Friday, May 31, 2013

Giveaway - The Original 1982 - Lori Carson

Here's a great giveaway for you today, courtesy of the great folks at William Morrow!

Debut novelist Lori Carson examines the universal question of “what if?” in an intricate and beautiful new novel, The Original 1982.

 "Lori introduces readers to Lisa, a 24 year-old singer-songwriter trying to find her way in 1980s New York.  In Lisa’s original 1982, she is waiting tables, playing at open mics and dating a famous musician until she makes one pivotal decision that changes the course of her life.  But what if she had chosen differently? In this eloquent exploration of decisions, regrets, love and heartbreak, Lisa envisions the “new” 1982. She imagines her career taking another direction, her relationships changing form and she imagines her beautiful daughter, Minnow, and the life they could have shared together.  Alternating between two very different possibilities, THE ORIGINAL 1982 is a novel about how the choices we make affect the people we become—and how the people we are affect the choices we make."

"If you had inherited the best traits of both of us, you’d have been smart and a beauty, a lover of music, a sensitive girl.  I’m fairly certain your father would have broken your heart the way he broke mine.  He didn’t want you to be born and never had any children after.  He was his own child, the apple of his own eye: an artist, showman and politician.  I spared you that at least.  But I spared you life itself and for that I’m filled with regret."—THE ORIGINAL 1982

"Lori Carson is a singer-songwriter whose albums include Shelter, Where It Goes, Everything I Touch Runs Wild, and Another Year. A former member of the seminal band The Golden Palominos, she has contributed to the sound tracks of Bernardo Bertolucci's Stealing Beauty, Kathryn Bigelow's Strange Days, Keith Gordon's Waking the Dead, and others. The Original 1982 is her first novel." Read an excerpt of The Original 1982.

Sound like something you'd like to own? I've got two copies up for grabs.  Open to US only. To be entered leave the name of one your favorite eighties bands or songs! Closes June 22/13.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Over the Counter #165

What book caught my eye this week as it passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Books about words this week.

First up was The 2,548 Wittiest Things Anybody Ever Said by Robert Byrne.

From the publisher, Touchstone Books:

"A fresh selection of sharp, witty zingers gathered from both famous and utterly unknown (but very quotable) sources, by the editor of the popular The 2,548 Best Things Anybody Ever Said .

Robert Byrne’s quote books are widely praised as authoritative and accessible sources of sayings for any and all occasions. Byrne’s own wit, diligent research, and creativity combine to form a fresh go-to reference that serves readers better than Google—no Wi-Fi required. The 2,548 Wittiest Things Anybody Ever Said is an all-new collection of clever quips and laugh-out-loud punch lines from Gracie Allen to Frank Zappa, on such topics as sex, divorce, religion, fashion, animals, and money:

STEVE MARTIN: “I’d do anything for a good body except exercise and eat right.”
JON STEWART: “War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography.”
NORA EPHRON: “Successful parents have adult children who can pay for their own psychoanalysis.”

This compilation, to be enjoyed by generations young and old, deserves a place of honor on every language lover’s bookshelf."

Next up was Lord Sandwich and the Pants Man by Eamon Evans. Subititled:  Discover the people and places hidden in everyday words.

Well, how could you not want to flip through this one!?

From the publisher, Hardie Grant:

"Ever wondered who ‘the Joneses' were? Or what the original ‘peeping Tom' got up to? We all know that there was a ballerina named Pavlova and an earl named Sandwich, but there was also a Baron Lamington and a Queen Margarita, a Mr Booze and a Captain Fudge. Laszlo Biro invented the biro, Jules Leotard wore the first leotard, Charles Boycott endured the first boycott and Lord Cardigan loved a good cardigan. There really was a maverick named Maverick and a chauvinist named Chauvin. From literature we have The Iliad, which features a bully named ‘Hector' and a wise teacher named ‘Mentor'. From history we have Vandals, who were a destructive tribe, and the Zealots, who were an intolerant sect. Eager for more original and entertaining trivia to impress your friends? Eamon Evans' humorous collection of common eponyms shares the stories behind words and phrases popular throughout the world. Insightful, witty and … mostly accurate."

(Over the Counter is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World. I've sadly come to 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 catchy your eye as well. See if your local library has them on their shelves!)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Just what kind of mother are you? - Paula Daly

I just love reading suspense novels - you know, the ones that put ordinary people in extraordinary situations and keep you madly turning pages.  Well, here's the first of this year's summer hammock reads - the done in a day, read in the sun ones.

Just what kind of mother are you? is Paula Daly's debut novel.

Lisa Kallisto is overwhelmed, overworked and overtired, but she tries really hard to do it all - work, wife and mother. But sometimes, things slip. Not enough time with her husband Joe, a forgotten item one of the kids had to have for school, picking up supper on the run, getting kids to where they're supposed to be and more. But this time, her distracted ways may have deadly results.....Her best friend Kate's daughter Lucinda was supposed to spend the night at Lisa's house with her daughter Sally. But Lisa forgot. And Kate thought she was safe with Lisa. And no one can find Lucinda.......

We know there is a creep out there - the opening prologue is a chiller. And one young girl has already been abducted in the area. Could Lucinda be another of his victims? Or has she just done a runner? Daly intersperses this person's thoughts throughout the book. We know more than the characters and this just heightens the tension.

Lisa is horrified at what's happened - she is determined to do anything she can to help. But with Lucinda's disappearance, resentments and secrets come bubbling to the surface. It seems that the quiet little Cumbrian village they all live in has many skeletons in the closets.

The Detective Constable charged with the investigation was an excellent supporting character. I really liked her and her personal storyline. I am wondering if Daly will return to this character in the second book she has in the works - The Day Before You Came.

I love British novels - the tone and the language of this one reminded me of Coronation Street - a British show we Canadians love.

