Saturday, April 30, 2011

Winners - Born Under a Lucky Moon

And the two lucky winners of a copy of Born Under a Lucky Moon by Dana Precious, courtesy of Harper Collins are:

1. Graciegreen
2. Nicole Turnwall

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

(You're going to love it - I have about 50 pages to go and can't put it down - watch for my review!)

Friday, April 29, 2011

Here, Home, Hope - Kaira Rouda

Kaira Rouda is a very successful woman - she is the founder of the Real Living Real Estate brand and the Real You - a road map for success for womenpreneurs. This doesn't even begin to touch on her many, many accomplishments.  Here, Home, Hope is the culmination of "her life-long dream to publish a novel."

Kelly Johnson has it all - million dollar home, loving husband, two happy, healthy sons, loving friends and family, but as she's looking at her fortieth birthday, something is missing from her life. She hasn't worked since the boys were born - her husband is a successful law partner- and she gave up her PR job. There are a lot of things she'd like to change. To remind herself she puts up post-its with reminders throughout her home. (The list is pretty good and is printed in it's entirety at the end of the book)

Rouda tackles a subject many women can identify with. What happens when the kids don't need you as much? When is it time to want more for yourself? Using her own entrepreneurial background Rouda empowers Kelly as she starts her own home staging business, reconnects with friends and helps solve the seemingly myriad problems in her friends' lives. Spoilers ahead.

Unfortunately I found it really hard to connect with Kelly and crew. Her 'emergency blonding appointment' runs $295.00, she is worried about the six pounds she gains every summer when her two boys go away to camp in Maine for the summer. (It really shows on her 5'5' frame...)
"Did we all simply have too much time on our hands, we Grandville stay-at-home moms? What about the other six million women who stay at home full time? Did all of us use our time to judge one anther and feel fortunate, superior even, that we were the chosen ones, able to quit our jobs and be there for our kids? I wondered what the 74 million moms who work outside the home would think about these petty salvos."
When Kathryn, one of her closest friends, asks Kelly to have her anorexic daughter Melanie stay with Kelly for part of the summer she agrees. Kelly also enlists the help of a former anorexic friend, Beth, who is now a counsellor, to help with Melanie. Beth is the mother of a 6 week old girl. But Melanie, who is under 16, attempts suicide.
Kelly - "The ER doctor had insisted a parent be called, and since they told me Melanie was stable, I decided not to call Kathryn right away. She still hadn't returned my call from the other night, and perhaps we could handle this situation better without her."
Seriously? C'mon....

Kelly herself is a little weight obsessed....
"Afterward as we cuddled, Patrick complimented me on losing weight. I told him that having an anorexic around had prompted me to think about eating healthier through watching portion sizes and writing things down."
"I did a little dance in front of my full-length mirror and thought again about permanently adopting Mel and inviting Beth and her family to come live with us. I need to keep the people on the road to healthy eating around me. This could be way better than Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig. I could save money and spend it on clothes."
When Kelly meets Beth's husband..
..."Beth's husband, Ryan - who seemed nice, dressed metrosexually, and was not necessarily gay, I decided -"
Umm, isn't he the father of the 6 week old baby, and really, does the way someone dresses denote if they're gay?

There's more, but I'll stop. I think the idea Rouda is promoting is great...
"...something in my life had to change. What I also discovered was that I was the only one who could do it. Not having that realization was what held me back for so long. I was ready to rewrite Things to Change rule Number One. My life is up to me to define. I needed to make my own dreams come true."
...but I think the delivery left something to be desired. I just found the careening from one crisis to another unbelievable and quite far fetched in some situations. I found the story to be almost a series of plot ideas on a whiteboard joined conveniently together. I never connected with Kelly and quite frankly found her annoying.

Read an excerpt of Here, Home, Hope. Find Rouda on Facebook and on Twitter.

For other opinions check out In Search of Balance, The Book Chick, ForeWord Reviews.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Guilty Plea - Robert Rotenberg

I enjoy a number of genres - legal thrillers being one of them. But when mentally going over my list of favourite authors, I realized that none of the legal list were Canadian. So I was excited to read Robert Rotenberg's new novel The Guilty Plea.

Rotenberg is a practicing lawyer who lives in Toronto and has based his series in the same city. I love reading a book with Canadian references - Timmies, the Globe and place names as well - Eglinton/Bloor, Jane and Finch. Knowing the settings are real and having seen some of them make the novel all that more authentic.

But what makes Rotenberg's novels really pop is his knowledge of the Canadian legal system, his trial expertise and the number of years he's been at it. His plots, characters and dialogue all have the ring of authenticity and that 'insider's' point of view. It just makes his novel all the more believable.

The Guilty Plea brings back characters from Rotenberg's first novel 'Old City Hall'. Homicide Detective Ari Greene, Officer Daniel Kennicott, lawyers, Crowns and others. I found all of the characters believable and connected with them. Their personal lives are just as engrossing as the primary plot line.

