Friday, August 31, 2012

Resident Teen Blogger Ella is back....

....with more of her great YA recommendations!

First up is The Selection by Kiera Cass.

"Part post-apocalyptic, part Cinderella, part The Bachelor (the TV show), this book was a serious mash-up. After a catastrophic war, Illea rose from the ashes of the USA. Society is divided into a caste system, and the kingdom is ruled by a royal family. The time has come for the Crown Prince to choose his bride, and all single girls who are of age are invited to compete for his hand. America Singer throws her hat into the ring to please her family, but all she really wants is to be with her lower-caste and secret love. She's shocked when she is chosen to go to the castle, one of 35 girls participating in the life-changing Selection. Once she gets there, though, things are different than she had imagined. Prince Maxon isn't as terrible as she had imagined, and castle life is constantly under the shadow of the threat of rebel attack...
This book was fabulous, from the gorgeous cover to the end. I enjoyed it in a way few recent post-apocalypse romance have managed. Can't wait for the sequel!" Read an excerpt of The Selection.

Up next is Ghost Flower by Michelle Jaffe.

"Michele's new thing seems to be writing crazy somewhat-psychological thrillers. If you read Rose Bush, another awesome book by her, you know what I'm talking about. Eve, a runaway,  has been hired by siblings Bain and Bridgett to impersonate their cousin Aurora, who ran away three years before, and get the fortune Aurora was set to inherit. As she slips into the role , Eve begins to wonder why Aurora ran away, especially when the ghost of Liza, who died the same night Aurora ran away, insists there is more to the story of her death than a simple accident. Despite very little actual action, the suspense in Ghost Flower was intense, and the reader is kept guessing until the very last page. Everyone is a suspect, and no one is telling the whole truth. Layers and layers of mystery to absolutely everything, and more than a touch of danger. Loved it!" Read an excerpt of Ghost Flower.

As alway, excellent recommendations and reviews Ella!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Over the Counter #125

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Cool treats! 'Cause gosh darn it, summer isn't over yet...!

First up was People's Pops by Natahalie Jordi, David Carrell and Joel Horowitz.

From the publisher Ten Speed Press:

"A flavor-packed collection of 65 recipes from the trio behind the premier pops stand in the country, People’s Pops.

In 2008, three old friends had a hunch that the world deserved a better ice pop. Every summer since, New York City’s been taken by storm with out-of-the-box flavors like Raspberries & Basil, Peach & Bourbon, and Cantaloupe & Tarragon from People’s Pops. Now, the People behind the phenomenon share their DIY ethos in a breezy cookbook that teaches how to pair ingredients, balance sweetness, and explore fruits (and vegetables and herbs!)--in simple recipes that work with standard ice pop molds or improvised ones. With a chapter devoted to shave ice plus recipes for grownup boozy pops sprinkled throughout, People’s Pops proves itself top of the pops."

Next up was Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer.

From the publisher Artisan :

"James Beard Award Winner: Best Baking and Dessert Book of 2011!
At last, addictive flavors, and a breakthrough method for making creamy, scoopable ice cream at home, from the proprietor of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, whose artisanal scooperies in Ohio are nationally acclaimed.
Now, with her debut cookbook, Jeni Britton Bauer is on a mission to help foodies create perfect ice creams, yogurts, and sorbets—ones that are every bit as perfect as hers—in their own kitchens. Frustrated by icy and crumbly homemade ice cream, Bauer invested in a $50 ice cream maker and proceeded to test and retest recipes until she devised a formula to make creamy, sturdy, lickable ice cream at home. Filled with irresistible color photographs, this delightful cookbook contains 100 of Jeni’s jaw-droppingly delicious signature recipes—from her Goat Cheese with Roasted Cherries to her Queen City Cayenne to her Bourbon with Toasted Buttered Pecans. Fans of easy-to-prepare desserts with star quality will scoop this book up. How cool is that?"

(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, August 29, 2012

Susan Wiggs - Q&A AND Giveaway

I'm thrilled to be hosting author Susan Wiggs at A Bookworm's World today. Susan has just released her latest book -  Return to Willow Lake - the ninth installment in the Lakeshore Chronicle series. Susan was gracious enough to do a quick Q&A session!

1. What do you feel is the appeal of an ongoing series for a reader? And as a writer?

SW: As a reader, I love the feeling of returning to a familiar place with people I’ve “met.” It’s very involving. I’m hoping readers of Return to Willow Lake will enjoy the glimpses of past storylines, but that the story of Sonnet and Zach is fresh and fun.

2. Return to Willow Lake is the 9th book in The Lakeshore Chronicles. When you wrote the first book, did you envision there being a number nine? Did you start with a long range plan or does the story evolve with every addition?

SW: I knew from the start that there would be many books. When I started the series, I made a mural on the wall with images I’d clipped–faces and places, things I could picture in stories. The thing just kept growing. I don’t really have a detailed plan but I’m usually thinking a book or two ahead. I knew what I wanted for Sonnet while I was working on Marrying Daisy Bellamy.

3.What characters are near and dear to you? (Daisy?) Are any based on real life persons? Is the town based on somewhere you've lived or visited?

SW: Daisy, of course. But the main characters of any novel are near and dear to my heart, since I work with them every day I work on the book. They definitely share a piece of my heart. The town of Avalon is based on any number of small towns I’ve known and loved. Phoenicia and Catskill in upstate New York, my hometown in Washington state, the little western New York town where I was born, called Olean. What they all share is a tight-knit community, a closeness to nature and a charming layout. Avalon is so real to me now that the new book features illustrated maps of the key places in town.

4. Anything else you'd like to share with us? New projects?

SW: I’m loving all the action on my Facebook page! I hope readers will join me at facebook.com/susanwiggs.

