Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Miss Me When I'm Gone - Emily Arsenault

I read and enjoyed Emily Arsenault's previous book - In Search of the Rose Notes - last year. (my review)

In her latest release, Miss Me When I'm Gone, Arsenault again utilizes journals, books and visiting the past to solve the present.

Gretchen and Jamie were close friends in college, but their lives diverged as time passed. Jamie is married to Sam, expecting her first child and works as a part time editor. Gretchen is divorced, childless and a published author. Her first book was called Tammyland - a memoir of her travels after her divorce that specifically drew upon her love for female country singers such as Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn. She had started work and research on her second book - ostensibly about the flip side - male country singers and her continuing journey. But, after giving a reading at the library in her old home town, Gretchen is found dead at the bottom of a flight of stairs. Her death is ruled accidental. Her family asks old friend Jamie to act as her 'literary executor' and try to assemble the research of her second book for the publisher.

As Jamie begins to read Gretchen's notebooks, she realizes that what she was really researching was her biological mother - killed when Jamie was only seven. The murderer was never caught. Was that fall accidental? Or is someone not happy with the past being revisited?

Miss Me When I'm Gone is told in a three part narrative.  In the beginning I did have to stop and get my bearings when starting a new chapter. The first stream is excerpts from Tammyland. The second narrative is through Gretchen's research notes on the second book. And it is these notes that send Jamie looking for answers as well. The third is from Jamie's present day viewpoint.

I found the use of the country western singers, their songs and their lives to be an especially inventive, unique and a fascinating way to draw a portrait of Gretchen. Her writings in this book are quite introspective. Many of the stories told in this book had me heading the internet 'just to see.' (Loretta Lynn and Burt Reynolds did indeed have a fling.) The excerpts from Tammyland were actually my favourite part of the book. I am familiar with and enjoy this type of music, but those not enamoured of country western tunes may not appreciate it as much.

The notebooks allow us to discover the clues and try to piece together the mystery along with Jamie. Jamie was a character I had a hard time nailing down. I appreciated her loyalty to her friend and her determination to find answers. What I couldn't understand was her seeming indifference to being pregnant. Although she is concerned with the baby's health, it is her relationship with her husband I found off putting. She blatantly ignores his concerns, her safety and the child's safety. I'm not sure why Arsenault made this character preganant - perhaps only to provide another difference between the way her life and Gretchen's lives evolved? Sadly, I didn't really ever warm up to Jamie and this influenced my final opinion of the book.

Miss Me When I'm Gone is hard to classify. It has a mystery component, but it was the relationships that took center stage - which gave it more of a women's fiction bent. There's lots of material here that book clubs could sink their teeth into. Read an excerpt of Miss Me When I'm Gone.

Emily Arsenault is the critically acclaimed author of The Broken Teaglass, a New York Times Notable Mystery, and In Search of the Rose Notes. She lives in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, with her husband and daughter. You can find Emily Arsenault on Facebook.

See what others on the TLC tour thought. The full schedule can be found here.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Let the Devil Sleep - John Verdon - Review AND Giveaway

I was lucky enough to be an early reader (and fan) of John Verdon's debut novel - Think of a Numb3r. (my review) I love getting in on the ground floor of a new series. His second book - Shut Your Eyes Tight (my review) - was just as good and proved that Verdon wasn't a one book wonder. The latest book in his Dave Gurney series - Let the Devil Sleep - was fantastic! John Verdon just gets better and better.

Retired NYPD Homicide Detective Dave Gurney has spent the last six months recovering from gunshot wounds sustained during his last attempt to bring down a serial killer. Yes, he's retired - but can't help himself - puzzles intrigue him and unsolved cases still call his name. He had the highest solve rate in the NYPD's history when he retired.  But this time, he just can't seem to shake things off - he's out of sorts, short tempered with his ever patient wife Madeleine, can't stop worrying about his lingering symptoms and has no interest in doing anything. When Connie, an old journalist friend contacts him to ask a favour, he agrees out of a sense of obligation. Her daughter Kim is doing a series of interviews with families of the victims of a serial killer dubbed The Good Shepherd. Ten years ago, the killer targeted the wealthy, specifically those driving black Mercedes. The case remains unsolved and Kim would like to have him look over what she's doing with his cop's eye and give her feedback.

But a lot occurs in that one day - there's more going on with Kim than she initially mentioned. And the interviews and files on The Good Shepherd pique Gurney's interest. It is Madeleine who notes that Gurney has done more in a day than he has in months - and he's not worrying about his symptoms every five minutes. Slowly, but surely, Dave is hooked again. He believes the initial investigation was flawed.

In the beginning of the series, I wasn't sure what I thought about Gurney. But, as the series grows, so
does Dave. This time out, we get to meet his son Kyle, with whom Dave has a difficult relationship. Verdon explores this dynamic well, letting us get a view of Gurney beneath the controlled exterior. Gurney's enigmatic wife Madeleine continually intrigues me. Her love of nature, colour and life are in stark contrast to Gurney's pursuit of killers. What makes this marriage work? Verdon allows to see into this relationship a little more every time.  Madeline is still my favourite supporting character. Another recurring character is Detective Jack Hartwick. The testy relationship between Jack and Dave is entertaining. I did find it hard to warm up to Kim; I found her to be manipulative and self centered.

So, the characters are great. What about the plot? Well, this is where Verdon shines. The plotting is impeccable, complex and devious. There are two plot lines running simultaneously - could they connected?  Gurney's reasoning and thought processes were fascinating. I enjoyed the matching of wits between the FBI, their psychologist consultant and Dave. We get to reopen the case with Dave as he explores past files. However, the past is not content to stay buried and the tension, thrills and stakes are heightened as the killer puts Dave squarely in his line of sight. I had absolutely no idea whodunit until the last few pages. I love not being able to figure out the case until the end.

Just a great series. You could read any of the books as a stand alone, but I bet you'll be hunting down the other two!  Read an excerpt of Let the Devil Sleep.