In the Guilty Plea, Terrance Wyler, the youngest son of a Canadian food conglomerate is found stabbed to death in his kitchen while his young son sleeps upstairs. His estranged wife shows up at her lawyers - with the bloody knife from Wyler's kitchen. Open and shut case. But she swears she's innocent. As Greene investigates, he finds more questions than answers.

I very much enjoyed The Guilty Plea, although I found the end a bit rushed.  I will definitely be adding Rotenberg to my 'must read' list. Read Chapter One of The Guilty Plea.

A Bookworm's World was lucky enough to have Robert Rotenberg stop by for some Q&A!

 I've read that you embraced writing from a young age and reluctantly became a lawyer. What was the impetus to finally combine the two?

Survival. I really don’t think I could have lasted as a lawyer without this secret dream of being a writer. My private 5:00a.m. world really kept me going. And the wonderful irony: without a doubt the better I’ve become as a writer the better I’ve become as a criminal lawyer. Both involve putting together all sorts of facts, and telling a story.

Have these characters been percolating for awhile? Simon and Schuster have signed you for a number of books - hopefully for us at least one a year. Do you have a long term plan for the same core group of characters?

‘At least’ once a year. Okay, I’ll write three or four a year! But yes, Simon & Schuster have been wonderful. I’ve promised them 20 book in 20 years. That’s the plan. Hear that Ari and Daniel and Nancy?

And with that new commitment, will you continue to practice law? How do you manage now!?

Just set that alarm an hour earlier. In fact the reality is that to do a book a year I’ve had to cut back on my law practice. Ask my partners, I gave them the last murder trial that came my way and they are doing it night and day.

I love that I can picture many of the neighborhoods and places in Toronto that are featured in your novels. Any favorite haunts?

Thanks. I heard a theory the other day called “The Third Place.” (Sounds like a good title). In other words we need a place we live, a place we work and a “third place.” A few weeks ago I ended up slipping into a Coffee Time doughnut shop at 5:45 in the morning. The place was in a horrible strip mall in a very poor part of town. The waitress had that all-night tired look in her eyes and a thick Russian accent. In the corner sat two very fat, very sad looking older men in thick doing their crosswords. Not talking to each other or anyone else. I almost cried. There was something so touching about it. As I write this I’m in a coffee shop on Parliament Street, espresso machine is fizzing, music is blaring, babies are crying. As good as it gets.

What are you reading now for entertainment? Any favorite authors? Influential authors?

I am a chaotic reader. I find someone I like and I’ll read everything they’ve written. Right now I’m falling for Tim Winton. John LeCarre’s latest is wonderful. Can’t wait to read David Bezmogis’ new one. I still re-read Salinger and Hemingway short stories. Etc. etc. etc.

 How has the local legal community reacted to your books? Anyone thinking they're seeing someone they know?

I always ask lawyers and judges if they laughed when they read Old City Hall. They all say yes.
The other day I was in court and the court reporter grabbed a pad of paper, and wrote on the back “loved your book.” And here’s a funny story. After Old City Hall came out, a judge stopped me in the hall one day and said: “Robert, that lawyer in the book, Nancy Parish, I know exactly who you based her on.” “Oh,” I said, smiling a bit to myself I must admit, “Who?” He then named a female lawyer. “Funny you should say that,” I told the judge. “You know, I’ve never heard of that woman in my life.” We both laughed. Here’s the kicker – I had no idea who that woman lawyer was.

(and this is just purely an off the cuff idea - what about auctioning off a character in your next book for charity?)

Hmmm. I really need to raise some money for the Canterbury Clinic, the drug rehab clinic I’m involved with. Why don’t you email some suggestions of how to do this. Love the idea.

You can find Robert Rotenberg on Facebook and on Twitter.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Over the Counter # 52

Have your cake and eat it too? I'd love to try one of the cakes from the two books that caught my eye as they passed over my library counter and under my scanner this week.

First up was Gorgeous & Gruesome Cakes for Children by Debbie Brown.

From New Holland Publishers:

"Gorgeous and Gruesome Cakes for Children features 30 fun and original birthday cake designs suitable for both boys and girls alike. With designs by the UK's bestselling sugarcraft modelling author, all the cakes are tasty, easy to create and will be the star of the show at any child's birthday party.

The book begins with a comprehensive section on getting started with cake decorating, including useful advice on the basic tools and equipment needed. There are also delicious cake recipes, providing the all-essential base to the added decorations.

Gorgeous and Gruesome Cakes for Children features 30 fun and original birthday cake designs suitable for both boys and girls alike. With designs by the UK's bestselling sugarcraft modelling author, all the cakes are tasty, easy to create and will be the star of the show at any child's birthday party.  Girls will love the gorgeous Frog Prince and Cinderella's Glass Slipper cake, whilst boys will find the gooey Alien Egg or gruesome Swamp Monster simply irresistible!"