Thanks for stopping by Susan! And I have a copy of Susan's book Return to Willow Lake to giveaway to one lucky winner. Open to US only, ends Sept16/12. Simply leave a comment to be entered.

"Return to Willow Lake centers on Sonnet Romano, whose life is almost perfect. She has the ideal career, the ideal boyfriend, and has just been offered a prestigious fellowship. There’s nothing more a woman wants – except maybe a baby…sister? When Sonnet finds out her mother is unexpectedly expecting, and that the pregnancy is high-risk, she puts everything on hold – the job, the fellowship, the boyfriend – and heads home to Avalon just until things back on track. But when her mother receives a devastating diagnosis, Sonnet must decide what really matters in life, even of that means staying in Avalon and taking a job that forces her to work alongside her biggest, and maybe her sweetest, mistake – award-winning filmmaker Zach Alger. At once heartbreaking and uplifting, Return to Willow Lake plumbs the deepest corners of the human heart, exploring the bonds of family, the perils and rewards of love, and the true meaning of home.

Susan Wiggs is a three time RITA® Award winner, a #1 New York Times, Washington Post, USA TODAY and Publishers Weekly bestselling author, and winner of Dorothy Parker Award of Excellence."

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend - Matthew Dicks

Every once in a while, a book that falls outside of my normal reading choices will catch my eye - something about the description or perhaps the cover. Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks was one of those books.

Did you have an imaginary friend when you were younger? Perhaps you still do. Maybe your child does. Max Delaney is eight years old and he is 'different' than the other children in his class. Although his father denies it, his mother has accepted that Max has Asperger's - a form of autism. Max has an imaginary friend named Budo who has been around for quite a long time now - five years. That's a long time in the world of imaginary friends. But Budo is worried - if  Max stops believing in Budo, then he will he disappear? But then the unthinkable happens - it is Max who disappears - taken by someone who wants Max as their own child. And the only person who knows where Max is? Budo. But what can he do? He's only a figment of Max's imagination. Or is he.....

What an utterly unique and captivating book this was! I chose to listen to Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend. and was glad I did. Some books are just better in audio format. This was especially true for this book. The reader was Matthew Brown and his voice was perfect. Budo is the narrator of this story and Brown was able to portray the innocence of Budo in his diction and tone, infusing his voice with much emotion and wonder. Truly, Budo came alive in Brown's reading. He adapted different voices for each of the characters, providing me with a strong mental image of every player. I did find the first disc to be a bit slow, as Budo's narrative seemed repetitive and overly basic. But, then I thought about it and realized that Budo is a product of Max's mind. And Max "lives his life mostly inside himself." Upon reflection, the account seemed in keeping with the way Max thinks.

By the second disc, I was hooked. I wanted to know more about Budo, his world and the other friends he meets and knows. Max's story takes a bad turn and by then, there was no turning back. I was quite upset to have arrived at work already. (I listen to books on CD back and forth every day)

The whole imaginary friend idea really makes you stop and think. Children employ them for various reasons and I found the inclusion of an adult imaginary friend quite intriguing. Dicks has done a bang up job of creating wonderful characters, a heartbreaking and heartwarming tale and spinning it into one of the most unique tales I've experienced in a long time.

Listen to an excerpt of Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend.

Read an excerpt of Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend.

I think you're either going to love it or leave it. This reader loved it. It somewhat reminded me of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.

In addition to being an author, Dicks is a parent and elementary teacher. The school is one of the main settings and Dicks has captured it and the character of beloved teacher Mrs. Gosk completely. (It turns out that Mrs. Gosk is a real teacher. You can listen to an interview with Dicks and Gosk here.)

You can find Matthew Dicks on Facebook and on Twitter.

Monday, August 27, 2012

12-21 - Dustin Thomason - Review AND Giveaway

Okay, you've probably heard about it - the latest date for the end of the world. December 21, 2012 will be the final curtain according to some interpretations of the Mayan long calendar.

Dustin Thomason sets his latest novel - 12-21 - (a solo effort after his successful co-authoring of The Rule of Four in 2004) a few weeks before that date.

Dr. Gabriel Stanton is a world renowned expert in the field of prions - those tiny agents responsible for what we commonly call mad cow disease. When he receives a call from a local doctor insisting she has a case he needs to look at, he reluctantly attends. But when he arrives, what he discovers is unthinkable - a prion disease with no known cause or cure....and no way of knowing how it's being spread.

Dr. Chel Manu is an expert in her field as well - Mayan documents and dialects. When a known looter leaves an artifact with her, she too is stunned. It's a rare codex describing a time period in Mayan culture that has never been documented - until now.

Gabriel's patient? From Guatemala. Manu? From Guatemala. And now Gabriel and Chel are thrown together in a race against time to discover answers, antidotes and more....before it's too late.

Thomason has crafted an excellent tale, drawing us in in many ways. The mystery of past civilizations has always fascinated me. There are examples of Mayan glyphs throughout the book. At first I thought they looked quite cartoonish and of course had to go online to check them out. Turns out, that's what they really look like. There were other bits of story line that I followed up as well. Tomason has done his research.

The whole prion disease thing is scary - and the disease Chel and Gabriel encounter? It's real. Lots of food for thought - except maybe meat.

All of this provides a good solid foundation for the main two characters. They're well fleshed out and I liked them both - Chel a little more. Some of the supporting characters seemed to be a bit cliched. And I question the purpose of the 'Monster' character. He didn't seem to add anything to the story. I did enjoy the insertions of passages from the codex, written by Paktul, a Mayan scribe.

There's lot of action and run up to the final chapters that kept me eagerly turning pages. I was a bit disappointed by some of the end scenes - although exciting, they were slightly unbelievable, which was disappointing given the research and care put into the rest of the book. But, all in all, 12-21 was a good, entertaining read. ( And I can see it being made into a movie)  Read an excerpt of 12-21.