You can find John Verdon on Facebook.

See what others on the TLC tour thought. Full schedule here. And thanks the great folks at Crown Publishing, I have a copy of Let the Devil Sleep to giveaway. Open to US and Canada, no P.O. boxes please. Simply leave a comment (and a way for me to contact you) to be entered. Ends August 25/12.

Giveaway - Kitty Steals the Show - Carrie Vaughn

Want to get your hands on the newest release in Carrie Vaughn's New York Times best selling series? Thanks to the great folks at Tor Books, I have a copy of Kitty Steals the Show up for grabs! Simply leave a comment to be entered. US only, ends Aug 19/12.

From the publisher:

"Kitty has been tapped as the keynote speaker for the First International Conference on Paranatural Studies, taking place in London. The conference brings together scientists, activists, protesters, and supernatural beings from all over the world—and Kitty, Ben, and Cormac are right in the middle of it.
Master vampires from dozens of cities have also gathered in London for a conference of their own. With the help of the Master of London, Kitty gets more of a glimpse into the Long Game—a power struggle among vampires that has been going on for centuries—than she ever has before. In her search for answers, Kitty has the help of some old allies, and meets some new ones, such as Caleb, the alpha werewolf of the British Isles. The conference has also attracted some old enemies, who’ve set their sights on her and her friends. All the world’s a stage, and Kitty’s just stepped into the spotlight." Read an excerpt of Kitty Steals the Show.

Carrie Vaughn is the New York Times bestselling author of the Kitty Norville books, including Kitty’s Big Trouble and Kitty and the Midnight Hour. She is also the author of the stand-alone novels After the Golden Age and Discord’s Apple, and the young adult books Voice of Dragons and Steel. Vaughn had the nomadic childhood of the typical Air Force brat, with stops across the country from California to Florida. She earned her B.A. from Occidental College in Los Angeles, and a master’s in English from the University of Colorado at Boulder. She has worked as a Renaissance Festival counter wench, a theater usher, an editor, a buyer at an independent bookstore, and an administrative assistant. She lives in Boulder, Colorado.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Winner - Night Watch

And the lucky winner of a copy of Night Watch by Linda Fairstein, courtesy of Dutton Books is:


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

Winner - The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

And the lucky winner of a copy of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, courtesy of Random House is:


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

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Nightmare - Lars Kepler

I read the first book - The Hypnotist - by the Swedish husband and wife team of Lars Kepler last year. (my review) I was quite intrigued with their recurring character Inspector Joona Linna, so I happily picked up their latest North American release - The Nightmare.

Two deaths, that at first glance appear to be accidental or suicides, draw the attention of Inspector Linna. Linna sees things differently from others. He has that little 'something extra' in the way he views crime scenes and evidence, often spotting clues or links that others miss. When he decides that the two scenes are linked, he puts himself on the case, against the wishes of his superiors and the leader of the investigation. Linna is never loud or pushy - he simply ignores much of what is said and continues on. And when he is proven right, how can they take him off the case?

And the case is a mystery - the killer is quick, silent, incredibly devious and frightening - he seems to know the victims' worst nightmares - and makes them come true. He's killing in order to obtain something - but what? Kepler has changed things up a bit with this second book. The mystery, tension and psychological thrills are all there, but some political plotting and social commentary is also worked into the mix. (I was quite stunned by some of the statistics listed in the book and had to go online to check them - and yes they're true. "Every single day thirty-nine million bullets are made. The nine largest exporters of weapons in the world are the United States, Russia, Germany, France, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Italy, Sweden and China.") Interestingly, the flyleaf and promos for the book only make reference to the unusual murders, not the weapons plotline. I do wonder if this combination was a bit too ambitious - it seemed to get very, very busy. Either storyline on its own would have been good.

I think what I do like about Kepler's books is that I have no idea what to expect - I always feel a little off kilter. Joona Linna's thinking is non linear and his take on things is always refreshing. The Nightmare is populated by odd characters with strange penchants and proclivities that give an unsettled feel to the narrative. The scene with the television personality left me bewildered as to why it was included. The book is translated from the original Swedish by Laura A. Wideberg and I found the cadence of some of the prose added to the off kilter feeling.

But, did I like it? Yes. I am definitely a fan of Inspector Linna and will happily pick up the third book in the series - already released in Sweden. See for yourself  - read an excerpt of The Nightmare.

You can find Lars Kepler on Facebook.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Over the Counter #120

What book caught my eye this week passing over the library counter and under my scanner? How to Watch the Olympics (the Essential Guide to the Rules, Statistics, Heroes and Zeroes of Every Sport) by David Goldblatt and Johnny Acton of course! I will be glued to my televison for the next two weeks - how about you?

From the publisher Penguin Books:

"The must-have guide to the 2012 Summer Olympic Games
Next summer, millions of Americans will tune into the Olympic Games, the largest and most popular sporting event in the world. Yet while it's easy to be fascinated by agile gymnasts, poised equestrians, and perfectly synchronized swimmers, few of us know the real width of a balance beam, the intricate regulations of dressage, or the origin of those crowd-pleasing legs-in-the-air swimming formations. Luckily, David Goldblatt and Johnny Acton have created this utterly thorough and always fun guide to the rules, strategy, and history of each sport. With witty, detailed descriptions and clever illustrations, How to Watch the Olympics will help anyone grasp handball, archery, wrestling, fencing, and every other Olympic event like a true pro."

(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, July 25, 2012

The Conviction - Robert Dugoni - Review AND Giveaway

I picked up Robert Dugoni's debut novel The Jury Master back in 2006. I quite enjoyed it, but for some unknown reason, I hadn't read another of his books until I picked up his latest - The Conviction. (I know I've missed a lot of good reads in between.)