And how about some cake for adults as well? Next up is A World of Cake by Krystina Castella.
From Storey Publishing:
"Tour the world of cake! Cakes are at the center of life’s celebrations, big and small, in every corner of the globe. A bite-size lamington is a treat with tea in Australia. In Africa, golden fritters bursting with sweet fruit are popular street snacks. Honey cakes celebrate new beginnings in Jewish tradition, and peach buns are a symbol of longevity in Taiwan. Fruitcakes, from Germany’s stollen to Italy’s panettone, are popular Christmas fare. This delectable cookbook offers more than 150 irresistible recipes accompanied by mouthwatering photographs, ideas for delicious variations, and fascinating historical and cultural facts. This is a must-have for anyone who loves making (or eating!) cake.
(Over the Counter is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World. I've sadly come the realization that I cannot physically read every book that catches my interest as it crosses over my counter at the library. But... I can mention them and maybe one of them will catch your eye as well. See if your local library has them on their shelves!)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Bone Yard - Jefferson Bass

I've been a fan of the Jefferson Bass forensic novels from the very beginning. The Bone Yard is the sixth book in this riveting series.

Recurring character Dr. Bill Brockton is the director of the Body Farm (an anthropology research facility) in Tennessee. Here's the neat part - co author Dr. Bill Bass is himself the founder of the original Body Farm and a world recognized forensic anthropologist. His writing, scenarios and plots have the unmistakable ring of truth and authenticity, which make them absolutely riveting reads.

In the Bone Yard Dr. Brockton takes on consult with a colleague in Florida. She's asked him to examiner her sister's remains to try to prove that it was murder, not suicide. While looking into this case, he is also asked to have a look at a skull that a local resident's dog has found. When the dog starts bringing back more skeletal remains that show signs of violence, Bill is asked to stay on a bit longer. As he helps investigate, the ugly past of a local reformatory for boys is brought to light.

I've read the last five books, but decided to listen to The Bone Yard.  (great on my walks!) Tom Stechschulte was the reader (I've listened to him before and enjoy his measured reading.) His voice conjured up the mental image I had already formed for Dr. Bill Brockton. Slightly older and gravelly, not overly forceful, but intelligent.

The subject matter is a bit graphic - some readers/listeners may find it disturbing. But the case itself is based in reality. I was happy that this latest book avoided Dr. Bill's romantic problems brought up in the last book, The Bone Thief. I found them somewhat extraneous and enjoyed having just the mystery as the focus this book.

This is a series I've come to enjoy and I will definitely be waiting for the next book. Read an excerpt of The Bone Yard.

Monday, April 25, 2011

There's Lead in Your Lipstick - Gillian Deacon

I've tried in the last few years to clean up the way I eat - less processed and more whole foods. It's absolutely helped with some of my health concerns. But I picked up a copy of There's Lead in Your Lipstick by Gillian Deacon and realized I really hadn't given much thought to all the personal care products I use.

Gill Deacon was reading Stacy Malkan's 'Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of Beauty' while waiting to have an ultrasound to help diagnose her possible breast cancer.  It is in Chapter 6 - "Pinkwashing" that the following appears...
"More American women have died of breast cancer in the last 20 years than the number of Americans killed in World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War combined." "Many of the big cosmetics corporations that position themselves as leaders in the struggle to eradicate breast cancer - holding annual fundraisers and pink-ribbon campaigns - are in fact, makers and marketers of products that contain many ingredients known or suspected to cause breast cancer."
Deacon's diagnosis was positive. There's Lead in Your Lipstick was started before her diagnosis and finished after her treatment.
"This is not a cancer survivor's rant against the chemical industry. This book is simply a guide for all those who want to be cautious and considered when choosing the products and ingredients they use in, on and around their bodies. So when I read, and share with you on these pages, that an ingredient is linked to cancer and other health concerns, I don't take it lightly. Neither, dare I suggest, should any of us."
Most of us read food labels quite carefully, now that the ingredients and percentages are listed. But how many of us take the time to investigate what's in our shampoo, make up and deodorant etc. before using it? I didn't. After reading Deacon's book, I won't ever take for granted that 'somebody' is making sure that these products are safe for us. They're not.

There's Lead in Your Lipstick is an absolutely fascinating, eye opening, educated look at every type product we use to clean, buff, touch up and make up our bodies. Toxic ingredients and ingredients to look out for are described in depth. Many words used on labels and in advertising aren't necessarily what we think. Natural does not equal organic. Indeed I found myself in the bathroom, book in hand, scouring the labels of my shampoo and body wash. (very scary...) Formaldehyde is banned in Canada, Japan and the European Union but is deemed safe for use in cosmetics in the United States, despite the US EPA classifying it as a carcinogen.

Deacon provides alternatives - organic and natural suppliers websites with an in depth review of each. I am checking out these lists for sure. She also provides 'recipes' for many products you can make yourself - facial masks and scrubs for example.

The title? The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found 61% of lipsticks tested contained detectable levels of lead, but none included lead as an ingredient on the label. Check out the Cosmetics Database as well.

There's Lead in Your Lipstick is an excellent resource - one I will be referring to often. Gill has also provided a handy wallet-sized tip sheet you can print off and take shopping with you.

