Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Whole Foods to Thrive - Brendan Brazier - Review AND Giveaway

Continuing on my quest to 'clean up' the way I live and eat, Whole Foods to Thrive by Brendan Brazier definitely caught my eye. Subtitled: Nutrient-Dense, Plant Based Recipes for Peak Health. Yes, it's about what's good for us, but the planet as well.

"What impact do food choices have on your health? Have you ever been curious as to where your food came from, who grew it, and the path it took to get to your table? Have you every wondered how much of each natural resource was used to produce your food—in other words, the soil-to-table environmental cost? In Whole Foods to Thrive, Brendan Brazier clearly explains how nutrient-dense, plant-based foods are the best choice, not only for your health but also for the health and sustainability of the planet."

And you might be saying to yourself - well, who the heck is Brendan Brazier? Well...

"Brendan Brazier is one of only a few professional athletes in the world whose diet is 100 percent plant based. He’s a professional Ironman triathlete, bestselling author on performance nutrition, and the creator of an award-winning line of whole food nutritional products called Vega. He is also the 2003 and 2006 Canadian 50km Ultra Marathon Champion.Nominated in 2006 for the Manning Innovation Award, Canada’s most prestigious award for innovation, Brendan was short-listed for the formulation of Vega.

In 2006, Brendan also was invited to address US Congress on Capitol Hill, where he spoke of the significant social and economic benefits that could be achieved by improving personal health through better diet. The focus of his talk was to draw attention to the role that food plays in the prevention of most chronic diseases currently plaguing North Americans. In 2007 Brendan was named one of The 25 Most Fascinating Vegetarians by VegNews Magazine.

Brendan has become a renowned speaker and sought-after presenter throughout North America, helping individuals and businesses thrive by sharing his dietary stress-busting program, the Thrive Diet.

Brendan is from North Vancouver, BC. But spends most of his time on the road touring."

So, yes, he knows what he's talking about.

I've been eating gluten free for over a year now and this has had a positive impact on my health. Whole Foods to Thrive provides a wealth of information on taking eating well to the next level. The first chapter - Health's Dependence on Nutrution is one I will be referring back to quite a bit.

Frazier describes the key components of nutrition as well as the nutrient value of each of the ingredients used in many of the over 200 recipes included. And the recipes are honestly very simple. Some of the ingredients are new to me, but readily available at the health food stores I have been frequenting. And Here's a quick smoothie you could try for breakfast.

Chocolate Almond Smoothie with Sacha Inchi Milk (A protein rich Peruvian fruit)

Rich in protein and omega-3, this smoothie will keep you going for hours with sustainable, non-stimulating energy. Time: 5 minutes • Makes about 3 ½ cups (2 large servings)

1 banana
2 fresh or presoaked dried dates
1 cup water
1 cup Sacha Inchi Milk (or chocolate variation) (see p. 126)
¼ cup almonds (or 2 tbsp raw almond butter)
1 tbsp ground flaxseed
1 tbsp hemp protein powder
1 tbsp roasted carob powder

• In a blender, combine all ingredients and blend until smooth.

I grow a large garden and there are a wealth of salad recipes I'll be trying out this year. This is also the time of the year to start thinking about trying to eat local.  Head out to your local farmer's market, join a food co-op, plant a few seeds yourself. The chapters covering the environmental toll of food production are really eye opening.

To celebrate the release of Brendan's book, one lucky reader will win a prize pack containing six Vega smoothie mixes (either Shake & Go Smoothie mixes or Complete Whole Food Health Optimizer mixes) in an assortment of flavours like Vanilla Chai, Bodacious Berry, and Choc-a-Lot. Thanks to Penguin Canada and Vega.

Simply comment to be entered. This one's quick - ends Sunday June 5th at 6 pm EST. Open to Canada only.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Arrivals - Meg Mitchell Moore - Review AND Giveaway

The Arrivals is Meg Mitchell Moore's debut novel.

Ginny and William Owens are happily retired. They've raised three children and are now enjoying puttering, gardening, time with each other and....the quiet.

"In the moment, you were often too tired to enjoy watching your children turn into people. It was such a busy time, so demanding. There was always somebody with a science project due the next day, always a lesson or a practice to get to, always a meal to cook or a stray mitten to find. And then suddenly everyone had cleared out, flung themselves out into the big world, two of them to New York City, Lillian to Massachusetts, calling, sure, e-mailing often, even visiting, but they were gone, truly gone, replaced by the silence - beautiful and blessed, of course, but still, sometimes, she had to admit, strange and unnatural."

And that quiet lasts until their daughter Lillian arrives with her 3 year old and newborn. Her marriage is in trouble and home is the first place she heads. Son Stephen comes to visit with his pregnant wife Jane. The house is getting a little fuller and a lot noisier.....and finally, the youngest, Rachel, arrives home as well. Single life in New York City has taken it toll and she too heads home to recharge her batteries.

Moore has perfectly captured the emotions, tensions, love, headaches and joy of a family reunited under one roof as adults. (with a few additions) Moore's characters are all incredibly well portrayed.  I found myself reacting strongly to a number of them. And that's the mark of a good writer - when you respond to fictional characters and are drawn into their world. While The Arrivals is the tale of the Owens family, the focus is on mothers and mothers-to-be at varying stages of their lives. With the empty nest looming in my near future, I enjoyed Moore's exploration of family dynamics.

"While they talked, Ginny looked out at the lake and let her thoughts float and settle, trying to put her finger on what it was she was feeling, where this sense of peace and fulfillment was coming from. And while she couldn't articulate it exactly, she thought that probably the presence of all of the people in her house - all these different creatures, with their hungers and their desires and their moods and their love - was allowing her to feel necessary, to feel loved and embraced again, in a way that she hadn't realized she'd stopped feeling. Hadn't realized she'd been missing."