Lawyer David Sloane is Dugoni's recurring character. He's known as 'the lawyer who does not lose'. In the courtroom maybe, but in his personal life Sloane has suffered some losses. His partner Tina was brutally murdered - in front of her son Jake. Jake is dealing with his grief by abusing drugs and alcohol and engaging in petty crimes that are rapidly escalating. Sloane had raised the boy with Tina. In a last ditch effort to keep him out of detention, Sloan agrees to get him sucessfully through rehab this time. When an old friend, Detective Tom Molia, invites Sloan and Jake on a camping trip with him and his son T.J., it seems like a great idea.

And it was....until Jake decides that breaking into a local business in the small town of Truluc is a good idea...and he has T.J. was with him. Unbelievably, the boys are caught, tried and convicted within six hours and sent to Fresh Start, a local boot camp, for six months. All without their fathers' knowledge.....

Oh, this was such a page turner! Although, sometimes I didn't want to turn the page, fearing the worst, but needing to know to know what would happen next.  As Sloane and Molia work feverishly on the outside to get the boys released, Jake and TJ struggle to survive inside the camp. And I feverishly kept turning pages.

Dugoni's main premise for The Conviction has it's basis in reality. Stories of abusive youth detention camps are fact -  not fiction.

I had forgotten how much I liked the David Sloan character. I'm fascinated by the courtroom drama and legal machinations. (And Dugoni does these well - he worked as a litigator before turning to writing.)  But for me the best legal stories have elements outside of  the courtroom as well - legal thrillers seems to be an apt description. Sloan is a bigger than life character in both arenas, willing to do whatever it takes to free the boys. He's the guy you'd want in your corner.

The Conviction has it all - great plotting (with twists I didn't see coming at all), non stop action, chills, thrills, strong characters and a clearly defined good vs. bad dynamic that will have you on the edge of your seat and staying up late to finish.

The Conviction can certainly be read as a stand alone, but if you're like me, you'll be hunting down the previous books in the series. Highly recommended. Read an excerpt of The Conviction.

You can find Robert Dugoni on Facebook and on Twitter.

And thanks to the great folks at Touchstone, I have a copy of The Conviction to giveaway. Simply leave a comment to be entered. Open to US and Canada, ends August 18/12.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Singles - Meredith Goldstein

 The Singles is Meredith Goldstein's debut novel.

Have you ever attended a wedding and realized that there was a table at the reception with single attendees, not couples? That's the premise behind Goldstein's book.

Beth Evans has every detail of her fairytale wedding planned, until the singles upset her seating plan. Five singles to be exact - Hannah, Vicki, Rob, Joe and Nancy (who sends Phil in her stead). The story is told from the viewpoint of each of the characters in alternating chapters.

I did find myself making notes as to who was who and what they 'did' in life to keep everyone straight in the beginning. It took me about a third of the book to get a firm grasp of everyone.

We are privy to the hopes, dreams, disappointments, memories and more of each of the characters.  I did find some of the stories quite sad rather than the humour the flyleaf hinted at. I was expecting more of a chick lit read, but still enjoyed the social commentary Goldstein has woven into her narrative. Why must we all be paired up? I enjoyed how each of the stories eventually intertwined with the others.

Although the ending seemed abrupt, I think Goldstein was wise to not neatly tie up all the loose ends, instead leaving the reader to imagine where each character's life will go next.

The Singles was just an okay read for me. The idea behind the book is not new, but Goldstein does a decent job with her interpretation. See for yourself - read an excerpt of The Singles. There's a reading group guide available as well.

Meredith Goldstein is an advice columnist and entertainment reporter for The Boston Globe. Her column Love Letters is a daily dispatch of wisdom for the lovelorn that gets about 1 million page views every month on Boston.com.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Random House of Canada's Olympic Readathon

What a great idea from Random House Canada! I'm in!

"The 2012 Olympics are running from July 27th – August 12th and we want to participate in the fun in the form of a reading challenge!

Our reading piles are overflowing with great summer books, so what better way to chip away at your book piles than by reading as much as you can during the span of the Olympics.

Like all of you, I’ve got an outstanding number of books to read too, so I’ll be participating and joining in the fun! @RandomHouseCA will be using the hashtag #OlympicReadathon to chat about our progress on Twitter, so be sure to join in the conversation and encourage your friends and family to join our challenge.

Sign up here and set your Olympic Page Reading Goal! Be sure to keep track of how you’re doing throughout the Olympics!

Do some stretches, maybe some lunges and get set to read as much as you can during July 27th – August 12th!"

You can find the original post from Lindsey on Random House of Canada's 'Retreat' page.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Winner - Grandad, There's a Head on the Beach

And the two lucky winners of a copy of Grandad, There's a Head on the Beach by Colin Cotterill, courtesy of Macmillan Books are:

1. Carl
2. Kaye

Congratulations! I've contacted you by email for your mailing addressess. Please respond within 72 hours. Thanks to all who entered and check the sidebar for other great giveaways!

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Wrong Man - David Ellis

David Ellis's latest book - The Wrong Man - is the third featuring recurring character Jason Kolarich.

Kolarich is a defense lawyer, with a penchant for taking on seemingly impossible cases. This time he's asked by the family of  homeless Iraq War vet Tom Stoller to defend him against murder charges. It seems hopeless - Tom was found with the victim's personal belongings and the murder weapon in his hand. But Tom can't or won't defend himself - he's suffering from severe PTSD and perhaps other mental illness. It's up to Jason to speak for him.

The opening line of the prologue was written to catch and hold a reader....
"Something bad is going to happen to Kathy Rubinowski tonight." And this reader was captured from first page to last.

As Jason and his team (I liked the supporting cast a lot) dig further, they come up with an alternative scenario - and what they uncover puts a target on Jason's back.

Kolarich is a big, imposing guy with a larger than life personality. The courtroom scenes are interesting and I enjoyed the legal machinations. But Kolarich is not your run of the mill defense attorney. He's out chasing down leads with and without his investigator. I did question his inclusion of a woman he's seeing as part of the team - it just seemed odd. As a lawyer, he skirts the law sometimes and others he outright ignores it - all in the name of protecting his client. He is now sure Tom is innocent. "The rules of ethics in my profession, last I checked, weren't optional. when did I start treating them that way?"

