Monday, March 30, 2009

The Redeemer - Jo Nesbo

I love mysteries and detective novels - especially series, where you can really come to know the protagonist. The Redeemer was a great new find for me. It's the fourth book in the Harry Hole series by Norwegian Jo Nesbo. It's just been released this month in Canada by Random House.

Harry Hole is a highly effective detective in the Oslo police department. However he is a bit of a rebel - he has a problem with both alcohol and following orders. Because he gets results he is tolerated.

The Redeemer opens with a scene from 1991 at a Salvation Army retreat. A crime is committed but never reported. Fast forward to present day. An unnamed hit man is on his last job - he has decided to call it quits. When the hit man kills the wrong target and a snow storm prevents his escape from the country, Harry Hole isn't far behind. The hit man has limited resources in Norway and Harry is tightening the noose.

I found the first few chapters a bit confusing as the action changed rapidly from character to character, especially as the pronoun he is used for the hit man in the beginning. This cleared up fairly quickly though. Because it is so unique, I found the settings and the attitudes especially interesting. I thought it was very different to use a known religious organization as a main part of the plot. It does showcase the Army's good works, but also paints a portrait of an organization subject to the same issues as any other business. Oslo seems to have an inordinate amount of drug users and the tolerated sale of drugs in a specific area came as a surprise. (haven't yet discovered if that's fact or fiction)

I enjoyed the character of Harry - his flaws make him even more interesting. Other characters are well drawn as well, eliciting sympathy, anger, disgust and pity. The past of the hit man is told in flashbacks, changing our view of him. The ending provides an excellent twist, definitely turning in a direction I had not foreseen.

This was a first rate detective novel - I'll be looking for future Harry Hole novels.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Guest Post - Phyllis Schieber - Willing Spirits Tour

A Bookworm's World is pleased to have Phyllis Schieber, author of Willing Spirits stopping by on her virtual book tour. Her guest post today is an extremely personal view on loss. Thank you Phyllis for sharing with us.

Other stops on the tour can be viewed here. Phyllis will stopping in throughout the day to respond to your comments.

"Each comment on any of the blogs in the tour will offer a chance to win a free copy of Willing Spirits or Sinner's Guide to Confession. A couple of people who make a real impression on Phyllis during the tour will be chosen to win a free book."

"I know loss. My father died when I was twenty-six. It was the first truly profound loss I ever experienced, and it irrevocably changed my life. I lost a dear friend, Bette, a few years later. And then, the tragic death of her daughter Polly some ten years later from asthma attack. I dedicated Willing Spirits to Bette and Polly. I know loss. Another much loved friend, Shelly, died two years ago. I lost my mother in December, but she was lost to me years before as I watched her battle dementia and physical disabilities that compromised her life and made her a stranger.

And just this week yet another friend passed. Our dear friend Freddie, who would have been sixty-four in a few weeks, was buried just two day ago. I know loss. But I am more fortunate than most because I am a writer. I can take the pain and make it something else. I can make the pain and the sadness and transform it into something that, unlike people, will last forever.

I have come to realize that I see the world differently than others do. As we stood vigil in the hospital, anticipating the removal of the ventilator that was nothing more than procedure, I watched the drama of death unfold. I try to comfort the heartbroken aide, Janette, who cared for Freddie these last months. She is from Togo, and the lovely lilt of her voice does nothing to mask her pain. She weeps fully, and I am once again reminded that culture defines everything. Janette openly laments what she has lost. “He was my friend,” she says. I wrap my arms around her and reassure her that she had done everything possible to make his life comfortable and easier. “I know,” she says simply. “But I will miss him so. He was my family.” She presses her head into the wall and howls. The rest of us move from the room where Freddie is comatose, lifeless already. We intermittently stroke him and talk to him, but Janette kisses his feet. We are almost embarrassed by this open demonstration of love and devotion. My husband, a lifelong friend of Freddie’s, is pale, but quiet. He tries to comfort Freddie’s wife Kathy. I stay close to Freddie’s daughter Stacey, a young woman I have known since she was born. Her mother, gone now nineteen years, was my friend. There are others present, the rabbi and her husband, a neighbor, my brother-in-law (Freddie’s best friend), who works hard to contain his grief. I hear his gasp as a cry threatens to escape from his throat. He will not allow himself to indulge in open pain. He will not expose himself. When it is finally over and we say goodbye, I am ready to leave. We have been in the hospital all day. My husband holds my hand as we walk to the garage. We are tired and hungry. We are accustomed to the rhythms of loss, and we still have to face the funeral and the shiva, the requisite period of mourning during which the immediate family receives those who come to pay their respects.

During the funeral, I notice the surreptitious glance of the grieving widow Kathy as she looks toward her inconsolable step-daughter, hoping she will hear the rabbi’s words of comfort and perhaps acknowledge the effort to pay homage to the mother lost so many years before. The attempt goes unrecognized, and I grieve even more because I see the consequences of obdurate behavior, the unyielding refusal to let others in. The unwillingness or inability to be comforted can be a hardship for everyone. Kathy is what my mother would have called, “a lady.” She is gracious and warm to everyone who has come to share her loss. I am surprised to see the coffin draped in an American flag. I had forgotten that Freddie was a Vietnam veteran. I had forgotten how he and several of our other friends had been forever changed by that war, physically and emotionally. My husband delivers a eulogy. He is nervous. I can tell by his gait, by the way he laughs a little before he begins to speak. The rabbi refers to him as one of the “band of brothers,” the group of guys who grew up together in the Bronx. The eulogy is moving. They guys embrace my husband when he steps down from the podium. They approve.