The Arrivals marks the arrival of a strong new voice in women's fiction - I look forward to future offerings from Meg Mitchell Moore. Book clubs would enjoy the varying themes presented in this novel - a reading group guide is available.

You can find Meg on Twitter and Facebook.

And thanks to the generosity of The Hachette Book Group, I have two copies of The Arrivals to giveaway. Simply comment to be entered. Open to US and Canada, no PO boxes please. One winner per household. Ends Sat. June 18th at 6 pm EST. Good luck and check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Winners - Twice a Spy

And the two lucky winners of a copy of Twice a Spy by Keith Thomson, courtesy of Doubleday Publishing are:

1. Petite

2. Bakers Dozen

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

Friday, May 27, 2011

Cleaning Nabokov's House - Leslie Daniels

Barb Barrett lost everything after she walked out of her marriage - job, self-esteem, home, but worst of all, the one thing she didn't expect to lose - custody of her children. In an attempt to be close to them, she has relocated to the small New York town of Onkwedo. She moves into a home once lived in by the author Vladimir Nabokov. It is while cleaning out the house, she discovers a series of index cards behind a drawer. It seems to be a story about Babe Ruth - and is it possible it was written by Nabokov?

Leslie Daniels paints an excellent portrait of a mother dealing with loss. The impetus used to ignite her (the maybe Nabokov story) is unusual and quirky. The path taken by Barb to reclaim her life is perhaps best described by Barb herself...

"I knew I could stay in this town when I found the blue enamel post floating in the lake. The post led me to the house, the house led me to the book, the book to the lawyer, the lawyer to the whorehouse, the whorehouse to science and from science I joined the world."
I enjoyed Barb's quite funny view of life and her very sardonic sense of humour. I applauded her attempts to reclaim her life and children. But....she lost me at the whorehouse. If this was a chick lit book, I could have bought it - maybe. But if this is a woman seriously looking to reclaim her children, does she honestly think opening a male staffed whorehouse for the lonely women of Onkwedo is a good move? 

Cleaning Nabokov's House is written in first person narrator style - one I find a bit tedious after a while. It leads to a one sided story and I would have liked to hear from other characters. I found the ex-husband to be more of a caricature than a person. Her children were cute, the daughter a little too much.

I enjoy books about women 'finding' themselves and regaining control of their lives.  I enjoyed Daniels' freshman effort - I think she has a bright future as an author. But, for me this was just an okay read. The detour into the cathouse bumped this down to a three star read.

Read an excerpt of Cleaning Nabokov's House.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Over the Counter #56

The latest book to catch my eye this week as it passed over my library counter and under my scanner was The 10 Best of Everything - An Ultimate Guide for Travelers 2E by Nathaniel and Andrew Lande. Because, really - who doesn't want to know what the 10 best are? And list books are addictive....

From the publisher National Geographic:

This deluxe, entertaining dream guide showcases the experience and savoir-faire of such luminaries as Prince Charles on architecture, Arnold Palmer on favorite golf courses, Luciano Pavarotti on opera houses, and Baron Philip de Rothschild on the best vintages. Scores of experts name the 10 best islands, poshest pubs and polo clubs, best things to do on Sundays afternoons in the world's best cities, and a treasure trove of musts for the high-end traveler or anyone who aspires to be.

The new Grand Tour includes 20 classic adventures, all experienced by the veteran travelers, with lush and enticing journeys to the Amalfi Coast, Great Barrier Reef, Shanghai, the Greek Isles, Antarctica, and more.

Studded with colorful illustrations, cosmopolitan sidebars, and savvy tips, as well as a wealth of options for getting there via land, sea, or air, this elegant and sophisticated book will awaken yearnings for exotic travel in readers everywhere."

(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, May 25, 2011

Mystery - Jonathan Kellerman

I've been a longtime fan of Jonathan Kellerman's Dr. Alex Delaware Series. His latest, Mystery, is the 26th book in the series.

Alex and live in lover Robin are attending a closing for the once grand Hotel Fauborg in Beverly Hills. They're playing that game - you know, the one where you imagine a story for other people. A glamorous young woman sitting alone catches their eye. It seems she has been stood up. It ends up being quite a bit more that that...Alex's sidekick Detective Milo Sturgis stops by a few days later to ask Alex his thoughts (Alex is a psychologist) on the method of murder of an unknown young woman. Alex is startled to recognize the young woman from the hotel.  They are unable to identify her  until an unknown tipster leaves a clue. And that clue leads to unexpected avenues.

I chose to listen to this latest Kellerman. The reader was John Rubenstein. He has read many of the previous books in this series. He does capture the somewhat aloof tone I have in my head for Delaware. Milo's accent however seems somewhat forced and buffoonish at times. his is not how I picture Milo at all.

Mystery was an entertaining listen from characters I have had a long relationship with. But I'm thinking it's time for me to end that relationship. I was able to figure out the whodunit long before the end of the book. I found Alex's actions is going ahead and confronting the suspect on his own without Milo both arrogant and foolhardy. These two have made a great team over the years and faced some really fascinating cases. For me though, Mystery wasn't one of them. The whole book just seemed a little tired. And maybe the characters are too.

Read an excerpt of Mystery.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Giveaway - A Time For Patriots - Dale Brown

Thanks to Harper Collins, I have a copy of Dale Brown's latest book A Time for Patriots to giveaway.

From the publisher:

"Welcome to Battlefield America

When murderous bands of militiamen begin roaming the western United States and attacking government agencies, it will take a dedicated group of the nation's finest and toughest civilian airmen to put an end to the homegrown insurgency. U.S. Air Force Lieutenant-General Patrick McLanahan vows to take to the skies to join the fight, but when his son, Bradley, also signs up, they find themselves caught in a deadly game against a shadowy opponent.