Ellis has crafted a really good thriller, combining courtroom drama, conspiracy and more with the end result being a page turner of a read. The plot was a little far fetched in places and I saw the end coming, but I enjoyed the ride. Ellis has the thriller format down pat - lots of action, danger and a compelling plot. I'll definitely be picking up the next in the series. Read an excerpt of The Wrong Man.

You can find David Ellis on Twitter and on Facebook.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Over the Counter #119

What caught my eye this week passing over the library counter and under the scanner? Although we're halfway through the growing season in my area, there were lots of great gardening ideas for kids (and adults!) in both of these books. Some great stuff to try at home or use for a kid's program at the library!

First up was The Book of Gardening Projects for Kids by Whitney Cohen and John Fisher.

From the publisher Timber Press:

"Many gardeners find that once they have children gardening goes the way of late-night dinner parties and Sunday morning sleep-ins. Raising kids and maintaining a garden can be a juggling act, leaving the family garden forgotten and neglected. But kids can make great gardening companions, and the benefits of including them are impossible to ignore. Gardening gets kids outdoors and away from television and video games, increases their connection to plants and animals, and helps build enthusiasm for fresh fruits and vegetables. Their involvement becomes the real harvest of a family garden.
In The Book of Gardening Projects for Kids, Whitney Cohen and John Fisher draw on years of experience in the Life Lab Garden Classroom and gardening with their own children to teach parents how to integrate the garden into their family life, no matter its scope or scale. The book features simple, practical gardening advice, including how to design a play-friendly garden, ideas for fun-filled theme gardens, and how to cook and preserve the garden's bounty. 101 engaging, family-friendly garden activities are also featured, from making Crunch-n-Munch Vegetable Beds and Muddy Miniature Masterpieces to harvesting berries for Fresh Fruity Pops.
This step-by-step guide to working side-by-side with kids will inspire all parents to grow their own little gardener and to get dirty, plant seeds, and enjoy the garden's delicious rewards.

Next up was Garden Crafts for Children by Dawn Isaac.

From the publisher Cico Books:

"Garden Crafts for Children is crammed full of inspirational ideas to get kids excited about gardening and nature. A wheelbarrow vegetable garden, cress caterpillars, an insect hotel and a sunflower alley are just some of the fun and creative ideas in this invaluable book. There are chapters on using creative containers from teapots to rain boots, windowsill gardening with foods such as cress and beans, and beautiful nature crafts such as picture frames and mobiles that can be made indoors. Whether your garden is big or small, and even if you don t have a garden at all, Dawn Isaac s wonderful garden crafts will keep kids entertained, with plenty of projects to fill every season. The 35 projects, perfect for children from ages 3 to 11, are designed to be achievable and affordable with simple-to-follow, step-by-step photographs and clear advice, and there is help on growing and gardening for children and adults alike."

(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, July 18, 2012

The Key - Simon Toyne

 The Key is the second book in Simon Toyne's debut trilogy. I was hooked by the first book - Sanctus (my review) - and have been eagerly waiting to see what happens next.

If you have not read the first book and plan to, you may want to skip this review - I don't want to spoil it for you. And really, to fully appreciate The Key, you should read Sanctus first.

Liv Ademson has escaped from the Citadel - the enclave of an ancient sect of secretive monks known as the Sancti. She's in the hospital, unable to remember what happened before the explosion.....

Something momentous did occur, but there are those who are determined that Liv should not live.... (sorry, couldn't resist)... the Vatican, the monks and a mysterious man known as The Ghost. But she must survive..... "The fate of man lies in the hands of one woman."

I won't go into much more detail than that. In The Key, we get to know more of the history of The Citadeland past characters such as Gabriel, Inspector Arkadian and more return.  Toyne kept my interest from first page to last.  He successfully combines history, mystery, intrigue, action and yes, romance in a fast paced page turner. And again, he has left us with a wonderful cliff hanger ending. I can't wait to see where book three goes - although I have an idea.

Although I read the first book, I chose to listen to The Key in audio book format. The reader was one of my favourites - Simon Vance. He has a rich, powerful voice - just perfect for this type of book. His English accent is quite easy to understand and the different voices he provides for each character are believable. Listening to this type of book brings the tension and action to life. I was hard pressed to shut it down and head inside to work!

Readers with strong religious beliefs may not enjoy Toyne's alternative views. But fans of James Rollins, Steve Berry and of course, Dan Brown will enjoy it.

Listen to an excerpt of The Key or read an excerpt. You can find Simon Toyne on Twitter and on Facebook.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Skeleton Box - Bryan Gruley - Review AND Giveaway

 Bryan Gruley is another new to me author. The Skeleton Box is the third book in Gruley's Starvation Lake series.

Starvation Lake is a quiet, small town in Michigan where nothing dangerous really ever happens, but a recent series of break-ins has the town worried.  The break-ins are occurring on bingo nights -  when most of the town's elderly residents are out. Nothing is ever taken, but their belonging are being rifled through. The pressure is on for the sheriff to solve these cases - it's a re-election year. And the stakes are upped when a break-in turns to murder.

Gus Carpenter, editor of the local paper is covering the biggest story of his career. The victim is someone near and dear to him. And as he digs deeper into the story, he finds it taking him places he never expected -  and much closer to home than he could have imagined.

Gus is Gruley's recurring protagonist. I really liked Gus - he just came across as real, down to earth and believable. He's dealing with job stress/cutbacks, an elderly mother with the beginnings of dementia and an on again off again relationship - with a local deputy. He's not painted as an infallible, intrepid reporter, but just a regular guy.

The mystery in The Skeleton Box is timely and features a good solid plot. But for me, it was the town of Starvation Lake and its' residents that took centre stage. Characterization is Gruley's strong point. I loved all the colourful citizens. My only problem was that everyone has a nickname as well. I had a wee bit of trouble keeping everyone straight.(Take note - Bryan Gruley's nickname is Grules!) Gruley has painted a vivid, accurate portrait of the town. The River Rats hockey team, their players and the town's support is so spot on I thought Gruley was writing about my small town. ( Go Irish!) The various hockey analogies used were quite effective.