Fans of Michael Crichton and Dan Brown will enjoy this blending of science and history. Thomason could not have picked a more perfect time to release this book. Dec 21 should be an interesting day.....

Dustin Thomason attended Harvard University, where he studied anthropology and medicine. He won the Hoopes Prize for undergraduate writing, and graduated in 1998. Thomason also received his M.D. and MBA from Columbia University in 2003. You can find Thomason on Twitter.


Sound like a book you'd enjoy? Well, thank to the lovely folks at Dial Press, I have a copy to giveaway. Simply leave a comment to be entered. Open to US and Canada, ends Sept. 15/12.

See what others on the TLC tour thought. Full schedule here.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Let The Devil Sleep winner

And the lucky winner of a copy of Let the Devil Sleep by John Verdon, courtesy of Crown Publishing is:

Piero G!

Piero you didn't leave an email address. Please contact me at the email on my sidebar with your mailing address within 48 hours.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Last Policeman - Ben H. Winters

 Ben H. Winters. You might recognize this author's name - he penned the New York Times bestseller Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. Winters' latest book The Last Policeman is just as imaginative and inventive.

I've got a fondness for post apocalyptic fiction, but Winters has penned a pre-apocalyptic novel.

The Last Policeman is set in the months before the world as we know it will end. It is inevitable - an asteroid is going to hit the earth and the impact will destroy our planet. What would you do, knowing the world was ending? Start ticking off items on your bucket list? End things on your terms? Henry Castle does none of that, instead he continues on as normal. He's a newly appointed detective on a police force that is dwindling, both in resources and manpower. When Henry is called to an apparent suicide, he can't shake the niggling feeling that this death may not be what it looks like. And in a world about to end, Henry pursues this case as a murder.

Henry was such an engaging character - earnest, forthright, honest, polite, trusting and an anomaly in these times. Even though the world will end, he chooses to stay true to himself and his beliefs until the day that happens. Winters' plot is full of twists and red herrings. I truly enjoyed Hank's dogged and determined pursuit of the truth.

"Right at this moment I have to decide, is the thing. Am I going to leave town and go north to Maine and find a house on Casco Bay and sit there and stare out the window with my sidearm and wait, or am I going to stay here and do my work and finish my case. My cases."

I've read lots of post apocalyptic fiction, but it was interesting to read Winters' view of what the world might hold before that final blow. Winters gives us lots of food for thought in people's actions and words.

There's a secondary plot involving Hank's sister, that I thought was filler until the last few chapters. It caught me off guard and piqued my interest for the next book, as The Last Policeman is the first in a trilogy. The Last Policeman was an unusual blend of sci-fi and mystery that just worked.  I'm curious to see what else will happen before the asteroid hits.....or after.

Read an excerpt of The Last Policeman. You can find Ben H. Winters on Twitter.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Over the Counter #124

What books caught my eye this week as they pass over the library counter and under my scanner. Vintage books this week!

First up was The Little Guide to Vintage Shopping by Melody Fortier.

From the publisher Quirk Books:

"Vintage shopping offers couture quality at a fraction of the price. But how can you spot a Dior original in a rack full of LBDs? That’s where vintage dealer Melody Fortier comes in. Her Little Guide to Vintage Shopping demystifies the entire process so you’ll know what to look for, what to avoid, and what to pay. Armed with this savvy guide, readers will learn how to:

* Select and wear unique clothing from eras past
* Ensure the perfect fit and silhouette
* Distinguish time period and evaluate quality
* Clean, care for, and store vintage clothing
* Give new life to vintage items through simple alterations

Fortier also offers shopping tips from an international panel of experts and reveals the best vintage shopping destinations in the world-from trendy Manhattan flea markets and hip Los Angeles boutiques to some of Europe’s best-kept secrets. With The Little Guide to Vintage Shopping in their handbags, frugal fashionistas will be ready to take the world by storm. The hunt for treasures is on!

Next up was Vintage Tea Party by Carolyn and Chris Caldicott.

From Frances Lincoln Publishers:

"Everyone loves an old-fashioned tea party. Mix-and-match crockery, bone-handled knives, lace and linen, teapots with cosies, sweet peas and roses, home baking and Victorian cocktails in tea cups - they're all back in vogue. Indoors by the fire in winter or outside in summer sunshine, hosts and guests can relax together with none of the stress or formality of a dinner party. Afternoon tea is the quintessential British tradition that has developed from its modest beginnings to become a much-loved celebration of indulgent pleasures.

With evocative photographs and mouth-watering recipes, Vintage Tea Party shows how you can re-create a nostalgic world of classic comfort, elegance and delicious treats. Try Carolyn Caldicott's perfect cucumber sandwich, Victoria sponge cake, rose petal jelly, English muffins, crumpets, Earl Grey tea with gin and lemon, 'the best chocolate cake you will ever taste' and much, much more."

(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, August 22, 2012

Judgment Call - J. A. Jance

I've been following the trials and tribulations of Sheriff Joanna Brady of Cochise County, Arizona for many years. J.A. Jance released the first book in 1993 and the latest installment - Judgment Call - marks the 15th entry in this long running and much loved series.

Joanna's fifteen year old daughter Jenny stumbles upon a body while out for an early morning ride. It turns out to be the body of the local high school principal, who had been reported as missing. And with that discovery, her personal and professional lives collide. It seems that Principal Highsmith had some secrets....

What has kept me coming back to this series over the years? The strength is in the recurring characters. Sitting down to read a Brady book is like listening to an old friend tell a good story. Brady's life has continued to change and evolve over the years, in a believable manner. She's a character I've come to know and like. So, the personal story lines are always a draw. I always enjoy the setting descriptions as well. Jance owns a home in Arizona, so the descriptions are drawn from personal observation.