Daly's portrayal of a frazzled Lisa was excellent - I think we've all been there at one time. The author's note at the end shed light on Daly's inspiration for the book - a horrible case of a forgotten infant left to die in a hot car. And an encounter with "one of those women who'll subtly put you down, put your children down, too, given half a chance. Suddenly it struck me: what if you were to lose her child? What if you were so overwhelmed with work and life that you took your eye off the ball, and it was her child who went missing?"

Daly's plotting was excellent - at one point I suspected each and every character, with no idea who was telling the truth. Daly keeps us wondering with each new twist she adds. Some discoveries and devices were a bit fortuitous, but didn't detract from my enjoyment of the book at all. And I really enjoyed it!

Looking for a page turning summer thriller? Pick up Just what kind of mother are you?  You can find Paula Daly on Twitter.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Giveaway - Shadow of Night - Deborah Harkness

Today is the release date for the paperback version of Shadow of Night - the sequel to Deborah Harkness's New York Times bestseller A Discovery of Witches! (Warner Brothers has a film in the works as well)

And thanks to the great folks at Penguin Books, I have a copy to giveaway! From the publisher:

"Deborah Harkness exploded onto the literary scene with her debut novel, A Discovery of Witches, Book One of the magical All Souls Trilogy and an international publishing phenomenon. The novel introduced Diana Bishop, Oxford scholar and reluctant witch, and the handsome geneticist and vampire Matthew Clairmont; together they found themselves at the center of a supernatural battle over an enchanted manuscript known as Ashmole 782.

Now, picking up from A Discovery of Witches’ cliff-hanger ending, Shadow of Night plunges Diana and Matthew into Elizabethan London, a world of spies, subterfuge, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the mysterious School of Night that includes Christopher Marlowe and Walter Raleigh. Here, Diana must locate a witch to tutor her in magic, Matthew is forced to confront a past he thought he had put to rest, and the mystery of Ashmole 782 deepens.

Deborah Harkness has crafted a gripping journey through a world of alchemy, time travel, and magical discoveries, delivering one of the most hotly anticipated novels of the season.
J. K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, Anne Rice—only a few writers capture the imagination the way that Deborah Harkness has done with books one and two of her New York Times–bestselling All Souls trilogy. A Discovery of Witches introduced reluctant witch Diana Bishop, vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and the battle for a lost, enchanted manuscript known as Ashmole 782." Read an excerpt of Shadow of Night.

Deborah Harkness is a scholar and writer specializing in the history of science and medicine. She has received numerous awards, including Fulbright, Guggenheim, and National Humanities Center fellowships. She is currently a professor of history at the University of Southern California.
Check out this QandA with Harkness. You can find Deborah on Facebook and on Twitter.

Fans can join Deborah Harkness and her editor Carole DeSanti, for a virtual book event on Book Talk Nation on June 4th at 2pm EST. Join in here.

To be entered, simply leave a comment. Open to US only, ends Jun 23/13. Bonus: These alchemical buttons are included!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Never Tell - Alafair Burke

I only 'discovered' Alafair Burke a couple of years ago when I picked up 212 - the third in a series featuring NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher. I remember thinking at that time 'why is this author not already on my 'must read' list'? (She was promptly added!)

Never Tell is the fourth book in the Hatcher series. Burke piques our interest with the opening prologue - an entry from a blog - "Second Acts: Confessions of a Former Victim and Current Survivor."

Cut to Ellie and her partner Rogan - they've been called out to what appears to be a clear cut suicide. But the dead girl is young - and her parents are rich and influential. Her mother insists her daughter would never kill herself. Ellie thinks the call is a waste of her time and believes the death is exactly what it appears to be. Rogan - he's got his doubts. And it turns out he's right. A chastened Hatcher approaches the case with a new attitude. And what she finds........

Ellie is a great protagonist. She's real and fallible, but at the same time tough, dogged and determined.  I enjoyed the secondary story line of Ellie's love life -  her relationship with Max, an NYC Assistant District Attorney. I always like to get to 'know' a character's life and follow the changes throughout a series.  Rogan works as a good foil to Ellie's personality. They are complete opposites, but work well together. Their dialogue is easy and entertaining.

Burke has again come up with a plot populated with enough false leads and twists to keep me wondering 'whodunit' until the last few chapters. Never Tell kept me interested from first to last page. Burke has worked as a criminal prosecutor and currently teaches criminal law. That insider knowledge gives her writing an added punch and a dose of reality. A recommended series. See for yourself - read an excerpt of Never Tell.

Fans of Lisa Gardner and Linda Fairstein would enjoy Alafair Burke's books. I'm looking forward to her next book - a stand alone called If You Were Here, releasing June 4th. Watch for my review!

"Alafair Burke is the author of “two power house series” (Sun-Sentinel) that have earned her a reputation for creating strong, believable, and eminently likable female characters, such as NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher and Portland Deputy District Attorney Samantha Kincaid. Alafair’s novels grow out of her experience as a prosecutor in America’s police precincts and criminal courtrooms, and have been featured by The Today Show, People Magazine, The New York Times, MSNBC, The Washington Post, USA Today, and The Chicago Sun-Times. According to Entertainment Weekly, Alafair “is a terrific web spinner” who “knows when and how to drop clues to keep readers at her mercy.”  You can find Alafair Burke on Facebook and on Twitter.


See what others on the TLC Book Tour thought. Full schedule can be found here.

 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Frozen in Time - Mitchell Zuckoff

Subtitled: An Epic Story of Survival and a Modern Quest for Lost Heroes of World War II

Mitchell Zuckoff's name might already be familiar to you - he's also the author of a previous best seller - Lost in Shangri-La.

Zuckoff again revisits World War II history, recounting the fate of the men on a US military cargo plane that crashed in November 1942 on the inhospitable shores of Greenland. And that of the men on the rescue B17 plane - that also crashed. And unbelievably, the third rescue plane, the Grumman Duck, that managed to pick up one survivor - and disappeared.

It sounds like a movie plot and improbable that three planes could crash or disappear. What's even more unbelievable is the will of the crash survivors to survive the dead of winter in frozen Greenland.