When the stock markets crash and the U.S. economy falls into a crippling recession, everything changes for newly elected president Kenneth Phoenix. Politically exhausted from a bruising and divisive election, Phoenix must order a series of massive tax cuts and wipe out entire cabinet-level departments to reduce government spending. With reductions in education and transportation, an incapacitated National Guard, and the loss of public safety budgets, entire communities of armed citizens band together for survival and mutual protection. Against this dismal backdrop, a SWAT team is ambushed and radioactive materials are stolen by a group calling themselves the Knights of the True Republic. Is the battle against the government about to be taken to a new and deadlier level?

In this time of crisis, a citizen organization rises to the task of protecting their fellow countrymen: the Civil Air Patrol (CAP), the U.S. Air Force auxiliary. The Nevada Wing—led by retired Air Force Lieutenant-General Patrick McLanahan, his son, Bradley, and other volunteers—uses their military skills in the sky and on the ground to hunt down violent terrorists. But how will Patrick respond when extremists launch a catastrophic dirty bomb attack in Reno, spreading radiological fallout for miles? And when Bradley is caught in a deadly double-cross that jeopardizes the CAP, Patrick will have to fight to find out where his friends' loyalties lie: Are they with him and the CAP or with the terrorists?

With A Time for Patriots, the New York Times bestselling master of the modern thriller Dale Brown brings the battle home to explore a terrifying possibility—the collapse of the American Republic."

This one's international. Simply comment to be entered. Ends Sunday June 12 at 6pm EST. Check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways.

Monday, May 23, 2011

When God Was A Rabbit - Sarah Winman - Review AND Giveaway

When God Was A Rabbit marks the debut of author Sarah Winman.

From the publisher Bloomsbury:

"This is a book about a brother and a sister. It's a book about secrets and starting over, friendship and family, triumph and tragedy, and everything in between. More than anything, it's a book about love in all its forms."

Elly is the sister and Joe the brother. And in between are their parents, Elly's friend Jenny Penny, assorted lodgers and god the rabbit.

Young Elly's early loss of innocence in the first few chapters and her brother's promise to protect her always sets the tone for the sibling's relationship. We follow the siblings from 1968 England through to New York 9/11 in the second half of the book. Winman has crafted a novel that kept me off kilter but quickly turning pages from start to finish. The characters are off beat, but the bonds to those they love are undeniably strong. Every character seems to be a step out of time with the rest of the world.

"'That's a good thing, isn't it? To stand apart and be different?' he said.  'I'm not sure' I said, quite aware of my own muted need to fit in to somehow simply hide. 'I don't want people to know I'm different'. And I looked up and and saw my brother standing in the doorway."

And they are different - but in a good way. I found the story of young Elly and Joe to be especially poignant. However, they didn't evoke the same reaction in me when they were older in the second half. That's not to say that the story unfolded in the latter part of the book is no less emotional. It is, but I think it was the loss of innocence on so many levels by the younger characters that was the most heartbreaking. There are many sad moments in this story, but there are just as many funny ones. The secondary cast, particularly the parents and lodgers were favourites of mine. Their acceptance of any and all and their inclusion of those on the periphery into their family endeared them to me. I found the use of god the rabbit throughout Elly's life to be an unique allegorical device.

Winman explores relationships of all sorts with a deft and original hand. But her description of the love between a brother and sister is especially well drawn. An unusual and totally original debut. It will be interesting to see where Winman goes next with her writing.

Sound good? Well, thanks to the publisher I have one copy to giveaway to a lucky reader. Open to US and Canada. Simply leave a comment to be entered. Ends Sat. Jun 11 at 6 pm EST.

Check out what other bloggers thought on Winman's TLC book tour.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Winner - Driftwood Cottage - Sherryl Woods

And the lucky winner of a copy of Driftwood Cottage by Sherryl Woods is:

babytrees! Never heard back from her so the new winner is I write in books!

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

Friday, May 20, 2011

Vaclav & Lena - Hayley Tanner

Vaclav & Lena is the debut novel of Haley Tanner. And I must admit, it's probably one I wouldn't have noticed without a recommendation. So, Jess - thanks - because I really, really enjoyed it!

Vaclav & Lena is set in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. Both characters are Russian émigrés - children 10 and 9 years old. Vaclav has a fair grasp of the English language but is keen to master it. His mother Rasia is loving and kind, determined to make a better life for her son. Lena's life is much different - she has no support at the place she calls home, often has nothing to eat, does poorly in school and tries to blend into the woodwork in an effort to hide. Rasia does her best to mother her as well.

Vaclav and Lena share a love of magic and dream of the day when Vaclav will be a famous magician and Lena will be his stunning assistant. When Lena disappears from his life under never discussed circumstances, Vaclav is heartbroken. Until the day seven years later when their paths cross again....

Vaclav is such an earnest, eager, spirited child. He sees the positive in everything around him. He dreams of the future. The barriers placed in his way do not stop him or deter him. This character touched me so much and literally brought tears to my eyes.
"Rasia looks at Vaclav, holding these dollar bills, smiling his goofy smile. Most people do not really mean their smiles, most of the time. For most people, their smiles are a lie, a trick, or a promise. Vaclav's smile is just a smile, and he always means it."
Two years ago I worked in a very small library. Every day we were open, a young boy, his sister, mother and baby brother came in after school. They were recent immigrants from an Eastern bloc country. The oldest boy had attended school in his home country, his language carried an accent and mangled syntax, he was awkward socially, but tried so hard to fit in. It broke my heart to see him rebuffed by the other children. I can only imagine what his mother felt. She and her husband had chosen to seek a better life for their children.

Rasia's love for Vaclav...
"As she watched him walk out into the big American crowd, under the big American roller coaster, she felt the world spinning wildly away from her, and she sat and cried because she was happy and sad that he did not look back, because of how much she loved his little body, and his awkward, cowlicky head and that tiny rib cage, and the way that he knew, already, to take a girl's hand if she was afraid."
Tanner has perfectly captured what I observed. The dialogue, feelings, emotions, situations and settings all evoke and capture the experience of a new citizen from a child's and parent's view.