I notice everything as the service ends. There are small dramas everywhere. The family of Stacey’s late mother is there to support Stacey. The children of the “band of brothers’ who came to pay their respects to a man they had known all their lives seem nervous. It is touching. I see the fear in their eyes. Could one of their parents be next?

Several times throughout the day, I am inspired to jot something down in the little notebook I always keep handy. Did anyone else feel the grief of the men as they, according to Jewish custom, filled their friend’s grave with dirt until the plain pine box was covered? Am I the only one who internally recorded the depth of Stacey’s suffering as she doubled over and cried so deeply that I felt a chill? I noted the irony of the Honor Guard at the grave of a man who despised war. Yet, it is impossible not to be moved by the young soldiers who carry out the military protocol with such dignity, such precision. Freddie would have had something to say about the need to repeat the ceremonial folding of the flag—they got it wrong the first time. I smile as I think about his reaction.

I know for certain that some of this day will find its way into my work in some form at some time. Later, I ask my husband if he saw what I saw. More often than not, he says no. The last few days have given me an idea for a new novel. I’m not certain if I will write it, or if it will still seem like a good idea months from now when I finish what I am working on, but I know some of what I have heard and seen will be used in some way. I am grateful that I can cull my experiences and arrange into a form that others will recognize as exactly what they were feeling at some other time, in some other place. I am grateful for the stories I will be able to create."

Willing Spirits - Synopsis

Jane Hoffman and Gwen Baker, both teachers and in their forties, have a friendship that helps them endure. Years after Gwen is abandoned and left to raise two sons alone, she finds herself in love with a married man. After Jane is humiliated by her husband's infidelity and Gwen must face her own uncertain path, the two women turn to each other.

Now, as each is tested by personal crisis, Jane and Gwen face new challenges--as mothers, as daughters, as lovers. And in the process, they will learn unexpected truths about their friendship--and themselves.

A little bit about Phyllis herself:

The first great irony of my life was that I was born in a Catholic hospital. My parents, survivors of the Holocaust, had settled in the South Bronx among other new immigrants. In the mid-fifties, my family moved to Washington Heights. The area offered scenic views of the Hudson River and the Palisades, as well as access to Fort Tryon Park and the mysteries of the Cloisters. I graduated from George Washington High School. I graduated from high school at sixteen, went on to Bronx Community College, transferred to and graduated from Herbert H. Lehman College with a B.A. in English and a New York State license to teach English. I earned my M.A. in Literature from New York University and later my M.S. as a developmental specialist from Yeshiva University. I have worked as a high school English teacher and as a learning disabilities specialist. My first novel , Strictly Personal, for young adults, was published by Fawcett-Juniper. Willing Spirits was published by William Morrow. My most recent novel, The Sinner's Guide to Confession, was released by Berkley Putnam. In March 2009, Berkley Putnam will issue the first paperback publication of Willing Spirits.

I live in Westchester County, New York where I work privately with students, teaching writing. I am currently working on a new novel.

You can visit Phyllis's blog here.

Thank you so much Phyllis for stopping by A Bookworm's World!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Giveaway - Girls in Trucks - Katie Crouch

Another giveaway?! Yes! And it's another fantastic book! I have five copies of Girls in Trucks by Katie Crouch to giveaway courtesy of the Hachette Book Group.

Synopsis from the publisher:

"Sarah Walters, the narrator of GIRLS IN TRUCKS, is a reluctant Camellia Society debutante. She has always felt ill-fitted to the rococo ways of Southern womanhood and family, and is anxious to shake the bonds of her youth. Still, she follows the traditional path laid out for her. This is Charleston, and in this beautiful, dark, segregated town, established rules and manners mean everything.But as Sarah grows older, she finds that her Camellia lessons fail her, particularly as she goes to college, moves North, and navigates love and life in New York. There, Sarah and her group of displaced deb sisters try to define themselves within the realities of modern life. Heartbreak, addiction, disappointing jobs and death fail to live up to the hazy, happy future promised to them by their Camellia mothers and sisters.When some unexpected bumps in the road--an unplanned birth, a family death--lead Sarah back home, she's forced to take another long look at the fading empire of her youth. It takes a strange turn of events to finally ground Sarah enough to make some serious choices. And only then does she realize that as much as she tried to deny it, where she comes from will always affect where she ends up. The motto of her girlhood cotillion society, "Once a Camellia, always a Camellia," may turn out to have more wisdom and pull to it than she ever could have guessed."

Here's a great video of Katie Crouch talking about her book. Or if you'd like to read a bit of it, click here.

Simply comment to be entered. Open to both the US and Canada. Sorry - no po boxes. Make sure I have a way to contact you. Winners will be chosen by random. org and contacted via email. Open until Saturday April 25/09 6 pm EST. Good luck and check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Giveaway - The Turnaround - George Pelecanos

If you've never read George Pelecanos before, you're missing a really great crime novelist. Here's your chance to win a copy of his latest The Turnaround, courtesy of the Hachette Book Group.

From the publisher:

"On a hot summer afternoon in 1972, three teenagers drove into an unfamiliar neighborhood and six lives were altered forever.Thirty five years later, one survivor of that day reaches out to another, opening a door that could lead to salvation. But another survivor is now out of prison, looking for reparation in any form he can find it.THE TURNAROUND takes us on a journey from the rock-and-soul streets of the '70s to the changing neighborhoods of D.C. today, from the diners and auto garages of the city to the inside of Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital, where wounded men and women have returned to the world in a time of war. A novel of fathers and sons, wives and husbands, loss, victory and violent redemption."

