Thursday, February 28, 2013

Over the Counter #152

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? It's been a tiring week, so it seems I was on the lookout for sugar, sugar and more sugar!

First up was Part of a Complete Breakfast by Tim Hollis.

From the publisher, University of Florida Press:

"Butting in every ten minutes to interrupt the exploits of Bugs Bunny, Underdog, or Rocky and Bullwinkle, a very different kind of cartoon series won the affection of viewers on Saturday mornings in the 1950s.

 Breakfast cereal commercials played out their own storylines in time slots of just a few seconds each. Soon, Cap'n Crunch™, the Trix Rabbit™, Toucan Sam™, Count Chocula™, and many more were household names, familiar as the cartoon personalities in regular television programs. Some creatures tried to swipe cereal from their friends. Others showed off the super strength given by their breakfast food of choice. Catch phrases even turned up in everyday talk, from "They're magically delicious!"™ to "They're grrreat!"™

  Rediscover the heyday of these beloved cereal advertising characters in Part of a Complete Breakfast, which includes fascinating information about their origins. Did you know Tony the Tiger™ originally walked on all fours and had claws and sharp teeth? Or that Lucky the Leprechaun™ seemed to genuinely hate the kids who chased after him to take his Lucky Charms cereal? Meet cartoons who never made it into the public eye, including a "lost" Kellogg's character named Nutrina, and a proposed fourth member of the Rice Crispies gang--a spaceman named Pow!
Drawing from his personal museum of pop culture memorabilia, Tim Hollis celebrates the characters dreamed up by mid-twentieth-century mad men when television was an exciting new way to advertise. Vivid pictures give flavors of the earliest cereal commercials aired and the role they played in claiming the loyalties of young breakfast eaters up to the present day."

Next up was America's Most Wanted Recipes: Just Desserts by Ron Douglas.

From the publisher, Simon and Schuster:

"New York Times bestselling author Ron Douglas serves more than 200 copycat dessert recipes from your family’s favorite restaurants!

More than a million home chefs across the country have enjoyed America’s Most Wanted Recipes, More of America’s Most Wanted Recipes, and America’s Most Wanted Recipes Without the Guilt, in which author Ron Douglas uncovers the best of the best recipes from hundreds of popular restaurants, including Applebee’s, Arby’s, Baskin- Robbins, The Cheesecake Factory, Chili’s, IHOP, and more. Within the pages of his fantastic cookbook series, they’ve found the answer to that daily, nagging question: What can I cook at home that will taste just as good and be just as much of a treat as eating out?

America’s Most Wanted Recipes Just Desserts features more copycat recipes, this time for the sweetest treats from some of the most deliciously decadent menus available.

Ron has perfected his versions of recipes from more than seventy-five different billion-dollar establishments. Think Applebee’s Deadly Chocolate Sin, The Cheesecake Factory’s Banana Cream Cheesecake, and Cracker Barrel’s Banana Pudding. Just Desserts will cover what Ron’s rapidly growing fan base craves: inexpensive, easy, and delicious dishes that the whole family can enjoy. Perfect for satisfying sweet tooths—at home and minus the cost of eating out. Holidays, birthday parties, and impromptu dinner parties will be even more fun to prepare and more memorable. Sweet!"

(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!)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Why Can't I Be You - Allie Larkin

Allie Larkin's latest book Why Can't I Be You? has just released and I have to tell you - I absolutely adored it!

Jenny Shaw thinks she has a pretty good life. She doesn't love her job, but she thinks she's pretty good at it. And it looks like she's finally getting some recognition - she's being sent to a conference by her boss. Well, okay it's because her boss can't attend. And she's pretty sure her relationship with her boyfriend Deagan is about to go to that next level.....

And it does, only it's not the level Jenny had envisioned. Deagan drops her off at the airport.....and drops her altogether, saying he needs to explore his feelings for another woman. Stunned, Jenny stumbles on the plane and heads to the conference. When she arrives at the conference centre, she thinks she hears someone calling her name....but they're saying Jessie. The woman is so glad to see 'Jessie' - she had no idea that she'd be attending the school reunion!