Even though I have missed the first two in the series, I was able to enjoy this book as a stand alone. (But it would be definitely worth looking up the first two) Folksy is a term that popped to mind when I was trying to think of how to describe Gruley's writing. Read an excerpt of The Skeleton Box.

"Bryan Gruley is a reporter at large for Bloomberg News. Formerly the Chicago bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal, Gruley shared in the Pulitzer Prize given to the newspaper for coverage of the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has won the Anthony, Barry and Strand Awards and was nominated for an Edgar Award for best first novel." You can find Bryan Gruley on Twitter and on Facebook.

Sound like a book you'd like to read? Well, thanks to the nice folks at Simon and Schuster, I have a copy to give away. Open to US and Canada, no po boxes please. Simply leave a comment to be entered. Ends Aug 4/12.

Monday, July 16, 2012

I Suck at Girls - Justin Halpern

Justin Halpern....Isn't he the guy whose dad...? Yes, this is the second book from Justin Halpern, who shot to fame when he started a twitter account sharing his father's wisdom - sh*t my dad says. It snowballed -  a best selling book and a television show followed. And, yeah his dad is pretty funny.

The fun continues with I Suck at Girls as Halpern details his passage through the birds and bees, adolescence, dating and ultimately marriage. All of course with a good dose of fatherly advice.

I was glad I chose to listen to this latest offering in audio format. Sean Schemmel was the reader. He has a very expressive voice. His 'Justin' voice was perfect - by turns, innocent, incredulous and always with great inflection. The 'dad' voice was also great - gravelly with lots of ' are you getting this down' in the tone.

Honestly, Justin and his dad are truly funny. I found myself laughing out loud many times. (I often listen to audio books at night in bed - hubby can't stand the light. He did think I was going a bit loony breaking out into laughter in the dark!)

But along with the humour, there is a lot of truth in the situations Justin finds himself in. And although lots of Dad's comments are caustic, biting, and foul mouthed, he does come up with some good common sense advice.

Looking for a fun book for that summer car ride? Pop this one in the player. Listen to an excerpt of I Suck at Girls. Or read an excerpt. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Winner - Gone Missing

And the two lucky winners of a copy of copy of Gone Missing by Linda Castillo, courtesy of St. Martins Press are:

1. rubynreba
2. Jessica T

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

Friday, July 13, 2012

Heading Out to Wonderful - Robert Goolrick

I first discovered Robert Goolrick when I read  A Reliable Wife. I was captivated by his writing style and his storytelling. (my review) I was eager to read his latest novel - Heading Out to Wonderful.

Charlie Beale rolls into the small town of Brownsburg, Virginia in 1948. Brownsburg is off the beaten path and nothing much happens - life goes on in  day to day set rhythms. But the arrival of this stranger and his two suitcases brings change. Charlie has one suitcase full of money and the other full of his butcher's knives. After days spent silently wandering the town, he decides that this sleepy town will become the home he is looking for. He secures a job with the local butcher Charlie, allows Charlie's wife Alma to fuss over him and becomes friends with their five year old son Sam. And with the money, he begins to buy land and a house.

Heading Out to Wonderful is Sam's narrative - told many years later.

"This story actually happened, and it happened pretty much the way I'm going to tell it to you. It's a true story, as much as six decades of remembering and telling can allow it to be true. But I still ask myself sometimes late at night, about what happened, how it all turned out, about the life I've led, you know, everything. I ask myself the same questions they ask me, these people who've only heard about it, who weren't even around when it all took place. What happened and why did it have to happen in the way it did?"

What happened? Charlie Beale saw Sylvan Glass - the young wife of the town's richest man. And that,
my friends was the beginning.....

I love Goolrick's writing style. It is full of opposites, of push and pull. The story is stark, but the language is rich and full. The tale is full of tension, but the journey there is told in a leisurely fashion with eloquent prose that had me stopping, rereading, enjoying and only then moving on to the next page.

Charlie and Sylvan are magnets inextricably attracted and young Sam is witness to all. Goolrick takes his novel places I didn't see coming - the final chapters caught me unawares. Heading Out to Wonderful again explores love, attraction, friendship, betrayal and inevitability. Sam's accounting of things takes on an almost otherworldly, mystic feel, as though we've been allowed to see behind the curtain.

As Charlie says..... "Let me tell you something son. When you're young, and you head out to wonderful, everything is fresh and bright as a brand new penny, but before you get to wonderful, you're going to have to pass through all right. And when you get to all right, stop and take a good, long look, because that may be as far as you're ever going to go."

Pick up a copy of Goolrick's book - you'll pass straight by all right and directly on in to wonderful. Highly recommended. Read an excerpt of Heading Out to Wonderful. You can find Robert Goolrick on Twitter.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Over the Counter #118

What book caught my eye this week as it passed over my library counter and under the scanner? Making Mini Books byKathleen McCafferty. Have you seen those necklaces with a little mini book? Too cute and the instructions were in this book!

From the publisher Lark Crafts:

"Everyone loves handmade books--and these adorable mini volumes are generally easier to craft than their larger counterparts! Some even require only folding and stapling. This charming collection includes beautiful leather-clad journals, block print notepads, accordion-fold mini-zines, and others that feature interior pockets, unique closures, colorful stitching, and eye-catching bindings. An invaluable illustrated stitch guide provides the essential info for every binding.

Kathleen McCafferty is an editor for Lark Books and edited the bestselling Making Handmade Books by Alisa Golden. She lives in Asheville, North Carolina. "

(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, July 11, 2012

The Red House - Mark Haddon

I loved Mark Haddon's best seller The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. I haven't read any of his other books, but based on that one read I was eager to pick up his latest - The Red House.