Or you can read the first chapter here.

Five copies to be given away. Simply comment to be entered. Open to both US and Canada, no po boxes please. Giveaway runs until Saturday, April 18, 6pm EST. Winners will be chosen using and contacted via email. Please make sure I have a way to contact you. Good luck and check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways!

Mrs. Meyer's Clean Home - Thelma Meyer

With Spring finally here, I always want to fling open the windows and clean. Note- I said want - I don't always get to as much of it as I'd like to...

The subtitle promises 'No-nonsense advice that will inspire you to clean like the dickens.' And that's what this book delivers. Thelma Myers raised nine children (born over the course of ten years!) in small town Iowa. Her philosophy - " I like to focus on the big picture - getting the chores done daily so there's more time to enjoy life."

In Mrs. Meyer's Clean Home, she has done just that. There are plans for what to clean when - daily, weekly, monthly and seasonal. It is further broken down into specific areas with particular instructions for items in those areas:

Kitchen - cabinets, silverware, pans, floors, counters and more
Bathroom - floors, sinks, toilets, first aid kit etc.
Living room - furniture, pictures, fireplaces, lamps, etc.
Bedroom - linens, how to make a bed, closets, etc.
Home office - computers, correspondence, organizing your household
Laundry - ironing, stains, washing, sewing etc.
Outside - gardening, decks, patios, pets and pests and more

The book is laid out very cleanly. (pun intended) It's easy to read with lots of graphics and white space. It's narrated in what I would assume to be Thelma's rather folksy, homespun tone. I enjoyed the references to her children and their comments that were included. No comments from her husband Vern, but he seems to be a very handy guy - fixing and building many items in their home.

Interspersed throughout are sections called My House, My Rules in which Thelma (very) firmly states her beliefs. A lot of them are good common sense advice and born from the need to organize a house with nine children. Some statements made throughout the book are, in my opinion rather dated - " My husband never complained about my house keeping".
"When Dan (the youngest) turned five, Vern said I could go back to work." (she worked as a nurse on the night shift) Some of her advice I thought unwise - keeping stain remover in a child's bedroom to pre-treat stains right away. Makes more sense (and safer) to me to take the clothes to the laundry room to pre-treat. I was actually offended by her declaration -"When I go to people's homes and they either ask or suggest that I take my shoes off, well, I just won't do it. That's inhospitable! What's more important - having a spic and span house or being hospitable?"

Meyer's oldest daughter Monica Nassif started a line of aromatherapeutic cleaning products bearing her mother's name - Mrs.Meyer's Clean Day. I hadn't been aware of these products before - they are available in both Canada and the US.

This is a good reference book to have around the house, filled with advice on just about anything you may feel the need to clean! Pick and choose what works for you. I do like that she endorses using more 'friendly' cleaning products as well as reusing and recycling. You can read the first chapter here.

Want a chance to own it yourself? Enter my giveaway here!

Giveaway - Mrs. Meyer's Clean Home

Okay so Spring has sprung and the urge to Spring clean has come over you - right? Need some help getting started? Here's your chance to win one of five copies of Mrs. Meyer's Clean Home courtesy of the Hachette Book Group!

From the publisher:

"When Thelma Meyer tells it to you, she tells it straight: Clean the kitchen daily! Don't waste anything (not even the water leftover from those potatoes you just boiled)! Always work hard! This philosophy meant that when Thelma's daughter Monica founded Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day products (named after her mom), the products were designed to work hard for you.
Now for the first time, Thelma's sage advice is being made available in this revolutionary cleaning guide chock full of practical tips and secrets based on the premise that life is hectic and messy -- and so keeping your house clean and nice is the only sensible thing to do."

And my review is here.

Comment to be entered (if you feel like leaving a cleaning tip - go ahead!) Winners will be chosen by and notified via email - so make sure I have a way to contact you. Giveaway runs until Thursday April 16th at 6 pm EST. Open to both US and Canada, no po boxes please. Good luck!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Mutiny on the Bounty - John Boyne

John Boyne - isn't he the one that wrote....? Yes Boyne is the author of the hugely successful historical fiction bestseller, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

Boyne turns his talents into a re-telling of the ill fated 1789 voyage of The Bounty to harvest breadfruit on what is now known as the island of Tahiti. The breadfruit was destined to feed slaves in Jamaica. After a long and difficult voyage, many men questioned William Bligh's leadership and a mutiny occurred. Bligh and 19 loyal men were turned out into a small launch and left to live or die. Bligh managed to guide them to land over the course of 48 days. Most of them did survive. Many books have been written, recounting this event.

Boyne's novel, although faithful to historical fact, is character driven. It is told from the viewpoint of 14 yr. old John Jacob Turnstile. Turnstile is given a choice - serve his gaol sentence for thievery or sign on as the captain's servant boy on the Bounty. The ship is his choice. Having never sailed before, we are treated to seeing the vessel, the traditions, the crew, Bligh himself and the fate of The Bounty's historic voyage through the curious eyes of "Turnip", as he is known to the crew. Turnstile is a wonderfully engaging character. His dialogue is witty, sharp and humorous. He is wise beyond his years in certain ways and yet naive in other matters. His documentation of the ship's crew, their personalities and what may have led to the mutiny are a fresh look at a known story. Knowing the history of the Bounty did in no way detract from the reading of Boyne's book. Boyne is a consummate story teller and The Mutiny on the Bounty is a heck of a tale. Highly recommended.

