Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Worst Case - James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge

James Patterson's Alex Cross series used to be my favourite. But I think I'm going to say it's now the Mike Bennett series. The last couple of Alex Cross books have been overly violent in my opinion, going for the shock and awe component.

I find the Bennett series entertaining without being offensive.

Children of wealthy New Yorkers are being kidnapped. There is no ransom though - instead the kidnapper gives the children a test. Pass - you live. Fail - lights out. How high is their social awareness of the world's plight?

The 'villain' of the last Bennett book was the Teacher - obsessed with social niceties and politeness. This time around it's social injustices and the state of the world.

I listened to Worst Case in audio format - as I will for all future Bennett books. The character of Mike is read by Bobby Canavale. I can't imagine a more perfect narrator - his voice is all New York, it's quick, rough and expressive. The 6 disc set also features two other readers - Orlagh Cassidy as the female Fibbie who's on the case with Mike and John Glover as the bad guy. Glover was particularly effective - his calm, clipped modulated voice made the kidnapper seem even more menacing. Cassidy was a good reader as well, but I just never warmed up to her character - I'm rooting for M.C. - the Bennett nanny.

True to form, Worst Case is short, snappy chapters, ending with cliffhangers, persuading you to listen to just one more chapter. The plot isn't overly complicated and there's a fun secondary plot involving Mike's love life. A thoroughly entertaining listen.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Giveaway - The Pocket Therapist - Therese Borchard

Thanks to the generosity of The Hachette Book Group, I have three copies of The Pocket Therapist by Therese Borchard to giveaway.

I really liked the cover and the inside sounds even better....

From the publisher:

"Whenever Therese Borchard was weathering a personal storm, and help was nowhere to be found, her one guiding light was the question, "What would a therapist say?" The result was a sort of therapy scrapbook for rough days--a quick reference for anyone who needs a dose of encouragement, support and tried and true ways to cope.

THE POCKET THERAPIST is a compact and accessible guide filled with techniques and advice to help combat everything from addictive behavior to negative thinking."

Read an excerpt of The Pocket Therapist. Therese also has a blog at or you can find Therese on Twitter.

Hey - we could all use a little help once in a while. If you'd like a copy of this book, just comment to be entered. Open to US and Canada - no PO boxes please. Ends Saturday April 24th at 6 pm EST.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Shattered - Karen Robards

Karen Robards is a New York Times best selling author with over thirty books to her credit. I had never read Robards before Shattered.

Little Marisa Garcia is afraid of the woods near her new home. She knows there are shadow people hiding there - and they're watching her.....and she's right.

Fast forward thirty years. Lisa Grant has been assigned to work cold cases for Scott Buchanan, the District Attorney. While going through the file of a family gone missing - the Garcias - Lisa is stunned by a photo in the file. The mother of the family is a dead ringer for herself. As Lisa follows up with the case, it seems that someone is just as determined that she won't. Complicating things further are her feelings for Scott - their pasts are intertwined -will their future be as well?

Now having never read Robards before I had no idea of her writing style. For those who love romantic suspense, I would say - put her to the top of your list. She skillfully combines romantic tension with an interesting plot. I was happily ensconced on my couch for the day with a wicked head cold and was quite happy reading steamy scenes and smoldering glances. The mystery is really not the main thrust of the plot, more the vehicle to carry the relationship between Lisa and Scott.

I do prefer my mysteries a bit more convoluted, if you will. I did have the plot figured out before the end. The 'bad guys' are easily identified, as are the red herrings. But it was a thoroughly entertaining read for the day.

Read an excerpt of Shattered.

Fans of Sandra Brown, Linda Howard or Julie Garwood would enjoy Karen Robards.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Winners - Slip of the Knife

And the three lucky winners chosen by of a copy Denise Mina's Slip of the Knife, courtesy of The Hachette Book Group are:

1. Betty C

2. Stephanie

3. BohemianBarbie

I've contacted you by email for your mailing addresses. Thanks to all who entered and check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Absolute Power - David Baldacci

I've been a fan of David Baldacci's political thrillers for a while now, but realized I had never read Absolute Power - the one that started his string of bestsellers. (17!)