Richard and Angela are brother and sister living in England. They rarely see each other, but following the death of their mother, Richard, a wealthy doctor, invites his sister, her husband and their three children to vacation with him for a week in the country side. Richard has recently remarried and his new wife and step daughter will also be there.

You can see lots of angst and fodder for thought in just the set up - estrangement, death, grief, family squabbles and more. Angela and her family are rife with problems.

I've had this book for a bit and have been picking it up and putting it down, unable to consume it at prolonged sittings. The book is told in a 'stream of conciousness' narrative. Each of the eight characters' thoughts and actions can appear at any time.  Many times it's not clear who is speaking - chapters begin with She for example. As I read further and began to know each character and their way of thinking it became easier to identify the current speaker. But, then sometimes Haddon throws in passages from a book someone is reading or lists of things that really have no bearing on anything.

The Red House has been leaping onto bestseller lists everywhere. I find myself feeling a bit lost, like the kid who doesn't get the joke.  For I found Red House disconcerting, disturbing and demoralizing by turns. Although I agree that Haddon's explorations of his characters' desires, needs and wants are quite intimate and thought provoking, I could only take so much at a sitting. Hence, the length of time it took me to finish the book.

There's no denying that Haddon has explored family dysfunction in great depth with an inventive vehicle to carry those observations.  However, there seemed to be no resolution from first page to last. The characters are still nursing the same angst as they were in the beginning. I realize that not every book needs to have a happy ending or ends all tied up, but I felt no sense of satisfaction on turning the last page. Rather, just relief that I had finished.

Read an excerpt of The Red House.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Night Watch - Linda Fairstein - Review AND Giveaway

 Linda Fairstein's latest release, Night Watch, marks the fourteenth book in her highly successful Alex Cooper series.

This has been one of my favourite crime series over the years. Alex works in the  New York P.D. Sex Crimes Unit. Fairstein herself Linda Fairstein was chief of the Sex Crimes Unit of the district attorney’s office in Manhattan for more than two decades and is a legal expert on sexual assault and domestic violence. This gives her novels that unmistakable ring of truth and attention to detail - only one of the things that has kept me coming back to read the newest novel.

In Night Watch, Alex has headed over to France to visit with her latest love - Luc, a Michelin three star restaurant owner. When a young woman is found murdered in the idyllic French village, the local constabulary suspects Luc - there are connections he has neglected to mention that look suspicious. Also suspicious are the old skulls and bones left on his home's doorstep. Alex has plans to stay in France for two weeks, but a desperate plea from her partners Mike and Mercer and a distinct order from her boss have her heading back to New York. A high level diplomatic and world figure is being accused of rape by a hotel maid. (yep, lots of similarities to recent headlines)

Mike and Mercer are another one of the reasons I love this series. Fairstein has created a wonderful group of protagonists  - each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Mike is brash, bold and fearless. Mercer is quieter, thoughtful and thinks before he acts or speaks. But the three of them together make for a team that gets results. The camaraderie between these three has grown and solidified over the course of many years. Of the two supporting characters, I prefer Mercer and would like to see him more of a larger storyline.

Luc is also planning to open a high end restaurant in New York. Cleared to travel, he heads to oversee his new enterprise.....but a second body is found.....again, with ties to Luc. Is Luc really the man Alex thought he was? Is he telling the truth or is someone railroading him? Between those worries and the fact that the witness in the high stakes rape case keeps changing her tune, Alex is spreading herself awfully thin. And it shows.

In Night Watch, Alex doesn't seem to have the same forceful personality I've come to love. Yes, she is still on top of her legal game. But, her relationship with Luc seems to have her making excuses and behaving out of character. Maybe part of it is that I really don't like Luc at all. He makes numerous misogynistic and racist comments in the first few opening chapters. They're quite offensive and I can't believe Coop doesn't take umbrage with them. Her mooning about their relationship and Mike's willingness to feed that neediness just plain rubbed me the wrong way.

The third thing I love about Fairstein's novel is the New York history she always weaves into her novels. This time it's about the Prohibition era and the various ways that the ban was circumvented. I found the piece on 21 restaurant fascinating and went crawling the web to read more.

I'm still a big fan of this series and will happily pick up the next book. While I enjoyed Night Watch, it just fell a little flat for this reader. All the right pieces were there - all that was missing was the Alex I know. My advice - dump Luc.  Read an excerpt of Night Watch.

You can find Linda Fairstein on Facebook and on Twitter.

What did other bloggers on the TLC tour think? See the full schedule here.

Thanks to the lovely folks at Dutton Books, I have a copy of Night Watch to giveaway. Open to US and Canada. Simply leave a comment to be entered. Ends July 29.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry - Rachel Joyce - Review AND Giveaway

There's been lots of buzz about Rachel Joyce's debut novel - The Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.

Harold lives in the southern part of England. He is a quiet man, who has tried to keep a low profile in life, preferring not to draw attention to himself. He has recently retired and now stays at home with his wife Maureen, filling the days with small, mundane tasks. But, the relationship between himself and Maureen is growing increasingly fractious. One day the post arrives - with a letter from someone named Queenie Hennessey. Queenie and Harold worked together many years ago, but haven't kept in touch. Queenie is dying and has written a good bye letter to Harold. Harold feels he should send a reply, so he does and dutifully sets off to mail it straight away. Except.....when he reaches the post box, he decides to post it at the next box. And then he has an epiphany - why not deliver the letter in person? And if he can walk the 600 miles to Queenie - she won't die. And that moment marks the beginning of Harold's pilgrimage.

"Tell her Harold Fry is on his way. All she has to do is wait. Because I am going to save her, you see. I will keep walking and she must keep living."

As Harold walks, he begins to remember and recount his past, much of which he has chosen to repress.

 "It surprised him that he was remembering all this. Maybe it was the walking. Maybe you saw even more than the land when you got out of the car and used your feet."

With just the clothes he had on when he left the house, Harold is forced to step outside of his comfort zone and interact with those he encounters. Many of these people are 'stuck' as well. Harold seems to grow a little bit more with every connection and every step he takes. Harold's journey has an effect on Maureen as well - although she is not walking, she too is on a journey of self discovery.