And with that hug, our Jenny steps into someone else's past. It's been a number of years and they really do resemble each other - enough so that the group of friends from Jessie's past welcome her back into their circle. And though she knows she should come clean...."For a little while, I wanted to forget me."

For this group of friends is warm and loving and fun - everything that Jessie realizes has been missing from her life. And with every day that goes by, it gets that much harder to admit the truth.

Jenny was such a great character - she was the kind of person you'd like to really have as a friend. Larkin does a great job taking us on Jenny's journey to discover what she really wants and needs from her life. I laughed out loud, I empathized and I crossed my fingers, hoping for the best for Jenny. And for the rest of the cast as well. Larkin has also created a great group of supporting players, just as likable as Jenny.(And one is named Luanne!) I found myself often stopping to think about my own friends from high school as I turned pages.

Yes, Why Can't I Be You definitely has chick lit elements, but it's much more than that. Larkin explores relationships - family, friends, co-workers and romantic all with a keen eye.

"Nothing is as it seems, and then you get older and get to decide if you want to go back and see everything the way it really is or if you just want to move on."

Does she get found out? You'll have to pick up the book to find out. Get a sneak peek - read an excerpt of Why Can't I Be You.  I can totally see this book being made into a movie! You can find Allie Larkin on Twitter.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Deadly Stakes - J. A. Jance

I've been reading J.A. Jance for a number of years, following her Joanna Brady series,  but funnily enough have never read any of the other three series she writes. Her latest book Deadly Stakes is the eighth entry in the Ali Reynolds mystery series.

The opening chapters of Deadly Stakes were quite detailed (and folksy), filling in the background of many recurring characters and the goings-on in their lives. For someone who hadn't read the series, this was a good way to get to know the players. Ali is a reporter with ties to the police department as a reservist in Sedona, Arizona.

Ali is asked by the mother of a woman suspected of murdering her boyfriend's ex wife to look into her case. There is a bit of a connection with a past investigation of Ali's and the suspect herself has faith that Ali can help find the truth. The body of the murdered woman was found by a local teenager, who's keeping secrets of his own. And then another body, that of a convicted counterfeiter, is found nearby. Is there a connection between the two bodies?

Deadly Stakes (and Ali) rely upon a lot of coincidences, timely clues and fortuitous happening to solve the crime. "Wait, I almost forgot." or "You know all this how? A good buddy of mine works for them." Or interviewees 'spilling the beans' to Ali, who is calling herself a freelancer rather than a reporter. I found some of the plot stretched credibility, such as the chief of police asking Ali to investigate on the sly as he had misgivings about the prosecutor.

One of Jance's strengths is in the building and continuation of her character's lives. I truly do enjoy the Sheriff Joanna Brady character. Maybe it's because I started at the beginning and have followed along with each new entry, but I just find her genuinely likable. I can't say the same for Ali. All the right elements are there, but I just found her grating.

Deadly Stakes isn't a cozy mystery, but not a difficult whodunit either. It falls somewhere in the middle. I think readers who enjoy Catherine Coulter and Iris Johansen, for example, would enjoy this series.

Sorry Ali, I really do prefer the Sheriff Brady stories. But, Deadly Stakes was a good book to while away a sleepy Sunday on the couch. Read the prologue or chapter one of Deadly Stakes. Book groups there is a reading group guide available.

You can find J.A. Jance on Twitter and on Facebook.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Coming this week - The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow Tour

From the Harper Collins Canada Savvy Reader blog:

"Have you ever read a book that is so wonderful you have trouble describing it to people because of an overwhelming fear of not doing it justice? This is how I feel about The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow, a book published by Harper Collins Canada that will be released on Tuesday. This debut novel by Rita Leganski is one that my coworkers and I hold very close to our hearts; it is a story of a young boy who was born mute, but harnesses a gift of wondrous hearing. If there is one thing I can say about The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow, it is that it deals with heavy topics including death, disability, religion and relationships in a very delicate and magical manner. Quite simply, this book is beautiful.