Luther Whitney is a master burglar. For the last twenty years, he's tried to keep his nose clean. But he pulls one last job for an old friend. He breaks in without incident, but is suddenly forced to hide when the owner and some others come home. He is stunned when the unthinkable happens - even more unbelievable is the perpetrator - the President of the United States.

Luther turns to lawyer Jack Graham - the ex boyfriend of his estranged daughter.

What a great premise for a story! And Baldacci does it masterfully. The plotting is tight and the action non stop. I enjoyed discovering Baldacci's 'beginning.' He has made the secret service/White House thriller genre his own.

But the reader in this case was fantastic. Scott Brick is an award winning audio book narrator. His voice is rich and resonant, conveying the suspense of this novel, keeping me on the edge of my chair. His voice conveys so much, from the malevolence of the bad guys to the uncertainty of a bewildered daughter.

There was a bonus short story included on the last disc (17!) of this set. I didn't realize that this book had been made into a movie starring Clint Eastwood and Gene Hackman in 1997.

Listen to an excerpt of Absolute Power.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Winner - Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven

Thanks to everyone who entered - it was great fun to read everyone's travel stories.
The winner of a copy of Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven by Susan Jane Gilman, courtesy of The Hachette Book Group is:


Congrats - I've contacted you by email for your mailing address.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Over the Counter #1 - Weekends at Bellevue - Julie Holland M.D.

This is the first entry of a new feature at A Bookworm's World. I'm sadly coming to the realization that I cannot physically read every book that catches my interest as it crosses my counter at the library. But, I can mention them and maybe one of them will catch your eye as well!

I love memoirs and this one looks fascinating.

Weekends at Bellevue by Julie Holland M.D.

The subtitle: Nine years on the night shift at the psych ER.

From the publisher Random House:

"Julie Holland thought she knew what crazy was. Then she came to Bellevue.

New York City’s Bellevue Hospital, the oldest public hospital in the United States, has a tradition of “serving the underserved” that dates back to 1736. For nine eventful years, Dr. Holland was the weekend physician in charge of Bellevue’s psychiatric emergency room, a one-woman front line charged with assessing and treating some of the city’s most vulnerable and troubled citizens, its forgotten and forsaken—and its criminally insane. Deciding who gets locked up and who gets talked down would be an awesome responsibility for most people. For Julie Holland, it was just another day at the office.

In an absorbing memoir laced with humor, Holland provides an unvarnished look at life in the psych ER, recounting stories from her vast case files that are alternately terrifying, tragically comic, and profoundly moving: the serial killer, the naked man barking like a dog in Times Square, the schizophrenic begging for an injection of club soda to quiet the voices in his head, the subway conductor who watched a young woman pushed into the path of his train. As Holland comes to understand, the degree to which someone can lose his or her mind is infinite, and each patient’s pain leaves a mark on her as well—as does the cancer battle of a fellow doctor who is both her best friend and her most trusted mentor.

Writing with uncommon candor about her life both inside and outside the hospital—her professional struggles, personal relationships, and the therapy sessions that help her crack the hard shell she’s formed to keep the pain at bay—Holland supplies not only a page-turner with all the fast-paced immediacy of a TV medical drama but also a fascinating glimpse into the inner lives of doctors who struggle to maintain perspective in a world where sanity is in the eye of the beholder."

Read an excerpt from Weekends at Bellevue.

If you've read and reviewed this book, let me know - I'll link your review.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Review and Giveaway - Last Snow -Eric Van Lustbader

Last Snow is the sequel to Eric Van Lustbader's bestselling novel First Daughter.

The prologue opens with a scene that sets the stage for the rest of the book. The murder of an American senator on the isle of Capri - when he's supposed to be on a political mission to the Ukraine - sets off a series of events that has far flung consequences.

Jack McClure, a presidential advisor, is asked by the President himself to investigate the murder personally, but quietly. The President's daughter, Allie, insinuates herself into the investigation.