Canadian readers - make sure you enter to win a copy of Deacon's book AND and an Eco Kiss kit. Ends May 7/11.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Winners - The Sweetest Thing

And the three lucky winners of a copy of The Sweetest Thing by Jill Shalvis, courtesy of The Hachette Book Group are:

1. Nicole C.
2. AEKZ2
3. Mel

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

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Easter!

Wishing everyone a Happy Easter and Passover with family, friends and food!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Earth Day Giveaway - There's Lead in Your Lipstick - Gillian Deacon

April 22 is Earth Day. To celebrate, A Bookworm's World is thrilled to be hosting a giveaway with author Gillian Deacon. Her book There's Lead in Your Lipstick is a real eye opener. (Watch for my review on Monday)

A special Earth Day message from Gillian Deacon:

"Earth day shouldn't just be an annual tip of the hat to greener living. This year, make it the day you recalibrate your everyday patterns to be more earth-friendly all year long.
You don't have to be a treehugger to care about avoiding toxins in your everyday bodycare. Synthetic chemicals in personal care products contaminating groundwater and wildlife is alarming enough—but they’re also contaminating us. Those hard-to-read ingredients you squint at on the back of a product label? They’re building up inside your body and in your children’s bodies—on Earth Day and everyday.

Make today the day you start paying attention to that fine print. Turn a product over and read the ingredients label before you are seduced by the “green” imaging on the package. The good news is, there are lots of safer products on the market.

Good luck and I hope you’ll check out There’s Lead in Your Lipstick for more ideas on how to clean up your act!" 
Deacon's book is full of startling information. Here's one quick excerpt to give you an idea...

"The Real Cost of Cosmetics

There’s a reason why these more healthful options are usually more expensive. Most conventional cosmetic manufacturers use parabens to preserve the ingredients, claiming it is a necessary evil. Parabens are estrogenic, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, which means they mimic natural estrogen and can wreak havoc on your hormones. When your hormones are out of whack you can experience mood swings, irregular menstruation, skin irritations, and other troubling symptoms. Parabens are also potentially carcinogenic."

(From There’s Lead in Your Lipstick by Gillian Deacon (Penguin Canada). Copyright © Backbone Inc. FSO Gillian Deacon, 2011)

One lucky reader is going to win a fantastic prize! A copy of There's Lead in Your Lipstick AND an Eco Kiss kit from Saffron Rouge!

Open to Canada only. To be entered, leave me a green tip of any kind. Ends Saturday May 7th at 6 pm EST. Good luck!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Over the Counter # 51

After reading The Wilder Life earlier this week, the latest book to catch my eye this week as it passed over my library counter and under my scanner was Self Sufficiency edited by Abigail R. Gehring.

From Skyhorse Publishing:

"Now, more than ever, people across the country are turning toward simpler, greener, and quieter ways of living—whether they're urbanites or country folk. Following in the footsteps of Back to Basics and Homesteading, this large, fully-illustrated book provides the entire family with the information they need to make the shift toward self-sufficient living.

Self-Sufficiency provides tips, advice, and detailed instructions on how to improve everyday life from an environmentally and organic perspective while keeping the focus on the family. Readers will learn how to plant a family garden and harvest the produce; can fruits and vegetables; bake bread and cookies; design interactive and engaging "green" projects; harness natural wind and solar energy to cook food and warm their homes; boil sap to make maple syrup; and build treehouses, furniture, and more. Also included are natural crafts readers can do with their kids, such as scrapbooking, making potato prints, dipping candles, and constructing seasonal decorations. Whether the goal is to live entirely off the grid or just to shrink their carbon footprints, families will find this book a thorough resource and a great inspiration."

(Over the Counter is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World. I've sadly come the realization that I cannot physically read every book that catches my interest as it crosses over my counter at the library. But... I can mention them and maybe one of them will catch your eye as well. See if your local library has them on their shelves!)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance - Elna Baker

Okay, how could you not wonder what was hiding in the pages of a book with a title like The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance?

More like who? Elna Baker that's who. Baker is a young twenty something practicing Mormon and self professed 'big girl' who moves to the big city - New York -  to pursue her education and career.

When she decides to lose a large amount of weight, she is suddenly attractive to men. Elna's memoir is a engaging narrative detailing her attempts to reconcile all the facets of her life - food, family, friends, God, sex and more. Baker also does stand up comedy and her sense of humour is present in her writing as well.  I found myself laughing out loud at many of the situations she finds herself in. Her choice of costume for the Mormon Halloween dance had me in tears. She dressed up as a fortune cookie - picture it...when she arrives at the dance, it is only then she realizes she her costume resembles female genitalia.

The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance is a (very) funny, open, honest, informative and sometimes heartbreaking chronicle of a young woman's attempt to find herself. Baker's zest for life is infectious and it shines through in her storytelling and writing. A great read.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Wilder Life - Wendy McClure

Subtitled: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie.

When I saw The Wilder Life, I just knew I had to read it. I used to bicycle down to the Byron Library once a week and pester Miss Spicer for her next book recommendation. I had finished all of The Borrowers (I really wanted to live in their little mouse world) when she recommended Little House in the Big Woods. Well, I fell in love with this series and the whole kit and caboodle. I wanted to be Laura Ingalls. So did Wendy McClure.