However, this really isn't saying enough about The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow, which is why I have invited five Canadian book bloggers to share their thoughts on Bonaventure Arrow's story with us. Monday with Jaclyn of Literary Treats, Tuesday with Charlene of The Literary Word, Wednesday with Deirdre of Your Hidden Shelf, Thursday with Jenn of Lost in a Great Book and Friday with Luanne of A Bookworm's World. Each blog will also be hosting a giveaway, so be sure to check them out for a chance to win a copy!

To learn more about The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow, click here or start reading now. We hope you’ll follow along with The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow tour! If you get the chance to pick up the book please let us know what you think, or tweet your own review with the hashtag #BonaventureBT."

Winner - The Ex-Pats - Chris Pavone

And the lucky winner of a copy of The Expats by Chris Pavone,  courtesy of Crown Publishing is:

Jeffrey Bolden!

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

Friday, February 22, 2013

Blood Money - James Grippando

James Grippando seems to have found inspiration for his latest book - Blood Money -  in the annals of true crime.

This is the 10th book featuring Jack Swyteck, a Miami based lawyer. In Blood Money, Jack reluctantly takes on the defense of Sydney Bennett, a party girl cocktail waitress accused of killing her two year old. Sounds just like the real life case of Casey Anthony, also a Florida woman accused of killing her two year old in 2008, doesn't it?  And, like Anthony, Grippando's character is found not guilty. The resulting social media storm also mirrors that of Anthony's case, which Time magazine called "the social media trial of the century." Bennett comes to be known as 'shot mom', a reference to her selling of drinks at her cocktail waitress job, by TV host Faith Corso.  Anthony was called 'tot mom' by television news host Nancy Grace. There are some other similarities I won't bother listing.

So, part of me was disappointed in Grippando for simply fictionalizing a known case. But once things got underway, he did put his own spin on things with alternate scenarios. Lots of twists and turns kept me listening. I found the media frenzy surrounding the case a telling commentary on our society.  I've always enjoyed the character of Jack - he's a likable, principled protagonist. Theo (whom Jack 'saved' from Death Row) is a solid sidekick, and the more physical of the duo. Their banter is often entertaining.

The reader was award winning Jonathan Davis and he was excellent. His interpretation of Jack really matched the mental image I had created for this character. His voice is very expressive, and captured the action and tone of the story perfectly. His range of voices was very good - I was able to easily tell who was speaking. Davis has a voice that is truly easy on the ears!

Blood Money was an entertaining listen for me. Listen to an excerpt of Blood Money. You can find James Grippando on Facebook.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Over the Counter #151

What book caught my eye this week as it passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Literary Knits: 30 Patterns Inspired by Favorite Books by Nikol Lohr.

From the publisher, Wiley:

"More than 30 projects inspired by classic literature. Literary Knits features 30 knitting patterns inspired by beloved characters from classic books; from Pride and Prejudice to Moby Dick, The Catcher in the Rye to The Chronicles of Narnia—and many more in between.

Inspired by some of the most beloved characters from favorite books, including an elegant Daisy Cloche inspired by The Great Gatsby and a late '50s-inspired Holly Golightly Dress imagined from Breakfast at Tiffany's, the more than 30 knitting projects in this unique collection will inspire knitters and book lovers alike.
  • Each knitting pattern includes precise instruction and robust information on yarn selection and substitution
  • Beautiful photography throughout offers ideas and inspiration for all ages and skill levels, including supporting photos for tricky or less commonly-known techniques
  • Diagrams, assembly instructions, and schematic illustrations ease completion of each project
  • A generous mix of knitting patterns for women, men, and kids
If you're a book lover who knits, or a knitter with an appreciation for vintage patterns, Literary Knits is a timeless collection of one-of-a-kind knitting projects."

