was such a great read on so many different levels. The setting itself was a major character. Blair brings to life a Cuba outside the confines of a tourist resort. A Cuba where "anything could be a crime if it served the government's objectives." Unauthorized internet access = a five year prison sentence. Renting a room to a tourist, insulting Castro, possessing tourist pesos and much, much more. Where bribery and corruption are rampant. A Cuba where the legal system is completely foreign to our Canadian sensibilities and weighs heavily in favour of the police. I think the most stunning example is the 'pre-dangerous' charge."The police could arrest almost anyone, even someone the merely considered 'likely' to be dangerous in the future." A Cuba where the poorest have access to a high degree of eduation, but children run hungry in the streets. Where soap and pencils are great treasures. I found myself running to the computer many times to follow up on a detail that Blair included. (Yes, Prime Minister Jean Chretien and Fidel Castro did open Terminal Three of the international airport in Cuba)

But the star of the show is Inspector Ramirez. He is a dedicated policeman and honest (but not above sampling the rum from the evidence locker) Ghosts of murder victims have recently begun following Ramirez. As a small boy, his dying grandmother promised that "The dead will come. My gift to you, as the eldest child." His friend and the local coroner, Dr. Hector Apiro says it may be a form of progressive dementia. Dr. Apiro actually runs a very close second for character I most enjoyed.

Blair has conceived an intricate, multi layered plot that kept me guessing until the very end. I was captivated by both the main story,  and the players and their lives. I'm eager to read the second in this series. It looks like Ramirez may be coming to Canada to assist on a case.

The title? The Beggar's Opera is a ballad opera and Ramirez's favourite.

"An opera about political corruption, with a lively case that included well-bred whores with impeccable manners, men disguised as women, beggars, even prisoners. It was a story of poisoned chalices, violence, and revenge; false charges, even a threatened execution. But it was also about love and loyalty and above all, friendship."

And it's also a pretty apt description of Blair's book. Definitely recommended. And thanks to the generosity of Penguin Canada, I have a copy of The Beggar's Opera to giveaway. Sorry, open to Canadian residents only. Simply leave a comment to be entered. Ends March 18th. Read an exerpt now. You can find Peggy Blair on Twitter and on her blog.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Point, Click, Love - Molly Shapiro

Point, Click, Love is Molly Shapiro's debut novel.

Four women in Kansas are each facing a crisis of sorts in their lives. Maxine, a successful artist married to an equally successful doctor, finds that their relationship (and sex life) is suffering. When her husband refuses to acknowledge the problem, she instead becomes immersed in the lives of celebrities, scouring online gossip sites. Claudia is angry, very angry. Her husband Steve isn't working and doesn't even try to make an effort to cook or clean their home, instead spending his days on Facebook.

"Now all he wanted to do was gather material and run to the computer or his cell phone, where he could share his thoughts and feelings with a larger, more appreciative audience." (I thought this was a fantastic line)

Annie is a successful single woman, who has just realized she wants a child. With no man in the picture, she turns to online sperm banks. And Katie, a divorcee with two kids, searches for companionship and sex through online dating sites.

"And so she decided to take care of her need for sex in the same way she took care of paying her bills, finding cheap airfare, and buying her kids' school uniforms - she went online."

Although the back cover blurb lists the women as being friends, we don't see much interaction between them. It seems that the story rotates to the next women in line every fourth chapter. Each woman's tale could easily have been a short story. As it was, I started making myself a quick chart to keep track of who was who and what their 'issue' was. Why? Well, none of the characters really stood out for me - they kind of all ran together. I never really became invested in any of them at all - they seemed quite stilted and wooden, despite the dialogue Shapiro has provided them with.

The book is touted as humourous women's fiction, but I really didn't find too much to laugh at or with. I found some of their behaviour tawdry, sad and desperate - not funny at all.

Some of the situations were completely far fetched. A sperm bank receptionist who willingly gives up confidential information to one of them posing as a reporter?

"The fact that Jill had no idea that she was doing anything wrong by disclosing Marcus's identity made it even easier for Annie. Kids today, she thought. No boundaries. No rules."

A mom who seriously considers being a paid 'Seeking Arrangement' on Craigslist as a way to support herself when she loses her job? Ick.  Perhaps some of these ideas looked good in the planning stages on a white board, but they didn't make a smooth jump to the written page.

Shapiro has started with a good idea - Point, Click, Love explores how the web and online interactions impact relationships and how nothing can truly replace that face to face connection.  But for me the delivery of that premise was only mediocre.

Other bloggers had differing opinions. See what Jonita thought. And Jaime.

Read an excerpt of Point, Click, Love. You can find Molly Shapiro on Facebook and on Twitter.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Winner - Blood Orchids

And the lucky winner (chosen by of a copy of Blood Orchids by Toby Neal is:


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

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Innocent - Taylor Stevens

Taylor Stevens roared onto the scene (and the New York Times Bestseller list) with her debut thriller The Informationist. She's back with her second novel featuring Vanessa Michael Munroe called The Innocent.

Vanessa Michael Munroe is capable of just about anything. She's brilliant, beyond tough and loyal. How does she earn her living? Taking on cases that no one else is capable of seeing through or even wants to attempt. When her close friend Logan comes to her with a request for the seemingly impossible, she can't turn him down.  Five year old Hannah was kidnapped by her mother's ex boyfriend almost eight years ago. She has been taken and secreted within The Chosen - a cult. After so long, they finally have word that Hannah might be in one of The Havens in Argentina. Armed with inside knowledge from three adult survivors of The Chosen, Munroe agrees to take the case. For above all else - she will protect the innocent.