McClure's parents are moving, so Wendy comes over to help with their garage sale. She comes upon her childhood copy of Little House in the Big Woods. Rereading it brings it all back...
"...I wanted to live in one room with my whole family and have a pathetic corncob doll all my own. I wanted to wear a calico sunbonnet - or rather, I wanted to not wear a calico sunbonnet, the way Laura did, letting it hang down her back by its ties. I wanted to do chores because of those books. Carry water, churn butter, make headcheese. I wanted dead rabbits brought home for supper. I wanted to go out into the backyard and just, I don't know, grab stuff off trees, or uproot things from the ground, and bring it all inside in a basket and have my parents say "My land! What a harvest!"
And so begins the exploration of all things Laura - Laura world as she comes to call it. McClure tries all the things she wanted to do - churning butter, making by pouring syrup in the snow, reproducing recipes and more. She tracks down everything ever written about the Ingalls/Wilders, in print, on the Internet and finally in person.

McClure (often with her boyfriend Chris) retraces the journeys of the Ingalls family, visits the homesteads and museums and meets others who love Laura as much as she does. (and some who are downright obsessive) It was fascinating to learn more about the 'real' Laura and the life and inspiration behind the books.

Wendy McClure is an excellent writer. Her introspective search for Laura is told with charm and much humour. I found myself laughing out loud many times. I too found myself wondering what is is that attracted us as children to the books and stayed with us as adults.
"I considered this as I stared up at the ceiling of our tent. Who knew how many times those books made me idly wish for a now other than the one I was in, that the world would somehow crack open and reveal a simpler life?"
You don't need to be a Laura fan to enjoy The Wilder Life, but you'll definitely close the last page as a Wendy McClure fan. A memoir that kept me engaged from first page to last.

You can find The Wilder Life on Facebook. And Wendy on Twitter. Or check out the Flickr photostream of The Wilder Life.

And now for confession time - I worked for 7 years at a living history museum. I loved dressing up as a 'pioneer' for work every day. And yes, I can make candles, soap, bread, quilt, stook hay and have yoked up an ox to plow a field. I loved every minute of it! And yes, I still have my bonnets.....

Goat herding circa 1996.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Winners - Happy Blogiversary Giveaways!

Time to announce the winners of the two Happy Blogiversary giveaways!

#1 was a gc for $60.00 to CSN stores and the lucky winner is:


#2 was the Blogiversary Box o' Books and the lucky winner is:


I've contacted you both by email for details. Thanks to all for the blogiversary wishes! Check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Afraid of the Dark - James Grippando

Afraid of the Dark by James Grippando is the ninth book in his Jack Swytek series. (and 18th book overall)

Swytek is a criminal defense attorney based in Miami. He is called in by an old friend to help with the defense of a young man who has been in Gitmo for 3 years. His true identity is uncovered - he is not a Somalian, but rather an American named Jamal - a young man wanted in the U.S. for the murder of his girlfriend and the blinding of the cop who tried to save her. But he says he was in a black site camp in the Czech Republic at the time and couldn't have done it. And the US government put him there.

That's the opening salvo - from there the plot grows exponentially, including terrorism both home and abroad, child porn and more. (Some readers may find the graphic violence a bit too much)

I like Swytek as a character and the series has always been a satisfying read. Afraid of the Dark was very, very busy in terms of plot - perhaps a bit too much. Grippando was ambitious with this one - I think Swytek being involved at the international level is a bit of a stretch. But the plot elements are very real and very current. This was a good, thrilling page turner - exactly what I've come to expect from James Grippando. Fans of David Baldacci would enjoy this author.

Read an excerpt of Afraid of the Dark.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Over the Counter # 50

The latest book to catch my eye as it passed over my library counter and under my scanner was 1000 Ideas for Creative Reuse by Garth Johnson. There were some really clever ideas in this one - some a little far fetched, but all very creative.

From the publisher Quarry Books:

"Artists and crafters have always been recyclers, but for many, it has not only become a thrifty choice, it has become a moral imperative. 1000 Ideas for Creative Reuse contains a cutting edge collection of the most inventive work being made with re-used, upcycled, and already existing materials. The work in this book ranges from clever and humble personal accessories to unique and important large-scale works of art, including paper art, fashion, jewelry, housewares, interiors, and installations."

(Over the Counter is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World. I've sadly come the realization that I cannot physically read every book that catches my interest as it crosses over my counter at the library. But... I can mention them and maybe one of them will catch your eye as well. See if your local library has them on their shelves!)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Gideon's Sword - Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child are best selling authors as a duo and with their individual projects. I have read everything they've written, enjoying their sense of adventure in all they pursue.

I was excited to pick up Gideon's Sword - the first book introducing what will be a new series and character. I wasn't as excited when I finished it though.