You can read the first chapter here.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Winner - Giveaway - Drood

And the lucky winner (chosen by of a copy of Drood, courtesy of the Hachette Book Group is.......

debblou !!

You're going to love it! I'll be contacting you by email. Thanks to all who entered. Check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways (there will be a new one this week...)

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Makedown - Gitty Daneshvari

What a great, fun read this was! I was laughing out loud in the first few pages and never stopped.
First time author Gitty Daneshvari is a very funny writer!

Anna Norton is 'that kid' in school. You know - ostracized because she's the smart one, but with greasy hair, bad skin, uncool clothes and also overweight (by quite a bit). Her family is also more than a little bit nuts. After university Anna decides to make a break for it and move to New York where no one knows her.The only job she can find is with a private caterer. The owner - Janice - turns out to be - in Anna's words her FG (Fairy Godmother). Janice herself is a self described FF (Former Fatty). With her help Anna changes. Then she meets Ben - and falls madly in love. The problem is that so does every woman that meets him. So Anna decides to make him over, well make him down. Make him so no other woman will want him. I won't go any further into the plot, but things don't go quite as planned.....

Populated with laugh out loud characters, dialogue and situations, Daneshvari has penned a chick lit book that will have you giggling on the couch until you turn the last page. The Makedown is a great rainy day read.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Happy Blogiversary to Me! / Scene of the Blog

Yes - A Bookworm's World is a year old today! I started after getting numerous requests from friends, family and patrons on what to read. I thought it would a great way to keep a list of the books I'd read and what I thought of them in one place. I had no idea how it would grow and the wonderful community of bloggers, authors and publishers I would meet. So thank you to everyone who has ever stopped by, commented or emailed - I appreciate it very, very much!!

Cathy over at Kittling: Books has this great new weekly feature - Scene of the Blog - where she showcases blogger's spaces - and today it's me! Thanks for helping me celebrate a year! You can check it out here.
Oh, and if you're interested - Here's my very first post.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Galway Bay - Mary Pat Kelly

Miriam at Hachette Books has done it again! The Early Birds Tour choice this month was Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly. What a fantastic selection and St. Patrick's Day is the perfect day to tour this epic Irish novel.

*** Mary Pat Kelly will be on Blog Talk Radio today - March 17 at 11 am EST. Listen in here!***

It was with great sadness that I turned the last page of this stunning novel. I had become so caught up in the story, I didn't want it to end.

Galway Bay is many stories - a love story, a story of the history of Ireland and the Great Starvation, a story of courage, faith, devotion, family, community and the undying spirit of a land and it's people. It is the story of Mary Pat Kelly's great-great grandmother - Honora Kelly. Mary Pat Kelly spent many years researching her family tree and has fictionalized their history.

The novel opens in 1839. We meet 16 yr old Honora Keeley and her family and neighbours. Hers is a fishing family, casting their net in Galway Bay. Honora is slated to join the local convent, but a chance meeting with young Michael Kelly changes the path of her destiny. Life is difficult under the British landlord system, but they have always gotten by - until the potato harvest fails - not once, but three out of four years. In desperation, many of the starving Irish make their way to North America. Honora's story continues in 'Amerikay' as well.

Mary Pat Kelly has done a stunning job - the tale fairly jumps off the page.. I was fascinated by the Irish myths, legends and history told by both Honora and her Granny. Interspersed with Gaelic phrases and words, they reinforce the proud tradition of this tenacious people. All the characters were vividly portrayed. I found myself actually crying a number of times at the sad turns life takes for the Keeleys and the Kellys, talking out loud angrily at the injustices done and cheering for the indomitable spirit of Honora and her family. I was particularly struck by the strength and resilience of the women.

I particularly enjoyed this book, as my own 18 yr old great-great grandfather left Keady, Ireland and settled in Canada in 1845 and I think this book does a fantastic job of describing the conditions, history and travels of so many of our forebearers.

This would be a fantastic selection for a book club - there is an excellent set of questions included as well as an appendix of the Gaelic terms used. Check out the first chapter here.

If you think you'd like to own a copy of the book yourself enter my giveaway here!

There are numerous bloggers participating in today's tours - some of the other stops are listed below.

At Home With Books , Reader's Respite, My Friend Amy, Bermuda Onion's Web Log, Write for a Reader, Books by TJ Baff, Diary of an Eccentric, Savvy Verse and Wit, Pudgy Penquin Perusals, Wendi's Book Corner. Whew!

Giveaway - Galway Bay - Mary Pat Kelly

Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly is one of those books that I know will be in my library forever. I could not put it down! You can read my review here.

Here's a quick synopsis from the publisher:

"Here at last is one Irish family's epic journey, capturing the tragedy and triumph of the Irish-American experience. In a rousing tale that echoes the myths and legends of Ireland herself, young Honora Keeley and Michael Kelly wed and start a family. But when blight destroys the potatoes three times in four years, a callous government and uncaring landlords turn a natural disaster into The Great Starvation that will kill one million. Honora and Michael vow their children will live. The family joins two million other Irish refugees in one of the greatest rescues in human history: the Irish Emigration to America.

Thanks to the Hachette Book Group, I have a copy to giveaway to a lucky reader. Just comment to be entered. An extra entry if you're a follower (let me know if you are) or become a new follower. And a third entry possible by tweeting or blogging about this giveaway.