(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, February 20, 2013

Birthdays for the Dead - Stuart MacBride

Stuart MacBride is another author whose name I was familiar with, but hadn't sampled yet. Well, that's all changed. I just read Birthdays for the Dead and I am hooked.

MacBride grabs you by the throat in the opening prologue and only eases his grip long enough to let you take a breath and then the pressure is back on. Non-stop.

The day's mail includes a birthday card for Detective Constable Ash Henderson's daughter Rebecca - she would have been eighteen. Rebecca went missing days before her thirteenth birthday and it's assumed she ran away. But, Ash knows differently. She was a victim of The Birthday Boy - a sadistic killer who sends parents horrific photos of their dead daughters in a yearly birthday card. And Ash has just received his latest. The Oldcastle police have been chasing this maniac for over eight years and they may have just caught a break - a body has been found. Ash has withheld his cards and daughter's death from everyone as he doesn't want to be taken off the case. But, it's taken a toll - he's divorced, lives in a dive, is dangerously in debt to the local mob, eats painkillers constantly and is a little too quick with his fists. He's a train wreck of a man - and you can't help but hoping he comes out on top.

Whew. Where to start? It took me the first few chapters to catch on to MacBride's style - fast and furious, but also with some funny bits. I know, after what I just described, funny doesn't seem possible. But Ash is paired up with Alice,  a very 'different' psychologist, who has her own set of issues. The dialogue between the two is quite witty. On the flip side, Mrs. Kerrigan scared the bejesus out of me. The action truly never stops, the tension never lets up and I was unable to predict where the plot was headed next. Or the ending.

Gentle readers be warned - Birthdays for the Dead is dark, gritty and violent. But, boy oh boy crime fans - it's oh so good! This was my first MacBride, but definitely won't be my last.  Read an excerpt of Birthdays for the Dead. I was glad that this was a stand alone book. (But I would like to see more of this character) as MacBride also writes a crime series featuring Logan McRae that I want to start from the beginning.

You can find Stuart MacBride on Twitter and on Facebook.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Sound of Broken Glass - Deborah Crombie

I only 'discovered' Deborah Crombie last year when I read No Mark Upon Her. (my review - I loved it) I have been eagerly awaiting the next entry in her Duncan Kincaid/ Gemma James series. The Sound of Broken Glass (#15) releases today.

Kincaid and James are husband and wife and both work for Scotland Yard. Duncan is staying at home right now with their three year old daughter and Gemma is heading up her first big murder case.

Who has been killed? A prominent lawyer - found in a rundown hotel in Crystal Palace, naked and tied up. Is it a sex game gone wrong? Or a sadistic killer? But then a second lawyer is found killed the same way - and there's evidence to link the two cases. As Gemma digs deeps deeper, she finds unexpected connections to her life. In flashback chapters, we also slowly learn of a young man's past and his upbringing in the Crystal Palace neighbourhood. What connection does he have to the present day?

Crombie is a master of plotting. There was no dearth of suspects and I was kept guessing until the end. The investigation is solid police work and I enjoyed solving the crime along with Gemma and her team. But woven through this main storyline is a running secondary storyline - that of Duncan and Gemma's personal life. And it is this 'personal' touch that has cemented Crombie on my must read list. Although others may complain that domestic details of characters may detract from a good mystery, I find quite the opposite. I feel they gave the story much more depth and make the characters 'real' and all the more believable. This same attention to detail is given to the secondary players as well. The result is a well rounded cast, all with their own tale to tell. I've become invested in each of their lives and want to see where Crombie takes everyone from here.

There's a third thread also wound about the story - that of The Crystal Palace itself. Although the name now denotes an area of South London, the history behind this plate-glass building originally erected to house the Great Exhibition of 1851 is truly fascinating. Every chapter starts out with a quote or a paragraph chronicling the history of the building. And again, Crombie is very clever with her choices. Read carefully, they mirror what is happening in the book.