Gideon Crew was deeply affected by the violent and somewhat mysterious death of his father when he was a young boy. He grew up swearing to avenge his death. He is highly educated but makes his living as a thief. This sets up the back story. Gideon is approached by a mysterious government agency to retrieve the plans for a new weapon before they fall into the wrong hands.

Gideon is described as incredibly good looking with black hair and brilliant blue eyes. Women find him irresistible, but everyone seems to fall for his gift of gab. This seems to be his best weapon. Unfortunately I just found his glibness grating and those who seemed to fall for his increasingly obvious ploys gullible.

Gideon's Sword is full of action and the plot is fast paced. But is also somewhat far fetched in places. Gideon ends up with a dead man's suit after posing as his next of kin. I'm not sure why the police would not have objected as this was a murder. Gideon careens from one outlandish, improbable situation to another, talking his way through all of them. He seems somewhat callous in nature as well. He's not opposed to using unsuspecting others to further his own means. The tenderness he professes to feel for one such citizen falls flat.

I found the use of  Hart Island, New York as a setting for part of the novel fascinating and went off to read more on the web.

So all the right elements are here - dynamic, good looking, intelligent bad boy does the impossible for shadowy organization with lots of hair raising situations. And yes, that is accomplished. But it just didn't make me a believer. Yes, the Pendergast novels are more 'out there' if you will. But I like Pendergast as a character and all those who populate that series and the plotlines grab me.

If these authors are new to you, I suggest you start with their backlist. You can find Preston & Child on Facebook.

 The ending of  Gideon's Sword has been set up for book number two.  Read an excerpt of Gideon's Sword.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Giveaway - Last Snow - Eric Van Lustbader

Last Snow by Eric Van Lustbader is newly released in paperback and I have two copies to giveaway! (My review of the hardcover last year)

From the publisher Forge Books:

"New York Times bestselling sensation Eric Van Lustbader created the legendary Nicholas Linnear of The Ninja and brought Jason Bourne into the twenty-first century. Last year, in First Daughter, Lustbader introduced street-smart ATF agent Jack McClure, who saved the President’s daughter from a criminal mastermind.
When an American senator who is supposed to be in the Ukraine turns up dead on the island of Capri, the President asks McClure to investigate. Jack sets out from Moscow across Eastern Europe, following a perilous trail of diplomats, criminals, and corrupt politicians. His task is complicated by two unlikely, unexpected, and incompatible companions---Annika, a rogue Russian FSB agent, and Alli, the President’s daughter.

Thrust into the midst of a global jigsaw puzzle, Jack’s unique dyslexic mind allows him to put together the pieces that others can’t even see. As he struggles to keep both young women safe and uncover the truth behind the senator’s death, Jack learns just how far up the American and Russian political ladders corruption and treachery have reached."

Read an excerpt of Last Snow. You can find Eric on Twitter and at his website.

Open to US and Canada, leave a comment to be entered. Ends Sat. May 6 at 6 pm EST. Good luck and check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Heads You Lose - Lisa Lutz & David Hayward

I often recommend Lisa Lutz's The Spellmans series to readers who have finished the Stephanie Plum books and are looking for another light hearted fun mystery series.

Heads You Lose is a stand alone book and is a collaboration with David Hayward....who just happens to be Lisa's ex-boyfriend. And it is this connection that makes this book so much fun to read.

So, in the novel, we meet brother and sister Lacey and Paul. They're twenty somethings living in a small town in California. They also grow pot for a living. When a headless corpse appears on their property, chances are it could be work related. But, the ideal thing seems to be to move the body elsewhere to be found given their profession. When the body appears yet again in the front yard, Lacey recognizes it this time as her ex-fiancee.  Lacey decides to give the sheriff a hand solving the case...with Paul's help of course.

Lisa writes the first chapter and subsequent odd numbered chapters; David does the even numbered. Emails between the co authors preface each chapter and barbed footnotes abound. The subtle sniping between the two is hilarious. Each chapter takes a new direction as characters are added and killed off. (and brought back!) Clues abound as each author tries to steer the direction the book should take by adding their own twists.
"Another idiotic duck reference was all Lacey had to show for her visit with Marybeth Monroe. It was if some outside element were at work, temporarily putting the brakes on her investigation."
The town is populated by wildly quirky characters, seemingly random clues and red herrings galore - a source of contention between Lisa and David as the outcome is not pre determined.

Heads You Lose was such an entertaining, laugh out loud read. I hope the two authors can put their differences aside and collaborate again. No works much better for us if they don't get along!

Read an excerpt of Heads You Lose.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Winners - Death of a Chimney Sweep

And the two lucky winners of a copy of Death of a Chimney Sweep by M.C. Beaton, courtesy of The Hachette Book Group are:

1. mnsteff
2. Taffy

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

Friday, April 8, 2011

Love You More- Lisa Gardner

I'm a huge fan of best selling author Lisa Gardner. She is one of my favourite thriller/suspense authors. But I think I enjoy the Detective D. D. Warren books the most. Love You More is the 5th in the series.

