Saturday, June 30, 2012

Winner - Mum's List

An the lucky winner of a copy of Mum's List by St. John Greene, courtesy of Dutton Books is:


Liene

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

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Inquisitor's Key - Jefferson Bass

I've been a fan of Jefferson Bass's series from book one. The Body Farm novels are actaully written by two authors - Jon Jefferson and Dr. Bill Bass. Bass is the founder of the Body Farm - a ground breaking forensic anthropology site. The crime novels from this pair have always had the ring of truth and excellent detail behind them.

In the seventh and latest offering, The Inquisitor's Key, protagonist Dr. Bill Brockton (who is a forensic anthropologist, of course) heads to Avignon, France. His young assitant Miranda Lovelady has been working on a dig that has uncovered bones that may be of unimaginable importance and they need his expertise.

I really like this series, but have to honestly say that this book fell flat for me. The plot is nothing new and brings to mind a Dan Brown or Steve Berry novel. The history presented was interesting and well researched, though. But it just stretched the imagination a little too far - the Vatican is after the bones as well as American zealots bent on using the bones' DNA to bring about The Second Coming. I just found it a stretch that a prof from Tennessee would be involved in something like this.

The authors have always tried to insert a love interest for Dr. Bill. (They don't seem to last long) Dr. Bill has now turned his attention to his assistant Miranda. Insert ick factor here - this just doesn't work for me.

The audio version of the book is read by Tom Stechschulte, who has a wonderful voice. It's very rich and expressive and does bring to mind the mental image I've created of Dr. Bill.  But, his French accent wasn't the best and by the end was really quite annoying.

Really, all I want or expect from Dr. Bill is a good ole down home who dunnit. This one was just too far removed from the roots. But, see what you think - read an exerpt of The Inquisitor's Key. or try out the audio - listen to an excerpt of The Inquisitor's Key.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Over the Counter #116

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over my library counter and under the scanner?

 
First up was Things Your Dog Doesn't Want You to Know by Hy Conrad and Jeff Johnson.
 
From the publisher, Sourcebooks:
 
"Dear Human:  Your dog probably puzzles you. Most of us do that. And most of us would like to keep things as they are: humans in the dark, dogs with the upper hand. But we dogs are about to let you in a little secret. Okay, a lot of secrets.
  • We graduated first in our obedience class three times. This should tell you something.
  • Puppies know that they're being cute. They're using you.
  • We don't sound anything like those silly voices you use to imitate us.
  • We hate those ridiculous names you give some of us. Moonbeam is not a dignified name for a mutt. You might want to check your herb garden for fertilizer.
  • We are only wearing this stupid birthday hat so we can get some cake. No self-respecting dog cares about his birthday.
  • We are not spoiled, certainly not in comparison to teenage girls.
  • We are in charge of the house. We let you pretend that you are.
  • We'd be lost without you. We love you.
It's all in our new book, Things Your Dog Doesn't Want You To Know, as told to humans Hy Conrad and Jeff Johnson. Even Steve Martin (yes, THAT Steve Martin) raves about us! Inside you'll find revelations such as the reason we at the sofa (leather tastes very similar to rawhide), and what we really think of the costumes you dress us up in. I'm not alone. Ten other courageous canines have stepped forward to tell you what your dog won't – every last dirty, hairy bit of it. If you have dogs, love dogs, or have ever been baffled by a dog, this book is a must-have."


Not a dog person? Well, what about this offering? Knit Your Own Cat by Sally Muir and Joanna Osborne.

From the publisher, Black Dog and Leventhal:

"Why is a company called Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers publishing a book on cats, you ask? Well, after the marvelous success and universal praise for the bestseller Knit Your Own Dog, we were irresistibly compelled to follow-up with the same authors Sally Muir and Joanna Osborne to publish Knit Your Own Cat.

Offering step-by-step knitting patterns for 16 breeds, Knit Your Own Cat teaches you to create the most adorable and cuddly cat; the one you’ve always wantedone that doesn’t need feeding or vet visits. Guaranteed not to shed or scratch up your couch, or your money back! The patterns are easy-to-follow for both new and veteran knitters. A covetable companion for life can be created in just a few evenings, and yet each pattern is extremely detailed, and includes all of the distinguishing features of each breed. The cats can be knit into various positions such as standing, sitting, crouching, and curled up for a nap.

Cats include: *Abyssinian *Maine Coon *Bengal *Orange *Black Cat *Persian *Black & White       *Ragdoll *British Shorthair *Siamese *Burmese *Tabby *Devon Rex *Tortoiseshell *Kitten       Beautiful color photographs of the finished cats, as well as detail shows, both inspire and instruct. Accompanying the patterns are expert tips on choosing yarns, stuffing and sewing the cats, and adding personality (and collars, bells, and bows!) to your creation."


(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 27, 2012

Into the Darkest Corner - Elizabeth Haynes

Well, last week I gave you a title I thought you should add to your must read suspense list this summer. I'm sorry, but you'll have to add Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes to the list as well - it's a remarkable debut novel and a  fantastic edge of your seat read!

The book's prologue opened with a court transcript that piqued my interest. Mr. Brightman is being questioned about his relationship with a Miss Bailey.