Please make sure I have a way to contact you, either by leaving an email address or through your web page. Giveaway is open to both US and Canada, no po boxes please. Runs until Tuesday April 7th, 6 pm EST.

Good luck and thanks for stopping by. Check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways!

Mary Pat Kelly - Galway Bay - Guest Post

The bones of Galway Bay comes from my own family history, a story I discovered slowly over decades of research. In the beginning tracing my roots meant cranking through reels and reels of microfilm in a fruitless search. To access the U.S. Census records I needed the address where the Kelly’s first lived in Chicago, which I did not have.

I realized my father’s first cousin, Sister Mary Erigina, BVM might know. She did. Born Agnella Kelly in 1889, she had in fact lived with her great grandmother Honora Kelly. Agnella lived to be 107, her mind sharp and her interest keen. Now I found the right reel. Here were the names of Honora’s children, their ages, but nothing about where they came from in Ireland.

I followed the trail to Galway and discovered at last the record of the birth of Honora Keeley, September 15, 1822. And the place? A fishing village right on the shores of Galway Bay. The cottages were gone but the Bay was the same. I stood on the beach looking out, and could almost see my great-great-great-grandfather John Keeley setting out in a puc├ín, guided by a knowledge of winds, currents, and the patterns followed by the fish themselves that he’d learned from past generations. I went to the site of the fish market in Galway City and imagined Honora and her mother selling the catch under the Spanish Arch, bargaining and trading, handling money. Rare for women of that time. How did that shape their character?

I found that after Honora married Michael Kelly, they moved. Spidery handwriting in the church register recorded the births of each of their children, including my own great-grandfather, Patrick Kelly, and gave the name of their townland, a farming area in the hills above Galway Bay. I found the actual acres they had rented from the landlord and knelt down and touched this special piece of earth. Then I wondered how they’d coaxed a living from the stony ground. I knew the wheat and barley they raised went to pay an exorbitant rent. They relied on potatoes as their staple food. I now understood the songs that praised the wonder of the potato. The rich might have disdained the pratties, but the nutrients in these humble vegetables, unknown at the time, allowed my ancestors and their neighbors to thrive. Large healthy families were common, until the blight came and the inherent injustice of the system meant over one million died. And yet two million escaped, one reaching back for the next—the Kellys among them. Gone to Amerikay.

Yes, as I continued my research, American history came alive for me as well. The Civil War—brother against brother—a description I’d often heard. But when I found a descendant of the Mulloy family who had shared land with Michael Kelly in 1840, I began to really understand. Eugene Mulloy’s ancestors had lived in Nashville for generations. Had the sons of these Irish neighbors fought against each other in the terrible war?

I think all those who explore their family tree find that the experience changes them. History is not presidents and generals, battles and dates, it’s us! In these difficult times knowing what our ancestors survived is soul-sustaining. Think of it - wars, famine, genocide, the middle passage, slavery - and yet here we are. I felt inspired by my ancestors and profoundly grateful for the life their endurance gave me. I hope Galway Bay inspires you to celebrate your own heritage.

Be sure to visit Mary Pat Kelly's homepage. It has a wealth of information on her research for writing Galway Bay.

I adored this book!! You can read my review here. And enter the giveaway here for a copy of Galway Bay!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Letters Between Us - Linda Rader Overman

Santa Barbara Herald
Friday July 7, 1989
Missing Mother Found Dead in Dumpster

That's the opening page of Letters Between Us. And although it reads like real life, it is a fascinating work of fiction.

Laura and Katherine were friends from grade eight through to the death of Katherine at age 39. They faithfully kept in touch over the years with letters. When Laura goes to the funeral, she is given a box of letters and photos to go through by Katherine's estranged husband. Laura asks her husband to send the box of letters she has saved to her. She holes up in a motel rereading and reliving not just Fields' life but her own.

The book is a mixture of Laura's reminiscences and correspondence between the women, with letters faithfully reproduced. Bolder type is used for Laura's correspondence and faded, tiny script for Katharine's. Although I believe this script mimics what Katharine's type and style of writing would be like, I found it a bit hard to read. It is interspersed with Laura's journal entries from 1989 and memories of their lives together.

Katharine's letters seem to allude to something dark, but not spoken of. She has struggled with mental health issues and both of her parents are alcoholic. It is only upon rereading and reflection that Laura sees the hidden hurt of Katharine's life, clues she missed the first time around. Laura also sees her own life replayed - she was a heavy drug user, engaged in casual sex and enjoyed the 'let it be' attitude of the sixties. This reflection propels her toward a personal revelation.

What struck me most reading this fictionalized memoir was the joy and love these two girls/women felt towards each other. They truly had a friendship that endured. How difficult it must have been for Laura to read those letters. I enjoyed the letter and journal format. The writing was so believablem it had me truly thinking that this was an actual memoir!

You can read Linda Rader Overman's blog here.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Scene of the Blog

Cathy over at Kittling: Books has this great new feature - Scene of the Blog - running on Wednesdays. Every week she will be featuring the space of a blogger. Yes, you can have a extra peek into the world of those people you've come to know through their blogs.

Stop by this Wednesday and you can get a peek into A Bookworm's World!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Winners - Giveaway - Sway

And the five lucky winners (chosen by of a copy of Sway by Zachary Lazar, courtesy of the Hachette Book Group are:

1. Ardy22
2. A Stationary Addict
3. Elizabeth
4. Sue
5. Livingmyhappilyeverafter

MJ graciously let me know she has already won a copy already, so I've gone to the next person on the list. (Did you buy any lottery tickets this week MJ?!) Having trouble giving away that last copy - Amanda Sue has also graciously let me know she has already won, so on to the next person - glad I printed the list!