It appears that State Trooper Tessa Leoni finally had enough and shot her abusive husband Brian with her service revolver. But where is her 6 yr old daughter Sophie? Did Brian take her somewhere? Badly beaten, Tessa confesses, but claims she has no idea where Sophie is.  Brought onto the case by her ex lover and partner Bobby Dodge, D.D. is convinced Tessa is lying.

Love You More is told in alternating chapters from D.D and Bobby's view and then from Tessa's. Gardner slowly reveals clues and revelations that change the plot and ratchet up the action. What I thought was going to be the outcome totally changed by the time I reached the last page.

D.D. Warren is a tough-talking, brash, bold cop who doesn't take any crap. Justice is her goal and she'll stop at nothing to get there. But there's a chink in her armour this time around. She's just found out she's pregnant. She's a character I just really enjoy. Tessa was an interesting character. I just couldn't predict where she was going to end up.

I have actually listened to the last two book in audio format and I think I'll continue. The reader for D.D. is excellent. Kirsten Potter has a direct, no nonsense voice that is now the embodiment of D.D. for me. Katie MacNicholl was the reader for Tessa. Her voice seemed to change and grow as her character's circumstances changed. It was a good contrast with Potter's voice.

Another great thriller full of twists and turns. A non stop read or listen! Fans of Harlan Coben or Linwood Barclay would enjoy this series.

Read an excerpt of Love You More. Or listen to an excerpt.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Uncoupling - Meg Wolitzer

Meg Wolitzer is an best-selling author I haven't read before, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I started to read The Uncoupling.

Robby and Dory Lang are high school teachers in a small suburban town in New Jersey. They are favourites among the students, well thought of in the town and still madly in love with each other after 20 plus years. Until...a new drama teacher comes to teach at the school. The play she decides to stage seems to unleash a change and shift in attitudes, outlooks and routine, not just with Robby and Dory, but the entire town.
"It was the cold air of the spell, come to claim her. Other spells were far more dramatic, accompanied as they were by lightning or a sizzling clang of thunderclap. This spell was more subtle, but still when it first came over a woman it was shocking, perhaps even grotesque, and she didn't have any idea that she was under it. Dory Lang simply felt as if she was freezing, and then she was aware of a mild disgust, no, even a mild horror at being touched. Certainly not pleasure, no, even a mild horror at being touched. Certainly not pleasure; none of that for her anymore. Her body momentarily shook - a brief death rattle, a death-of-sex rattle, technically - and then it stopped."
The play? Lysistrata - an ancient Greek comedy in which the women withhold sex in order to persuade the men to end the war.

Although Lysistrata is about denying, The Uncoupling is about loss of interest on the part of the women and the effect it has on the men in their lives and the rippling repercussions. Although Dory is the lead character, the other women in the town were just as interesting. I liked that Wolitzer explored women of all ages and life situations. Each age has a different outlook and situation to draw from. I very much enjoyed the exploration of the effects on all of the residents of the town, not just the women.

Where I got a little bogged down was the 'spell' part of the book. The ending was okay but a little too 'magical' for me - although the unnamed narrator of the book seems finally revealed. Albert Einstein once said, "Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of truth and knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods."

The Uncoupling is a fascinating exploration or marriage, desire, intimacy and relationships that will have you stopping to think. This would be a thought provoking choice for a book club. Read an excerpt of The Uncoupling.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Over the Counter # 49

You can buy lots of die cutters, etc to make paper projects these days, but I am in awe of someone who does it with just scissors and an exacto knife! So Paper Cuts by Talor Hagerty caught my eye this week as it passed over my library counter and under my scanner.

From Sterling Publishing:

"This modern approach to the age-old art will dazzle crafters of all skill levels.

Long a folk-art tradition in cultures the world over, paper cutting has become the new darling of the fashion and design worlds. Paper Cuts hops on the trend, drawing on a variety of cultures, bringing together today’s top artists. The result is a collection of 35 smart, fresh, and contemporary projects for crafters, including party ware, centerpieces, ornaments, cards, and more."

(Over the Counter is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World. I've sadly come the realization that I cannot physically read every book that catches my interest as it crosses over my counter at the library. But... I can mention them and maybe one of them will catch your eye as well. See if your local library has them on their shelves!)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Review AND Giveaway - Attachments - Rainbow Rowell

Attachments is Rainbow Rowell's debut novel - and what a great debut it is! I adored it!

When the girl of his dreams broke Lincoln O'Neill's heart he retreated...into academia, moving back home with his mother and giving up socializing. He's even taken a night job with no contact with co workers. He's working at a newspaper (The Courier) as the Internet Security Officer. It isn't until he starts the job that Lincoln realizes he will be monitoring internal emails for inappropriate content.

Jennifer and Beth also both work at the Courier. They're best friends and their internal email is often (well, mostly) of a personal nature.  Which, of course, flags it for Lincoln. He should send them a warning, but he doesn't....he shouldn't keep reading their communications...but he does....He is fascinated by their lives and he finds himself falling in love with Beth.