Taylor has painted a frightening picture of the inner workings of a cult and the treatment of the children trapped in a situation they didn't choose. The everyday life, the lack of schooling, the begging, the hierarchy, the running, the hiding, the abuse.... And she's not making it up. Author Taylor Stevens is writing what she knows. She grew up in a 'communal apocalyptic cult', finally getting out in her twenties.

Stevens has crafted yet another unputdownable book. Hannah's chapters are alternated with Munroe's. We know what is going on with Hannah and can only will Munroe to get there faster. The ratcheting tension made it really hard to step away.

What made it hard to put down? I loved the character. We learn more about Munroe with each book, but she is still an enigma. It was fantastic to have such a kick a** female protagonist, one who can hold her own in almost any situation. Over the top? Maybe - but a delicious piece of escapist reading. (but still kind of scary, when you realize that the cult descriptions are real.)Think of all those tough guy Jason Statham movie type characters and make them female.

I chose to listen to The Innocent in audio book format. The reader was Hilary Huber. She has a well modulated voice. She conveyed Munroe's voice perfectly, never raising it, but transmitting her purpose and strength by talking even quieter.

Another excellent thriller and number three is in the works - The Doll, due out in 2012.

Read an excerpt of The Innocent. Listen to an excerpt. You can find Stevens on Facebook and on Twitter.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Over the Counter #98

What caught my eye this week as it passed over my library counter and under my scanner?

Well, it was The Dead Celebrity Cookbook by Frank DeCaro.  A bit morbid dontcha think?

From the publisher Health Communications Inc: (which tickled my funny bone)

"If you've ever fantasized about feasting on Frank Sinatra's Barbecued Lamb, lunching on Lucille Ball's "Chinese-y Thing," diving ever-so-neatly into Joan Crawford's Poached Salmon, or wrapping your lips around Rock Hudson's cannoli – and really, who hasn't? – hold on to your oven mitts!

In The Dead Celebrity Cookbook: A Resurrection of Recipes by 150 Stars of Stage and Screen, Frank DeCaro—the flamboyantly funny Sirius XM radio personality best known for his six-and-a-half-year stint as the movie critic on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart—collects hundreds of recipes passed on from legendary stars of stage and screen, proving that before there were celebrity chefs, there were celebrities who fancied themselves chefs.

Their all-but-forgotten recipes—rescued from out-of-print cookbooks, musty biographies, vintage magazines, and dusty pamphlets—suggest a style of home entertaining ripe for reexamination if not revival, while reminding intrepid gourmands that, for better or worse, Hollywood doesn't make celebrities (or cooks) like it used to.

Elizabeth Taylor's Chicken with Avocado and Mushrooms
Farrah Fawcett's Sausage and Peppers
Liberace's Sticky Buns
Bette Davis's Red Flannel Hash
Bea Arthur's Good Morning Mushroom Tomato Toast
Dudley Moore's Crème Brûlée
Gypsy Rose Lee's Portuguese Fish Chowder
John Ritter's Famous Fudge
Andy Warhol's Ghoulish Goulash
Vincent Price's Pepper Steak
Johnny Cash's Old Iron Pot Family-Style Chili
Vivian Vance's Chicken Kiev
Sebastian Cabot's Avocado Surprise
Lawrence Welk's Vegetable Croquettes
Ann Miller's Cheese Soufflé
Jerry Orbach's Trifle
Totie Fields's Fruit Mellow
Irene Ryan's Tipsy Basingstoke
Klaus Nomi's Key Lime Tart
Richard Deacon's Bitter and Booze
Sonny Bono's Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce

And many others from breakfast to dessert." And Frank has a 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, February 22, 2012

Catch Me - Lisa Gardner

I'm a long time fan of Lisa Gardner and her recurring character, Boston PD Detective D.D. Warren, is a favourite. Gardner's latest book featuring D.D. is Catch Me - newly released.

I was eager to catch up with D.D. She was unexpectedly pregnant in the last book. How will motherhood affect this tough as nails, no nonsense detective?

"D.D. caught herself actually contemplating wallpaper, then came to her senses, snapping off the vacuum cleaner and giving herself a firm mental shake. Forget the f***ing decor. She was Sergeant Detective D.D. Warren for heaven's sake. She didn't slipcover. She handled homicides."

Well, it's made her a little softer. Baby Jack has had eight weeks of Mommy being home, but it's back to work for sleep deprived D.D. She's going to try to stick to a reasonable work day. On her first case out - the murder of a suspected pedophile - she spies a note on her Crown Vic -"Everyone has to die sometime. Be brave" - and someone running away. She gives pursuit  and catches the person - a young woman who swears she didn't leave the note, but was only checking D.D. out. The reason?

"Four days from now, I'm expecting to be murdered. I've read that you're one of the best homicide detectives in the city, so I'd like you handle the investigation. I figure you're the only shot at justice I'll have left."

D.D's immediate thought is that she's a nut case. But, her story has credibility. Charlene "Charlie" Grant works as a police dispatcher. Her two best friends have been murdered - each a year apart on the same day - January 21 - four days from now.  And Charlie believes she's next.