But there is much more to the story - it is a tale of tenacity, love and hope. Vaclav & Lena is a rich, poignant narrative that will capture you from first page to last.  Loved it! I look forward to reading what Tanner writes next.

Read an excerpt of Vaclav & Lena.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Over the Counter #55

Well, the latest book to catch my eye this week as it passed over the library counter and under my scanner was There I Fixed It ( No, You Didn't) from the Cheezburger Network. The book is a product of the hugely popular website ThereIFixedIt.com. 

(And I have to admit - I read this one completely - it's addicting and my own DH has been known to 'fix' a few things with duct tape!)

From the publisher, Andrews McMeel:

"Whoever coined the phrase "A picture is worth a thousand words" clearly has not stumbled upon the Cheezburger Network's ThereIFixedIt.com. Here, a picture is worth countless inaudible gasps, and we're guessing more than a few quiet stares of disbelief.

There, I Fixed It (No, You Didn't) celebrates the kludge (a quick-and-dirty, clumsy, or inelegant-yet-effective solution to a problem, typically using parts that are cobbled together) in its many incarnations as presented on the popular Web site ThereIFixedIt.com. The book features over 200 full-color images of daily kludge winners, along with the signature witty commentary that characterizes typical reactions to the hilarious DIY disasters and work-arounds.

If you're still unsure as to what qualifies, we think the minivan held together by duct tape leaves little room for confusion. After all, in that guy's defense, multiple rolls of carefully affixed duct tape are certainly cheaper than a new coat of paint (just try to avoid puddles and rain).

Certain to generate bellyache-inducing revelry, There, I Fixed It (No, You Didn't) may even inspire you to fashion your very own kludge. Please note that we give extra points to those brave enough to merge an open flame with a propane gas tank and electrical wire. Bonus points if you can then make the item travel on wheels at speeds greater than 50 miles per hour. So, home enthusiasts, would-be inventors, and all who miserably failed engineering, kludge away with the Cheezburger Network's There, I Fixed It (No, You Didn't)."

(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, May 18, 2011

The Fifth Witness - Michael Connelly

Michael Connelly is one of my favourite authors. I wasn't too sure about the Mickey Haller character when he introduced this new series, but I'm an ardent fan now. The Fifth Witness is the fourth book featuring the lawyer who practices out of the back of his Lincoln.

The Fifth Witness finds Mickey working on stalling or nullifying home foreclosures. With the downturn in the economy, he's got no lack of business. Lisa Trammel was one of his first clients. Eight months later, she needs his criminal defense skills instead. She's been charged with the murder of one of the officers of the bank who were foreclosing on her. It doesn't look good for her, but Mickey follows his cardinal rule - don't ask if they did it.

Connelly has taken a very current issue and created an absolutely riveting, page turning tale. The characters are very well drawn. Lisa Trammel is unlikeable - her dialogue and actions paint a vivid image.The supporting cast at the office is quirky, eclectic and loyal. The secondary personal storyline involving Mickey's ex wife Maggie 'McFierce' reveals the 'other' side of Haller. I enjoyed the courtroom drama and antics - you can almost feel the atmosphere in Connelly's writing. The plot is full of twists and turns, keeping you guessing until the very end. And the end also provides the best teaser for the next Haller book!

Quite simply it was a five star read for me - well, actually a five star listen as I chose the audio version of this book. Peter Giles was the reader - for me he is the voice of Haller. His voice is slightly gravelly, a little time worn, very expressive and easy to understand. He easily conveys the emotion and action with his tone. Listen to an excerpt. Or read an excerpt of The Fifth Witness.

I haven't seen the movie of The Lincoln Lawyer yet starring Matthew McConaughey, but I plan to. I'm not sure how McConaughey will fit the mental image I've created. Has anyone seen the movie yet? What did you think?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Beauty Chorus - Kate Lord Brown - Blog Tour

A Bookworm's World is very happy to be today's stop on Kate Lord Brown's tour for her new novel The Beauty Chorus. Before we get to the Q&A, here's a bit about the book from the publisher McArthur & Company.

New Year's Eve, 1940: Evie Chase, the beautiful debutante daughter of a rich and adoring RAF commander, listens wistfully to the swing music drifting out from the ballroom, unable to join in the fun. With bombs falling nightly in London, she is determined that the coming year will bring a lot more than dances, picnics and tennis matches. She is determined to make a difference to the war effort.

5th January, 1941: Evie curses her fashionable heels as they skid on the frozen ground of her local airfield. She is here to join the ATA, the civilian pilots who ferry Tiger Moths and Spitfires to bases across war-torn Britain. Two other women wait nervously to join up: Stella Grainger, a forlorn young mother who has returned from Singapore without her baby boy and Megan Jones, an idealistic teenager who has never left her Welsh village. Billeted together in a tiny cottage in a sleepy country village, Evie, Stella and Megan must learn to live and work together. Brave, beautiful and fiercely independent, these women soon move beyond their different backgrounds as they find romance, confront loss, and forge friendships that will last a lifetime.'

And now on to the Q&A!!

You've worked as an art consultant and write one of the UK's top 100 blogs (What Kate Did Next). What was the impetus to write a novel?

Yes, I was lucky to have a really interesting 'day job' curating collections for palaces and embassies across Europe and the Middle East. I've always written, (even as a kid I was writing diaries and writing plays for friends). I belonged to a writers' group 'Women's Ink' in London. (UK) Like a lot of writers, I read really widely, and had always thought it would be great to write a novel. So, one day I decided to get up an hour early before work and start writing, balancing my keyboard on my boyfriend's sock drawer in the corridor of our tiny studio. Then, we married, moved overseas, had children - and the manuscript came with me. I kept working on it, and started to blog at What Kate Did Next. The site turned into a global writer's group, and each of the posts has a daily writing prompt for people.