The mystery is solid in Judgment Call, as is Joanna's investigation of it. Nothing earth shattering, but again, it's all in the telling. This is the first time I've chosen to listen to a Brady book. I was quite concerned what the reader would sound like, as I have developed a mental image for Joanna over the years. The reader was Hilary Huber and she was an excellent choice. I have listened to her narrate other audio books and enjoyed them. She has a slightly gravelly tone to her voice that is quite unique. Her voice is very well modulated and conveys strength, purpose and urgency without being raised. It conveyed the calm confidence of Sheriff Brady easily. Different characters are portrayed using easily differentiated voices.

The only jarring note in The Judgment was the inclusion of a secondary plot involving the death of Joanna's father that seemed almost tacked on. It was another link in Joanna's story and I was glad of the revelations but it just felt a little clumsy.

All in all, another good solid read from Jance. Listen to an excerpt of Judgment Call. Or read an excerpt. You can find J.A. Jance on Twitter and on Facebook.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Orphan Master - Jean Zimmerman

 Jean Zimmerman is the published author of many non fiction books, but The Orphan Master is her fiction debut.

Zimmerman's previous works have focused on the 'changing role of women in America.' In The Orphan Master she takes us back to 1663 and the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam - what we now know as Manhattan. Her protagonist is Blandine van Couvering, a young, beautiful woman who is also a successful trader. Blandine has been an orphan since the age of fifteen and the colony's local orphan master has helped her and hundreds of other parentless children find their way over the years. But when orphans start disappearing and rumours abound, Blandine is one of the few to take notice. Could it be the orphan master himself? What about the whispers of the Witika - a creature known to crave human flesh? Could it be the Native peoples? What about the Englishman newly landed in New Amsterdam? Or the wealthy family in town who control just about everything - except one of their own?

Zimmerman has successfully combined history and mystery with some romance thrown in to create a engrossing read. The descriptions of life in that time and place, the politics and the amount of historical detail woven into the tale made for made for fascinating reading. The characters were all strongly drawn, with Blandine being the standout for me. She was strong, fearless and made her own way in a time period where women were usually slated as supporting characters. Although I enjoyed the character of Drummond, the Englishman, he didn't grab me as much as I expected. Instead I was drawn to secondary characters, such as Blandine's friends and protectors Kitane, Antony and Raeger.

Although the identity of the perpetrator is known half way through the book, (and wasn't too hard to suss out) I never lost interest. The only part that felt awkward to me was the romantic getaway between Blandine and another character. It felt clumsily inserted and out of place. Fair warning to delicate readers - the crimes are quite gruesome. But all in all,  Zimmerman is a good storyteller and this first foray into fiction is quite commendable.  Film rights for The Orphan Master have been sold already. Read an excerpt of The Orphan Master.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Survivor - Gregg Hurwitz

  The Survivor is Gregg Hurwitz's latest book - following on the heels of his previous bestseller - You're Next.

The Survivor is one of the thriller books I love to devour - everyday, little guy put into an untenable situation with everything on the line. Fun escapist reading, akin to watching movies such as Die Hard.

In this case, Nate Overbay is our everyday guy. He had it all - a wife and daughter he loved dearly. Deployed to Afghanistan, he returned a changed man. Five years on, he suffers from PTSD, and is unable to be the husband and father he once was. He has separated from his wife Janie and daughter Cielle (who I did find more than a little annoying). And, just to add insult to injury, he's been diagnosed with ALS - Lou Gehrig's Disease - a fatal pronouncement.

The opening chapters find Nate on the ledge of a downtown bank, ready to end it all. He's got one foot over the edge, ready to leap when six masked men invade the bank. They're after something in the vault but don't care who they shoot to get to it. Nate's military training and conscience kick in - he can't watch this massacre and do nothing. Back into the bank he goes - and he manages to take down five of the six. But the sixth man promises he will regret his actions as he escapes.

When his family is threatened, Nate vows to protect them at all costs. And there's nothing more dangerous than a man who is already carrying a death sentence.

Hurwitz has crafted a page turning thriller that you'll end up devouring in no time flat. (I did!) The action is non-stop and the tension ratchets up as the stakes grow higher and higher. Over the top? Yes, in parts it is, but go with it, it's a heck of a good escapist piece of fiction. You'll find yourself on the edge of your seat, urging Nate on. Hurwitz does blend in enough emotional scenes to grab at our heartstrings on the way as well.

Read an excerpt of The Survivor. Or better yet - watch Lee Child read from The Survivor in the clip below. You can find Hurwitz on Facebook and on Twitter.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Winner - Kitty Steals the Show



And the lucky winner of a copy of Kitty Steals the Show by Carrie Vaughn, courtesy of Tor Books is:

Donnas! Donna kindly let me know she already had a copy, so the next name on the list is: Wrighty!

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



Winner - The Conviction


And the lucky winner of a copy of The Conviction by Robert Dugoni, courtesy of Touchstone Books is:

kat!


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

Friday, August 17, 2012

Off the Grid - P.J. Tracy

I picked up the first Monkeewrench book back in 2003 when the cover caught my eye. Off the Grid marks the sixth book in this series by mother/daughter writing duo P.J. Tracy.

Monkeewrench is a company comprised of four eclectic computer whizzes who design programs but also work closely with law enforcement agencies who can utilize their specialized talents. They're based in Minneapolis and frequently help Detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth. The 'leader' of Monkeewrench is Grace. At the end of the last book, she had broken out of her self imposed isolation and gone sailing with retired FBI agent John Smith. When they are attacked at sea, it looks like John has a target on his back. But why? Who? He decides to go off the grid while Grace returns to Monkeewrench.

Back in Minneapolis, Magozzi and Rolseth are dealing with the unthinkable - young Native girls are being snatched right off the reserve. When one of the girls is found dead, it isn't long before the two men who took her are found murdered as well. As other bodies are found, it looks like someone has taken justice into their own hands.....and the case is bigger than they imagined.