"Two homicides, a thousand miles apart. Links between the victims, the methodology, and the date, but not enough evidence or motivation to provide traction. Hell of a story, she had to admit. Interesting. Intriguing. The kind of thing to tickle a workaholic detective's crime bone."

D.D agrees the case has merit and adds it to the team's caseload. She also agrees to let a new young detective, well versed in sex crimes, join the team.

Gardner's plotting was fantastic in Catch Me. She had me stumped and second guessing myself up to the very last pages. Many characters from previous books were brought back in Catch Me - J.T. Dillon is a favourite. (from The Perfect Husband) I quite enjoyed seeing a little bit of vulnerability in D.D. The scenes with her parents had such a ring of truth about them. I've enjoyed watching her relationship with Jack's father Alex grow as well. And the child predator story is a real eye opener.

DD's. chapters are alternated with those of Charlie. We know (or think we know) what is going on with her.

"I hummed softly under my breath, my only concession to my growing nervousness. Seventy-five hours left to live. What would you do?"

Catch Me is a page turner, guaranteed to keep you reading past the time you should shut off the light. If you like suspense, you'll love Lisa Gardner. Read an excerpt of Catch Me. You can find Lisa Gardner on Facebook and on Twitter.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Sophie Kinsella - Q and A!!

Yes, you read that right - THE Sophie Kinsella! To celebrate the North American release of her new book I've Got Your Number on February 14th, Sophie has been making some blog stops around Canada. And I was lucky enough to have her answer a few questions for A Bookworm's World. (You can read my review of I've Got Your Number here - five stars!)

Hello Sophie!

I absolutely adored I've Got Your Number! In fact, I think it's my favourite of your books!

Hello Luanne! Thank you so much - I'm delighted that you enjoyed the book. :)

What ingredients do you need to mix together to stir up a fantastic chick lit read?
Good question! Every book is different and I can only speak for my own novels, but I always try to write with comedy, a page-turning plot, relevance to today's world and a heroine that the reader can root for. Some romance never goes amiss either :) I also take care to develop interesting secondary characters.

 Are you currently working on another book? Can you give us any hints? Pretty please?
Ha ha.... ! The answer is yes, but although that was definitely the most charmingly put question I've ever had... sorry, I can't tell you any more! I find it impossible to talk about my work when I'm in the middle of it, especially when I'm at the planning stage, which I am right now. It feels too fragile to share just yet.

 Confessions of a Shopaholic was a wonderful movie. What other Kinsella book would you like to see make it's way to the big screen?
Seeing my book turned into a movie was the most amazing experience. I would be happy to see any of the others turned into a movie and in fact several are in development for film and TV right now. Equally, I'm very happy for them to remain books and stay in people's heads - just the way they originally pictured them.

Which character are you most fond of?
Tough question! How do I choose? It will have to be Becky Bloomwood as she has powered not one, but six novels, and I don't think she's done yet!

What/where do you find the inspiration for your main characters? Are they based on anyone you know? (or yourself?)
There are bits of me in all my heroines and I'm sure that traits from friends and family members have crept in here and there... but none of my characters is plucked exactly from real life. Most of my fictional characters are a little more extreme than anything I come across in real life!

What do you like to read? What are you reading right now?
I love to read anything that grips me and helps me escape from my day-to-day existence - from comedy to thrillers to the latest Booker prize winner. Right now I'm re-reading Shadow Dancer by Tom Bradby which could not be more different from my own kind of books. It's a thriller about terrorism in Northern Ireland and has just been made into a movie which I'm longing to see.

Any other tidbit(s) you'd like to share with us? - favourite junk food/ what does your writing day look like/favourite leading man in a movie/have you ever visited Canada?
Favourite junk food - has to be chocolate. I once read that it is a superfood, so now I try to make out that it's healthy to stuff down a Galaxy bar. My writing day can be anything from a few hours planning in a coffee shop with a notebook and pen, to a marathon pounding at the computer. But one rule is always the same - I need coffee to write. Favourite leading man in a movie... hmm, not sure. Maybe George and Brad, tied equal, in Ocean's Eleven.
I have visited Canada several times and absolutely loved it. I think I've had the best signings of all in Canada and everyone is so warm and friendly. I hope I'll be back soon!

Thank you so much for stopping by!

It is a great pleasure!



I've Got Your Number - Sophie Kinsella

I've been eagerly anticipating Sophie Kinsella's newest book, I've Got Your Number. Once I had it in my hot little hands, I had to stop and savour the cover and have a quick peek at the last page number - just to see how many there were to enjoy. (433) Then, ensure that I had nowhere to be or anything that needed doing right away - and only then begin, because I just knew I wouldn't want to put it down. (I was right!)

Poppy Wyatt is celebrating her upcoming wedding at a champagne tea with girlfriends at a hotel. Everyone has been oohing and ahhing over her engagement ring - a family heirloom of her fiance. A fire alarm drill sends everyone running and afterwards - no one can find the ring. After much frantic searching, she steps outside to see if she can get cell phone reception to pick up her messages - and is promptly robbed of her phone by someone on a bicycle. She needs that phone! When she spies a cell phone in a garbage bin...well... finders keepers, right?