I will be contacting you by email for your mailing addresses.

Congratulations and thanks to all who entered. Keep your eye on the sidebar for ongoing giveaways!

Thank you again.....

Updated March 28 - A big thank you to Mo from Unmainstream Mom Reads for awarding me the Premio Dardos Award. This award acknowledges the values that every blogger shows in his or her effort to transmit cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values every day.

Updated March 24 - Again from Karen over at
Bookin' With Bingo - The Sisterhood Award - this is very special because it acknowledges the kindness and spirit of blogging.

Many thanks to new blogger Emily over at Bookgirl's Bookshelf for awarding me the I Love Your Blog Award. Thanks Emily - I appreciate
it very much!

And thanks to Karen from Bookin' With Bingo - who
herself is one of the friendliest bloggers around for the Freinds award! And updating on March 24, the same award from new blogger Marie at Daisy's Book Journal and from Sheri at Bookopolis! Again, I appreciate everyone for thinking of me! I am truly honoured.

Stop by and visit these bloggers if you haven't had a chance to meet them yet.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Welcome to the Departure Lounge- Meg Federico

--- Subtitled: Adventures in Mothering Mother ---

Meg Federico is a successful journalist, often writing humor pieces for the National Post. She lives in Nova Scotia, Canada and her mother lived in New Jersey. As her mother ages, Federico worries..

" Watching my mother for the past few years had been a lot like watching a blindfolded lady ride a unicycle on a tightrope. You can't take your eyes off her as she wobbles up there completely unaware that she's fifty feet above the ground because she can't see. And if you attempt to point out her peril, she thinks you're trying to ruin her career."

And then it happens - her mother does suffer a serious fall and is comatose in a Florida hospital. A hospital that is under court order to stay open, in a derelict neighbourhood with squalid conditions. Federico flies down, her brother arrives and they try to decide what is the best for their mother.

As they struggle with making decisions and overcoming seemingly unthinkable conditions, we are treated to flashbacks of her mother Addie's life and times.

Addie is married to her second husband Walter, who suffers from Alzheimer's. They both drink too much and neither has been declared incompetent. The solution reached by Meg and her stepsister Cathy (Walter's daughter) is to keep them looked after in their own home - which comes to be known as the Departure Lounge. Although the stories are at times humorous, many times I was saddened and appalled by the situations described. The family is very well off and they end up with eleven paid staff to look after these two confused, elderly people. Staff that ends up stealing, doesn't show up and half the time doesn't seem to care. Although Federico's story and explanation for the decision to keep them at home seems logical in the book, I still can't understand how all their money could not buy competent staffing. Or why the question of legal competency was not pursued more aggressively.

"Competency is complex and so hard to contest that several lawyers cautioned me away from it, advising that even if we won, we'd ruin our relationship with our mother, and things weren't quite bad enough to warrant it. But I'm telling you any judge who spent a weekend at the Departure Lounge would hand over guardianship of both of then to anyone who could walk and chew gum at the same time.

The situation between Walter and Addie had been going on for many years. He is a bully and his behaviour, temper and lust has not improved over the years.

"He certainly bullied my mother and threw tantrums and fits that made her life miserable."

There is no doubt that Federico loves her mother. She leaves her family in Nova Scotia repeatedly to be by her mother's side and loses her job.

"But Addie was my compass north; as long as she was around, I knew where I was, even if I was running in the opposite direction. How would I get my bearings without her?"

Elder care is a difficult subject - what is best for some may not be for others. The cost of care is prohibitive to some - something Federico acknowledges in the preface notes. Although I found the book hard to read at times, I truly appreciate Federico's candor in putting such a personal story to paper. It's a story all of us will face at some point, either for ourselves or a loved one. And it's all too easy to question something when you're not the one living it.

You can read the first chapter here.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Engine 2 Diet - Rip Esselstyn

Okay, so I admit - I need to lose a (clears throat) few pounds! But what really caught my eye of Rip Esselstyn's new book was the subtitle - "The Texas Firefighter's 28 Day Save-Your-Life Plan that Lowers Cholesterol and Burns Away the Pounds."

Okay - cholesterol is a major concern for many North American adults and who couldn't stand to lose a (clears throat) few pounds?

The basis for The Engine 2 Diet is Esselstyn's belief that "...the most basic, profound and powerful way to take care of your health on a day-to-day basis is to eat a healthy, plant-based diet."

As a firefighter and dedicated athlete, Rip was concerned about the health of his fellow firefighters. He convinced them to join him in his plant based diet and all who participated saw profound results, both in weight and health improvement.

He has two plans - Fire Cadet - which slowly weans you off meat, eggs, dairy, oils and refined products. And the Firefighter - you're off all the above at once. There are numerous studies and facts presented to back up his belief that this is the way to live the rest of your life. Results can be seen in four weeks.

Of course, it needs to be combined with physical activity, muscular and cardiovascular. Rip uses a method called functional training - using your own body weight, no equipment needed. There is a full section on stretching and exercise, complete with descriptive pictures. He advocates having a number of medical tests (ie blood work, BP etc) done so that you have a baseline to measure your progress against. The book is peppered with testimonials and anecdotes, giving it a personal feel.