Zuckoff takes this factual piece of history and makes it 'real'  and personal by inserting many, many details. Where did he get his information? There are survivors to this miraculous tale and Zuckoff follows them all the way through to the present.

But, there are those whose bodies have never been recovered. And that's where the present day story kicks in. Between the US Coast Guard and North South Polar Inc. (a group, who as one of their mandates, tries to bring home the bodies of US servicemen) a mission is mounted to find the lost Duck and the men aboard. Zuckoff accompanies this mission to Greenland.

Cutting between past and present Zuckoff  brings to life this phenomenal story. I could feel the cold seep into my bone as the men were stranded yet another day. And the desperation of those determined to save them.

I chose to listen to Frozen in Time. Zuckoff himself reads the book. I love hearing an author share his words - it just seems to give every sentence more weight. He has an excellent reading voice, expressive and easy to listen to. Listen to an excerpt of Frozen in Time.

Frozen in Time is a testament to the human spirit. Highly recommended. Read an excerpt of Frozen in Time. You can find Mitchell Zuckoff on Facebook and on Twitter.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Over the Counter #164

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? A pair of memoirs this week - from wildly different viewpoints. One world wide and one from the chicken coop.

First up was The International Bank of Bob: Connecting Our Worlds One $25 Kiva Loan At A Time by Bob Harris.

From Bloomsbury Publishing:

"Hired by ForbesTraveler.com to review some of the most luxurious accommodations on Earth, and then inspired by a chance encounter in Dubai with the impoverished workers whose backbreaking jobs create such opulence, Bob Harris had an epiphany: He would turn his own good fortune into an effort to make lives like theirs better. Bob found his way to Kiva.org, the leading portal through which individuals make microloans all over the world: for as little as $25-50, businesses are financed and people are uplifted. Astonishingly, the repayment rate was nearly 99%, so he re-loaned the money to others over and over again.

After making hundreds of microloans online, Bob wanted to see the results first-hand, and in The International Bank of Bob he travels from Peru and Bosnia to Rwanda and Cambodia, introducing us to some of the most inspiring and enterprising people we've ever met, while illuminating day-to-day life-political and emotional-in much of the world that Americans never see. Told with humor and compassion, The International Bank of Bob brings the world to our doorstep, and makes clear that each of us can, actually, make it better."


Next up was Once Upon a Flock: Life With My Soulful Chickens by Lauren Scheuer.

From Atria Books:

"When longtime illustrator and lover of power tools Lauren Scheuer was looking for a project, she got the idea to raise backyard chickens. Her husband and teenage daughter looked on incredulously as coop sketches and chicken-raising books filled their New England home. But when the chicks arrived, the whole family fell in love with the bundles of fluff and the wild adventures began.

Once Upon a Flock: Life with My Soulful Chickens stars Scheuer’s backyard chickens—with their big personalities, friendships, rivalries, and secrets—and the flock’s guardian, Marky the terrier. The flock includes Hatsy, the little dynamo; Lil’White, the deranged and twisted Buff Orpington; Pigeon, the fixer-upper chicken; and Lucy, the special-needs hen who bonds with Lauren and becomes a fast friend.

This charming story of Lauren’s life with her quirky flock is filled with moments of humor and heartbreak: When Lucy is afflicted with a neurological disease, Lauren builds Lucy a special-needs coop. When Lucy’s nesting instinct leads

Lauren to act as a chicken midwife of sorts, Lauren hatches a chick in her home. And when Lucy’s best friend Hatsy falls ill, Lauren finds an unlikely friend for Lucy in a chicken named Pigeon, who requires an emergency bath and blow-dry. Enthusiastically immersing herself in the world of her flock, Lauren discovers that love, loss, passion, and resilience are not only parts of the human experience, but of the chicken experience as well. Throughout it all, Lauren documents the laughter and drama of her flock’s adventures with her own whimsical photos and illustrations. At once humorous, poignant, and informative, Once Upon a Flock is a feathered tale like no other."

(Over the Counter is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World. I've sadly come to 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 catchy your eye as well. See if your local library has them on their shelves!)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Poppet - Mo Hayder

Quite frankly, Mo Hayder scares the bejesus out of me. The first page of her latest book Poppet grabbed me and just never let go. (and check out that creepy cover....)

Poppet is the sixth book featuring Detective Inspector Jack Caffery of Bristol, England's Major Crime Investigation Team. "His unit is the one that gets all the murders and difficult cases. The cases that need high-level attention."

The opening chapter takes us to a mental institution. Each and every resident is afraid of The Maude - who will sit on your chest and ......Is this a mass delusion? Or is someone targeting some of the unlikeable and bothersome residents of the ward. None of the patients will even say the name aloud....And now the staff is afraid as well.

Isaac, a young resident deemed 'cured',  is released back into society. Caffery is called in when Isaac is found to have connections to the deaths on the ward.  A bag of little human effigies, also known as 'poppets' is found hidden in Isaac's old room.....and he's disappeared.

Jack is also working on the disappearance of a young woman named Misty - but Caffery knows much more about the case than he's letting on.

"But truth is stranger than fiction and the world is never what it seems: for over a year Caffery's been hopscotching over the issue, he's been guarding the case like a hound, appearing to be working on it while simultaneously leading the unit away from what he really knows about Misty's disappearance, - which is more, much more than any cop has a right. It's a big fat secret he's been hiding. Something he can't do anything about."

I've loved the Jack Caffery character since Hayder's first book Birdman. He's an enigma - flawed, fearless, full of secrets but a dedicated cop - who plays by his own rules. Police diver Flea Marley returns. The back and forth of her personal and professional relationship with Caffery is far from over. I'm torn on what I think about her. Jack shares the lead role in Poppet with A.J., the psychiatric ward supervisor. He's a great character, innocent, likable and fearless in his own way. His empathy and caring of the patients struck a note. He starts his own investigation into the case.

Hayder plumbs the depths of the human psyche in both her characters and her crimes. Poppet is full of twists, turns and lots of tension. Did I mention deliciously dark and creepy?