"In waking, he freed that past that he had spent twenty years seeking to avoid, and now it chattered and played through his head with a wild energy that was its own. He no longer saw distance in terms of miles. He measured it with his remembering."

Oh, what can I say -  I absolutely loved this book! Joyce has created a marvellous character in Harold - he fairly leapt off the page for me.  I shared his sadness, urged him on when he faltered and was sitting on the edge of my chair in the final chapters. But it was Harold's (re)discovering of himself that had me alternating between tears and joy. Joyce's exploration of the human spirit is by turns heart breaking and life affirming. Harold's journey is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of redemption. Just an absolutely fantastic debut.

Do yourself a favour - take a walk with Harold - it's a road worth travelling. Read an excerpt of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.

Fans of Lori Lansens' The Wife's Tale would enjoy this book.

And thanks to the great folks at Random House, I have a copy of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry to giveaway. Open to US only, no PO boxes please. Simply leave a comment to be entered. Ends July 28th.

Check out what the other bloggers on the TLC tour thought. Full schedule can be found here.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Winner - The Last Romanov

And the lucky winner of a copy of The Last Romanov by Dora Levy Mossanen,
courtesy of Sourcebooks is:

Nathaly Habich!

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

Winner - Gone Girl

And the lucky (really lucky- I loved this book) winner of a copy
 courtesy of

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

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Over the Counter #117

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over my library counter and under the scanner? A pair of memoirs this week.

First up was Before They're Gone by Michael Lanza. Subtitled - A Family's Year-Long Quest to Explore America's Most Endangered National Parks.

From the publisher, Beacon Press:

"A longtime backpacker, climber, and skier, Michael Lanza knows our national parks like the back of his hand. As a father, he hopes to share these special places with his two young children. But he has seen firsthand the changes wrought by the warming climate and understands what lies ahead: Alaska's tidewater glaciers are rapidly retreating, and the abundant sea life in their shadow departs with them. Encroaching tides threaten beloved wilderness coasts like Washington's Olympic and Florida's Everglades. Less snowfall and hotter summers will diminish Yosemite's world-famous waterfalls. And it is predicted that Glacier National Park's 7,000-year-old glaciers will be gone in a decade.

To Lanza, it feels like the house he grew up in is being looted. Painfully aware of the ecological-and spiritual-calamity that global warming will bring to our nation's parks, Lanza sets out to show his children these wonders before they have changed forever.

He takes his nine-year-old son, Nate, and seven-year-old daughter, Alex, on an ambitious journey to see as many climate-threatened wild places as he can fit into a year: backpacking in the Grand Canyon, Glacier, the North Cascades, Mount Rainier, Rocky Mountain, and along the wild Olympic coast; sea kayaking in Alaska's Glacier Bay; hiking to Yosemite's waterfalls; rock climbing in Joshua Tree National Park; cross-country skiing in Yellowstone; and canoeing in the Everglades.

Through these poignant and humorous adventures, Lanza shares the beauty of each place and shows how his children connect with nature when given "unscripted" time. Ultimately, he writes, this is more their story than his, for whatever comes of our changing world, they are the ones who will live in it."

Next up was Growing a Farmer by Kurt Timmermeister. Subtitled - How I Learned to Live Off the Land.

From the publisher, W.W. Norton:

"When he purchased four acres of land on Vashon Island, Kurt Timmermeister was only looking for an affordable home near the restaurants he ran in Seattle. But as he slowly settled into his new property, he became awakened to the connection between what he ate and where it came from: a hive of bees provided honey, a young cow could give fresh milk, an apple orchard allowed him to make vinegar. With refreshing honesty, Timmermeister details the initial stumbles and subsequent realities he faced as he established a profitable farm for himself. Personal yet practical, Growing a Farmer will entirely recast the way we think about our relationship to the food we consume.

(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, July 4, 2012

What You Wish For - Kerry Reichs

I adored Kerry Reichs' previous book - Leaving Unknown. (review here) So, I was eager to dive into her latest release - What You Wish For.

We are rapidly introduced to the characters who populate Reichs' tale - and they all have one thing in common. Children. The desire to have them or in some cases - to not have them.

Dimple was first up. She's a moderately successful actress, closing in on the the end of her ticking biological clock.  Can the role of a lifetime beat out her desire to have a child? I did find her opening chapter a bit frenetic and didn't really warm up to this character until midway through the book.

Eva has no desire to have children. Will this end her relationship with the man she loves? Or will she change her mind?

Maryn has battled breast cancer and won. Before her treatment, she froze eggs with her then husband. They've since divorced and she needs his approval to use the eggs. But his new wife says no. Will he change his mind?

And my favourite character - Wyatt. He's the principal of a high school, single and straight and he wants to have a child of his own. He's headed down the surrogacy route. Wyatt was just so warm, caring and innocent. But at the same time he's wise to the ways of his high schoolers. These were some of my favourite chapters.

And these four main characters' lives all intersect in the most interesting fashion....

Loved it! Once I had the characters and their lives straight in my head, What You Wish For was an easy, breezy read. Reichs is a clever writer. The amount of puns she worked in between two characters was truly funny. (and some of them were emminently groan worthy!) The banter is light, some situations are quite comical, but there is a depth to What You Wish For that transcends everyday chick lit. Reichs explores the desire to have children from four very different viewpoints with candor and thoughtfulness, allowing the reader to share in each character's decision making - and think about what really consitutes a family.

Reichs utilizes Hollywood as a backdrop for her novel. Her sly skewering of televison dramas and starlets made me laugh out loud.

Fair warning - have the tissue box close by for the ending. My husband looked at me and asked - are you really crying over a book? Umm - yeah, I got that caught up in the story. Thanks Kerry for yet another great read. Pop this one in the beach bag this summer - you won't regret it. Read an excerpt of What You Wish For.