I've quite enjoyed the other books in this series, but found this latest offering just okay. The members of the Monkeewrench crew have always intrigued me - they are all 'damaged' to some degree, but highly intelligent, determined to help the law where they can - and they consider themselves a family. This book, although it involved the crew, was focused much more on Magozzi and Rolseth. While I enjoy these characters as well, they aren't my favourites. Other characters such as a retired vet and his friend, a local Native Police Chief, seemed a bit clich├ęd. John Smith was flat and I never really bought into him or Grace's attraction to him.

I ended up heading to the Internet to see if there was indeed a Native Mafia/Somali gang connection and yes, there is in Minnesota. The plot line begins with this idea, but then veers into territory that has been travelled before. It was pretty easy to see where the rest of the story was headed. Some of the clues were glaringly simplistic, such as the circled calendar dates. And I had issues with some other small things. For instance - Monkeewrench prides itself on being uber prepared, yet fails to check if someone has put a tracker on their vehicle? I felt the ending came far too abruptly. I was caught up in the action scenes which suddenly jumped to the end, leaving me with questions about one character's demise and feeling like I had missed a few pages.

This book did feel like there were two sets of keyboards at work. I found there to be odd interjections at crucial moments that were truly awkward. For example, we're at the end, waiting to hear what an FBI agent has to say and "Gino reached for a butterscotch candy in a dish on the coffee table, then remembered getting one of those evil things caught in his throat at the fourth-grade Halloween party. Just relax and let it melt, the stupid school nurse had told him as he was choking to death. He put the candy back in the bowl and looked at Agent Dahl."

Now, that being said, I did enjoy the book, but not as much as I wanted to. If you're looking for a lighter style of mystery that will keep you entertained, then pick this one up for the beach. I'll be watching for the next in this series, hopefully with a return to the tone of the earlier books. Those who enjoy James Patterson's mysteries would also enjoy this series. Read an excerpt of Off the Grid. You can find P.J. Tracy on Facebook.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Over the Counter #123

What books caught my eye this week as they pass over the library counter and under my scanner? A pair of books about women - and knowledge....

First up was Women Know Everything by Karen Weekes.

From the publisher Quirk Books:

"With more than 3,000 quotations on fashion, family, science, art, history, love, laughter, and more, this massive compilation proves once and for all that women know everything! It’s full of wit, wisdom, and inspiration from a host of legendary women—everyone from Abigail Adams and Eleanor Roosevelt to Oprah Winfrey, Donna Karan, Tina Fey, Margaret Cho, Debbie Stoller, and others. Here’s what they say about:

  • Fashion: “I base most of my fashion sense on what doesn’t itch.”—Gilda Radner
  • Men and Women: “Remember, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but backward and in high heels.”—Faith Whittlesey
  • Careers: “Some women choose to follow men, and some women choose to follow their dreams. If you’re wondering which way to go, remember that your career will never wake up and tell you it doesn’t love you anymore.”—Lady Gaga
First published in 2007, this revised edition has been updated with a beautiful new design and an assortment of new quotations from leading luminaries—everyone from Susan Boyle to Sarah Palin. Women Know Everything! is a superb gift for thoughtful women of all ages."

Or if you're not quite sure if you know it all, you could pick up Stuff Every Woman Should Know by Alanna Kalb.

Also from Quirk Books:

"Since its publication, Stuff Every Man Should Know has taught countless guys how to start camp fires, shave properly, and select quality cigars. But what about members of the smarter sex? This delightful companion volume will teach women of all ages how to throw a cocktail party, pick a signature scent, perform a breast self-examination, and much more. Stuff Every Woman Should Know also includes instructions on:
* How to Ask for a Raise
* Ten Stylish Pieces Every Woman Should Own
* How to Throw a Football
* Self-Defense Techniques
* And much, much more!
With helpful instructions and charming illustrations, this stylish pocket-sized hardcover is the perfect gift for Mother’s Day, graduation, or any time of the year."

(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, August 14, 2012

Whiplash River - Lou Berney

 Whiplash River is the second book for Lou Berney. It picks up the story of  'Shake' Bouchon, the lead character from Berney's first book - Gutshot Straight.

Now I hadn't read the first book, but had no problem getting caught up in Shake's story. He's an ex con who has pursued and captured his dream of owning a restaurant in Belize. At last, he can live a nice quiet life on the up and up, earning his money legitimately. Except....he borrowed the money for the restaurant from local crime boss Baby Jesus and he's having trouble making payments - business is a bit slow. But the pace of Shake's life picks up when a masked gunman attempts to kill Quinn, one of his customers. This is just the opening gambit for a roller coaster ride of a read involving a rogue FBI agent, the miffed girlfriend of the gunman, Baby Jesus and his goons, the mob and more. And travel too! The book careens from Belize to San Francisco to Egypt.

I chose to listen to Whiplash River and I'm glad I did. The reader was Jeff Gurner and he was an excellent choice. The dialogue in Whiplash River is a huge part of the appeal of this quirky book. Gurner adopted many different and unique voices and accents that brought the whip smart patter to life. I think my favourite was Quinn - who has a story and an anecdote for every situation - I could just see him warming up to share his wisdom. His pacing was great and matched the speed of the action. His speaking voice is clear and easy to listen to. I think I enjoyed the audio more than I would have the book - listening to it just really brought it to life.

Berney has concocted a great fun read that doesn't take itself too seriously, but will keep you entertained. Comparisons have been made to Elmore Leonard and Carl Hiassen and I would have to agree. I'd happily listen to another of Berney's books. Listen to an excerpt of Whiplash River now.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Until the Night - Giles Blunt

Until the Night marks the sixth (and much awaited) entry in Giles Blunt's mystery series featuring Detective John Cardinal.