And here the fun begins. When the phone rings, Poppy answers it without checking the screen. Hmm, apparently the phone belonged to Violet - personal assistant to Sam Roxton of White Globe Consulting. Sam desperately needs Violet to stop a client, Mr Yamasaki, from leaving the hotel. And since Violet seems to have quit her job, Sam implores Poppy to keep Mr Yamasaki occupied until Sam's elevator reaches the main floor. Honestly, I was laughing out loud at the antics Poppy employs.

Poppy somehow gets Sam to agree to 'share' the phone with her. You can see it coming can't you? Missed messages, mixed messages and more...

I have to say that although I have enjoyed each and every one of Sophie Kinsella's previous chick lit books, I think this is my favourite. (so far!) Poppy is a wonderfully engaging character. She's absolutely the kind of friend you'd love to have. Warm, caring, smart (but she doesn't think so) yet ditzy at the same time. The more she tries to make things 'right', the more wrong they end up. And of course the love story. Will Sophie marry Magnus or.... And yes, even though you can predict the outcome, the journey there is so enjoyable. A light hearted, comical romp of a read that will have you laughing out loud and rooting for Poppy to find true love.

Kinsella has used different 'hooks' in her past books, such as emails scattered throughout. This time it is footnotes Poppy injects in her story; they're a fun addition to the book.

Yes, it was a five star read for me - nobody does chick lit better than Kinsella. I can so see this one being made into a movie. And in case you missed it- Sophie Kinsella stopped by A Bookworm's World for a quick question and answer session!!

Read an excerpt of I've Got Your Number. You can find Sophie Kinsella on Facebook.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Raylan - Elmore Leonard

Fans of Elmore Leonard will be familiar with Raylan Givens, the US Marshall who was featured in Leonard's previous books Pronto and Riding the Rap. At eighty six years old, Elmore Leonard shows no signs of slowing down. He's just released his latest book - Raylan.  Raylan is also the star of the hit television series Justified. (I'm hooked on the show and Timothy Olyphant)

Harlan County, Kentucky is hurting from the closure of coal mines. Entreprenurial folk have now made marijanua the county's number one cash crop. Raylan is familiar with most of the players, having grown up in Harlan County. But two enterprising souls have discovered yet another lucrative sideline - body parts, mostly kidneys. How to stop this dogged US Marshall that's hot on their trail? Well, he does have two perfectly good kidneys...And that's just one of the three storylines Leonard has penned for Raylan. Although they were loosely connected, each felt like a separate novella.

Now, Raylan released after the mid season break of Season Two of Justified. I found some of story lines and characters from television repeated in the book, albeit with a few changes. Or did the television series borrow heavily from the book? So, part of the storyline was not new, but parts of it were. No matter, fans will still be captured.

The audio version of Raylan features Brian D'Arcy James as the reader. As a fan of Justified, I have come to associated certain actors and voices with the characters. I was concerned that I wouldn't identify with new voices. But that concern was unfounded. James employed a great accent for each of the characters, almost matching those I knew. His tones and inflections immediately brought Harlan County to life. Leonard's strength is in his dialogue and James did it justice.

Raylan is a walk tall, talk soft, draw your gun and use it kind of lawman. Fans of Jack Reacher and Joe Pike would enjoy the character of Raylan Givens. A gritty, down and dirty tale filled with Leonard's trademark whip smart dialogue.

Read an excerpt of Raylan. Or listen to an excerpt of Raylan. You can find Leonard on Facebook or on Twitter.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Home Front - Kristin Hannah - Review AND Giveaway!

When patrons come into the library looking for a 'good' story, Kristin Hannah is an author that I recommend.

In her latest book, Hannah tackles a number of themes, combining them into a topical and thought provoking read.

Michael and Jolene have been married for a number of years. They have two daughters. Michael is a lawyer and Jolene is a helicopter pilot in the National Guard. There have been bumps along the way, but nothing prepares Jolene for Michael's unexpected announcement - he doesn't love her anymore and wants a divorce. Jolene has an announcement of her own - she's been deployed to Iraq...

Home Front explores a struggling marriage, the effects of war and military service on family, friends and on the military members themselves, both during and after service. Hannah has turned things around by having a mom and wife as the one leaving and the husband as the one holding up the home front.

I really did not like Michael at all in the beginning. It took the entire book for me to change my opinion. This is a testament to Hannah's story telling. All of her characters rang true and I became emotionally involved in each and every one of their stories. Jolene's oldest daughter Betsy is a typical twelve year old - very  self centered and hard to love at times. Five year old Lulu's bewilderment was heartbreaking. The relationship between Jolene and her best friend Tammy is a joy. Jolene's rough childhood has made her determined to always paint a sunny picture and smile through it all. But, the war changes each and every relationship -mother, daughters, husband, wife, friend and most difficult of all - Jolene's relationship with herself.

Kristin Hannah has done a remarkable job of depicting war, the horrors, the after effects, the pride, honour and duty associated with the military. Just as engaging is the story of a husband and wife, striving to find the love they once shared.

So, those looking for a (really) 'good' story will find it in Home Front. Read an excerpt of Home Front. Or listen to an excerpt.  A reading group guide is also available. You can find Kristen Hannah on Face book.

I have three copies to giveaway to three lucky readers! Simply leave a comment to be entered. Open to US and Canada. Ends Sunday March 11th at 6 pm.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Dispatcher - Ryan David Jahn - Review AND Giveaway

Okay, it was the tag line on the cover of The Dispatcher that grabbed me first....