Into the Darkest Corner is told from two time periods 2003 and 2007. It took me few pages to work out that the two time frames are told from the viewpoint of the same person - Catherine Bailey in 2003 and Cathy Bailey in 2007.

In 2003, Catherine is a young, full of life woman who meets Lee, a bar doorman, one night. He seems like the perfect catch - attentive, good in bed, handsome, thoughtful and more. But, in 2007, Cathy is tormented by extreme anxiety, panic attacks and OCD. She can't stop checking her doors, windows and locks. What in the world happened between then and now? Maybe Lee wasn't quite the catch he seemed to be.....?

Haynes employs a highly effective technique, unravelling the two stories in alternate chapters. The danger in 2003 is insidious, slowly building towards a climax, with the tension ratcheting up and up.  I liken it to a scary movie at the theatre. I wanted to yell at Catherine 'NO, trust your instincts - get out of there!' In 2007 Cathy is struggling to cope with life when.........

Into the Darkest Corner does deal with quite serious subjects. Haynes does an insightful job in depicting obsessive compulsive disorder and domestic violence.

I never read other reader's reviews until after I'm finished my own. I was honestly surprised to find there were many readers who did not like the book. I myself found it to be a riveting psychological thriller that kept my interest until I turned the last page. (Actually I had a hard time not skipping to the end midway through just to see what happened)  Into the Darkest Corner was Amazon UK's Best Book of the Year for 2011 and film rights have been sold.

See for yourself - read an excerpt of Into the Darkest Corner.

"Elizabeth Haynes is a police intelligence analyst. She started writing fiction in 2006 with the annual challenge of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and the encouragement of the creative writing courses at West Dean College. She lives in a village near Maidstone, Kent, with her husband and son." You can catch up with Elizabeth on Facebook and on Twitter

Check out what others on the TLC tour thought. Full schedule here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Giveaway - Grandad, There's a Head on the Beach - Colin Cotterill

Okay, so did the title make you look twice?!

Grandad, There's a Head on the Beach is Colin Cotterill's second entry in his Jimm Juree mystery series.

From the publisher Minotaur Books:

"In rural Thailand, former crime reporter Jimm Juree must grapple with her quirky family, a mysterious mother and daughter on the lam and the small matter of a head on the beach.

When Jimm Juree’s mother sold the family house and invested in a rundown 'holiday camp' at the southern end of Thailand on the Gulf of Siam, the family had little choice but to follow. Jimm Juree, who was well on her way to achieving her goal of becoming the primary crime reporter for the major daily newspaper in Chiang Mai, is less than thrilled to have lost her job as a reporter and to be stuck in the middle of nowhere where little of interest happens. So it is with mixed feelings that she greets the news that a head has washed up on the beach. It’s tragic, of course, but this could be the sort of sensational murder that would get her a byline in a major daily and keep her toehold on her journalism career. Now all she has to do is find out who was murdered, and why."

"Born in London, Colin Cotterill; has worked as teacher in Israel, Australia, the U.S. and Japan before he started training teachers in Thailand. Cotterill and his wife live in a small fishing village on the Gulf of Siam in Southern Thailand. He has won the Dilys and a CWA Dagger and has been a finalist for several other awards."

Sound like a book you'd like to read? Thanks to the generosity of Macmillan Books, I have two copies to giveaway. Simply leave a comment to be entered. US only. Ends July 21/12.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Reckoning - Alma Katsu

Alma Katsu's latest release - The Reckoning - is the second book of The Taker Trilogy. I read and reviewed the first in the series - The Taker - last year and enjoyed. I was curious to see where Katsu would take her characters in the second installment.

As a quick background... "In 1817 Lanny was sent to Boston to give birth to her illegitimate child. But she never made it as far as the convent. Instead she fell in with Count Adair and his household. Adair is a centuries old alchemist with the ability to bind his minions to him for life - never aging and never dying."

The Reckoning picks up the story a few months after The Taker left off, in the present day. Lanny has run away with Luke, a mortal, starting yet another new life. But their calm is about to be shattered - Adair is on the hunt to reclaim Lanny. Lanny has spent much of the last 200 years trying to escape from her past. The book treats us to many of her memories as she explores her life and determines the choices she's going to have to make in this time. I enjoyed these flashbacks and their historical detail as much or more than the present day story.

The Taker set up the characters, the settings and the story for Katsu's trilogy. The sense of urgency and action, although present, is not as prevalent in The Reckoning. Instead, this second entry deals more with emotions - wants, needs, desires and love. Adair is given a depth not seen in The Taker.

The Reckoning is outside of the genres I normally read but had no problem holding my interest as a story. I am pragmatic by nature though, so I found myself unable to swoon with Lanny as she determines who she wants to spend her eternity with.  Readers who lose themselves in a character will enjoy Lanny. Personally I found myself more drawn to Adair this time 'round. His self exploration was much more interesting to me. Those who like a little spice in their reading will enjoy the 'swiving' scenes.

Katsu has a rich, imaginative, storytelling voice. Fans of early Anne Rice would enjoy Alma Katsu. You can find Alma Katsu on Facebook and on Twitter.