How do you manage to work it all in - mom, blogger and now novelist? What does your day look like?

I like to be busy! I really think being a Mom is the best preparation for running your own business there is - all of the skills you learn about managing your time and other people come into play. The days are full - I'm up 5.30am to get the children to school for 7am, and I work all morning til 1pm when I pick them up. In the afternoons we swim or ride, or there's the usual 'Mom's taxi' service to Taekwando or clubs! Then after their tea/bath/story/bed routine, if my husband's overseas I'll work late into the night. Luckily I don't need much sleep!

Where did the idea for the Beauty Chorus spring from?
I saw a tiny obituary for a woman who had flown Spitfires during WW2 in one of my pilot husband's flying magazines - I was just flicking through while I was doing the recycling (see, inspiration comes from the unlikeliest places for Moms!). I thought 'wow...that would make a great story'!

Tell us about your historical research
I love the research - it was a great joy and honour to find out all about these incredible women, and I spent months in archives and museums across the UK. I was lucky to be in touch with surviving veterans too, which gave me details you just can't get from archives.

Are your characters based on actual historical figures?
'The Beauty Chorus' weaves fact and fiction really closely, so you have characters based on fact - like Amy Johnson the famous aviator, or Stanley Spencer the famous British painter, and you have totally fictional characters like Evie, Stella and Megan. The three lead characters were all inspired by a mix of real ATA girls though.

Do you enjoy flying?
Yes, as I'm married to a pilot, luckily I love flying. We've lived and travelled all over the world, and I still get a thrill the moment the plane breaks through and you get that glorious sunshine over the clouds.

Do you share the same sense of adventure that your characters have?
That's a great question. I like to think that in the same situation I would have had their guts and grace under pressure. A whole generation had to step up to the mark, and for those of us who have been fortunate enough not to experience a World War, it's hard to imagine and important to remember the risks and sacrifices they made. I certainly believe that this is a remarkable world we live in, and I want to experience as much as I can of it, and keep on learning.

You've travelled extensively. Have you visited Canada yet?
Yes, I have - we love Canada! My husband was born in Vancouver, and I have a lot of family in Ottawa, where my husband spent several years growing up too. We've visited Canada a couple of times and I think it's the most beautiful place - we can't wait to bring the children over and show them where Dad was born.

What are you reading right now? Influential authors? Favourite books?
Right now, I'm doing research for a new novel so I'm reading a lot of historical texts and biographies about espionage in WW2. When I'm reading for pleasure, I love authors like Anne Tyler, Carol Shields, Siri Hustvedt, Audrey Niffenegger - I'm in awe of their ability to conjure human relationships, and their quirky take on life's little details. I learn so much from reading their work. One of my favourite writers is James Salter - his prose just blows me away with its beauty, and I find myself going back to his books again and again.

What's next? Another historical piece or another direction?
I've just finished writing my next book, about the amazing women war reporters, nurses and soldiers of the Spanish Civil War. We lived in Spain for three years, and I always wondered why no one would talk about the war - now I know. The research was harrowing, but the story I hope is one of courage and ultimately salvation ... and there is a very cute Canadian doctor in the story, who I pictured as a Gregory Peck type character, very noble and passionate. Who said history had to be dry?! I love unearthing forgotten histories of amazing people, and the next few books are all heading that way. Thanks for your questions, Luanne. Great talking with you! 

Read an excerpt of The Beauty Chorus or stop by The Beauty Chorus blog. Or check out this video of Kate discussing the history behind The Beauty Chorus.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Come and Find Me - Hallie Ephron

Here's an interesting, but not unexpected crossover. Hallie Ephron is a noted mystery reviewer for the Boston Globe newspaper. Come and Find Me is her second stand alone suspense novel.

Ephron has come up with a great plot and an interesting protagonist. Diana Banks has been confined to her home with severe anxiety and panic attacks following the death of her husband Daniel two years ago. However, she has managed to carry on working with their third partner, Jake, in their Internet security business. Diana has managed to do this by holding meetings in OtherWorld (techies and net savvy gamers will recognize the concept of Second Life here) Basically, it's a complete virtual world. This allows Diana to function - to a certain degree. However, when her sister goes missing, Diana is forced to venture outside at last - and it looks like someone really would be happier if she didn't.

I find the concept of people operating and living behind an avatar fascinating. (Indeed there have been quite a few movies using this vehicle) Really, is anyone who they say they are or as they present themselves online? The idea of virtual meetings is reality based. Ephron's use of agoraphobia as the reason for Diana's self imposed incarceration is well written, but I do question Diana's ability to do what she does once she 'escapes' with the help of a few pills.

I found the plot moved along very quickly but it was a bit jarring in places.  The focus seemed to be on action, rather than character development. I never really connected with the players and found them somewhat stilted and one dimensional.

Come and Find Me is a pager turner, one I read fairly quickly. A good, entertaining read that won't strain your brain too much. Romantic suspense fans would enjoy this book. And you might think twice about what you put out there on the web - nothing is as it seems....

Read an excerpt of Come and Find Me.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Giveaway -Blood Trust and First Daughter - Eric Van Lustbader

Eric Van Lustbader's newest book Last Snow has just been released in paperback.
(Check out the book trailer video below!)
From the publisher:

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."

Thanks to the folks at Tor-Forge, you can get caught up on the Jack McClure series - I have a copy of Blood Trust AND First Daughter to giveaway to one lucky reader. Open to US and Canada, simply leave a comment to be entered. Ends Sat. June 4th at 6 pm EST. Good luck and check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways.

"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.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Mothers & Daughters - Rae Meadows

Mothers & Daughters by Rae Meadows is the story of three women.