The Sound of Broken Glass was a satisfying read on so many levels - one I would definitely recommend. Crombie ends the book with a cliff hanger - I will be again eagerly awaiting the next in this wonderful series. Read an excerpt of The Sound of Broken Glass. Fans of Louise Penny and Susan Hill would enjoy these characters.

You can find Deborah Crombie on Twitter and on Facebook.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Ghostman - Roger Hobbs

Learn from my mistakes. It was almost bedtime, but I thought I would sample a few chapters of Ghostman by Roger Hobbs before calling it a night. Yeah, good plan - didn't work. And I was very bleary eyed at work the next morning.

Atlantic City. The perfect heist, perfectly planned- treasury bills on their way to a casino. But.....the best laid schemes of mice and men....

When things go horribly wrong, Marcus, the orchestrator (jugmarker) of the heist gets in touch with 'Jack' (aren't all the best anti-heroes named Jack?!) in hopes of salvaging part of his plan. Jack owes Marcus for something that happened on another job. Since that job Jack has disappeared - like a ghost.

"My name isn't really Jack. My name isn't John, George, Robert, Michael or Steven, either. It isn't any of the names that appear on my drivers licenses and it isn't on my passports or credit cards. My real name isn't anywhere, except maybe on a college diploma and a couple of school records in my safety-deposit box. Jack Delton was just an alias, and it was long since retired. I'd used it for a job five years ago and never again since......Only two people in the world knew that name."

Jack is caught between warring criminals, his own proclivity for living on the edge and the past. We slowly learn what happened in the botched robbery five years ago and how Jack came to be the Ghostman.

Hobbs had me hooked from page one. The opening scenes are action filled, addictive and set the pace for the rest of the book. The story never falters or stalls and had me enthralled until I (reluctantly) turned the last page. The plot twists and turns in unexpected directions, taking the reader on a thrill packed ride.

Hobbs has obviously done a great deal of research into the criminal underworld of robberies, casinos, security and more. (Who knew you could kill someone with nutmeg?) The details included are fascinating and really add depth to the story. This is not a glossed over paint by the numbers plot. In fact, I stopped at one point to go online and read about the author. I really could not believe this was a debut novel.

"Roger Hobbs graduated from Reed College in Portland, Oregon in 2011, where he majored in English. His first book, GHOSTMAN, was written during the summer between his junior and senior years at Reed. He spent the school year rewriting it and editing. The manuscript was sent off on the day he graduated​. A few weeks later it caused an uproar at the 2011 Frankfurt Book Fair, and has since sold in more than fifteen countries around the world."

Who is going to love this book? Well, in my opinion, everyone. But if you're a  fan of  Reacher and the 'Oceans' heist movies, then this is one for you. I absolutely loved it - Five stars all the way.

Roger Hobbs: "My protagonist may be on the other side of the law from Lee's (Childs) heroic Jack Reacher, but he's just as smart, rough and principled. If I can get anyone to stay up all night reading, then I've done my job." Job done, Roger - in spades. More please.

Read an excerpt of The Ghostman. You can find Hobbs on Facebook and Twitter.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Safe House - Chris Ewan

An intriguing premise and a reader that I really like = one good listen. That was the winning combination with Chris Ewan's book Safe House and Simon Vance's narration.

Safe House opens up with a great opening gambit. Plumber Rob Hale is doing some heating work at an isolated house. Lena - the young woman staying there - asks to go for a ride on his motorcycle. But, they crash. Rob wakes up in the hospital and one of his first questions is 'How is Lena '? And the answer is unexpected - there was no girl - he was found alone. But he knows that can't be true.....he remembers....or does he.....Rob is determined to track the girl down. His family is more concerned with his mental health - the family has suffered a recent  tragedy.

Ewan weaves a tangled web of lies and deceit in Safe House. The plot went in directions I did not see coming at all - from environmental activists to a multinational oil conglomerate to the British Security Services, private investigators and more. Ewan definitely held my interest with this inventive plotline.