Be prepared to stay up late with this one. Scare yourself - read the first chapter of Poppet. Poppet could be read as a stand alone, but do yourself a favour - start from the beginning of the series - you'll be hooked. You can find Mo Hayder on Facebook.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Golem and the Jinni - Helene Wecker

The Golem and The Jinni is Helen Wecker's debut novel.....and oh boy, what a debut!

We're quite used to books about 'supernatural' beings - vampires, werewolves, witches and more. But Wecker's two protagonists aren't as 'famous'.

Otto Rotfield wants a wife to take with him when he emigrates to America. But, he wants her to fit the mold he has imagined. To that end, he approaches a man steeped in mystery and asks him to create a Golem - a creature made entirely of clay and destined to serve its master's every command. She is a masterpiece. When Otto falls ill on the boat journey, he manages to  animate the Golem before he dies. And so this creature lands in New York City in 1899, uninformed as to the ways of the world, how to behave, what to expect and how she will hide among the humans. It is her good luck that an old rabbi recognizes her for what she is - and takes her in.

Not far away in Little Syria (Lower Manhattan) a local woman brings a battered copper flask to the neighbourhood metalworker for repair. When he erases one of the intricate designs that encircle the flask......you guessed it - a Jinni is released. The Jinni faces the same challenges as that of the Golem - he has been trapped in the flask for thousands of years.

And chance being what it is, these two beings - one of earth and one of fire - meet, and each  recognizes that the other is not of this world.  Their lives are entwined in ways they could not imagine....and someone else is watching them...

Oh, where to start! The setting is beautifully brought to life by Wecker. The lives of immigrants, the wealthy, the tenements, daily life, night life, attractions such as Central Park and more provide a rich and detailed background for Wecker's novel.

The Golem and the Jinni are both mythical creatures, but Wecker's writing made them very real and 'human'. I found myself so caught up in their story, rooting for them and hoping they would find happiness. The supporting cast of characters is just as well drawn and equally compelling.

This was such a unique and different idea for a novel.  Middle Eastern mysticism mixed with Jewish folklore and dipped into New York City's rich history. And under Wecker's skillful pen, it really works.

But such is the stuff of magical stories -  dastardly villains, good vs. evil, sacrifice, love won and lost, fast friendships and more. And this is the feeling that Helene Wecker's novel gave me - that I was sitting in a beautiful silk tent somewhere in the desert, reclining on pillows and listening to Scheherazade spin one of her 1001 tales. I was enthralled from first page to last. Read an excerpt of The Golem and The Jinni. Wecker has truly woven a magical debut. Highly recommended.

"Helene Wecker grew up in Libertyville, Illinois, a small town north of Chicago, and received her
Bachelor’s in English from Carleton College in Minnesota. After graduating, she worked a number of marketing and communications jobs in Minneapolis and Seattle before deciding to return to her first love, fiction writing. Accordingly, she moved to New York to pursue a Master’s in fiction at Columbia University. She now lives near San Francisco with her husband and daughter." You can find Helene Wecker on Facebook.


See what others on the TLC  book tour thought. Full schedule can be found here.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Giveaway - A Spear of Summer Grass - Deanna Raybourn

Calling all historical fiction fans! Have I got a wonderful giveaway for you today!

A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn is newly released.....and....I have two copies to giveaway thanks to the generosity of Harlequin Books!

From the publisher:

"New York Times bestselling author of the Lady Julie Grey series enters a new era with A Spear of Summer Grass.

The daughter of a scandalous mother, Delilah Drummond is already notorious, even amongst Paris society. But her latest scandal is big enough to make even her oft-married mother blanch. Delilah is exiled to Kenya and her favorite stepfather’s savannah manor house, until gossip subsides.

Amidst the wonders—and dangers—of Africa, Delilah awakes to a land out of all proportion: extremes of heat, darkness, beauty and joy that cut to her very heart. Only when this sacred place is profaned by bloodshed does Delilah discover what is truly worth fighting for—and what she can no longer live without.

If you blend glamour from The Great Gatsby and romance from “Out of Africa,” you are beginning to grasp the stunning new novel that is A Spear of Summer Grass."

 A sixth-generation native Texan, New York Times bestselling author Deanna Raybourn grew up in San Antonio, where she met her college sweetheart.  She married him on her graduation day and went on to teach high school English and history.  During summer vacation at the age of twenty-three, she wrote her first novel.  After three years as a teacher, Deanna left education to have a baby and pursue writing full-time. Fourteen years and many, many rejections after her first novel, she signed two three-book deals with MIRA Books.

Deanna’s novel Silent in the Grave won the 2008 RITA® Award for Novel with Strong Romantic Elements and the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best First Mystery. The Lady Julia Grey series has been nominated for several other awards, including an Agatha, three Daphne du Mauriers, a Last Laugh, four additional RITAs, and two Dilys Winns. Dark Road to Darjeeling was also a finalist for the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Historical Mystery as well as a Romantic Reviews’ finalist for Best Book of 2010."     You can find Deanna on her website or on Twitter.

Sound like a book you'd like to own? Simply leave a comment to be entered. Open to US and Canada. The winner will be randomly chosen on June 15/13.

 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Winner - Oh, The Things My Mom Will Do

And the winner of Oh, The Things My Mom Will Do by Marianne Richmond, courtesy of Sourcebooks is:

Mary Jo!

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, May 17, 2013

Reconstructing Amelia - Kimberly McCreight

Reconstructing Amelia is Kimberly McCreight's debut novel.

Kate Baron is a single mother to Amelia and a partner in a law firm. Her job keeps her incredibly busy, but when she receives a telephone call from her daughter's exclusive private school, she has to cut her day short. Amelia has been suspended - for cheating. This is completely out of character for her daughter - Kate is annoyed at the faculty and the fact that she has to leave a meeting with an important client. But what she finds when she arrives at Grace Hall is beyond comprehension - Amelia is dead. Suicide the cops say.

Kate is on autopilot, dealing with the funeral and trying to come to terms with the fact that Amelia is gone when she receives an anonymous text - "Amelia didn't jump."