Again the ending was slightly unsatisfying as it simply leaves the door open for the third book. Although - I am very curious about this Queen of the Underworld. I would recommend reading The Taker before The Reckoning to have a full appreciation of the story. Read an excerpt of The Reckoning.

(The ARC I received had a different cover that mirrored the tone of the hardcover edition of The Taker. I have to say I preferred it to this cover - which seems a little YA for me. In my opinion, it  comes off as a bit sensationalistic and really doesn't connote the rich tone of Katsu's tale.)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Winners - Dog on the Roof

And the three lucky winners of a copy of Dog on the Roof  courtesy of Touchstone Publishing are:

1. traveler
2. angie
3. Karen B

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

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Colour of Tea - Hannah Tunnicliffe - Interview AND Review.

I'm thrilled to have debut novelist Hannah Tunnicliffe stop by today for a quick interview! My thoughts on her new novel The Colour of Tea are at the end of the interview.

1. I'm always fascinated by the origin of a book. You lived in Macau for a number of years, but where did the rest come from? The idea behind the story? The French cafe and baking? (are tea and macarons a favourite with yourself)? Your main character Grace? The plot?

While on a ferry ride between Hong Kong and Macau I started to think about the character of Grace. The relationship between her and her mother came to me first and then the other aspects of the motherhood theme which are explored in the book. Characters major and minor popped up over time and the setting of Lillian’s café, which I can almost see in my mind even though it doesn’t actually exist! I tried my first macaron on a visit to Hong Kong while I was living in Macau and it was love at first bite. As for tea, I think my husband would describe me as a ‘tea geek’. At one point a good percentage of our pantry was taken up with boxes and boxes of different teas. Tea and books, I could buy them by the armful.

2. How do you squeeze in writing with small children? What does your writing day look like?

Basically I thieve the time to write wherever I can and I find little ‘rhythms’ develop. For example I might write for one hour every night for two weeks and then the baby will start teething and I have to give it up for a week, find another time for it to fit into. I have written 1,000 words a day, I have written for one hour each night at a local café and I have written every nap-time, just to name a few ‘rhythms’. I have had to learn to be very flexible about when and where writing happens. It is comforting to remember is that every other writer I know faces the same challenge in different forms. We all juggle jobs, kids, partners, pets, homes to clean, people to care for….

3. I really like the cover of The Colour of Tea - did you have input into the final say? The girl on the cover looks suspiciously like you!

That is a great question; I, too, always wondered how much input authors had into the cover art of their books. Experts in the publishing industry designed my cover art and thankfully, for readers, I had very little input into it, except to approve and gush! I was very lucky with the final result because I think it is beautiful and really reflects the book content.  The woman on the cover is a model, but thank you, I will take that as a compliment…lol!

4. What do you read for pleasure? What authors have influenced your writing?

At the moment I am reading an awful lot of picture books – to my toddler! I love a range of fiction writers but particularly Barbara Kingsolver, Ann Patchett, Marcus Zusak, Joanne Harris and Ami Mckay, just to name a few. I love to pick up debut novels too, there is something nice about supporting an author who is just starting out.

5. You've lived and travelled to many parts of the world but have settled in Vancouver. How are you enjoying Canada? What stands out for you - good. bad, different?

My family and I are temporarily back in New Zealand but Canada holds a very, very special place in our hearts. My first daughter was born in Vancouver and from the midwives who cared for us, the neighbours and incredible community in Kitsilano, the Moms I met and other writers who gave me support, we were so supported and cared for. I am currently missing the Spring weather and thinking fondly about all the lovely, fresh produce at Granville Island market and the flowers starting to pop up after a winter slumber! It is such a beautiful country. However, without a doubt the best thing about Canada is the people. I found Canadians to be wonderfully kind, thoughtful, earnest and resilient. We made some great friends that we will cherish for the rest of our lives.

Luanne – Thank you so much for hosting me on your blog. I do hope you enjoy the book!
Very best wishes, Hannah.

Thank you so much for stopping by Hannah. And yes - I enjoyed the book very much!

Grace Miller moves to Macau, China with her husband Pete. Pete's work has brought them there, and it will keep him busy, but Grace herself is adrift. For years, Pete and Grace have been trying to start a child but with no success. The stress has taken its' toll on their marriage and Grace's mental well being. She writes numerous letters, never sent, to her Mama recalling her childhood and her mother's impetuous ways. And then one day,on a rare day out, she passes an empty shop and.....a French styled cafe is born, featuring tea and macarons.

It is here that Graces' healing begins, surrounded by an eclectic group of women. And this is the meat of the story - where ups and downs are shared, friendships are formed and family is redefined. Each woman undergoes her own revelations, supported by the others. And the dessert? Well it's those macarons -Tunnicliffe's descriptions had my mouth watering!

A feel good read perfect for a shady porch swing. The Colour of Tea would appeal to fans of Kate Jacobs and Fannie Flagg. A book club would enjoy this book as well - a reading group guide is available. Read the first chapter of The Colour of Tea.  See what others on the Simon and Schuster blog tour thought.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Gone Missing - Linda Castillo - Review AND Giveaway

Linda Castillo's latest release - Gone Missing - is the fourth book in her popular Kate Burkholder series.