I quite enjoyed the character of Rob (and Rocky the dog!) Vance does a fantastic job bringing this character to life - the voice he used was 'real'. Rob came across as an honest everyman trying to make sense of a crazy situation. He just sounded trustworthy. There are plenty of players, but Simon Vance does an admirable job with creating a voice for every character, making each immediately identifiable. His accents are believable. Vance's voice is rich and resonant and easily communicates the action and tension of the story. He truly is one of my favourite readers.

Chris Ewan makes his home on the Isle of Man and uses this as the unique setting for Safe House. I was quite fascinated with the description of the island, the  motorcycle races and that this is where the Manx cat originated.

This was a great introduction to a new to me author and a really entertaining listen. You can find Chris Ewan on Twitter.                  Listen to a sample of Safe House.

Author: Chris Ewan Reader: Simon Vance Running Time: 10hrs 53min Publisher: AudioGO Ltd

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Over the Counter #150

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

Talking Pictures: Images and Messages Rescued From the Past by Ransom Riggs. (The author of Mess Peregrines' Home for Peculiar Children) And I have to admit, this one did come home with me - I was fascinated by the old photos and messages.

From the publisher, Harper Collins:

"With the candid quirkiness of Awkward Family Photos and the confessional intimacy of PostSecret, Ransom Riggs's Talking Pictures is a haunting collection of antique found photographs—with evocative inscriptions that bring these lost personal moments to life—from the author of the New York Times bestselling illustrated novel Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Each image in Talking Pictures reveals a singular, frozen moment in a person’s life, be it joyful, quiet, or steeped in sorrow. Yet the book’s unique depth comes from the writing accompanying each photo: as with the caption revealing how one seemingly random snapshot of a dancing couple captured the first dance of their 40-year marriage, each successive inscription shines like a flashbulb illuminating a photograph’s particular context and lighting up our connection to the past."

(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!)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Guilt - Jonathan Kellerman

Guilt is the 28th (!) entry in Jonathan Kellerman's long running Dr. Alex Delaware series. I've been following this series for many years, but the last few books have fallen short for me. But, old habits are hard to break, so I was willing to see what was in store with this latest offering.

Alex is a psychologist who consults with the LAPD - specifically with Homicide Detective Milo Sturgis. "Most homicides are mundane and on the way to clearance within a day or two. Milo sometimes calls me on 'the interesting ones.'" Milo is an outsider within the ranks, but he has one of the highest clearance ranks in the department. Together this pair make an interesting investigative duo, with each bringing different strengths and outlooks to the cases.

In Guilt, a new homeowner discovers a metal box buried in the backyard. But, the contents are unexpected - they're the bones of a baby. The remains are determined to be sixty years old, but of course must be investigated. Then a young woman is found dead in a nearby park with another set of infant bones close by - and this time they're more recent.

Kellerman lets us follow along as Alex and Milo scour the past and pursue the present in search of answers. Alex takes the lead role in Guilt, striking out on his own many times, using his own connections and pursuing threads he believes will lead to answers. I did find sone leaps to leads rather circumstantial and a bit hard to buy, and the title appears to have been drawn from a note that is never fully explained.

Kellerman is a psychologist himself and the character of Alex is especially well developed because of this  background. His conversations and mannerisms ring true. In Guilt, Alex practices more counselling than he has in the last few outings. Milo still remains my favourite character, but he takes more a backseat in Guilt. Blanche the bulldog does seem to steal a lot of scenes as well.

Reading the latest Jonathan Kellerman is like slipping on a favourite pair of slippers - they're comfortable and you know how they'll fit. Guilt was a good read to keep me entertained on a recent train trip. Read an excerpt of Guilt. You can find Jonathan Kellerman on Facebook.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Blogger Love Fest 2.0 - Random House of Canada

I travelled to Toronto on Saturday to attend Random House of Canada's second annual Blogger Love Fest.

It's always so wonderful to catch up with bloggers you know and a great chance to meet some new ones as well.