I felt like I was playing a bit of catch up as I had not read First Daughter. A terrifying event has scarred Allie and she looks to Jack as her protector and confidant. I had a hard time warming up to the character of Allie in the beginning - she came across as manipulative and spoiled. The fact that her parents are okay with her going off on a 'mission' with Jack seemed a little far fetched. And I do question Van Lustbader's explanation of Grave's disease to explain Allie's diminutive stature.

Getting past that though, Van Lustbader has crafted an incredibly complex plot involving rogue Russian agents, criminals and crooked politicians. There are twists and turns galore - I had to play close attention to keep all the plot lines straight. Van Lustbader inserts a personal story into all the intrigue as well. Jack is a flawed character, suffering great guilt over the death of his daughter Emma - she appears in visions to him. He is also dsylexic.

Political thriller aficionados will enjoy this series. Fans of Robert Ludlum's Bourne novels will really enjoy this series. With Ludlum's death, Van Lustbader has written the last two Bourne novels.

Read an excerpt of Last Snow.

Want a copy for yourself? Thanks to The Book Report Network, I have a copy to giveaway. Open to US and Canada. Leave a comment to be entered. Closes Saturday, April 17t at 6 pm EST.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Winners - This One is Mine

And the three lucky readers to win a copy of Maria Semple's This One is Mine, courtesy of The Hachette Book Group are:

1. Karrie
2. Nancye
3. billiondollarprincess

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

Winners - The Moon Looked Down - Dorothy Garlock

And the five lucky winners (chosen by of a copy of The Moon Looked Down by Dorothy Garlock, courtesy of the Hachette Book Group are:

1. syntar
2. Kathy Pease
3. Jennifer @ Mrs. Q: Book Addict
4. Lisa
5. May Shultz

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

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Happy Blogiversary Giveaway

Woohoo! Today is A Bookworm's World 2nd Blogiversary! I wrote my first post two years ago and thought I would just record my thoughts on the books I read. Wow - this has turned out much bigger than I ever thought possible. And so much fun!!

This year it's been a little harder to keep up with my reading - both books and blogs. I went from part time to full time work and it's really cut into my reading and blogging time! Although, I must say, I have a pretty excellent job - I work at a public library.

With that in mind, and my inability to read every book I see, I'm going to launch a new feature - Over the Counter. (Unless any of you can come up with a catchier name....) I'll be mentioning books that pass under my scanner and over the counter at the library that I find interesting, but don't have the time to read cover to cover.

And to celebrate my second blogiversary I have a giveaway. I have a brand new copy of Bitten by Canadian Kelley Armstrong to giveaway. (Watch for my review next month) And this one's international. Just leave me a comment to be entered. Ends. April 18th at 6 pm EST.

Thank you to each and every reader, commenter, subscriber and all my bloggy friends out there!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Stolen - Lesley Pearse

I have a fondness for British authors, but hadn't read Lesley Pearse before. The premise of Stolen sounded good.

A beautiful young woman is found washed up on the shores of Sussex. Against all belief she is alive - but has no idea who she is. When her picture is put in the paper, two past co workers from a cruise ship recognize her as Lotte, a fellow hairdresser. They haven't spoken to her in the past two years - and neither has anyone else. Where has she been? What has happened to her?

Pearse seems to have a trademark style. She puts an innocent into a dangerous situation and against tremendous odds, they survive tragic events and triumph. To this end, she sponsors an award - The Lesley Pearse Women of Courage Award.

I was drawn into the plot immediately - I really wanted to find out what had happened to this girl. There is a good cast of supporting characters. They are all clearly drawn leaving no doubt as to who the 'bad' ones are, although they were a little over the the top. I had a hard time connecting with even the 'good' characters though. Lotte never became 'real' for me, despite the circumstances she goes through. It sometimes seemed like Pearse thought of every bad thing that could befall this girl and wove it into her plot. I found some of the storyline transitions a bit jarring - they didn't seem to flow naturally.

But - Stolen has lots of adventure, intrigue and romance to keep readers turning pages.

Sometimes a reader notices small things that really don't contribute to the overall picture, but stick in their head. For me I found myself counting the number of times the characters 'grinned' by the end of the book. (A lot...) And I found the use of exclamation marks somewhat overdone!