Kerry Reichs, a graduate of Duke University School of Law and Stanford Institute of Public Policy, practiced law in Washington, D.C. She is the author of The Best Day of Someone Else’s Life and Leaving Unknown.

 You can find Kerry on Facebook and on Twitter.

See what everyone else on the TLC tour thought. The full schedule can be found here.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Third Gate - Lincoln Child

Lincoln Child is one half of the prolific writing duo Preston and Child. (Their recurring protagonist Pendergast is one of my favourites) But each of these authors manges to find time to put out individual books as well.

The Third Gate is Lincoln Child's  latest solo offering.

Professor Jeremy Logan refers to himself as an "enigmalogist" - sleuthing out the unexplained that may have real scientific origins or those that are otherworldly. Treasure hunter Porter Stone hires Jeremy to work on his latest project. Porter believes that there is a priceless Egyptian artifact hidden in the depths of the seemingly impenetrable swamp that is the Sudd. But his floating archaeological base has been beset by problems and anomalies - some that can't be explained away. Could it be the curse of the Egyptian King Narmer whose burial place they are digging up? And what of the wife of the site's doctor? She claims to be able to channel those long dead. Is it a scam or is it the real thing? Is the past coming to haunt the present? Can Jeremy ferret out the truth?

Logan was a likable character, calm, thoughtful and intelligent. Had he been an excitable over the top protagonist, the storyline just wouldn't have worked. I hope that Child has future plans for Jeremy - I can see him exploring more of the unexplained.

This is the kind of book that Child excels at - pure unadulterated, escapist, entertainment reading. Mummies, curses, treasure, science and supernatural - if you're happy to suspend disbelief and just enjoy an adventurous tale full of what ifs, than this is the perfect summer read for you. (along with a bag of chips) Fans of the Indiana Jones types of novel would enjoy this book. Read an excerpt of The Third Gate.

(Take note that Child has fiddled with some of the Egyptology - in his afterword he notes that some dates and rites have been changed to fit the story and are not necessarily fact)

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Risk Agent - Ridley Pearson

For this reader, Ridley Pearson is an author whose books I pick up without even glancing at the flyleaf. I enjoy his writing and just know I'm in for a good read.
The Risk Agent is Pearson's latest release.

The American firm of Rutherford Risk specializes in 'extraction' - the recovery of kidnap victions and hostages. Chinese national Lu Hao is kidnapped, as is Cletus Danner - the American who was keeping an eye on Lu Hao. This operation is going to require some finesse.......and some unique operatives. Civilian John Knox is approached - he has an intimate knowledge of the country and the language. And he has specialized military training as well. His counterpart? Grace Chu. On the surface she is simply a forensic accountant, hired to follow the money. But she too has military training.

I found the background behind the Risk Agent interesting. Ridley Pearson spent a year in Shanghai with his family while teaching at a local university. This year's residence added much detail to The Risk Agent. The customs, culture, language and descriptions of the land and it's people were richly described and definitely added to the overall tone of the book.

My favourite series of Pearson's have been the Lou Boldt novels.  With The Risk Agent, Ridley takes us in a new direction - espionage instead of suspense. I felt a little lost in the beginning as there are many, many characters introduced very quickly. The book hits the ground running from the first chapter and never lets up. There are layers upon layers in the plot, with everyone having their own agenda hidden below the primary objective. You'll want to be on your toes to keep track of all the machinations going on.

But the real draw are these new characters. Pearson has wisely created both a strong male and female protagonist, appealing to all readers. I enjoyed both characters, but was more drawn to John. I think his personal back story engaged me more. The Risk Agent is the first offering in a new series. I'll be looking forward to the next novel featuring this pair. Now that the stage has been set, I think there's lots of action ahead for this intrepid duo.

Fans of the Ludlum novels and those of Vince Flynn would enjoy this new series. Read an excerpt of The Risk Agent.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Canadian Book Challenge 6

And with Canada Day comes the start of the next Canadian Book Challenge! Number 6 to be exact . This challenge is hosted by John of The Book Mine Set.

"What is the Canadian Book Challenge?

The Canadian Book Challenge is an online reading challenge in which participants from Canada and around the world aim to read and review 13 or more Canadian books in a one year span: Canada Day to Canada Day. Reviews must be posted online and participants are asked to share links to their reviews with other participants."

This will be my 4th year participating. (And I've met the challenge every year) It's a wonderful way to sample the great writing Canada has to offer and discover new authors. Interested in joining? Further details and sign up info can be found here.

I'll be keeping track of my progress on this post as well!

1. A Door in the River - Inger Ash Wolfe - August
2. Crow's Landing - Brad Smith - August
3. Until the Night - Giles Blunt - August
4.The Beautiful Mystery - Louise Penny - September
5. Y - Marjorie Celona - September
6. Watching the Dark - Peter Robinson - September
7. Trust Your Eyes - Linwood Barclay - September
8. The Deception of Livvy Higgs - Donna Morrissey - September
9. The Purchase - Linda Spalding - October
10. Carly's Voice - Arthur Fleishmann with Carly Fleishmann - November
11. Eleven Pipers Piping - C.C. Benison - November
12. Beware This Boy - Maureen Jennings - November
13. Astray - Emma Donoghue - December
14. Speaking From Among the Bones - Alan Bradley - January
15. Criminal Enterprise - Owen Laukkanen - April
16. Never Saw it Coming - Linwood Barclay - June
17. Eat St. - James Cunningham - June
18. Stranglehold - Robert Rotenberg - June
19. Death's Last Run - Robin Spano - June
20. Hidden - Catherine McKenzie - June

Happy Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day!!!

"Canada Day  is the national day of Canada, a federal statutory holiday celebrating the anniversary of the July 1, 1867, enactment of the British North America Act, 1867 (today called the Constitution Act, 1867, in Canada), which united three colonies into a single country called Canada within the British Empire. Originally called Dominion Day  the name was changed in 1982, the year the Canada Act was passed. Canada Day observances take place throughout Canada as well as internationally."