And a chance to say thank you to the wonderful online marketing crew at RHC - Lindsay, Jess, Ainsley, Cass (sorry you had the flu!) and Katerina for planning yet another wonderful afternoon. The invitation promised goodies, food - and a special guest.

That special guest was Andrew Kaufman, speaking about his latest book - Born Weird! "I don't think realism is the best way to express what life is...magic realism captures it better." Look for my review in the near future!

Now weirdly enough, I actually graduated from the same small high school in the same small town as Andrew - albeit a few years earlier. I had lots of fun with Andrew and the 'do you remember...' game! So with that in mind, I'll share the great dedication in my signed copy of Born Weird! Ahhh yes, gravel running!

Thanks again for a great day Random House (and the swag bag!) I can't wait for next year!!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Over the Counter #149

What book caught my eye this week as it passed over the library counter and under my scanner? A gorgeous coffee table book with a unique perspective - Serengeti Spy by Anup Shah. Subtitled: View from a Hidden Camera on the Plains of East Africa.

From the publisher Abrams Books:

"In these terrific action photos of wildlife on the African Savannah in the Serengeti and the Massai Mara, Anup Shah reveals these creatures as never seen before, using remote hidden cameras that have been planted across the plains. This is life on the plains in all its dynamism, cruelty and vitality, the circle of life in action. Readers will find themselves literally face to face with hyenas as they feed on a kill, with elephants communing in a watering hold, playful lion cubs, wildebeests leaping across a ravine, inquisitive monkeys who have discovered the camera and gaze directly into the lens and cheetahs peering back under their tails towards the camera. Many of these animals have actually noticed the camera, mostly by the sound of it clicking away and their interest is clearly piqued; they're certainly not accustomed to encounters with a camera on the ground of their home turf. This is primarily a visual journey through the African plains, but captions written by the author will impart interesting facts about the animals, as well as any activity of interest that may have occurred while the photo was being taken. Anup Shah has been a wildlife photographer based in Kenya and England for more than 30 years."

(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!)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Expats - Chris Pavone - Review AND Giveaway

Chris Pavone's debut novel The Expats has been nominated for an Edgar Award - Best First Novel. And with good reason - it's a real page turner.

Kate Moore has a secret - she's worked for the CIA since she left college. Along the way, she decided she wanted a family and married Dexter. Nice, safe, comfortable Dexter - of course she fully investigated him. And they've been blessed with two little boys. When Dexter gets a job offer in Luxembourg as a banking security specialist, Kate decides it's finally time to quit and just be a mom and wife. But can one really ever leave that kind of life behind? Will the past let you quit? And is your husband really who you thought he was?

Kate joins the ranks of the expats in Luxembourg, trying to learn the language, navigate a new country and deal with the loneliness -  Dexter's job keeps is keeping him away from home more and more. For a male writer, I thought Pavone nailed Kate's emotions - the boredom, the frustration, the loneliness, the uncertainty that she's made the right choice.  But old habits die hard and Kate finds herself second guessing everyone she comes into contact with.

Secrets is the name of the game here - everyone has them and the winner is the one who can figure them out first. Pavone certainly keeps the reader on their toes. He's chosen to tell the story in two narratives - past and present. Different typefaces help us distinguish which is which, but I will admit that I had difficulty in the beginning. In the present day narratives, we (mostly) know what has happened. Switching back to the past, we know more that Kate does as she tries to figure things out. But we still don't know it all - Pavone provides lots of twists to keep the story moving.

I enjoyed having a woman as a protagonist in a 'spy' novel and I liked Kate as a character. There were a few times when an obvious clue seemed to elude her that I thought was out of character, but this is a minor complaint.

The Ex-Pats was an excellent cat and mouse game, with the roles changing constantly between four main players. I can see this as a movie. Read an excerpt of The Ex-Pats.

OR - Leave a comment to be entered to win a copy for yourself!
Open to US and Canada. Ends Feb. 23. Thanks to Crown Publishing.