"The phone rings. It's your daughter. She's been dead for four months."

....and the story held me gripped until the last page.

Ian Hunt is a police dispatcher in a small town in Texas. That frantic, fateful call is from his daughter Maggie, who disappeared seven years ago and was finally declared dead. Maggie manages to get out a brief description of the man who has taken her, but not his name, before the call is cut off.....

Ian has existed, but not lived for the last seven years. The call galvanizes him and while the county and town police forces are bickering about jurisdiction, sets off to find his daughter and bring her home.

Right from the start, we are privy to all the information that Ian doesn't have. We know that the kidnapper is named Henry and where Maggie is being held. Jahn takes us inside the minds of each of the main characters. Henry's mindset is truly frightening. He's done all this because he loves his wife, not for himself. Maggie's terror is palpable and heartbreaking, she has survived for seven years locked in a basement except for that brief taste of freedom. She is sure her Daddy will come for her.

Ian is now a single minded entity, bent on getting Maggie back at all costs. He has taken the law into his own hands. Quite literally. There was a scene in the book that quite reminded me of Reservoir Dogs.

"There was a time, and not long ago, when he would not have been capable of doing what he plans on doing here tonight, if he has to, but that time has gone, a small moment in his past that gets smaller as he moves further from it and into the future."

The bleakness and hardscrabble of the settings was used very effectively to mirror the emotions and thoughts of the players.

Ryan David Jahn's book is a no holds barred ride barrelling down a gritty dirt road. The story line is not a new idea (young women being held captive for years is unfortunately true) but Jahn has put his own spin on it and crafted a page turner. (one you'll probably devour in a day). My one complaint - I hate open endings.

Those looking for a thriller that will keep you turning pages will find it here. Reader be warned - there are some violent scenes. In fact, it almost has the feel of a Bruce Willis action film.

Sounds good doesn't it? Read an excerpt of The Dispatcher. See what others on the TLC tour thought. You can find Jahn on his blog as well as on Twitter.

And thanks to the generosity of Penguin Books, I have a copy to giveaway! Simply leave a comment to be entered. Open to US and Canada. Ends March 11.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Over the Counter # 97

What book caught my eye this week as it passed over my library counter and under the scanner? cupcakes, cookies, & pie, oh my! by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson. Really, who wouldn't want to eat that chocolate marshmallow sheep!? There are some truly amazing ideas inside this book.

From the publisher Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt:

"Two million copies later, the New York Times best-selling authors of Hello, Cupcake! and What’s New, Cupcake? are back, applying their oversized imaginations not just to cupcakes but to cookies, pies, cakes, and other treats.

Hello, Cupcake! inspired millions to become cupcake artists and launched an international sensation. Now the talented pair who started it all returns, with projects that are more hilarious, more spectacular, more awe-inspiring—and simpler than ever.

But they don’t stop at cupcakes. No sweet treat is safe from their ingenuity: refrigerator cookies, pound cakes, pie dough, cheesecakes, bar cookies, and Jell-O are all transformed into amazing and playful desserts. There’s something for everybody in this book, and every single item you need can be found in the neighborhood supermarket or convenience store.

Playing with your food has never been so exciting—or so easy.

Karen Tack and Alan Richardson have appeared on TV with Martha Stewart, Rachael Ray, and Paula Deen and have been featured many times on NBC’s Today as well as in America’s top magazines."

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

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Julia's Child - Sarah Pinneo - Q&A AND Giveaway!

I'm thrilled to welcome Sarah Pinneo, author of the newly released Julia's Child to A Bookworm's World today for a quick Q&A session!

But first, a little about Julia's Child...

From the publisher:

"A delectable comedy for every woman who's ever wondered if buying that six-dollar box of organic crackers makes her a hero or a sucker.  Julia Bailey is a mompreneur with too many principles and too little time. Her fledgling company, Julia's Child, makes organic toddler meals like Gentle Lentil and Give Peas a Chance. But turning a profit while saving the world proves tricky as Julia must face a ninety-two-pound TV diva, an ill-timed protest rally, and a room full of one hundred lactating breasts. Will she get her big break before her family reaches the breaking point? In the end, it is a story about motherhood's choices: organic versus local, paper versus plastic, staying at home versus risking it all. A cookbook author's hilarious fiction debut, Julia's Child will have foodies and all-natural mamas alike laughing, cheering, and asking for more."

--- What was the inspiration behind the idea for Julia's Child?
Food and business have always fascinated me. And the question of what children ought to be eating is such a pervasive one. I began to daydream about the novel when I realized just how much fun it would be to explore the collision between a mother’s lofty ideals and the harsh realities of owning a business.

---And I have to ask - would/did you buy the $6.00 box of organic crackers?
Luckily, there are lots of boxes of organic crackers available for less than $6. But the more I read up on the topic, the easier it is for me to pay the organic premium, especially for things like vegetables and meat. I’m fortunate to live in a place where I have access to a lot of wonderful organic food grown in Vermont and New Hampshire. A girl with a large freezer in her basement can buy in bulk! My husband grew 75 pounds of organic potatoes last summer. I’ll almost be relieved when they’re gone.

--- You have two children - how much of Julia is from your life?
Well, I’ve never even thought about starting a food company, but the mommy guilt I feel while trying to have a writing career—even from home—is the most autobiographical part of the book.