Kate never believed her daughter would kill herself and now she sets out to prove it.  She 'reconstructs' Amelia's life from journals, text messages, Facebook entries, emails and the school's gossip blog. McCreight unravels Amelia's life in alternate chapters from Kate's viewpoint and that of Amelia herself.

Reconstructing Amelia is frightening in that it echos many of today's headlines - bullying deaths to be specific. This isn't an easy read/listen - my heart broke for Kate and I just wanted to grab Amelia and protect her. And it made me very afraid for anyone with a teenage daughter. McCreight's plotting keeps us guessing with many red herrings and twists along the way.

I did choose to listen to this book - Kristine Hvam was the reader and she was excellent. She has a very versatile voice - easily portraying teenage tones and switching to the adult characters effortlessly. The teen voices were particularly effective. Listen to an excerpt of Reconstructing Amelia.

Although not listed as YA fiction, I can see Reconstructing Amelia as a crossover title. And it would spark much discussion between mothers and daughters or in book clubs. A reading guide is available. Nicole Kidman has signed on to produce and star in an HBO film of Reconstructing Amelia.

You can find Kimberly McCreight on Facebook and on Twitter.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Over the Counter #163

What book caught my eye this week as it passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Well.....a 'little' bit of cake can't be too bad for you can it?

Mug Cakes: 100 Speedy Microwave Treats to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth by Leslie Bilderback.

From the publisher, St. Martin's Griffin:

"Satisfy your sweet tooth instantly with a microwave cake baked in a mug.
Mug Cakes contains one hundred recipes that are ready in a matter of minutes! Why reach for store-bought mix that takes up to an hour to bake? Let Mug Cakes show you how to make a quick, tiny batter to mix in a mug with a fork! They are the perfect personal serving size when you don't feel like baking an entire cake.

With dozens of mouthwatering recipes, there is something to please every taste. It's all here, from basic Buttermilk Cake to fancy Chocolate Caramel Fleur de Sel. Let the kids try their hand at S'mores and Root Beer Float cakes. Then send them to bed and try the liquor-infused recipes from the Adults Only chapter. There are recipes for cake lovers with special dietary needs, and even noncake recipes like mug puddings, pies, and cheesecakes, when you get tired of cake (yes...it can happen!).

So if you've got five minutes to spare, grab a mug, mix up a mug cake, and satisfy your sweet tooth ASAP!"

(Over the Counter is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World. I've sadly come to 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 catchy your eye as well. See if your local library has them on their shelves!)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Repeat Year - Andrea Lochen

The Repeat Year is Andrea Lochen's debut novel.

Olive Watson wakes up on what she thinks is New Year's Day 2012. But it seems that somehow it's January 1 2011 - again. Olive has already lived this year - and it wasn't her finest. She made some mistakes, hurt some people, damaged some friendships and struggled at work. If it's really a repeat year, can she go back and do things the way she should have? Make sure she doesn't make the same mistakes? Will her changes affect other's lives? For the better? Or worse?

Lochen has come up with a good premise. What would you change if you could go back and redo a year? Olive's focus is her relationship with her boyfriend Phil. She made a mistake that cost her this relationship the first time around and is determined to not lose him this year. But, somehow I just never connected with Olive. All the right character attributes are there, but I found her to be selfish and self absorbed despite her avowal of setting things rights. Another 'repeater' (and I must say I found this just a tad too serendipitous) with connections to Olive's family is battling cancer. Olive promises to check in on her many times, but forgets or doesn't bother more than once.

The characters I did enjoy were Phil and Olive's mother Kathy. They seemed truly interested in other's feelings and more 'real'. Kathy seems to have moved forward after the death of her husband with grace. While I initially enjoyed the light hearted friend Kerrigan, her actions towards Olive at the end of the book seemed to be too easily accepted and explained away.

I'm quite pragmatic, so I did have a problem with everyone accepting that this repeat year was something that could actually happen. But, the Repeat Year does spark the reader's own 'what if' scenarios. So, although we can't go back in time, going forward and making reparations is an alternative.

Tuck this one in your beach bag for some light summer reading. Read an excerpt of The Repeat Year.

'Though Andrea Lochen had dreamed of being an author since the third grade, she didn’t realize creative writing was “an actual thing” until she stumbled upon the program at the University of Wisconsin. Andrea has taught writing at the University of Michigan and currently teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha. She lives in suburban Milwaukee with her husband and their adorably fluffy dog, Maddy. In her free time, she likes to bake cupcakes and cakes, spend time with her family, see musicals and plays, and read as much as humanly possible."
 
You can find Andrea Lochen on Facebook.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Giveaway - The Bookman's Tale - Charlie Lovett

Thanks to the great folks at Viking Books, I've got a wonderful giveaway to offer you today! Charlie Lovett's newest novel - The Bookman's Tale will release on May 28th!

From the publisher:

"A mysterious portrait ignites an antiquarian bookseller’s search through time and the works of Shakespeare for his lost love.
Guaranteed to capture the hearts of everyone who truly loves books, The Bookman’s Tale is a former bookseller’s sparkling novel and a delightful exploration of one of literature’s most tantalizing mysteries with echoes of Shadow of the Wind and A.S. Byatt's Possession.

Hay-on-Wye, 1995. Peter Byerly isn’t sure what drew him into this particular bookshop. Nine months earlier, the death of his beloved wife, Amanda, had left him shattered. The young antiquarian bookseller relocated from North Carolina to the English countryside, hoping to rediscover the joy he once took in collecting and restoring rare books. But upon opening an eighteenth-century study of Shakespeare forgeries, Peter is shocked when a portrait of Amanda tumbles out of its pages. Of course, it isn’t really her. The watercolor is clearly Victorian. Yet the resemblance is uncanny, and Peter becomes obsessed with learning the picture’s origins.

As he follows the trail back first to the Victorian era and then to Shakespeare’s time, Peter communes with Amanda’s spirit, learns the truth about his own past, and discovers a book that might definitively prove Shakespeare was, indeed, the author of all his plays."