The second half of the book cover recipes and meal plans. I found the section on label reading and specific product recommendations to be extremely helpful and very clearly written. How to ensure you are getting the nutrients you need from sources other than meats and dairy were helpful as well. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I was pleasantly surprised with the recipes and meal plans. They were absolutely do-able, if that makes sense. Many of them were foods I already enjoy. Most of them appealed to me. (But I will take a pass on kale butter!)

I have to say that a lot of it really makes sense to me after reading this book. Even if you took some of his ideas and adapted them to your life, you would reap some benefit. Am I going to jump on the bandwagon? (or fire engine as the case may be) It's given me a lot to consider. I will be reviewing another diet book from Hachette Books in the next couple of weeks and deciding which plan would suit me best. Stay tuned!

You can check out a video of Rip discussing his program here. Or if you'd rather - you can read an excerpt here. Or head over the website -

And in the meantime if you think you would like to have a copy of the Engine 2 Diet for yourself - enter my giveaway for three copies here!

Giveaway - The Engine 2 Diet - Rip Esselstyn

I have three copies of Rip Esselstyn's new book The Engine 2 Diet to giveaway courtesy of the Hachette Book Group.

From the website:

"Melt away the pounds, look terrific and become bullet-proof to Western diseases. This is the Engine 2 Diet. For 28 days you'll eat the most delicious food Mother Nature has to offer, prepared in a vast array of mouth-watering recipes you can easily make in your own kitchen. This is your chance to create lasting beauty - from the inside out."

I found it to be a really interesting read. You can check out my review here.

To be entered, let me know why you want a copy of this book. Open to US and Canada, no po boxes please. Please make sure I have a way to contact you, either by leaving your email or through your web page. Giveaway runs until Friday April 3rd 6 pm EST. Good luck!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Darkness at the Stroke of Noon - Dennis Richard Murphy

Another fantastic Canadian mystery writer - one I was completely unaware of!

Ruby, recently widowed, wants out of the FBI. She takes a job with the AEI (Arctic Exploration Institute). Her first assignment is to travel to the Victory Point archaeological dig in Nunavut, Canada and accompany one of their scientists, who has made an unbelievable discovery in the Canadian Arctic, back to the U.S. At the same time, RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) Sergeant Booker Kennison, who has been banished to the Yellowknife station for reporting corruption within the Mounties, is sent further north to Victory Point as well. It's supposed to be a routine assignment - document two accidental deaths at the Victory camp due to a fire. But it turns out to be anything but routine. The deaths are murder. And the discovery is unimaginable. It's an intact diary from the lost Franklin expedition, detailing their voyage. The information contained within could impact international borders and land rights.

The story flips between past and present. Murphy has done an amazing job in envisaging a diary of the Franklin expedition. This is a story on it's own. Back to the present - it's bitterly cold, the light is shorter every day, the food is running low and someone in the camp is a murderer.

Darkness at the Stroke of Noon is an action packed page turner. The choice of setting makes it a uniquely Canadian tale, as do the references peppered throughout the book - Tim Hortons and Canadian Tire. I laughed out loud at Ruby's view of Canadians...

"At forty-one, she didn't feel too old for a fight, although fighting Canadians seemed like the punch line of a bad joke. They were just French-speaking wannabe Americans who spent their winters in Florida getting melanoma until they ran home for free operations."

I enjoyed many of the supporting characters, especially the local doctor who acts as a coroner and her assistant. Their dialogue over the autopsy table is blackly humorous.

I finished the book and was hoping that this was to be the first of a series. Reading the back flyleaf I was saddened to find that Dennis Richard Murphy passed away just before publiction of Darkness at the Stroke of Noon.

Publisher Harper Collins Canada has produced a short radio drama with a view into Sergeant Kennison's world. You can listen to it here. Or read the first chapter here.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Breaking Lorca - Giles Blunt

Giles Blunt is one of my favourite Canadian authors. I'm a big fan of the John Cardinal mysteries and loved his last stand alone novel No Such Creature.

Newly released from Random House, Breaking Lorca is a complete departure from earlier works.

Victor, a bookish, reluctant soldier in El Salvador is 'rescued' from death by firing squad by his uncle. His uncle, Captain Pena, is a specialist in the army - an interrogation expert. He means to school Victor in his trade. He is an expert in torture. When a suspected female rebel, Lorca, is imprisoned, Pena decides that she should be Victor's learning ground. Victor is not by nature a violent, evil man. In fact he describes himself as a coward. What will someone do to keep themself alive?

I want to warn my readers now that this is not an easy read. Descriptions and dialogue are absolutely horrific and brutal. I did have to read it in small doses. What kept me going? My faith in Giles Blunt as an author. The second part of the novel moves to America, where Victor seeks redemption from his past. But can the past ever be escaped?

What possessed Blunt to write such a novel? He was inspired by Canadian author and activist Margaret Atwood's poem "Footnote to the Amnesty Report on Torture", which imagines "a fearful man paid to clean up the torture chamber."

You can read an excerpt here.

A compelling, thought provoking narrative of what is most likely happening somewhere in the world at this moment. I was glad I chose to read til the last page.

Book Giveaway Carnival - Beat the Reaper Winners

Well I hope everyone had a great time participating in Book Giveaway Carnival Week hosted by Tracey of Bookroom Reviews!

The three lucky winners (chosen by of a copy of Beat the Reaper in audio book format, courtesy of the Hachette Book Group are:

1. bison61
2. shopannies
3. Holly

Congratulations and thanks to all who entered. I will be contacting you by email for your mailing addresses.A new giveaway will be up midweek - check the sidebar regularly for ongoing offers.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Winners - Little Pink House Giveaway

And the three lucky winners (chosen by of an audio book of Little Pink House, courtesy of Hachette Book Group are:

1. Jayfr
2. Kat Bryan
3. Ken

Congratulations and thanks to all who entered. A new giveaway will be up midweek.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Another award - thank you so much!