This was a good read - I'd give it a 3/5, but not really the one for me. Fans of Sandra Brown or Danielle Steele would really enjoy Lesley Pearse.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Never Look Away - Linwood Barclay

David Harwood is a newspaper reporter. He's been working on a story about a for profit prison being built in his small town. The editor keeps killing his story, even after he uncovers some shady dealings with local politicians. But he's really worried about his wife Jan. She's been acting oddly lately, saying disturbing things and just isn't her usual self. When she suggests a trip to an amusement park with their four year old son, he readily agrees, happy that she is acting more like herself.

What happens at the amusement park is the stuff of nightmares. And that's just the beginning...

And on that note, I absolutely refuse to give you any more of the plot! Suffice it to say, that Never Look Back had me on the edge of my seat. Barclay has crafted a non stop roller coaster of a plot, full of twists and turns that I never saw coming. The book starts off action packed and just never lets up. Barclay's foreshadowing had me reading just one more chapter long after the lights should have been out...

Have you read Linwood Barclay yet? If you're a suspense/thriller fan, than you will love this Canadian author!

Read an excerpt of Never Look Away.

Watch a video of Barclay discussing Never Look Away.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Hell Gate - Linda Fairstein

Linda Fairstein is firmly on my list of must read authors. She has a fantastic series featuring Alex Cooper of the New York P.D. Sex Crimes Unit and two homicide detectives - Mike and Mercer. Hell Gate is the 12th book in the series.

Alex, Mike and Mercer are called out to a shipwreck. Not usually their type of case - until the cargo is discovered to be human. Among the dead is a woman with connections to a prominent politician. The deeper the three dig, the more the past collides with the present. Human trafficking happened in New York City hundreds of years ago - but it looks like it's still happening.....

The plotting is believable, combining political intrigue with crimes ripped from today's headlines. What I always find fascinating in Fairstein's novels is the level of historical detail used. New York City is always the background, but I would wager that even native New Yorkers would not be aware of the history behind many of the settings.

The camaraderie of 'Coop', Mike and Mercer is a major part of the success of this series. The banter between Alex and Mike is a source of amusement and the attraction between the two grows stronger with every book. (Linda - you're making me crazy - will they or won't they?!) Mercer provides the calm voice of reason.

Fairstein knows what she writes. She herself was chief of the sex crimes unit in Manhattan for over 25 years and is a noted expert on sexual assault and domestic violence. Her novels have the unmistakable ring of truth and authenticity to them.

Read the first chapter.

Hell Gate is a fantastic read on it's own - but I'm sure you'll be hunting down the rest of the series!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Giveaway - Black Hills - Dan Simmons

Thanks to the generous folks at The Hachette Book Group I have three audio book copies of Dan Simmons' latest book Black Hills to giveaway.

From the publisher:

"Paha Sapa, a young Sioux warrior, first encounters General George Armstrong Custer as Custer lies dying on the battlefield at Little Bighorn. He believes--as do the holy men of his tribe--that the legendary general's ghost entered him at that moment and will remain with him until Sapa convinces him to leave.

In BLACK HILLS, Dan Simmons weaves the stories of Paha Sapa and Custer together seamlessly, depicting a violent and tumultuous time in the history of Native Americans and the United States Army. Haunted by the voice of the general his people called "Long Hair," Paha Sapa lives a long life, driven by a dramatic vision he experiences in the Black Hills that are his tribe's homeland. As an explosives worker on the massive Mount Rushmore project, he may finally be rid of his ghosts--on the very day FDR comes to South Dakota to dedicate the Jefferson face."

Get a head start - listen to an excerpt of Black Hills. Or read an excerpt of Black Hills. Watch a video of Dan discussing Black Hills. You can also find Dan Simmons on Facebook.

Open to both US and Canada, no po boxes please. Leave a comment to be entered. Closes Sat April 10, 6 pm EST.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Last River Child - Lori Ann Bloomfield

The Last River Child was next on my pile of books to be read. I thought I'd pick it up just before bed, read a chapter or two to get into it and then take it work to read at lunch. Well - 2 1/2 hours later, I looked up and saw what time it was! I had become completely lost in the story.