Sound like something you'd like to read? Simply leave a comment to be entered. Winner will be randomly chosen on June 1/13. Open to US only, no po boxes please.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Life After Life - Kate Atkinson

I think Kate Atkinson is a brilliant writer. Her Jackson Brodie detective books are a favourite series. With her latest release Life After Life, she takes things in a different direction.....

Ursula Todd is born on a snowy night in February 1910. And dies the same night. And is born again. And dies again. Over and over.

But each 'life' is a little different. Different choices, different choices and directions taken each time change the course of not just Ursula's life, but of those around her and those whose lives she touches. At first she is not aware of these incarnations, but as they repeat...

"...and sometimes, too, she knew what someone was about to say before they said it or what mundane incident was about to occur - if a dish was about to be dropped or an apple thrown through a glasshouse, as if these things had happened many times before. Words and phrases echoed themselves, strangers seemed like old acquaintances."

Atkinson starts us off slowly, with small changes and subtle alterations to the timeline. Each time though, Ursula lives a little longer and the path is altered. I loved the back and forth story telling. Each time I wondered what would change next. As I read, I often wondered what would I have changed? Can Ursula truly change the course of her life every time? And is every change for the better? Better for her or better for others? What about changing the course of history? Atkinson takes her tale through the war years many times - all again with many different outcomes. This part of the book was brilliant - the details and the settings crackle with authenticity and lent this tumultuous time a very personal and real view. The Blitz came to life for me with Atkinson's telling.

Ursula is a wonderful character - human, flawed, funny, pragmatic and wonderfully drawn. The Todd household is made up of just as many fascinating personalities. I was particularly drawn to Ursula's brother Teddy and her father Hugh. Again, the amount of detail woven in and around these lives is captivating. But small, seemingly insignificant details are the things that don't seem to change from life to life -  a little black cat brooch with a rhinestone for an eye, a dog's name, a picture on a wall - just their context in the story.

Life After Life is brilliant on so many levels - the story, the characters and the exploration of family, fate and destiny.

I initially raced through the first few chapters and then stepped back to slowly take my time finishing Life After Life. It was just too good to finish quickly and I enjoyed stopping after the snow falls (the end of Ursula's current life) to ponder what had happened and imagine where Atkinson might go next. And I was never able to guess right. There are turns I didn't see coming, changes I didn't like, passages that left me breathless and above all - stories to be savoured. Which one is the final ending? Who knows? Deliciously, Atkinson leaves that up to our own imagination.

"No point in thinking, you just have to get on with life. We only have one after all, we should try and do our best. We can never get it right, but we must try." "What if we had a chance to do it again and again, until we finally did get it right? Wouldn't that be wonderful?"

.....what if?.....   Read an excerpt of Life After Life. You can find Kate Atkinson on Facebook

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Winner - The Honey Thief




And the lucky winner of a copy of The Honey Thief by Najaf Mazari and Robert Hillman, courtesy of Viking Books is:

Bermuda Onion!

Congratulations! I've contacted you by email for your mailing address!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Giveaway - Oh The Things My Mom Will Do... - Marianne Richmond

Thanks to the wonderful folks at Sourcebooks I have a wonderful giveaway to offer you today!


"From the publisher:

"What a child sees as everyday routine is anything but for a mom! Oh, the Things My Mom Will Do is a celebration of the unpredictable adventure that is motherhood with its sometimes silly, always heartfelt, and wonderfully important moments—all rooted in love. This sweet and amusing book will have book moms and kids smiling with recognition while spotlighting all the different ways a mom shows her devotion."

 
And that's not all - I also have a copy of Marianne's board book - If I Could Keep You Little to giveaway as well.

"Beloved author and illustrator Marianne Richmond has touched the lives of millions for nearly two decades through her award-winning books, greeting cards, and other gift products that offer people the most heartfelt way to connect." Check out some of Marianne's Mother's Day craft ideas - a pillowcase or a journal.
 
One lucky reader will win a copy of both books. Open to US and Canada - simply leave a comment to be entered. Ends Saturday May 18/13.
Happy Mother's Day!
 



Thursday, May 9, 2013

Over the Counter #162

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

Well, I remember having a hat like the one on the cover of The Museum of Kitschy Stitches:  A Gallery of Notorious Knits by Stitchy McYarnpants.

From the publisher Quirk Books:

"Hideous hats, ridiculous wraps, embarrassing neckties, and more-they’re all on display at The Museum of Kitschy Stitches, a photographic gallery of knitting and crocheting horrors. Want to see sci-fi inspired headgear from the 1940s? Gender-bending sweater sets from the ’50s and ’60s? Groovy outerwear from the ’70s? Museum curator Stitchy McYarnpants has sifted through decades of vintage catalogs, patterns, and advertisements to assemble this astonishingly awful collection. Along the way, she provides side splitting commentary about the models and their very unfortunate fashion choices. It’s essential reading for knitters and nostalgia buffs!"

(Over the Counter is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World. I've sadly come to 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 catchy your eye as well. See if your local library has them on their shelves!)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Maya's Notebook - Isabel Allende

I love Isabel Allende's writing. Island Beneath the Sea is one of the few books I've read twice. Allende excels at historical fiction, but in her latest book Maya's Notebook, she moves into present day with a young protagonist.

Abandoned by her mother and with a father always away at work, Maya has been raised by her beloved grandparents Popo and Nini in Berkeley, California. The house is filled with noise, life, colour, friends and most of all - love. But when her grandfather Popo dies, Maya loses it. She turns to drugs, alcohol and crime. This downward spiral finally spits her out in Las Vegas where she sinks even lower and is in great danger - there are many want her dead. Nini sees one last chance to save Maya - she spirits her away to Chilo√© - a remote island off the coast of Chile - Nini's homeland.

It is while exiled on the island that Maya begins to put her story to paper. We are privy to Maya's feelings, emotions and memories from the past and her hopes, dreams and struggle with the present to understand and reclaim her life.