--- Your previous book was non-fiction. How hard was it to make the leap to fiction?
To be honest, it was very difficult. I loved writing my cookbook, but in my heart I've always wanted to write fiction. My first attempt at a novel was not successful. But I realize now how much better Julia’s Child is than the first one I wrote. It's coming out more than four years after my cookbook’s publication, so you can see how tricky I found it. This is a leap that I feel very fortunate to have landed in an upright position.

--- I'm always fascinated by what authors are reading - what's on your nightstand? Fave authors? Influential books?
I read everything, and I love women’s fiction. But Julia’s Child reflects my appreciation for Carl Hiaasen and Christopher Buckley. Those two guys write hysterical, zany comedies, but at the heart of their work always lie issues about which they care deeply. I've tried to follow in their silly footsteps.

Thanks so much for stopping by Sarah! And thanks to Plume Books, I have two copies of Julia's Child to give away to two lucky readers. Open to US only. Simply leave a comment to be entered. Ends Sat. March 10.

You can find Sarah on her blog and on Twitter.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Boston Cream - Howard Shrier

Boston Cream is Howard Shrier's third novel featuring PI Jonah Geller, but a first read of this Arthur Ellis award winning Canadian author for me. It definitely won't be the last.

Geller is just back to work, still feeling the effects of a severe concussion, earned on his last case. If Ron Fine wasn't a family friend, he would have turned him down. Ron hasn't heard from his son in almost two weeks and it's unlike David to not be in touch with his family or miss work - he's a highly skilled surgeon at a Boston hospital. Ron doesn't think the cops in Boston are looking very hard for David and wants his own man on the job. Geller reluctantly agrees, but takes along partner Jenn Raudsepp for help.

Geller and Raudsepp are good, very good. They quickly find clues and connections the cops have missed. But...the bad guys have their sights on Geller and Raudsepp as well. Jenn is kidnapped and Geller is forced to call in another favour from Canada...former hit man Dante Ryan....

I am so glad to have discovered Shrier. Geller is a richly different character - his sense of right and wrong is clearly defined and the path to justice very clear, although it may not always be on the right side of the law. I didn't get to know Jenn as well as I would have liked to in this book, but Geller and Ryan are fiercely loyal and protective of her. I'll have to go back and read the first two in this series Buffalo Jump and High Chicago to get the back story. I am intrigued by Dante Ryan - a hit man who wants to put that part of his life behind him, but won't let his friends down.

I loved the 'local' setting - reading of streets and places in Toronto and imagining Geller walking down them. Although Shrier takes Geller over the border in Boston Cream, the Canadian references are very fun and had me laughing to myself. When Geller takes out two Boston bad guys...

"What does McCudden say"
"He ain't talking yet. Still doped up. Took two pretty good shots."
"From a Canadian."

The plotting in Boston Cream is excellent, taking a very real crime (I don't want to giveaway the plot) and weaving a tight, taut story around it. The pacing is good, with the final chapters being a run for the money - an action packed, non stop finale.

"I am not a violent man. I keep telling myself that. I think of myself as a good man at heart, who keeps getting caught up in deeds committed by men who really are violent. So I tell myself, if it only happens when I go to the States, where the stakes seem high and guns abound, then there's a simple solution. Hide my passport and keep my peace-loving self at home. Because that is what non-violent men do."

Uh-huh - I'll be waiting to see what case Geller takes on next.....and where.....

Read the first chapter of Boston Cream.  You can find Howard Shrier on Twitter and on Facebook.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Blogger Love Fest - Random House of Canada

A few weeks ago I received an invite to Random House of Canada's Blogger Love Fest. Although I can be a bit of a homebody, there was no way I wanted to miss this!  I was thrilled - what a great chance to finally meet Lindsey and Cassandra from Random and some other bloggers from Ontario!
What I didn't know was the amazing surprises Lindsey had lined up....

....I rode up in the elevator with -

- are you ready -

author of The Birth House and The Virgin Cure!!

And that wasn't all -

- I also got to meet
author of

author of The Paris Wife!

Each of the authors was so approachable and expressed their appreciation of book bloggers.I enjoyed meeting so many other 'faces behind the blogs' and yes, this is a rare glimpse of Luanne, out from behind her avatar! Thanks again to Lindsey and Cass for a great afternoon! (And for the swag bag!)

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Crown - Nancy Bilyeau

Nancy Bilyeau began work on her first novel - The Crown -  in 2005. Her hard work definitely paid off - The Crown is an absolutely wonderful debut.

The Crown is set in Tudor England in 1537. Joanna Stafford is a novice nun at the Dartford Priory. She leaves without permission to attend the public death of her cousin Lady Margaret Bulmer. Her presence does not go unnoticed. She is found out and soon becomes the unwilling agent of a Bishop determined to find a sacred relic - the Crown of Athelstan.

Bilyeau has created an engaging character in Sister Joanna. She is a pious young woman, but has a streak of stubbornness and determination that make her all the more believable and engaging. The supporting characters are also well drawn, as are the 'villians'.

But for me, Bilyeau's strength lies in her research. The historical detail in The Crown is phenomenal. I have a working knowledge of this time period, but learned so much from reading this book. Her prose, characters and setting all accurately captured this time period and brought it to life.