Until the Night opens with a cryptic entry from something called The Blue Notebook, giving us a brief glance into an Arctic science station. The next chapter takes us back to more familiar territory - Algonquin Bay, Ontario - 340 miles north of Toronto. It is here that John Cardinal lives and works. He and counterpart Lise Delorme are called in to investigate what looks to be a domestic murder - a husband murdering his wife's lover. But the wife is missing too - also murdered? She is found, dead, but in odd circumstances. As is yet another woman. And the case leads Cardinal and Delorme down paths they couldn't imagine.

As their investigation progresses, so do the entries from The Blue Notebook - and we are slowly privy to more and more details.

Blunt has done it again - an absolutely original, intelligent, riveting plot that kept me reading.....Until The Night. (Sorry couldn't resist) But, seriously, I did use a Sunday off to devour it from first page to last. Yep, that good.

Why do I like this series so much? Protagonist John Cardinal is the big draw for me. In him, Blunt has created a believable, realistic character whose life has evolved over the course of six books. His personal life involving his wife and her difficulties have provided a storyline handled with thoughtfulness, realism and genuine emotion. His relationship with Delorme has him quite confused and is explored further in this book. We get to delve much deeper into Lise Delorme's life this time. Her own issues, insecurities and demons lead her to a dark place, putting herself and her career at risk. I have become quite invested in both of these characters.

The plotting was fantastic - the link between The Blue Notebook and Cardinal's case was slowly, inexorably revealed. The setting of Algonquin Bay has become quite familiar and I can almost feel the cold seeping into my fingers as I hold the book. Blunt grew up in North Bay, Ontario, so he knows what he writes of! Blunt also takes us to other Ontario locales with the seamier underside of Toronto and Ottawa woven into this latest mystery.

I think this latest book just might be my favourite Cardinal book yet. If you haven't discovered this wonderful Canadian author and series yet, I encourage you to. See for yourself - read an excerpt of Until the Night.

CTV has announced plans for a TV series based on the John Cardinal novels, with Blunt himself doing much of the adaptation.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Winner - Marrying Up

And the lucky winner of a copy of Marrying Up by Wendy Holden, courtesy of the great folks at Sourcebooks is:

Lag 110

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

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Over the Counter #122

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? A pair of memoirs - both from women leaving the 'big city' life for the pleasure of a simpler country lifestyle.

First up was Rurally Screwed - My Life Off the Grid With the Cowboy I Love by Jessie Knadler.

From the publisher Penguin Books:

"Jessie Knadler was a New York City girl, through and through. An editor for a splashy women's magazine, she splurged on Miu Miu, partied hard, lived for Kundalini yoga, and dated a man-boy whose complexion was creamier than her own. Circling the drain both personally and professionally, Jessie definitely wouldn't have described herself as "happy"; more like caustically content. Then one day, she was assigned a story about an annual rodeo in the badlands of Eastern Montana.

There, she met a twenty-five-year-old bull rider named Jake. He voted Republican and read Truck Trader. He listened to Garth Brooks. He owned guns. And Jessie suddenly found herself blindsided by something with which she was painfully unfamiliar: a genuinely lovable disposition. In fact, Jake radiated such optimism and old-school gentlemanliness that Jessie impulsively ditched Manhattan for an authentic existence, and an authentic man. Almost overnight, she was canning and sewing, making jerky, chopping firewood, and raising chickens. And all the while one question was ringing in the back of her head: "What the !#*$ have I done with my life?"

A hilarious true-life love story, Rurally Screwed reveals what happens to a woman who gives up everything she's ever known and wanted-job security, money, her professional network, access to decent Thai food-to live off the grid with her one true love (and dogs and horses and chickens), and asks, is it worth it? The answer comes amid war, Bible clubs, and moonshine."

Next up was Call of the Mild - Learning to Hunt my Own Dinner by Lily Raff McCaulou.

From the publisher - Hachette Book Group:

"When Lily Raff McCaulou traded in an indie film production career in New York for a reporting job in central Oregon, she never imagined that she'd find herself picking up a gun and learning to hunt. She'd been raised as a gun-fearing environmentalist and an animal lover, and though a meat-eater, she'd always abided by the principle that harming animals is wrong. But Raff McCaulou's perspective shifted when she began spending weekends fly-fishing and weekdays interviewing hunters for her articles, realizing that many of them were more thoughtful about animals and the environment than she was.

So she embarked upon the project of learning to hunt from square one. From attending a Hunter Safety course designed for children to field dressing an elk and serving it for dinner, she explores the sport of hunting and all it entails, and tackles the big questions surrounding one of the most misunderstood American practices and pastimes. Not just a personal memoir, this book also explores the role of the hunter in the twenty-first century, the tension (at times artificial) between hunters and environmentalists, and new models of sustainable and ethical food procurement."

(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, August 8, 2012

15 Seconds - Andrew Gross

 Andrew Gross's latest book - 15 Seconds - is exactly the kind of story that draws me in from the first page. Everyday guy lands in a situation that is far from ordinary - with no idea what is going on.

And that's what happens to Dr. Henry Steadman. While on his way to speak at a medical convention, he's pulled over by a local cop for a minor traffic infraction. Things escalate quickly and crazily and Steadman finds himself handcuffed in the back of the cruiser with many other cops now in attendance. Their line of questioning has him seriously frightened. Then just as suddenly, he's released and the extra patrol cars leave. Steadman is back in his own car, ready to leave as well, when a blue car pulls up to the local cop's car and shoots him point blank and races away. And just like that, Henry is a murder suspect. Things go from bad to worse when another body with connections to Henry is found.

What is happening? Who could be doing this to him? Why are they framing him? Henry realizes he can't go to the cops, so he must find the perpetrator himself.