Rowell has created such a warm, sweet, lovable character in Lincoln. His intrinsic goodness and caring (he's pretty cute too) make him a perfect catch, but he just can't see it himself.
"Lincoln wasn't inherently un-dateable. He'd gone on a date three years ago. A friend's sister had needed a date to a wedding. She'd danced all night with one of the groomsmen, who turned out to be her second cousin, while Lincoln ate exactly thirteen cream cheese mints."
"My get-a-life window. I think I was supposed to figure all this stuff out between twenty-two and twenty-six, and now it's too late."
The novel unfolds in alternating chapters - first from Beth and Jennifer and then from Lincoln.We get to know Jennifer and Beth, but in more of an arm's length way, as we only know of their lives through the emails. It was very easy to get caught up in Lincoln's quest to reclaim his life. It was impossible not to root for him. The supporting cast of characters were just as engaging. Lincoln's mom and her reluctance to let go of her son, his sister Eve and her determination to drag Lincoln out into the world and his loyal circle of Dungeon and Dragon playing friends. But of all the supporting characters I think I enjoyed Lincoln's interactions with Doris the snack lady the most. His kindness towards her was touching.

Rowell has written a delightfully heartwarming story. Attachments is a clever, witty, warm story that will capture you completely. A fantastic first novel - I'll be watching for Rowell's second!

You can find Rainbow on Facebook, and on  Twitter.

Also available in audio format. Listen to an excerpt.

Want a chance to read it yourself? I have a copy to giveaway! Simply leave a comment to be entered. Open to US and Canada. Ends Sunday May 1st.

Check out what others on the TLC tour thought.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Giveaway - The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady - Elizabeth Stuckey-French

I've got a great giveaway to start off the week! Two copies of  Elizabeth Stuckey-French's quirky novel The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady to giveaway.

What's it about? From Doubleday Publishing:

"Seventy-seven-year-old Marylou Ahearn is going to kill Dr. Wilson Spriggs come hell or high water. In 1953, he gave her a radioactive cocktail without her consent as part of a secret government study that had horrible consequences.

Marylou has been plotting her revenge for fifty years. When she accidentally discovers his whereabouts in Florida, her plans finally snap into action. She high tails it to hot and humid Tallahassee, moves in down the block from where a now senile Spriggs lives with his daughter’s family, and begins the tricky work of insinuating herself into their lives. But she has no idea what a nest of yellow jackets she is stum­bling into.

Before the novel is through, someone will be kidnapped, an unlikely couple will get engaged, someone will nearly die from eating a pineapple upside-down cake laced with anti-freeze, and that’s not all . . .

Told from the varied perspectives of an incredible cast of endearing oddball characters and written with the flair of a native Floridian, this dark comedy does not disappoint."

Read an excerpt of The Revenge of The Radioactive Lady. A book discussion guide is also available.

The book trailer is pretty fun too:

Simply comment to be entered. Open to US only. Ends Sunday May 1st at 6 pm EST. Good luck - check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Winner - Miss Scarlet's School of Patternless Sewing

And the lucky winner of a copy of Miss Scarlet's School of Patternless Sewing AND Waking Up in the Land of Glitter, by Kathy Cano-Murillo, courtesy of The Hachette Book Group is:

Diane52    I never heard back from Diane52, so next on the list was Susan Audrey!

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

Friday, April 1, 2011

How to Grow Practically Everything - Dorling Kindersley Publishing

I've been perusing seed catalogues since early January, made my final decisions in February and the seeds arrived this month. I'll be starting some of them indoors and hopefully the snow finally leaves so I can get started!

The other book I've been perusing  is How to Grow Practically Everything from Dorling Kindersley. And this is a book I will be continually perusing - there is so much information! My main focus for years has been my vegetable garden, but I've been mentally planning flower beds for ages. All I need to know is found on these pages.

The book starts off with the basics - plant types,soil,tools and seasonal tasks. And here's where I've been drooling - tons of plans for different types of flower beds- there were literally 36 different styles each incorporating a distinctive look. I'm leaning towards a 'cottage' look. Check out one of the styles here.

No room for beds? Another whole section on container gardening. When I was younger and lived in the city I did grow tomatoes on my balcony. And one interesting experiment with potatoes on a window sill in the winter that my room mate questioned. Both plants and veggies are covered. Foolproof directions for seeds that can't fail (great for a little one to plant and watch grow) pot selections and more  - all included.

Not just plants are covered - trees and hedges are featured as well. Many of these ideas incorporate structures as well - trellises, obelisks and rockery walls. Next up was my favourite section - fruits and veggies. There's always more to learn.

This was something that I thought I would like to do in the future as well - water gardening. I would love to sit beside a little burbling pond and relax. How-to's for the pond and plants that would thrive included. And it's not just the outdoors covered - houseplants have their own chapter as well.

The last chapter covers weeds, (this I will be using for sure) pest control, pruning and more.

How to Grow Practically Anything is 448 pages full of great information and full colour photographs. The layout is clean and easy to read. Just what I've come to expect from DK - an excellent reference tool - one I will be referring to often!

Now - off to start my tomatoes inside!