 Sam is a new mother who is having a hard time adjusting to life with a daughter of her own. She is afraid to leave Ella with anyone else and has been unable to get back to her career as a potter after nearly a year. Her relationship with her husband has changed as well..." Since the baby, it seemed her feelings toward him required moment-to moment readjustment."

Sam's mother Iris died just before Ella was born. A box containing mementos of Iris's life ends up on Sam's doorstep. As she goes through the box, she discovers things she never learned about her mother while she was alive. And her grandmother Violet as well.

Meadows explores the mother/daughter dynamic between each of the women. Each women's past influences how she mothers her own daughter. The daughters really don't know their mothers intimately. The story of each of the women is told in revolving chapters.

I became so invested in the story of Violet and her mother Lilibeth. Violet ended up on an Orphan Train, sent from New York City to the arms of a 'suitable' home. I was fascinated by her story and found myself wanting more than was written.  Without giving away the storyline, Iris's life saddened me. Parts of her tale moved me to tears. I found Sam a bit hard to like in the beginning - she seemed somewhat self indulgent, but I came to appreciate her by the end of the book.

I quite enjoyed discovering who each woman was, how her life was shaped and how that in turn influenced the next generation. A thoughtful book that might make you take a second look at the relationship you have with your own mother.

Read an excerpt of Mothers & Daughters. Or listen to an excerpt. Book clubs - a reading guide is available.You can find Meadows on Twitter as well.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Over the Counter #54

The latest book to catch my eye this week as it passed over my library counter and under the scanner was Junk Mail Origami by Duy & Tramy Nguyen.

From Sterling Publishing:

"They fill up the mailbox…and then, they fill up the recycling bin. But now Duy and Tramy Nguyen have come up with a way to make snail-mail spam appetizing—and even exotic: turn it into fantastic origami art. Their beautiful projects are specifically tailored to the dimensions of those flyers, ads, and other unsolicited offers you’d normally throw away. Even beginners will be able to transform junk mail into extraordinary creations. The Nguyens start with an introduction explaining how to interpret the symbols and lines in their instructions and to make basic origami folds. Paper crafters can then put their skills to the test with 18 designs, including a bow, heart on a stand, and a cool Halloween skull."

(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, May 11, 2011

Born Under a Lucky Moon - Dana Precious

Born Under a Lucky Moon marks the debut novel of author Dana Precious. And I really hope she's at work on her second, because I loved this book!

Jeannie Thompson and her four siblings grew up in the town of North Muskegon, Michigan. Jeannie is in her late thirties, very successful in the film industry and has a boyfriend, Aidan, that she loves very much. It is when Aidan asks her marry him, that Jeannie's tightly held life begins to unravel. How can she explain to Aidan that...
"My family isn't like your family. our family seems to have everything under control at all times. But stuff just happens to my family. I think of it as really funny, but apparently other people don't. Like Walker (Jeannie's ex-husband), or most of the other spouses in my family. A lot of them are ex-spouses now. My family seems to be very trying on the people we love."
When Aidan asks for an example, she begins...
"This is just one story of my family. It starts with a long-planned wedding on a Saturday, followed by a surprise wedding on Sunday. It ends with a murder and a sex scandal. Like every relationship in every family, this story doesn't reside in the black and white of right and wrong, it resides in the gray area called love."
Now really - how could you not want to delve into the pages of a book with an opening like that?

Born Under a Lucky Moon alternates between 1986 and the present 2006. Each story is equally addicting, but the story of the 1986 weddings had me actually laughing out loud. Precious has created wonderfully warm, funny, loving, quirky characters that you can't help but love. As Tom the handyman says...
"I didn't say you weren't all crazy. But I've never seen a family pull for each other so much."
And this is the part of the story that really shines. The love between the family members is tangible and incredibly heartwarming. Through thick and thin, crises and joys, each of them is there for the others. The present day tale in 1986 is just as charming. I found myself reading 'just one more chapter' late at night in order to get back to 'the other story'.

A really strong debut novel, one I absolutely recommend! It's the perfect summer beach read. Book clubs might enjoy this novel as well - a reading guide is available. Read an excerpt of Born Under a Lucky Moon. You can find Dana on Twitter or maybe in North Muskegon, where she's originally from!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Buried Prey - John Sandford

John Sandford is the author of a series I've followed for many, many years. His latest book in the Lucas Davenport series is Buried Prey. (Released today)

Davenport has been a cop in the Minneapolis area for many years, working his way up the ladder. He currently works for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA, often troubleshooting for the governor. But a case from the past is literally unearthed and Davenport is forced to confront the unthinkable. Was the wrong man convicted of the murder of two young girls? Has the real killer been preying on children for the last 25 years?

The disappearance of the Jones girls in 1985 marked the beginning of Lucas's career as a detective.
"In the first year as a cop, working patrol and then, briefly, as a dope guy, he'd felt that he was learning things at a ferocious rate: about the street, life, death, sex, love, hate, fear, stupidity, jealousy and accident, and all the other things that brought citizens in contact with the cops. Then the learning tailed off. Now investigating, the feeling was back. He was crude and he knew it, but it was interesting and he'd get better at it."
The first part of the book is set in 1985 and we get to see a young Davenport. It was so much fun to watch Lucas begin what we know is a long and colourful career. One of my favourite supporting characters has always been Del Capslock. In Buried Prey we are privy to the first pairing up of Lucas and Del. Their witty banter has continued to this day. The tone is set for what we know of Lucas today as well - his way with women, his obsession with clothes and his 'outside the box' methods.
"Lucas, on the other hand, was a poor leader. He simply wasn't interested in what he considered the time-wasting elements of operating in a bureaucracy. He was intuitive, harshly judgmental, and would occasionally wander into illegalities in the pursuit of what he saw as justice. In doing that, he preferred to work with one or two close friends who knew how to keep their mouths shut, didn't mind the occasional perjury in a good cause, and knew when to blow him off, if he got too manic and started shouting; and would shout back. Lucas's cops were outsiders, for the most part. The strange cops."
The case itself is excellent. Is the homeless man they're chasing innocent or are they being pointed in the wrong direction deliberately? And by whom? Cops? Part two of the book brings us to present day. Davenport is again working with his old team Capslock, Jenkins and Shrake. I always watch for the reference to Virgil Flowers  - that f*****g Flowers - one of my favourite characters, who now has his own series. Lucas's personal life always provides a great second story line, but I'm still not sold on Letty -Davenport's adoped daughter.