I was initially sucked into the story quickly. As I said I find these kinds of stories irresistible. However, I found both the 'bad guy' and Henry somewhat tedious about halfway through. Their dialogue and actions become repetitive and the story lost its edge for me. Gross has co written five books with James Patterson and the same formula seems to have been used in 15 Seconds. Short sentences and short chapters with cliff hangers. Again, some of the sentiment, thoughts and angst of the characters is repeated - albeit with different phrasing - but the same idea. It became tiresome. I think I noticed it more because I chose to listen this book in audio format.

The reader was Christian Hoff, who has a great, expressive voice for audio books. He has a good, clear speaking voice and easily used his voice to capture the tension and pace of this thriller. But again, it was just a bit too much - the breathiness and angst became repetitive and overly dramatic.  But, as he's only reading what has been written, I'd have to say Hoff did a great job.

Fans of James Patterson will love this book. For me, it wasn't great, but was a good accompaniment for a few long walks. Listen to an excerpt of 15 Seconds. Or if you prefer - read an excerpt.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Crow's Landing - Brad Smith

Another great book I finished far too quickly! Crow's Landing by Brad Smith is the second book featuring Virgil Cain. I read the first book (my review) - Red Means Run - and was hooked.

Virgil is still working his farm, but decides to play hooky one day and head out fishing in the boat he restored over the winter. While pulling up anchor to come back in, he hauls in a strange steel cylinder. Back at the marina, he padlocks it to his boat and goes to the local diner for something to eat. And comes running back out when he sees some guy taking off with his trailer, boat - and the cylinder. When he protests, he gets a gun shoved in his face and told it's police business. Now, Virgil was curious about that cylinder, but damn it, he wants his boat back. So, he heads down to the police station. And is told that there hasn't been a boat impounded and they have no idea what he's talking about.

I thought we might see more of Claire Marchant this book - a local cop Virgil got involved with in the last book. But Smith introduces a new character - Dusty - a single mom with a checkered past - and more than a little knowledge about that cylinder. And when Virgil and Dusty cross paths...

"Since he was a kid, he had possessed a propensity for getting into trouble, some of it of his own accord and some of it purely by accident. Just last year, for instance he'd been arrested for murder, escaped jail, fell under suspicion for a second murder, and was finally shot in the earlobe by the woman responsible for both. If that couldn't be categorized as a propensity for getting into trouble, Virgil didn't know what could." Virgil's in it again.

Smith has created strong personalities that immediately spring to life. Virgil Cain is very laid back, thinks before he speaks and observes before he acts. But still waters run deep - there's a lot more to Virgil than meets the eye. He's been described as a 'laconic charmer' and I don't think I could say it any better. Smith has created just as strong a female character in Dusty - she's strong, fearless and tough. I hope we get to see her again too - or that Virgil does. With two such great protagonists, readers of both sexes will enjoy Crow's Landing.

I love the sly, quirky sense of humour Smith injects into his situations, characters and dialogue - along the lines of of Elmore Leonard.

This isn't really a traditional mystery book. What it is though, is a helluva good rollicking tale, populated by crooked cops, a crazed Cossack cowboy, a cool as a cucumber con.......and Virgil - 'cause really, he just wants his boat back.

Loved it! Read chapter one of Crow's Landing. Fans of Virgil Flowers and Jack Reacher would enjoy Brad Smith's writing. You can find Brad Smith on Facebook. Or watch this video of Brad talking about Crow's Landing.

Smith was born and raised in southern Ontario. He has worked as a farmer, signalman, insulator, truck driver, bartender, schoolteacher, maintenance mechanic, roofer, and carpenter. He lives in a eighty-year-old farmhouse near the north shore of Lake Erie. His novel, "One-Eyed Jacks" was nominated for the Dashiell Hammett Prize."his latest book.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Giveaway - Marrying Up - Wendy Holden

Here's a giveaway for all you chick lit fans!

"Can’t get enough of that royal fever? Do you find yourself still Youtube-ing clips of Will & Kate’s big day? Don’t worry, Sourcebooks has you covered!

Named a “Cinderella story for the beach bag”, Sourcebooks is extremely excited to be releasing Wendy Holden’s new book, Marrying Up in August!

 Marrying Up has all of the crazy love, eye-opening snobbery, and naked ambition to create a juicy cocktail worthy of any royal. After all, what’s a relationship without a title and a tiara?"

From the publisher:

"Beautiful but broke student Polly and scheming social climber Alexa may have grown up in the same place, but they couldn't be more different. Polly's just fallen for Max, a handsome country vet. But Alexa can't be bothered with love—any guy with a pedigree will do, mind you, as long as he comes with a title, a mansion, and a family tiara.

Alexa wiggles her way into friendship with Florrie, a clueless aristocrat who could support entire countries with her spare change. Suddenly the grandest doors swing open for Alexa, and a new life is so close she can taste it. Polly could care less about Max's money, but his mysterious habit of disappearing scares her. What's he hiding?

Razor sharp in its wit, and as fresh as newlywed royals, Marrying Up reveals how sometimes a rags–to–riches story can rip a girl to shreds—and how sometimes the rewards of love aren't always what you expect."

"Who is North America’s very own Royal Couple? Is it old time favorite Brangelina? Or perhaps the new comers Kim Kardashian & Kanye West, aka Kimye?"  Leave your suggestion in a comment to be entered. Open to US and Canada. This one's short and sweet readers - ends Sat. Aug 11th. Please make sure you leave a contact - either through your blog or an email address. Good luck! Check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

And the lucky winner of a copy of The Skeleton Box by Bryan Gruley, courtesy of Simon and Schuster is:

Daniel M!

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

Friday, August 3, 2012

A Door in the River - Inger Ash Wolfe

Oh, it has been waaaay too long since the last book by Inger Ash Wolfe in this absolutely wonderful Canadian series! My copy of A Door in the River arrived - I set it aside and picked the day I would read it. Yes, the one day, because I absolutely knew I wouldn't be able to put it down. (And I was right!)