Ahh, what can I say. Allende has yet again created characters that are so well drawn I feel I would know them if I met them walking down the street. The love, the loss and the emotions of her characters was tangible - I felt like a relative or friend was pouring their heart out and sharing their pain. Her prose are always evocative.

"Happiness is slippery, it slithers away between your fingers, but problems are something you can hold on to, they've got handles, they're rough and hard.

The narrative flips between past and present, with a little more revealed each chapter. I love this method of storytelling - it's addictive. (and always keeps me up late, reading just one more chapter)

The setting is spectacular  - the island and its inhabitants play a major role in the book and Maya's life. Allende is familiar with the island and that personal knowledge makes a difference. I learned much about Chilean culture and history as well.

It was after finishing the book that I learned Allende had poured much of her own life into Maya's notebook. Her own family has suffered the loss of more than one child to drugs. Some scenes, dialogue, characters and situations have been pulled from her own experiences. Watch the video below to hear Allende discuss her work. Read an excerpt of Maya's Notebook.

"Born in Peru and raised in Chile, Isabel Allende is the author of many bestselling novels, including, most recently, Island Beneath the SeaInes of My Soul, Zorro, Portrait in Sepia, and Daughter of Fortune. She has also written a collection of stories; three memoirs, The Sum of Our Days, My Invented Country, and Paula; and a trilogy of young adult novels. Her books have been translated into more than 27 languages and have become bestsellers across four continents. In 2004 she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Allende lives in California." You can find Allende on Facebook.



I enjoyed Maya's Notebook, but given a choice, I prefer her historical works. See what others on the TLC tour thought. Full schedule can be found here.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Tooth Tattoo - Peter Lovesey

I must admit - mysteries are probably my favourite genre. Peter Lovesey is an author I hadn't yet sampled - until I picked up his latest book - The Tooth Tattoo.

This is the 13th book to feature Peter Diamond, a police detective in Bath, England. 

A young Japanese woman's body is found in a local waterway. The initial reaction is that is was an accident or perhaps suicide. Diamond is not so sure. He orders a second (unauthorized) autopsy that reveals much more - a faded tattoo of a musical note - on one of her incisors and proof that her death wasn't an accident.

I initially felt like I was playing catch up as I got to the know the characters, their personalities and the interpersonal dynamics. It didn't take too long to get up to speed. (although I do wish I had discovered this author earlier on)

What an unusual plot Lovesey has concocted! The whodunit circles around a classical string quartet and the music and machinations of this elite group are the major part of the intrigue. Each of the widely varied personalities is distinctly drawn. Lovesey employs wonderful descriptors and appreciation of the music itself and how an ensemble works together. But he also weaves in elements that you wouldn't think of blending in - the Japanese yakuza, chess sets made from mammoth ivory and more. Very original and it blended together seamlessly. I actually learned quite a bit as well.

I really liked the character of Peter Diamond - he has a gruff and biting attitude at work, but at the same time knows his team and is quite fair with them. We get a personal glimpse into this man via his on again off again relationship with girlfriend Paloma. I didn't get a chance to know the detective team as well as I would have liked. But I liked the easy banter and wide range of personalities.

The Tooth Tattoo was a wonderfully literate mystery and a great introduction to a prolific, prize winning author. Read an excerpt of The Tooth Tattoo.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Girl Who Married an Eagle - Tamar Myers

I've often picked up a number of Tamar Myers' books for some of my 'cozy mysteries' displays at the library. She writes the Den of Antiquity as well as the Pennsylvania-Dutch with recipes series.

But she also pens a third set of books that are quite different. These books are all set in Africa - the Belgian Congo - in the 1950's. The Girl Who Married an Eagle is the fourth book in this set.

Julia Newton is entranced by a missionary's talk at her church in Ohio in the 1950's. The subject - the need for staff at a mission in Africa. Enthralled, this young woman heads to the Belgian Congo to teach at a school for runaway child brides.

One runaway is Buakane - promised to Chief Eagle - a brutal powerful leader. Myer's narrative alternates between Julie, Buakane and Nurse Verna at the mission. But the most engaging voice is that of Clementine - the nine year old daughter of Henry - a widowed missionary. Clementine is precociously clever but still a lonely child. Can Julia adapt to this new land? Can she and the others at the mission keep the child brides safe? Will Chief Eagle reclaim Buakane?

Myers has written a lovely little tale that will appeal to fans of Alexander McCall Smith. The language, the customs, the land, the people - I found all of the descriptions absolutely fascinating.

"Forget all your preconceptions of what a town is, or ought to be, because the Belgian Congo had its own peculiar definitions. A place was a town only if it had white residents; no matter how large an all-black settlement, it was always called a village. But give it a handful of whites and it was sure to pop up on the map like mushrooms after the first September rain."

I felt like I was sitting listening to a storyteller. Each of the narrator's voices is quite distinct and bring their own take to the tale.

It was only after I finished reading The Girl Who Married an Eagle, that I learned of the author's background. Tamar Myers was born in the Belgian Congo to missionary parents. With that piece of knowledge, the book took on a different slant. Many of the situations and descriptions are from Myer's own life and are based on real events.

I enjoyed this book, but the 'mystery' tag is a bit of a misnomer. There's not much mystery, but lots of questions as to the outcome of many situations. I found it to be an easy, enjoyable, informative read. Read an excerpt of The Girl Who Married an Eagle.

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

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Winner - The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards

And the lucky winner of a copy of The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards by Kristopher Jansma, courtesy of Viking Books is:

Andrea!


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, May 3, 2013

Bear is Broken - Lachlan Smith

I enjoy a good legal thriller and it's always fun to discover a new character. Bear is Broken is Lachlan Smith's debut novel. And who better to pen a legal thriller than a lawyer himself!

Leo Maxwell was raised by his older brother Teddy - a successful criminal defense lawyer. Successful in the eyes of his clients, but the cops and prosecutors aren't big fans. Leo himself has just passed the bar exam. The two brothers are out for lunch when an unknown assailant walks in and shoots Teddy point blank.