Sandford has a winner with Buried Prey. The plot is excellent, the writing tight, the action non stop and best of all, I get to see a side of a character I've enjoyed for almost 20 years. Highly recommended.

Read an excerpt of Buried Prey

Monday, May 9, 2011

Giveaway - Twice a Spy - Keith Thomson

Thanks to the lovely folks at Doubleday Publishing, I have two copies of Keith Thomson's new book - Twice a Spy - to giveaway.

From the publisher:

"On the heels of Once a Spy, which PW hailed as a “wildly original debut [with] an action-packed story line,” Keith Thomson returns with a breakneck thriller that’s twice as explosive as the original.

In the tradition of Robert Ludlum, with a witty twist, Thomson’s second novel featuring a former spy and his son once again poses the question: What happens when a former CIA agent can no longer trust his own mind?

Charlie and Drummond Clark are now in Switzerland, hiding out from criminal charges in America and using the time to experiment with treatments to retrieve Drummond’s memory. When NSA operative Alice Rutherford, with whom Charlie has fallen in love, is kidnapped, the Clarks must dodge a formidable CIA case officer and his team to get her back. "

Read an excerpt of Twice a Spy.  You can find Keith on Facebook as well.

Sound good? Simply leave a comment to be entered. Open to US only. Ends Sat. May 28th at 6 pm EST.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Winner - There's Lead in Your Lipstick

And the lucky winner of a copy of There's Lead in Your Lipstick by Gillian Deacon and an Eco Kiss kit from Saffron Rouge is:


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

Winners - Last Snow - Eric Van Lustbader

And the two lucky winners of a copy of Last Snow by Eric Van Lustbader are:

1. Lisa

2. bin a bug

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, May 6, 2011

100 Greatest Trips 2011 - Editors Travel + Leisure Magazine

I'm in the midst of planning a vacation this summer - destinations still to be determined, although I have some ideas. 100 Greatest Trips was a great place to browse for new ideas. (And sometimes armchair travel is the only way I'll get to some destinations!)

From the introduction:
"The 100 featured destinations are culled from the thousands of places covered during the past year in the pages of Travel + Leisure. Our mission is simple: to get our readers out to experience the world. A wide -ranging and wildly flavorful blend of destinations and travel ideas, this volume presents 100 solid answers to the question, What's new in the world for me to see?"
Broken down into continent, then country and region, I started with the North American chapter - the one I have the most chance of travelling to! I discovered that I've been to some of the Canadian mentions - Quebec City and Toronto. But it's more fun to read of the places I haven't been and daydream. Although there are mentions of the larger cities such as Boston, New York and Chicago, it was the off the beaten track trips that appealed to me. Little Cranberry Island in Maine is only 2 square miles, but boasts a school, a library and a vibrant community of 80 year round residents.

Off to Europe and England in particular. Did you know that the National Trust manages over 370 vacation rentals in England, Wales and northern Ireland? Many of these properties are centuries old. The historical cities of Europe all boast fantastic places to see and visit - Paris, Madrid, Greece, Munich and more.

Africa, the Middle East and Asia merit chapters as well. Then on to one place I definitely want to see someday - Australia and New Zealand. And more little known places, such as Kangaroo Island, where the Hog Bay Hill Hotel boasts 3 rooms. I wasn't even aware of The Vava'u Islands - 34 small isles that are part of Tonga.

100 Greatest Trips is a full colour production with lots of photos and glossy stock. Appendices include  where to eat and stay for each destination along with a coded price key.

I love looking at travel books and 100 Greatest Trips is an informative, inspirational, off the beaten track guide, perfect for daydreaming or doing.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Over the Counter # 53

The latest book to catch my eye as it passed over my library counter and under my scanner this week is Fashionable Food - Seven decades of Food Fads by Sylvia Lovegren. C'mon we all have them - those questionable recipes from our childhood. I cannot eat jello salad of any description to this day. Barbecued bologna anyone?

From the publisher University of Chicago Press:

"Though the Roaring Twenties call to mind images of flappers dancing the Charleston and gangsters dispensing moonshine in back rooms, Sylvia Lovegren here playfully reminds us what these characters ate for dinner: Banana and Popcorn Salad. Like fashions and fads, food—even bad food—has a history, and Lovegren's Fashionable Food is quite literally a cookbook of the American past.
Well researched and delightfully illustrated, this collection of faddish recipes from the 1920s to the 1990s is a decade-by-decade tour of a hungry American century. From the Three P's Salad—that's peas, pickles, and peanuts—of the post-World War I era to the Fruit Cocktail and Spam Buffet Party loaf—all the rage in the ultra-modern 1950s, when cooking from a can epitomized culinary sophistication—Fashionable Food details the origins of these curious delicacies. In two chapters devoted to "exotic foods of the East," for example, Lovegren explores the long American love affair with Chinese food and the social status conferred upon anyone chic enough to eat pu-pu platters from Polynesia. Throughout, Lovegren supplements recipes—some mouth-watering, some appalling—from classic cookbooks and family magazines, with humorous anecdotes that chronicle how society and kitchen technology influenced the way we lived and how we ate.
Equal parts American and culinary history, Fashionable Food examines our collective past from the kitchen counter. Even if it's been a while since you last had Tang Pie and your fondue set is collecting dust in the back of the cupboard, Fashionable Food will inspire, entertain, and inform."