A Door in the River again returns us to Port Dundas, Ontario and Inspector Hazel Micallef. Hazel is a wonderfully different protagonist - one I cannot get enough of. She is sixtyish, lives with her eighty eight year old mother (who is great character on her own - her snappy comebacks are priceless), has just recovered from back surgery (she recuperated in the basement of her ex husband and his new wife) and has finally kicked her addiction to pain pills, although whiskey still calls to her. She is obstinate, intelligent, tenacious and not the easiest person to get along with. But is she a good cop?  Yes, but her talents will be tested with this latest case.

"The force of her will and her peculiar way of building evidence for a case was something to see. He understood why she'd driven Ray Greene crazy. And in the end you had to agree with her! There was no way you were going to make your own logic as internally consistent as hers. Supposedly this was "instinct". He'd never really seen it. Too bad she wielded it like a mallet."

A local all round good guy is found dead behind a native smoke shop on reservation land. The local band police investigate and do an autopsy. Death is ruled accidental - anaphylactic shock by a wasp sting. But Hazel knew the man and can't help but wonder why he was on the reserve late at night -  he didn't smoke, the store was closed and why was he parked back in the shadows? And so she decides to re-examine their findings. And of course she ruffles some feathers. But what she turns up....

Loved it! Loved it! Loved it! The plot is an absolute nail biter. The tension was so high, I had a very hard time the last eighty pages not turning to the end to see what happened. I managed not to - and I'm glad I didn't. There are some twists I didn't see coming and I was lulled into a false sense of security by the last few pages. (Happily) Caught unawares again.

Now, the crimes are dreadful, (but really, could have been taken from newspaper headlines) so gentler readers be warned.

But for me it is the characters that make this series. For all her irascibility, Hazel does have some soft spots. And Detective James Wingate, is one of them. He is a gentler, calming influence on Hazel's team. James was introduced in the previous book and again takes a primary role in this book. Really, all of the characters come across as real and the dialogue is believable. You'll love to hate the bad guys.

It's so great to see a series set in Canada - and this is one of my all time favourites. Highly recommended. Read an excerpt of A Door in the River.

There are lots of sub plots that hint at a continuation of this series. Hazel's previous deputy has returned as her superintendent, the force is being amalgamated and Port Dundas itself is slated for radical changes. I can't wait to read the next book.

For the first two books, the true identity of Inger Ash Wolfe was a mystery. Names of Canadian authors were bandied about, but "The Real Inger Ash Wolfe Stands Up" at last.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Over the Counter #121

What book caught my eye this week as it passed over the library counter and my scanner? Well - it was Sausage by Nichola Fletcher. Thereby proving that there is a reference book for just about anything you could want. And this one is chock full of real size, colour pics of .....sausages.

From the publisher Dorling Kindersley:

"Sausage guides the reader on a country-by-country tour of sausage, describing and explaining the different types of sausage found in each region, how they're made, how they're used, and if they're fresh, dried, semi-dried, part-cooked, or cooked. Famous sausages from each region are celebrated, and classic recipes — such as fabada and cassoulet — are included so home cooks can expand their repertoire.

Sausage tells you everything you need to know about the different types and flavors of sausage, and how to buy, store, and serve them. For real aficionados, there is even direction on how to make your own salamis and sausages, and how to salt your own bacon.

This is a perfect book for foodies, cooks, eaters, kitchen experimenters, backyard BBQ masters, and anyone who'd like to elevate their knowledge and appreciation of tube steaks the world over.

Includes:
330 sausages featured with full-color photographs of each sausage
Supporting notes describing the flavor of the sausages
12 step-by-step techniques demonstrating how to make your own sausages
48 classic recipes"

(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, August 1, 2012

An Unmarked Grave - Charles Todd

I recently had a patron ask if I knew of a good historical mystery series for her. She was older, and said she liked stories set in the war years such as Charles Todd's Bess Crawford books. (which she highly recommended) Well, I did indeed have a series for her, but although I was familiar with Charles Todd's Inspector Rutledge series, I had never read one of the Bess Crawford books. Her recommendation resulted in me picking up the latest installment of this series - An Unmarked Grave.

Bess Crawford is a World War I nurse. 1918 finds her at the front lines in France, with war casualties and the Spanish influenza contributing equally to the dead waiting to be buried. But when an orderly points out a body to Bess that isn't wrapped right, she is shocked to find she recognizes the man from her father's regiment. It wasn't the flu or war that killed him - she suspects foul play. But exhausted and physically worn down, she falls prey to the flu herself before she can report what she thinks might be murder. Back in England she does advise her father of her suspicions. But the body is long buried. Did she imagine what she saw? Or is there a murderer in the ranks? Bess is determined to find the answer and wants to return to France.

Todd's writing brought this time period to life. The dialogue, social mores and expectations of the time were wonderfully depicted, creating a strong sense of atmosphere.  Bess is such a great character - kind, dutiful, compassionate, strong, determined and intelligent. All of the characters were equally well drawn and just as engaging. I liked the idea of a woman being the sleuth in this time period, when men were the traditional 'leaders'. Bess is more than up to the task.

The plotting is good, slowly unravelling over time. This is a gentler mystery, meant to be savoured and enjoyed.

I choose to listen to A Unmarked Grave. The reader was Audie award winner Rosalyn Landor. She has a wonderfully rich, crisp British accent that perfectly suited the mental image I had of Bess. She portrayed all of the characters just as well. Most of the other characters were male and Landor came up with believable voices for them. Bess's father had a nice, gruff, regimental tone. The 'yank' soldier's voice was spot on as well. Her voice added much to the overall feel of the book, conveying emotion and setting easily. Listen to an excerpt of An Unmarked Grave. Or read an excerpt.

I really enjoyed this book and will definitely be picking up another in this series. Fans of Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs character would enjoy this series. (This was my recommendation to my patron)