Kate is the Chief of Police in Painters Mill, Ohio, home to a large Amish population. Kate herself was raised Amish but has chosen to leave and lives as an "Englischer".  Her background makes her invaluable in dealing with the Amish community.

State Agent John Tomasetti asks Kate to consult on a case he's working - a missing teenage Amish girl. As they delve deeper into the case, it appears there are more missing Amish teenagers. But have they met with foul play? Or are they experiencing Rumspringa - a time when young Amish can 'sow their wild oats' with no repercussions before deciding if they will commit to the community.

Castillo combines many elements, making her books easy, interesting and engaging reads. First off, Kate is a very likeable character. She is respected by her staff, respects the Amish and comes across as a 'real' person. She is conflicted about many things in her personal life, most notably her burgeoning relationship with Agent Tomasetti. This definitely adds some 'spice' to the novel.

The case is a good whodunit. I do wonder if these crimes (because some of them are quite ugly) do happen in the Amish community? Is Castillo basing her plots on facts or creative license?

The pacing is quite quick, with lots of action - especially at the end. (which was a good gotcha as well)

Those looking for a hard bitten crime novel won't find it here. But those looking for a easy, engaging summer read will enjoy Gone Missing. Fans of  Julie Garwood and Tess Gerritsen would enjoy this character.  The first book in the series, Sworn to Silence, will soon be a two-hour original movie starring Neve Campbell as Kate Burkholder.   You can find Linda Castillo on Facebook.

Sound like something you'd enjoy? Well, you can read an excerpt of Gone Missing......

OR

....enter to win one of two copies I have up for grabs, courtesy of St. Martin's Press! Open to US only, ends July 17/12. Good luck!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Over the Counter #115

What book caught my eye this week as it passed over my library counter and under the scanner? Where Children Sleep by James Mollison. Although the cover isn't overly eye-grabbing, the inside is. This was more than a quick browse for me - it was a fascinating photo essay book I couldn't put down.

From Distributed Art Publications:

"Where Children Sleep presents English-born photographer James Mollison's large-format photographs of children's bedrooms around the world--from the U.S.A., Mexico, Brazil, England, Italy, Israel and the West Bank, Kenya, Senegal, Lesotho, Nepal, China and India--alongside portraits of the children themselves. Each pair of photographs is accompanied by an extended caption that tells the story of each child: Kaya in Tokyo, whose proud mother spends $1,000 a month on her dresses; Bilal the Bedouin shepherd boy, who sleeps outdoors with his father's herd of goats; the Nepali girl Indira, who has worked in a granite quarry since she was three; and Ankhohxet, the Kraho boy who sleeps on the floor of a hut deep in the Amazon jungle. Photographed over two years with the support of Save the Children (Italy), Where Children Sleep is both a serious photo-essay for an adult audience, and also an educational book that engages children themselves in the lives of other children around the world."

(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 19, 2012

The Demands - Mark Billingham

I have been an ardent fan of Mark Billingham from book one in his Detective Tom Thorne series. The Demands is the tenth offering in this British crime series.

Detective Sergeant Helen Weeks stops regularly into Javed Akhtar's corner shop for her morning paper and gum. Akhtar has just chased some young hooligans out of his store when he abruptly turns, locks the door on Helen and a male customer....and pulls a gun. Helen and Stephen are now his hostages.

His demands? For Detective Tom Thorne to investigate his son Amin's death while in custody. It was ruled suicide but Akhtar doesn't believe it.

Thorne is in a race against time - and an unstable man - to re investigate a closed case.

Why do I enjoy this series so much? Billingham always comes up with an arresting plot that provides some unexpected turns. The tension ratchets higher as Thorne discovers truths that Akhtar may not want to hear. We are privy to the drama in the shop through Helen's eyes. Helen has appeared in a previous book and is another strongly drawn character I was glad to see return. Billingham's plot also includes some relevant social commentary.

But of course the real draw is Tom Thorne. Thorne is ornery, obstinate and driven to solve his cases at almost any cost. This lands him on a fine line between right and wrong many times. His single mindedness has cost him in many ways, both professionally and personally. But his persistence usually pays off.

I loved the ending and cannot wait for the next installment in this gritty, gripping series.

Who else is reading and recommending Mark Billingham? Michael Connelly, Lee Child and Gillian Flynn. And me! Read an excerpt of The Demands.

(I recently discovered that Britain has created a television series based on this character. At first I was quite hesitant to watch as I thought the mental personas I had created for these characters would be ruined. But I have to say - they're quite good. My local library has purchased the first two - Sleepyhead and Scaredycat. David Morrisey does an excellent job of portraying Thorne. Although I think the coroner Phil Hendriks is a bit off. Funnily enough Canadian Sandra Oh is also in Scaredycat, complete with a Brit accent.

You can find Mark Billingham on Facebook.

Monday, June 18, 2012

I Couldn't Love You More - Jillian Medoff - Review AND Giveaway

 I Couldn't Love You More is author Jillian Medoff's latest novel, but the first for this reader.