The Crown successfully combines history with  mystery, intrique and yes, some romance to provide a throughly engrossing read.  Bilyeau is working on a second novel featuring Sister Joanna - I'll be picking it up. I'd like to see where Joanna's path next leads.

Read an excerpt of The Crown. A reading group guide is also available. You can find Nancy Bilyeau on Twitter.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Over the Counter #96

What caught my eye this week passing over my library counter and under my scanner? Crafting with Cat Hair by Amy Hirschman and Kaori Tsutaya. Seriously, wouldn't a title like that catch your eye?

From the publisher Quirk Books:

"Are your favorite sweaters covered with cat hair? Are there fur balls piled up in every corner of your home? Do you love to make quirky and one-of-a-kind crafting projects? If so, it's time to throw away your lint roller and curl up with your kitty! Crafting with Cat Hair shows readers how to transform stray clumps of fur into soft and adorable handicrafts. From kitty tote bags and finger puppets to fluffy cat toys, picture frames, and more, these projects are cat-friendly, eco-friendly, and require no special equipment or training. You can make most of these projects in under an hour-with a little help, of course, from your feline friends!

Kaori Tsutaya is a Japanese writer obsessed with cats. She exhibits her craftwork and runs kitty craft workshops to inspire other cat owners. Amy Hirschman is a translator and pop culture enthusiast living in California. She studied Japanese at the University of Pittsburgh and lived in Japan in 2002. She loves all things cute, quirky and creative. Amy is not a cat owner herself, but her friends will attest she is the greatest cat-sitter they have ever had." Peek inside.

(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, February 8, 2012

Taken - Robert Crais

I am always so excited when Robert Crais releases a new book - I just know I'm in for a night of great reading. Yes, a night - because once I start, I can't stop until I turn the last page. Crais' latest book - Taken - was no exception!

A group of young people, partying out in the desert by an old abandoned plane. Two of them - Jack and Krista -  decide to hang back after the others have left.  They unexpectedly find themselves witness to a local coyote (human smuggler) unloading his cargo. And things go from bad to worse when the coyotes and their load are hijacked - and kidnapped - including Jack and Krista.

Krista's mom calls in Elvis Cole - self proclaimed World's Greatest Detective -  to help her find her missing daughter. She's received a ransom request, but thinks it's a joke - they've asked for only five hundred dollars. Elvis calls in his partner and best friend Joe Pike. When Elvis goes missing too, the kidnappers don't know who or what's coming for them - Joe Pike.

Crais has created two of my favourite recurring characters in one series. Elvis is full of snappy one liners and really, he never stops talking - even when he should. Joe Pike - well, he barely speaks at all. Both of them are dangerous men, but Pike - he's in class of his own. With Elvis in trouble, Pike calls in a fellow mercenary this time - Jon Stone. Stone is a great addition to this cast. He's just as tough as Pike, as chatty as Cole and bored when he hasn't got a 'situation' to work on.

Crais has taken an issue that has been in the headlines and exposed it's dirty underbelly - human trafficking is very real. His scenes are gritty, painting realistic pictures of what may befall those looking for a better life.

Taken is told in a unique format. The storyline snaps back and forth telling the story from the view of Jack and Krista, Elvis and Pike. The narrative is told in non linear fashion - the timeline jumps to before and after each was taken. This absolutely ratcheted up the tension (and the speed at which I turned pages!)

Why do I love this series so much? The plotting is great, the action non stop and the characters are fantastic. And at the bottom of it all for me - Joe Pike.  Who isn't holding out for a hero? Jack Reacher fans will love Pike. If you're looking for an action packed read, you will have found it with Taken. (By the way it's already #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list!)

Read an excerpt of Taken. You can find Robert Crais on Facebook

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Underside of Joy - Seré Prince Halverson - Guest Post AND Giveaway

I'm thrilled to have Seré Prince Halverson stop by A Bookworm's World today. Her debut novel The Underside of Joy has been released to great reviews.


To Ella Beene, happiness means living in the Northern California river town of Elbow with her husband, Joe, and his two young children. For three years, Ella has been the only mother the kids have known. But when Joe drowns off the coast, his ex-wife shows up at his funeral, intent on reclaiming the children."

I asked Sere if she could give us some insight into her experience growing up with a mother and stepmother and her experience being a mother and a stepmother. Here's her response....

"My stepmom moved in when I was 15 and my sister, Suzanne, was 13, and, well, imagine what a hoot that must have been. To make matters more complicated, it seemed my dad had a thing for Jans. Jan was also my mom’s name.

So Jan II and her sweet, gentle six-year-old son, Marc, walked in, ducking flying hairbrushes, while our hormone-fueled yells competed with Peter Frampton and Fleetwood Mac blasting from the living room stereo. (What on earth, besides clothes, did Suzanne and I fight over? All that energy and rage directed at who was wearing whose Baretraps and Chemin de Fer jeans...Some of you might remember those.)

Amazing but true: Jan and Marc didn't scramble back into her little red Luv truck and peel out, though at times they must have wanted to. They stayed. And we became a family. We were still a dysfunctional family, as most families are -- at least the interesting ones. But we also managed to enjoy the heck out of each other. We still do. And Jan helped to make that possible.