Well, Jo-Jo over at Jo-Jo Loves to Read caught me totally off guard with a wonderful surprise. She had given me the Proximidade Award. The what?

"This blog invests and believes in the PROXIMITY-nearness in space, time and relationships. These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement! Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this clever-written text into the body of their award."

There are so many amazing and wonderful people in the book blogging community that it is hard to narrow it down to only eight. Please check out these blogs if you haven't already. Some of these folks may have already received this and if they have, well they're doubly deserving! Thanks again Jo-Jo!

Kathy at Bermudaonion's Weblog
Cindy at Cindy's Love of Books
Ruth at Bookish Ruth
Anna at Diary of an Eccentric
Serena at Savvy Verse & Wit
Jen at The Movieholic and Bibliophile's Blog and Up Close & Personal with Lady Tink
Marta at Marta's Meanderings
Dar at Peeking Between the Pages
Kaye at Pudgy Penquin Perusals
Debbie at Wrighty's Reads

Oops that's ten already isn't it? I really could keep going....

Friday, March 6, 2009

Above the Law - Tim Green

Lawyer Casey Jordan was first introduced in The Letter of the Law. She has left the high powered firm she was with and has opened a legal aid clinic.

Senator Chase has a tragic hunting accident on his property, killing one of his Mexican workers. But when a woman comes to Casey's clinic and says that her sister in law's husband was murdered by the Senator, she reluctantly agrees to look into it, not putting much stock in the idea of a murder. But when she is thwarted at every turn and discovers first hand how the Senator controls the law in his corner of Texas, she becomes a believer. Aided by her investigator Jose, they discover that this murder is a cover up for something far bigger.

Tim Green has created another solid legal thriller in Above the Law. Although some of it is predictable - the sexual tension between Casey and Jose, the bucking against the odds, tenacious, good looking female lawyer and the 'untouchable' bad guys, it also deals with some very relevant topics. Namely the abuse and plight of illegal immigrants. Green has woven together this element with non stop action and produced a very entertaining read.

You can read the first chapter here!

Green himself has had an interesting journey - he played pro football for eight years, was a sports commentator and also earned his law degree.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Lost City of Z - David Grann

-- Subtitled: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon --

Who hasn't watched the movies where an explorer or adventurer discovers a lost world or civilization? I personally am fascinated by the whole idea that there may still be some untouched or unfound something out there.

The Lost City of Z isn't fiction - it's an incredible true story. In 1925 famed explorer Percy Fawcett set out to find the fabled city of El Dorado or as he referred to it - The Lost City of Z. Dispatches were sent back documenting his journey for the first two years, but then he and his expedition vanished - no trace of them ever to be heard of again. Many others followed, looking for Fawcett or his golden city. None have ever found it.

David Grann, a staff writer for the New Yorker magazine, became enthralled with Fawcett's story as well. Grann discovers some of Fawcett's old journals that give him additional information on Fawcett's planned expedition. He decides to head to the Amazon himself and trace the explorer's route.

What follows is an absolutely riveting tale. The history of Fawcett and other adventurers bent on mapping and mastering the Amazon is utterly fascinating. The book alternates between Fawcett's time, drawing on newspapers, journals and letters to present a real picture of his time and Grann's own growing obsession and pilgrimage. I had to keep reminding myself that this was real - documented history. I honestly couldn't put it down. Does he discover what happened to Fawcett and his lost party - well I'll leave that for you to explore.

You can read the first chapter here. Oh and Brad Pitt is rumoured to be starring in a film version of The Lost City of Z coming out in 2010.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Book Giveaway Carnival- Beat the Reaper - Josh Bazell

It's Book Giveaway Carnival again! And courtesy of the Hachette Book Group,

I have three copies of the audio book Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell to giveaway. You can read my review here.

Open to Canada and the US, no po boxes. Please make sure I have a way to contact you. Giveaway runs until March 8th at midnight. Simply leave a comment to be entered. Check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways.

And head back to Bookroom Reviews for the links to other great giveaways!

Beat the Reaper - Josh Bazell

I listened to Josh Bazell's debut novel Beat the Reaper in audio format.

Peter Brown is an intern at one of the worst hospitals in Manhattan. He's there because he's in the witness protection program, in hiding from the Mafia. Hiding because he was a hired killer and turned informant. When he goes to see a new patient, it happens to be someone from his past, who unfortunately recognizes him. And calls in reinforcements. Peter's day goes from bad to worse. In backflashes we learn how Pietro "Bearclaw" Brnwa came to be Dr. Peter Brown.

This is a raw, gritty tale, filled with laser quick dialogue and non stop action. The reader, Robert Petkoff, has the perfect voice to bring this book to life. His voice has a young, abrasive edge that just adds to the tone of the novel. Music announces the beginning and end of every disc and sound effects are used to enhance the action and drama Now as a warning, some listeners may be offended by the amount of violence, drugs and sexual language used.

What's interesting is that Bazell is currently a medical resident himself. Some of the hospital personnel scenes were quite graphic and I really hope he was taking literary license! The book has it's own website that you can check out here.

For a chance to win your own audio book copy of Beat the Reaper, courtesy of the Hachette Book Group, enter my giveaway here!