I had no idea what to expect, but a cover blurb from Jodi Picoult hinted at a thoughtful, thought-provoking novel. And it was.

Thirty eight year old Eliot Gordon  lives with her partner Grant and their three children. One daughter, Hilary, is Eliot and Grant's child. The other two daughters, Gail and Charlotte, are from Grant's marriage. Yes, a blended family with all it's ups  - and downs.

I was drawn to Eliot from the first page. She's a warm, caring, loving mother to all three girls, treating them all equally. Charlotte at fourteen makes it very difficult to love her, but Eliot perseveres. The girls' biological mother is a bit of a flake and Eliot is a calming, steady rock in their lives. Grant too is a rock -  a man steadfastly devoted to his partner and family.

Eliot is one of three girls herself and is also from a broken home. She's had no contact with her own father for many, many years. This has only strengthened her resolve to provide a stable home for the girls. Eliot's sisters are both quite the characters. I was a bit turned off by Sylvia at first. She's loud, brash and over the top. As the novel progressed, I have to admit that she became my favourite character, ahead of Eliot.

For midway in the novel comes a turning point. Although she is happy, there are ups and downs in Eliot's life. When Finn, an old flame from university appears,  Eliot reconnects with him. This reconnection has an unforeseeable, unforgettable, unimaginable impact on Eliot, Grant and their daughters. The second half of the novel deals with the fallout from this pivotal point onwards.

Medoff touches on  many subjects in I Couldn't Love You More. Sibling rivalry, step parenting, parenting, familial relationships of all types, love, loss, regrets and remorse, grief and guilt.  And Medoff does it all with a keen, knowing eye and probing prose.

The second half of the book had me torn. Without giving too much of the plot away - I became very angry with Eliot - her choices, her decisions and the aftermath. But, this is the hallmark of a good storyteller. Medoff definitely arouses emotion with this poignant tale. This would be an excellent choice for a book club.....and engender lots  of discussion.

You can find Jillian Medoff on Twitter and on Facebook. Like the sound of this book? Get a sneak peek - read an excerpt of I Couldn't Love You More.

OR....

simply leave a comment to be entered in my giveaway! Three copies up for grabs - open to US/Canada, no PO boxes. Ends July 14. Thanks to Five Spot Publishing.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The House of Velvet and Glass - Katherine Howe

 The House of Velvet and Glass is Katherine Howe's latest release, following her hugely successful first book, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane.

Sybil Allston is keeping house for her father in 1915 Boston. Her mother and sister perished on the Titanic three years earlier. She's never really accepted or gotten over their deaths and has been seeking answers and solace from mediums and the spirit world. Sybil is not the only one in her family struggling with life. Her father has escaped into running his business, her brother has dropped out of Harvard and taken up with an actress. It is the actress, Dovie, who shakes up and wakes up the remaining members of the Allston family. She introduces Sybil to the pleasures of opium.....and Sybil is sure she can see the final hours of her mother and sister in a scrying glass when she is in the arms of the opium pipe...

Howe has delivered another rich period piece, filled with many details that bring the Boston Brahmins, social life and mores of the times to life. Interspersed with Sybil's story are 'interludes' that give us a window into Eulah and her mother's final hours on the Titanic. I have to say, it is Eulah and the interludes I enjoyed the most. Eulah as a character drew me to her more that Sybil. Eulah is full of life and brashness and spirit. She embraces life, as short as hers will be. Sybil is equally well drawn, but life has taken on a different mien with her loss.  I did come to appreciate her more as the book progressed.

I chose to listen to this book. The reader was Heather Corrigan. At first, I thought her voice was too young and sweet to tell this story, but quickly realized that that is exactly the tone to tell Sybil's story. Corrigan has a light voice, enunciates well and is easy to listen to.

The House of Velvet and Glass is not a fast read,rather it is a slow, measured building towards an unexpected revelation.The last third of the book moves along quite quickly, including another setting and more from one character that I been had expecting.

Howe has crafted another unique offering that will appeal to historical fiction fans. I enjoyed the book, but personally prefer something that moves along a little faster. Read an excerpt of The House of Velvet and Glass.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Over the Counter #114

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over my library counter and under my scanner? Books with yellow covers!

First up was The Attack of the Killer Rhododendrons by Glen Chilton. Subtitled - My Obsessive Quest to seek out Alien Species.

From the publisher, Harper Collins:

"Glen Chilton, the author of the rollicking Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour finalist The Curse of the Labrador Duck, returns with yet another quest, this time to seek out species ill-advisedly introduced into foreign environments.

Chilton visits Ireland to witness how rhododendrons, an ornamental plant that escaped a private garden, now threaten to choke out the last of the great oak forests of the United Kingdom. He escapes blood-thirsty midges and a murderous Hungarian architect while visiting a colony of forgotten Scottish wallabies; finds out how termites, brought in on packing crates after the Second World War, contributed to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans; and dodges crocodiles and big guns in the eucalyptus forests of Ethiopia. And, in true Glen Chilton fashion, he never turns down the opportunity to share a few pints with eccentric locals, often finding himself in the wrong place at the wrong time." Read an excerpt.