The Last River Child opens in 1914 in Walvern, a small rural village, set in Ontario, Canada. Seth Staynor, his wife and two daughters, Peg and Sarah, live on a farm on the outskirts, near the Walvern River.

The inhabitants of Walvern are a superstitious lot. Every child is told the story of the river child - a spirit trapped beneath the water. It will try to lure a child close enough to look in their eyes and escape to dry ground. Once there, it will cause trouble and bring bad luck - droughts, crops will fail and more.

Peg Staynor has been branded as a river child from birth. She is shunned by the town folk and even her own father. Her mother has always protected her, but when she dies just as war is declared, Peg's position is even more precarious.

It is Peg's journey and strength that made this such a captivating read. Despite her treatment, Peg has no urge to leave the farm. Not so with her sister Sarah - she yearns for the city. As war is declared and the world changes, those changes reach Walvern as well. Peg will be the last river child.

Bloomfield has captured the feel of small town Ontario perfectly. Her descriptions of the farming and town ring true. Her prose are smooth and effortless. I especially enjoyed the letters written between Peg and a young man from Walvern stationed in France.

This is Lori Ann Bloomfield's debut novel and it was a gem of a find. I look forward to reading more from this author.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag - Alan Bradley

Oh I've been waiting and waiting for The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag! I fell in love with Alan Bradley's writing and his precocious protagonist - Flavia de Luce - in the first book in this series - The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. (you can read my rave review from last year)

It is 1950 and eleven year old Flavia is passing the morning. pretending to be dead in the churchyard in the small English village of Bishop's Lacey. Her reverie is interrupted by someone's crying. Flavia of course, is not one to let anything that captures her interest go uninvestigated. She finds that the caravan belonging to Porson's Puppets has broken down. While waiting for the van to be fixed, Rupert Porson agrees to put on a puppet show for the village. The show takes an unexpected turn when Rupert is killed. Accident or murder?

Well, this is right up Flavia's alley. Having solved a murder just last year, she is quite happy to assist Inspector Hewitt with the investigation. Inspector Hewitt isn't quite as thrilled.

"There, like a doll in a box, lay Rupert. Was I frightened out of my wits? I'm afraid not. Since the day I had found a body in the kitchen garden at Buckshaw, I had developed a fascination with death, with a particular emphasis on the chemistry of putrefaction."

Flavia is uncannily clever - indeed, her hobby is working in the old chemistry lab in the rambling mansion she shares with her absent minded father and two sisters. Her speciality is poisons. The 'war' between the sisters is always entertaining.

The mystery is quite interesting and well plotted, but it is the character developments that are the stars of this book. Every quirky village character is well drawn and I immediately established a picture of them as I read. But for me, it is Flavia that makes this series such a hit. Her curiosity, her keen observations, her disarming view of life utterly enchant me.

"Hullo! I shouted. It's always best to announce one's self heartily when trespassing. (Even though I had invented it on the spot, this seemed to be a good general rule)."

Flavia's Father - "You are unreliable, Flavia, " he said. "Utterly unreliable."

Flavia's response - not verbalized- " Of course I was! It was one of the things I loved most about myself."

What's not to love? Flavia is a thoroughly enchanting protagonist. I've always loved mysteries, especially when I was younger. I devoured the entire Nancy Drew series and always imagined myself solving mysteries along with them. I'm older now, but having just as much fun seeing the world through Flavia's eyes and helping to solve the mystery.

Flavia has a fan club - and of course I'm a member.

Alan Bradley is working on the next book in The Buckshaw Chronicles titled A Red Herring Without Mustard. Sigh - it's a long time til next year....


Monday, March 8, 2010

Winners - Absolute Power - David Baldacci

And the three lucky winners of an audio book copy of Absolute Power courtesy of The Hachette Book Group are:

1. Princess Golden Hair
2. Denny, Alaska
3. chlorinebrain

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

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Belated Blog Award Thank You's!

And now for some very overdue thank yous!

Thanks to Sherrie at Just Books for passing on The One Lovely Blog Award to me. Very much appreciated Sherrie! Make sure you check out Sherrie's lovely blog!