(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, May 4, 2011

The Violets of March - Sarah Jio

It was the cover of The Violets of March that first drew me to the book. But it was Sarah Jio's writing that kept me turning pages until the very last one.

Emily Wilson wrote a bestselling book in her twenties, married the man of her dreams and thought she had found her happy ever after....until her husband left her for another woman.
"I was making scrambled eggs smothered in Tabasco, his favorite, when he told me about Stephanie. The way she made him laugh. The way she understood him. The way they connected. I pictured the image of two Lego pieces fusing together, and I shuddered."
Emotionally and mentally exhausted, she decides to return to a childhood haunt - Bainbridge Island and her Aunt Bee.
"Bee was unconventional, indeed. But there was also something a little off  about her. The way she talked too much. Or talked too little. The way she was simultaneously welcoming and petulant, giving and selfish. And then there were her secrets. I loved her for having them."
Aunt Bee settles Emily into a little used bedroom. It is in the drawer of the nightstand that she finds a diary from the 1940's written by someone named Esther. As she reads, Emily finds that she may have a personal connection to the writer. But Bee is not forthcoming with answers. Emily is further confused by the feelings she develops for two men on the island - Greg, from her own past and Jack, who seems to have a connection to her Aunt Bee's past.
As Aunt Bee says..."...fate has a way of bringing you back when it's time to come back."
Jio's description of the island had me longing to roll up my pants and walk in the surf. And I would love to stroll the island and meet the people. Jio does a wonderful job drawing her characters. I could picture Aunt Bee and her friends perfectly. The scenes from the diary sprang to life. Indeed, I was willing Emily to read faster. I desperately wanted to know what happened next. But at the same time, I was enjoying Emily's reawakening. A seamless blending of two stories - and a wee bit magical.

The Violets of March is absolutely the perfect read to tuck in your bag this summer. Love, mystery, comfort and finding yourself all rolled into one perfectly delicious read. An impressive debut! Fans of Jodi Picoult would love this book - she provides a cover blurb for The Violets of March.

You can find Sarah on Facebook and on Twitter. Book clubs - there is a reading group guide already made for you.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Giveaway - Driftwood Cottage - Sherryl Woods

I have a copy of  the 5th book in Sherryl Woods' Chesapeake Shores series to giveaway - Driftwood Cottage.

From the publisher:

"New York Times bestselling author Sherryl Woods again brings her signature heartwarming style to the community of Chesapeake Shores.

Single mom Heather Donovan’s dreams of home and family are tantalizingly within reach when she settles in Chesapeake Shores. The welcoming arms of the boisterous, loving O’Brien clan embrace her and her son. But accepting their support seems to further alienate her son’s father, Connor O’Brien. His parents’ divorce and his career as a high-powered divorce attorney have left him jaded about marriage.

Then everything changes. Will the possibility of a future without Heather make Connor look at love and his career differently? Heather’s just about given up on her old dreams — of love, of family and especially of Driftwood Cottage, the home she secretly wishes were hers. It’s going to take a lot of persuasion — and some help from the O’Brien family — to make Heather believe that some dreams are worth fighting for.

Sherryl Woods is the author of more than 100 romance and mystery novels. Her first book, Restoring Love, was published in 1982 by Dell Candlelight Ecstasy under the pseudonym of Suzanne Sherrill. Her second book, Sand Castles, under the pseudonym of Alexandra Kirk, was published later that same year by Bantam. She began using her own name when she moved to the Second Chance at Love line at Berkley Publishing. In 1986, she began writing full-time and also began her long career at Silhouette Books with the Desire title Not at Eight, Darling, set in the world of television which she had covered as a critic for many years."

Open to US and Canada, one copy to be won. Simply leave a comment to be entered. Ends May 21 at 6 pm EST. Good luck and check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Girl's Guide to Homelessness - Brianna Karp

I have to tell you upfront that Brianna Karp's book The Girl's Guide to Homelessness is a memoir. Really. If it was fiction, I would have said that the author was really stretching the bounds of believability. Karp's story is real.

Brianna Karp is a third generation Jehovah's Witness. She started working at age 10. She has survived violence, abuse and poverty for most of her life. She had finally made it - a good job, a tiny rental home, a pet (a giant Mastiff) and was finally living the life she had always dreamed of. When the recession hit, she lost her job, ran out of benefits and had trouble finding another job. She was forced to move back in with her mother. (I can't even begin to describe this women - you have to read it yourself) She receives a call and learns that she is the next of kin for the biological father she hasn't seen in 20 years. He's killed himself. His legacy? Brianna inherits a trailer. And that trailer becomes her home when her mother kicks her out. Her new address? The corner of a Walmart parking lot. She's just  23 years old.

Karp begins to blog about her experience and it takes off from there. I'm not going to give away any more of her story. It truly is a shake your head unbelievable story.

At first I thought the book would be more of an 'insider's' look at being homeless. It is to a certain degree, but it really is about Karp's life. I honestly couldn't book the book down. Her writing is raw and honest. My reactions ran the gamut from anger, shock, sadness and joy as Karp bucks the odds, keeps plugging away and triumphs.

I'm sure we haven't heard the last of Brianna Karp - I'll be curious to see where life takes her next. And The Girl's Guide to Homelessness will without question have you rethinking your definition of homeless.

You can find Brianna on Facebook and on Twitter and of course on her blog.   Read an excerpt.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Winner - Attachments

And the lucky winner of a copy of Attachments by Rainbow Rowell, courtesy of Dutton Publishing is:


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

Winners - The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady

And the two lucky winners of a copy of The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady by Elizabeth Stuckey-French, courtesy of Doubleday Publishing are:

1. cellis
2. Miranda WardI never got a reply from Miranda, so Patti V - a copy is yours!

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