Next up was Triggered by Fletcher Wortmann. Subtitled - A Memoir of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

From the publisher, St. Martin's Press:

"Imagine the worst thing in the world. Picture it. Construct it, carefully and deliberately in your mind. Be careful not to omit anything. Imagine it happening to you, to the people you love. Imagine the worst thing in the world.

Now try not to think about it.
This is what it is like for Fletcher Wortmann. In his brilliant memoir, the author takes us on an intimate journey across the psychological landscape of OCD, known as the “doubting disorder,” as populated by God, girls, and apocalyptic nightmares. Wortmann unflinchingly reveals the elaborate series of psychological rituals he constructs as “preventative measures” to ward off the end times, as well as his learning to cope with intrusive thoughts through Clockwork Orange-like “trigger” therapy.

But even more than this, the author emerges as a preternatural talent as he unfolds a kaleidoscope of culture high and low ranging from his obsessions with David Bowie, X-Men, and Pokemon, to an eclectic education shaped by Shakespeare, Kierkegaard, Catholic mysticism, Christian comic books, and the collegiate dating scene at the “People’s Republic of Swarthmore.”

Triggered is a pitch-perfect memoir; a touching, triumphantly funny, compulsively readable, and ultimately uplifting coming-of-age tale for Generation Anxiety." Read an excerpt.

(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 13, 2012

Giveaway - The Last Romanov - Dora Levy Mossanen

Calling all historical fiction lovers - here's a giveaway for you! The Last Romanov by Dora Levy Mossanen.

"Even now in 2012, one of the greatest mysteries has been the fate of Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov of Russia, the last of four daughters born to the Tsar Nikolas and his wife Alexandra. After the tragic execution of the Russian Royal family in1918, officials were never able to recover the remains of Anastasia. Tales of her supposed escape from Russia have gripped thousands for decades, fueling speculation that a daughter of Russia’s last sovereign ruler survived the revolution that destroyed her immediate family.
June 18th marks what would be the 111th birthday of Her Imperial Highness Anastasia Romanov."

The Last Romanov:

"In a time of Rasputin's magic and Romanov mystery, a young girl finds herself at the heart of the Royal Family...

She was an orphan, ushered into the royal palace on the prayers of her majesty. Yet, decades later, her time spent in the embrace of the Romanovs haunts her still. Is she responsible for those murderous events that changed everything?

If only she can find the heir, maybe she can put together the broken pieces of her own past-maybe she can hold on to the love she found. Bursting to life with the rich and glorious marvels of Imperial Russia, The Last Romanov is a magical tale of second chances and royal blood."

Read an excerpt of The Last Romanov.

Born in Israel and raised in Iran, Dora Levy Mossanen fled to the United States at the onset of the Islamic Revolution. She is the recipient of the San Diego Editor's Choice award and the author of Harem and the international bestseller Courtesan, which have both been translated into numerous languages. She is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post and a graduate of the USC masters of professional writing program. She lives in Beverly Hills, California.

Sound like something you'd enjoy? Well, thanks to the lovely folks at Sourcebooks, I have a copy to giveaway. Simply leave a comment to be entered. Open to US and Canada, ends July 8/12.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Silver - Andrew Motion

Miss Spicer was 'my' librarian when I was young. Her dark dresses, severe bun and black glasses gave her a stern air which definitely deterred anyone from running and talking loudly in the library. But, it was she who fed and fostered my love of reading. I always asked her what I should read next. To her credit, she never, ever brushed me off. One summer she decided I would read the classics - Swiss Family Robinson, Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island and more. It was the sense of adventure, the unknown and putting myself into the character's shoes that spirited me away for many a hot afternoon.

With the release Andrew Motion's new book Silver - Return to Treasure Island - I was yet again transported away on a adventure with pirates, parrots and plunder.

Jim Hawkins returned to England with his share of the treasure and now, in 1802, is an innkeeper. He runs the inn with the help of his son Jim. Jim has grown up hearing the tale of Treasure Island over and over again. And so has Natty, who shows up one night with a proposition for young Jim from her father - Long John Silver. Silver wants young Jim to 'obtain' the map to Treasure Island from his father. There is still treasure to be recovered and Silver will provide the ship, captain and crew for the voyage. He is too infirm to go himself, so Natty will go in his place, disguised as a boy.

Andrew Motion is a superb storyteller. His tale pays homage to Stevenson, keeping the tone and language true to the time. The book isn't a fast paced swashbuckler, although there is of course a requisite sword fight. Rather, it is somewhat leisurely in spots, allowing us to take in Jim's narrative and descriptions.  A third of the book is devoted to getting to the island. Once there, Motion does a great job of re imagining what the island would be like  - and what happened to those left marooned many years ago. It is here that the story takes off - good vs. evil, love lost and found, duty and honour and more. In a sly nod to the original, the crewman most often in the crow's nest, keeping an eye out  - is named Stevenson. The ending left me a bit unsatisfied. The door has been left open for a sequel's sequel.