Thank you to Pinkilili at Sandals and Snowshoes for The Fabulous Sugar Doll Blogger Award - one new to me! I'm flattered! Pinkilili is a wonderful bloggy friend from Finland!

And last, but certainly not least, thank you to Yvonne from Socrates' Book Review. How nice of you to think of me! Check out Yvonne's cozy blog!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Motorcycles & Sweetgrass - Drew Hayden Taylor

Nanabush (the Ojibwe Trickster) has been dormant for awhile. He is startled back into action by the impending death of a woman he loved from his past.

Lillian was made to leave the reserve when she was younger to attend residential school. She turned her back on Nanabush when she left. Once at school she muses "I thought the world was full of magic. I don't think it is. Maybe once it was. Not any more."

She did return to the reserve and on her deathbed, has called Nanabush to Otter Lake - an Anishnawbe community in Ontario. She is worried about her family - her daughter Maggie, who is now the chief of the reserve, her youngest grandson Virgil, who really can't be bothered with school and her eccentric son Wayne, who lives alone on an island developing an aboriginal martial art form. Will he come? Is there still magic in the world?

Otter Lake is quite taken aback when Nanabush, now calling himself John, arrives in town riding a 1953 Indian Chief motorcycle. And this time, he's decided to present himself as a handsome young white man.

Although John is able to charm Maggie, Virgil and Wayne are suspicious of John and his intentions. And the raccoons don't seem very happy to see him either. They have a long standing feud running with Nanabush. " It was him. and he was back. This was good. In this part of the country, revenge was furry and wore a bandit's mask."

Motorcycles & Sweetgrass open with the line "Hey, wanna hear a good story? Supposedly it's true one. It's a long story but it goes something like this..."

Taylor had me laughing out loud, with the raccoon's revenge and John's antics. But his writing is thoughtful as well, touching on the the importance of family, community and the land. And hopeful - the belief that yes, there is magic left in the world.

The novel ends with "And that's how it happened to cousin of mine. I told you it was a long story. They're the best 'cause you can wrap one around you like a nice warm blanket."

Absolutely! I really enjoyed this book, from first page to last.

Drew Hayden Taylor is an accomplished writer, journalist, film maker and screenwriter. (Canadian readers - remember North of 60 and The Beachcombers?)

Motorcycles and Sweetgrass is his first adult fiction foray and is one of Random House Canada's 2010 New Faces of Fiction. You can vote for the Reader's Choice award here.

You can get your hands on a copy on Tuesday March 9th!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Giveaway - Worst Case - James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge

Detective Michael Bennett is back in James Patterson's latest release Worst Case!

And thanks to the generosity of The Hachette Book Group, I have three audio book copies to giveaway!

From the publisher:

"The son of one of New York's wealthiest families is snatched off the street and held hostage. His parents can't save him, because this kidnapper isn't demanding money. Instead, he quizzes his prisoner on the price others pay for his life of luxury. In this exam, wrong answers are fatal.

Detective Michael Bennett leads the investigation. With ten kids of his own, he can't begin to understand what could lead someone to target anyone's children. As another student disappears, one powerful family after another uses their leverage and connections to turn the heat up on the mayor, the press--anyone who will listen--to stop this killer. Their reach extends all the way to the FBI, who send their top Abduction Specialist, Agent Emily Parker. Bennett's life--and love life--suddenly get even more complicated.

Before Bennett has a chance to protest the FBI's intrusion on his case, the mastermind changes his routine. His plan leads up to the most devastating demonstration yet--one that could bring cataclysmic devastation to every inch of New York. From the shocking first page to the last exhilarating scene, Worst Case is a non-stop thriller from "America's #1 storyteller"

Want a sneak peek? Read an excerpt of Worst Case. Or listen to an excerpt of Worst Case. Watch a video of James Patterson talking about the Michael Bennett series.

Simply comment to be entered. One entry per person please. Open to both US and Canada, no PO boxes please. Closes Saturday April 3 at 6 pm EST.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Swan Thieves - Elizabeth Kostova

The release of The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova was highly anticipated, following the best seller success of her first novel The Historian.