Pavone himself has lived in Luxembourg and I think this added an extra level of authenticity to his settings and descriptions of both this country and others nearby.
Wondering how the book came to be? Check out this feature from Crown Publishing. You can find Chris Pavone on Facebook.

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

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Fate of Mercy Alban - Wendy Webb

I've always loved creaky old houses and  dusty attics - I sit and wonder about who once lived there and what their life was like.

Wendy Webb gives free rein to her imagination in her latest book The Fate of Mercy Alban.

When her mother dies, Grace Alban and her daughter Amity return to the family estate on Lake Superior. The faithful family staff are still in situ - Jane, her husband and a driver. They've been there from the beginning - bearing witness to the lives of the wealthy and influential Alban family.  And they've been there for the tragedies too - the family seems to have more than their share of heartbreak. Is is just bad luck or is there some truth behind the whispers of a family curse? "...accidents, death, scandal, and even murder have taken place in the house over the years."

Grace herself has stayed away for over twenty years- a response to a tragedy that is slowly unveiled over many chapters. While sorting through her mother's papers, she comes across a packet of letters that challenge everything she thought she knew about her parents - and revives her interest in a night that the Alban family has kept shrouded in mystery for decades. But some secrets don't want to see the light of day......

Webb has crafted a modern take on a classic genre - the Gothic ghost story. Family secrets, haunted houses, family curses with a little witchcraft thrown in as well. Webb's plotting is intricate and keeps us guessing with many red herrings and switchbacks on the way.  For me, The Fate of Mercy Alban was plot driven. I was much more interested in where Webb was going to take her story than the characters. Although all the right elements are in place, I didn't really ever engage with Grace.

I enjoyed the book within a book technique that allowed us to learn secrets of the past along with Grace.

This was a fun read for me, not overly scary, but definitely entertaining. I really like the cover art and once you read the book, you realize the title is quite clever as well. What did I love the most? The house - I want to explore all those hidden passages and back staircases to unused rooms.......Read an excerpt of The Fate of Mercy Alban. Also chosen as a February 2013 Indie Next List Great Read. You cand find Wendy Webb on Twitter and on Facebook.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Stonecutter - Camilla Lackberg

I do a rotating display at the library on genres and authors. This last month I featured Scandinavian authors. I've read many of the authors I featured, but Camilla Lackberg was new to me.

The Stonecutter is the third book in her series set in Fjall­backa, Sweden that features Detective Patrik Hedstrom.

A local fisherman hauling in his nets draws up an unexpected and grisly catch - the body of a young girl. When Patrik is called to the scene, he is horrified to realize he knows the girl. Further investigation reveals that the drowning was no accident.

The present day chapters dealing with Patrik's investigation are alternated with chapters detailing a story beginning in 1923, set in the same village. The two narratives seemed to have no connection to each other whatsoever in the beginning, but I was fascinated by the older story as well. More and more of the past is revealed with every chapter and I started to get an inkling of where the two narratives might meet. I quite enjoyed having the story slowly but deliciously pieced together. Lackberg has done an excellent job with her plotting - it's intriguing and inventive.

Although Patrik is the lead protagonist, there are other recurring characters that are just as well drawn and developed.  Patrik's girlfriend Erica has just given birth to their first child and is having great difficulty coping. His colleagues at the station run the gamut - from keen to lazy to dangerous. The townsfolk are a mixed bunch - all with secrets it seems. I enjoy a series that lets us 'know' the characters and see their lives evolve from book to book.

Lackberg's mystery is excellent, but I also appreciated the depth with which she explored the psyches of all involved - both police and suspects. The theme of relationships is explored in many forms - especially that of parent/child. These explorations were the most frightening parts of the book. There are sub plots never fully wrapped up as well, which was okay - the ending has only left me eager to read the next in the series - The Gallows Bird. A great read and a new addition to my list of must read mystery authors.

Read an excerpt of The Stonecutter.