I'm not sure if children today would enjoy this sequel or not, but this adult quite enjoyed being transported back to her childhood. Read an excerpt of Silver.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn - Review AND Giveaway

We've all read the stories in newspapers - a woman goes missing and the husband is the prime suspect. And he loudly proclaims his innocence....even as the evidence mounts....

Gillian Flynn put her own spin on this idea in her latest book - Gone Girl.

It is the day of Nick and Amy's fifth anniversary. It is also the day Amy disappears. Left behind - the first cryptic clue in a treasure hunt Amy always sets up for Nick.

The first part of Gone Girl is told in alternating chapters from Nick's present time viewpoint, with flashbacks to memories.  Amy's voice is heard from the pages of a diary, starting from seven years ago and building up to the day she disappears. The narratives each tell a completely different story. Who is telling the truth? The second part - well, I'm not going to spoil the plot for you, so I'll stop there.

I am a huge fan of psychological thrillers and with Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn has crafted one of the best I've ever read. Really. The plot line is completely unpredictable. It's rare for me to be completely surprised at the direction a book takes, but I was this time. Flynn toys with us in a completely delicious and devious manner. You'll want to read carefully - there are lies, secrets and omissions scattered throughout the book and each revelation ratchets up the stakes just a little higher.

While Gone Girl is a razor edged thriller, Flynn also explores marriage, attraction, family relationships and the media with that same sharp edged eye. Flynn's prose are are arresting, painting vivid images that crackle with intensity.

"....the girl a man like Nick wants: the Cool Girl. Men always say that as the defining compliment, don't they? She's a cool girl. Being the cool girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she's hosting the world's biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want."

This is the first book I've read by Flynn, although I have since picked up her second book Dark Places. I loved the dedication to her husband...."What can I say about a man who knows how I think and still sleeps next to me with the lights off?" You can find Gillian Flynn on Facebook.

The buzz you've been hearing about Gone Girl? All true and more. This is THE book to read this summer. I guarantee you won't be disappointed. Just bleary eyed - 'cause you won't be able to put it down!

See what other readers on the TLC tour thought. Full schedule can be found here. Read an excerpt of Gone Girl.

Thanks to the great folks at Crown Publishing, I have a copy to giveaway! But only if you promise not to peek at the ending....Open to US and Canada, no PO boxes please. Simply leave a comment to be entered. Please ensure I have a way to contact you - either through your blog or by leaving an email. Closes July 7/12.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Winner - Dog Days

And the lucky winner of a copy of Dog Days by Elsa Watson,

courtesy of Tor Books is:

petite!

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

Friday, June 8, 2012

Giveaway - Mum's List - St. John Greene

Here's a book sure to grab you by the heartstrings..... Mum's List by St. John Greene.

From the publisher Dutton:

"For Kate Green, nothing was as important as the happiness and well-being of her two little boys, Reef and Finn, and her loving husband, St. John, known as “Singe.” They had a wonderfully happy family life in Somerset, England. But then tragedy struck—Kate was diagnosed with breast cancer that couldn’t be cured.

During her last few days, Kate created what she called Mum’s List. With Singe’s help she wrote down her thoughts, dreams, and wishes, trying to help the man she loved create the best life for their sons after she was gone.

Mum’s List reveals Kate’s passionate nature, her free spirit, and even her sense of humor. The list became Singe’s rock as he turned to it again and again for strength and inspiration. Her instructions were simple—items like “look for four-leaf clovers” and “always say what you truly mean”—but the effect they had on Singe, Reef, and Finn was incredibly profound.

Singe’s lesson to readers everywhere is that a list like Mum’s List can change your life—and you don’t need to lose someone to make a list and live your dreams. If you’ve ever wondered if you and your family could be living a happier, more meaningful life full of adventure and joy, then this book is for you."

You can meet the Greenes in the clip below. Thanks to the lovely folks at Dutton, I have a copy to giveaway. Simply leave a comment to be entered. Open to US only. Ends June 30th. Tissues not included.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Over the Counter #113

What caught my eye this week as it passed over my library counter and under the scanner? 100 Unforgettable Dresses by Hal Rubenstein. Because, really how could you not open it up to see what was chosen as 'unforgettable'?

From the publisher, Harper Design:

"100 Unforgettable Dresses is filled with the stories, secrets, intrigue, and insights behind the most indelible dresses in our collective memories. Featuring looks from the runway, film, television, the red carpet, and the worlds of royalty and politics, this book celebrates the staying power of these gorgeous, sleek, sultry, and outrageous creations as well as the lasting impact they’ve had in fashion, popular culture, and our own lives. More than two hundred images, a witty, informative text, and exclusive interviews with the designers and the women who wore the dresses reveal the initial spark and captivating drama behind the making of each dress. Also featured throughout are extensive anecdotes and observations about great style makers—Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Cher, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and Cate Blanchett—highlighting the conception of their most spectacular looks and examining their lasting influence.