It did not disappoint. The cover art is 'Leda' c.1832. Art is at the heart of this novel.

Robert Oliver is an extremely talented artist. When he attacks the painting 'Leda' in the National Gallery, no one can understand why. Oliver ends up in a psychiatric hospital with Dr. Andrew Marlowe assigned to his case. Marlowe himself paints for a hobby. Oliver refuses to speak, but continues drawing and painting - the same woman over and over again. Robert has in his possession a packet of letters from the late 1800's. They may hold the key to the mystery woman. Marlowe himself becomes obsessed, seeking out the women in Robert's past in an attempt to help Robert. But the search and the need for answers soon consume Marlowe as well.

The mystery is of course a large part of the plot, but Kostova's prose play just as large a part. Her language is beautiful and the letters from the 1800's completely capture the time, societal aspects and emotions of the painter Beatrice de Clerval -Vignot. The layers are subtly built, story upon story as we learn of both Robert and Beatrice's lives.

I listened to this in audio format. I was thrilled by the format Hachette Books used to produce The Swan Thieves. It is a full cast production with five readers. Treat Williams plays Marlowe. His voice is calm, modulated and perfectly portrays a psychiatrist. Anne Heche read as Robert's wife. At first I wasn't sure about this casting, but again, perfect for the part. Three other lesser known but perfectly cast actors rounded out the ensemble. One role is that of the French female painter from the 1800's. Once in a while I found myself thinking 'wascally wabbit' of her French accent, but this is only a very minor observation. It was like listening to a full radio play.

Those looking for a fast paced, suspenseful read would not enjoy this book. It is a slow, thoughtful listen, one to enjoy - which I did. I must confess though that I was somewhat disappointed by the ending, which after 17 hours of build up, was over in about 5 minutes. The mystery is solved, but the resolution with Robert was left wanting in my opinion.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Penguin Luck - Kay Mupetson

Well, from the cover I thought I was in for a chick lit read. Sassy photo, cute font and a photo of a stuffed penguin on the back cover.

Penguin Luck opens with Doreen Lowe, a young attorney on the subway....with her ghosts - three spirits of child Holocaust victims, who insist that Doreen 'carry on for them' and that they 'must be replaced.' I was caught off guard had to reread to confirm. The Penguins are Doreen's name for her balding, waddling male relatives (father and uncle) that survived the Holocaust.

Back to the chick lit elements - engaged to the wrong man, marries someone else spontaneously, female friends as the supporting cast - one very outgoing, one reticent. This alone would have made an entertaining book.

But the combining of this light hearted fodder with the serious story of a woman coming to terms with her Jewish heritage and family's Holocaust history was especially jarring. Again, this storyline on it's own would have been a good novel.

The two just didn't mesh for me. It was choppy and didn't flow freely. Mupetson is an attorney and was counsel for a telecommunications company. Guess what Doreen and her husband work at? It almost seemed like Mupetson has taken vignettes from her personal life and inserted them into a novel format. I found the minute details of the telecommunications deals, history, promos and takeovers boring and skipped most of them.

The story 'jumps' in many places, covering the time period from 1989 to 2002. At the end, it seemed almost rushed in order to tie it all up with a bow.

Too much, too busy, too contrived. Some of the prose were incredibly awkward. For example - remembering a friend who has died. "Tears came to my eyes as a vision looped through my neural organ."

Many lawyers have turned to novel writing with varied verdicts. I think you can guess mine, but here are some other arguments.

Bookjourney, Bookbinge, Momma's Gone Over the Wall, Adventures of a SWAHM, Alexia's Books and Such.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Winners - I Am Ozzy - Ozzy Osbourne

And the three lucky winners (chosen by courtesy of The Hachette Book Group of an audio book copy of I Am Ozzy are:

1. Daniel M
2. Janice Golden
3. karryknisley

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

Winners - From Dead to Worse - Charlaine Harris

And the five lucky winners (chosen by of a copy of From Dead to Worse by Charlaine Harris, courtesy of Penquin Canada are:

1. Wanda
2. 409cope
3. Stephanie
4. Belinda M
5. Nicola

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