Two teenage girls and one new stepmom does not an easy transition make. I know this from being both a stepdaughter and a stepmother. But Jan has a seemingly endless reserve of grace and compassion. She also has a kick-ass sense of humor. She immediately dubbed herself M.O.S. for Mean Old Stepmother, which stuck, mostly because it was the furthest thing from the truth.

Jan never took her role as stepmother too seriously. She didn't push herself on us. She didn't set up new house rules or demand that we be home at such-and-such a time for dinner. She brought home bags of Jack in the Box and leaned against the kitchen counter and simply listened. She simply loved us, even when we were at our most unlovable. And we couldn't help but love her back.

Years later, I became a divorced mom whose kids now had a stepmom. Years later still, I remarried and became a stepmom whose stepkids’ mom was still very much in their lives.

The Underside of Joy tells the story of Ella Beene, who is also a stepmom. (How many stepmoms can you fit into a Prius?) Does all this make me some kind of an authority on parenting and stepparenting? Absolutely not. Each situation is different, and we’re all bumbling along trying to do our best, even though sometimes we fall short. My story is certainly not Ella’s story, nor Paige’s story. But I do know this: none of us are evil, and in the best situations, the shared love of the same children can be uniting. Still, relationships between parents and stepparents are often complicated. And I’m a writer—who lives to dip my pen into complicated.

At least I didn’t give Ella and Paige the same first name."

Thanks so much for stopping by Seré! You can find Seré at her blog - Who Moved My Buddha and on Facebook.

I have a spankin' new hardcover copy of The Underside of Joy to giveaway. Simply leave a comment to be entered. And --- this one's international! Ends March 4. Read an excerpt of The Underside of Joy.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Giveaway - Blood Orchids - Toby Neal

Blood Orchids is the first in a new series - the Lei Crime Novels - by author Toby Neal. And I have a copy to giveaway!

What's it about? From the publisher:

"Hawaii is palm trees, black sand and blue water— but for policewoman Lei Texeira, there’s a dark side to paradise.

Lei has overcome a scarred past to make a life for herself as a cop in the sleepy Big Island town of Hilo. On a routine patrol she finds two murdered teenagers—one of whom she’d recently busted. The girl’s harsh life and tragic death touches a chord with Lei, and she becomes obsessed with the case. The killer is drawn to her intensity and stalks her, feeding on her vulnerabilities and toying with her sanity.
Steaming volcanoes, black sand beaches and shrouded fern forests are the backdrop to Lei’s quest for answers. She finds herself falling in love for the first time—but the stalker is closer than she can imagine, and threads of the past are tangled in her future. Lei is determined to find the killer—but he already knows where she lives."

Born and raised on the island of Hawaii, Neal uses her native knowledge and first-hand experience as a psychologist to create realistic settings and experiences, complex characters and an all around chilling crime thriller. You can find Toby Neal on Facebook and on Twitter.

Sound good? Simply leave a comment to be entered. Sorry, open to US only. Ends April 26th at 6 pm.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Over the Counter #95

Our weather has been so odd this winter. We've alternated between rain and snow storms. Hot Toddies by Louise Pickford caught my eye on a cold day this week as it passed over my library counter and under my scanner.

From the publisher Ryland, Peters & Small:

"What could be more welcome on a cold wintry day than a hot drink with a kick. Whether you prefer a whisky-based toddy, aromatic mulled wine, coffee laced with a little brandy or a spiced tea, you'll find a tempting array of tasty and warming treats for every winter occasion in this collection of delicious recipes. Warming Toddies & Cocktails to try include Hot Tea Toddy; Hot Buttered Rum; and Blue Blazer. Mulls & Punches are perfect when entertaining a crowd – recipes include Orange Mulled Wine; Swedish Glogg; and Hot Rum and Cider Punch. Nogs & Creamy Drinks make an indulgent treat – choose from Egg Nog Latte; Honey Rum Baba; and Spiced Rum Chocolate. Tipsy Coffees include the classic Irish Coffee; Mocha Maple Coffee; and Caribbean Caf. Finally, Non-alcoholic Warmers are perfect for drivers or when just relaxing at home – try an exotic Saffron Milk; Pumpkin Latte; or Indian Chai Masala.

(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, February 1, 2012

The Drop - Michael Connelly

Harry Bosch returns in Michael Connelly's latest book - The Drop. Harry has three years left until mandatory retirement kicks in. He's working in the cold case squad now. When he and his partner Chu get a DNA hit from a twenty year old sample, they think a mistake has been made. The perp is in the system, but he would have been eight years old at the time. But just as they start investigating further, they are told to drop everything to investigate the death of a prominent city counciller's son. The summons comes from the top - Harry calls it 'high jingo' - there are political factions at war and work here. But of course, Harry works both cases.

Although I've read everything Connelly has written, this is the first of his books that I've listened to. Len Cariou was the reader. At first I found his slightly sibilant esses annoying, but as I got further into the story, I didn't hear them. His voice is rough and gravelly and immediately brought to mind the mental image I have of Harry. He also handled the other roles well, providing a different voice for each character.

The Drop had two great cases as the primary story lines. But it also has secondary plot lines involving Harry's personal life, notably with his daughter Maddie. I am enjoying Harry as a dad. Really, I can't say much more than The Drop is classic Connelly - an excellent read with a character  I am quite partial to. And Connelly has left it open for another book with Bosch.

Listen to an excerpt of The Drop. Or read an excerpt. You can find Michael Connelly on Facebook.