Here is the tale of how a canny Gianni Versace helped an unknown Elizabeth Hurley become world famous overnight, thanks to the paparazzi frenzy whipped up by her red-carpet appearance in his now legendary safety-pin dress. Learn about the unique wedding gown Narciso Rodriguez designed exclusively for Caroline Bessette-Kennedy that inspired a whole new generation of brides. Go on the set of Top Hat, where Ginger Rogers’s ostrich-feather-laden dress began to molt immediately upon arrival, its flying feathers bringing the film’s production to a halt. Of course, the seminal work of exemplary designers—Yves Saint Laurent’s Mondrian dress and Christian Lacroix’s pouf, Chanel’s little black dress and Valentino’s infamous red ones, Diane von Furstenberg’s iconic wrap and Marc Jacobs’s grunge collection—is featured throughout, with plenty of inside information on what inspired the invention of each piece.

With its wonderful anecdotes, fascinating facts, and just enough juicy gossip, 100 Unforgettable Dresses is a bewitching read for everyone who enjoys sensational clothes, movies, television, and music. Whether you’re a fashion maven, a red-carpet addict, a celebrity tracker, or a pop-culture aficionado, you won’t be able to put this book down!"

(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 6, 2012

The Lost Ones - Ace Atkins

I first 'discovered' Ace Atkins with last year's release of The Ranger - the first book featuring Quinn Colson. I loved it and have been eagerly awaiting the next in this series. The Lost Ones is newly released and is just as good (or better) as the first one!

After ten years as an Army Ranger, Quinn Colson returned to his home town of Jericho in Tibbehah County, Mississippi. He's now the new sheriff in town. When a local doctor calls him about a child brought in with a head injury, Quinn and his chief deputy Lillie Virgil head out to investigate. What they find is an empty, filthy house. It looks like the residents were running a puppy mill...and a baby trafficking outfit. Donnie Varner, an old friend of Quinn, is doing his own trafficking as well - in guns. As Quinn and Lillie investigate, it looks like the two cases might have something - or someone - in common.

Atkins draws his characters so well. I have a firm picture in my mind of Quinn - a tough, loyal, cagey lawman who knows his county well. And umm, did I mention he's kind of (okay a lot) sexy too. Kind of that holdin' out for a hero vibe. Lillie is firmly planted in my mind as well - she's a female version of Quinn, although we see some vulnerability this time round.  We also get to know some of Quinn's back story with flashbacks to his younger days with his sister Caddy.

 The supporting cast is equally well drawn, with one-armed Boom standing out for me. In fact I found myself rooting for one of the 'bad guys', hoping he would get a break. The dialogue really fleshs out the mental pictures I've created. A lot of it is short and snappy, and quite humourous at times. Anything more involved would detract from the atmosphere Atkins has created. The setting is  just as much of a  character. Stark and gritty, Atkins brings to life a county beset by poverty, abuse and corruption.

The plotting is excellent, zigging just when I thought it would zag. Lots and lots of action, kept me frantically turning pages until I finished the book far too quickly.

So pull up a rocker, grab a glass of sweet tea, put your feet up on the railing and be prepared to set a spell. It's a hell of a read - one you won't want to put down.

Fans of television's Justified and Raylan Givens would enjoy this character, as would Jack Reacher fans. Read an excerpt of The Lost Ones. You can find Ace Atkins on Facebook

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Yard - Alex Grecian

The Yard is Alex Grecian's debut novel. And this reader has put him firmly on her 'must read' list.

London, England 1889 -the year after Jack's infamous rampage. After the Metropolitan Police failed to solve that case, a 'Murder Squad' was formed within Scotland Yard. It consists of only twelve detectives who cannot begin to solve each and every one of the hundred murders being perpetrated each month. It is Inspector Walter Day's first week on the job when one of their own is found murdered in a particularly grisly manner. Determined to prove himself and seek justice for his fallen comrade, Day dives into the case with both feet."

"The new inspector, Day, appeared to be up to the job, but Kett knew little about the man. There was an innocence about him that bothered Kett. He had seen idealistic men come and go, the city leeching hope from them too quickly."

I was hooked from the opening line...."Nobody noticed when Inspector Christian Little of Scotland Yard disappeared, and nobody was looking for him when he was found."

This is a time period I absolutely love and Grecian does a good job bringing the setting to life with lots of atmospheric detail. The plot is multi faceted with more than just the primary case being investigated. Although we know the identity of the perpetrator about halfway through, it didn't detract from the story at all.

But it was the characters that were a stand out for me. Grecian has fleshed them out nicely, providing 'interludes' where we learn some of their past. Day is a very likable character, struggling with being in the 'big city'. I quite enjoyed his wife Claire and see her playing a bigger part in the future. Constable Hammersmith is also a character I was drawn to. He's a little more down and dirty than Day, willing to bend the law a wee bit in the name of justice. But the most engrossing was Dr. Bernard Kingsley. He works an unpaid consultant to the Yard, firmly believing that the science he is pursuing will change the face of policing in the future. It was great fun to see the advent of forensics in fingerprinting and evidence collecting. Kingsley is a bit of an enigma as is his daughter Fiona.

Grecian has gathered an eclectic, fascinating group of characters, set them down in an intriguing time and place and tied it all together with an ingenious plot. I truly hope this is the beginning of a series - I quite enjoyed The Yard and will definitely pick up the next book by this author. Read an excerpt of The Yard.  You can find Alex Grecian on Twitter and on Facebook.