Teddy alive - but barely. The cops seem to be dragging their heels, so Leo decides to investigate on his own. But the deeper he digs, the less he knows. It seems everyone has something to hide - Teddy's staff, his ex-wife, his clients and the Maxwell patriarch - currently serving a life sentence for murder. And Teddy himself - is he the dirty lawyer the cops think he is?

Smith has created an interesting protagonist. At first, I thought Leo was the young, innocent new lawyer who would strive to uphold the law and not sully his newly minted bar card. He is - to a point. He makes mistakes and some bad judgement calls, but there's more than a little Teddy in Leo - he's not quite the innocent I thought he was. My opinion on Leo changed more than once throughout the book. As his investigation progresses, he is forced to face certain truths. Many of the supporting characters are unlikeable, giving the book bit of a noir-ish detective feel.

Smith's plotting is more involved that I initially thought it would be - there are lots of red herrings and false trails that kept me choosing between two suspects right up until the last chapters. I did think the plot was drawn out a few chapters too many.

I chose to listen to Bear is Broken. The reader was R.C. Bray - a narrator I was unfamiliar with. And that was perfect for establishing a new character. He has a interesting voice - a bit of a hard edge and gravelly undertones mixed with naivet√©. Bray was an easy voice to listen to and his enunciation was clear.

All in all, a solid debut from a new author. Leo Maxwell's tale is far from over. This is the first in a planned series. Leo as a character has been established and perhaps we'll see more courtroom action next time 'round. The ending is satisfying, but left with enough threads to pick up on for the second entry.  I'll be listening.

Listen to an excerpt of Bear is Broken.               Read an excerpt of Bear is Broken.


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Over the Counter #161

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Books for the animal lovers this week!

First up was Lost Cat - A True Story of Love, Desperation, and GPS Technology by Caroline Paul. Illustrated by Wendy McNaughton.

From Bloomsbury Publishing:

"Caroline Paul was recovering from a bad accident and thought things couldn't get worse. But then her beloved cat Tibia disappeared. She and her partner, illustrator Wendy MacNaughton, mourned his loss. Yet weeks later, Tibia waltzed back into their lives. His owners were overjoyed. But they were also...jealous? Betrayed? Where had their sweet anxious cat disappeared to? Had he become a swashbuckling cat adventurer? Did he love someone else more? His owners were determined to find out.

Using GPS technology, cat cameras, psychics, the web, and animal communicators, the authors of Lost Cat embarked on a quest to discover what their cat did when they weren't around. Told through writer Caroline Paul's rich and warmly poignant narrative and illustrator Wendy MacNaughton's stunning and hilarious 4-color illustrations, Lost Cat is a book for animal lovers, pet owners, and anyone who has ever done anything desperate for love."

And for the dog lovers - Thunder Dog: The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust by Michael Hingson with Susy Flory.

From the publisher, Thomas Nelson:

"Faith. Trust. Triumph.
 
“I’m sorry,” the doctor said. “He is permanently and totally blind. There is nothing we can do for him.”
George and Sarah Hingson looked at each other, devastated. Their six-month-old son, Michael was a happy, strawberry blond baby boy, healthy and normal in every way except one. When the Hingsons switched on a light or made silly faces, Michael did not react. Ever. “My best suggestion is that you send him to a home for the blind,” the doctor continued. “He will never be able to do anything for himself.”
Forty-seven years later, a yellow Labrador retriever puppy was born in the whelping unit of Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael, California. The puppy’s name was Roselle. On September 11, 2001, she saved Michael’s life. This is Roselle’s story too. —From the Introduction

Every moment in Michael Hingson’s and Roselle’s lives seemed to lead up to this day. When one of four hijacked planes flew into the World Trade Center’s north tower on September 11, 2001, Michael Hingson, a district sales manager for a data protection and network security systems company, was sitting down for a meeting. His guide dog, Roselle, was at his feet. Paired for twenty-one months, man and dog spent that time forging a bond of trust, much like police partners who trust their lives to each other.

Michael couldn’t see a thing, but he could hear the sounds of shattering glass, falling debris, and terrified people flooding around him and Roselle. However, Roselle sat calmly beside him. In that moment, Michael chose to trust Roselle’s judgment and not to panic. They were a team.
Thunder Dog is a story that will forever change your spirit and your perspective. It illuminates Hingson’s lifelong determination to achieve parity in a sighted world and how the rare trust between a man and his guide dog can inspire an unshakable faith in each one of us."

(Over the Counter is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World. I've sadly come to 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 catchy your eye as well. See if your local library has them on their shelves!)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Wedding Night - Sophie Kinsella

Rainy, cold afternoon? Check. Comfy couch, pot of tea? Check. Perfect time to settle in with the latest by Sophie Kinsella? Absolutely! And so with delicious anticipation I turned to the first page of Wedding Night.

Lottie is 33 years old - she wants to get married and start a family. She's sure that her boyfriend Richard is the one. And she's sure he's going to pop the question - after all it's been three years.

Her sister Fliss has already married and has a beautiful son. But not a beautiful marriage - she's in the midst of an acrimonious divorce.

Well, Richard doesn't pop the question and Lottie runs headlong into the arms of her old flame Ben - and right up to the altar! Fliss is determined to keep Lottie from making what she sees as a terrible mistake. And Ben's friend and business colleague thinks the same. What ensues is a hilarious scheme to sabotage - you guessed it - their Wedding Night.

Kinsella uses both sisters to narrate the book. It was great fun to have not one but two female leads. Their personalities are miles apart, but I found each character quite engaging. Yes, some of the situations are far fetched - but I'm not reading for reality - I'm reading for entertainment. And Wedding Night definitely kept me entertained. It was light and funny and I know I had a smile on my face much of the time.  (This would make such a great rom-com movie)

Pick up a copy of Wedding Night for your beach bag this summer! Read an excerpt.

For me, Sophie Kinsella is the Queen of Chick Lit. You can find Sophie on Facebook