Monday, October 31, 2011

Winners - Dracula in Love

And the three winners of a copy of Dracula in Love by Karen Essex are:


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

The Knitting Book - Dorling Kindersley

So, I consider myself to be a pretty crafty person - no, no not sneaky, but in the creative sense. I've mastered many an art, but knitting is the one craft that continues to elude me. And it just makes me more determined.... So when I saw The Knitting Book by Frederica Patmore and Vikki Haffenden, I knew I had found the book I needed.

I think (know) some of my past failures have been based on ignorance. It's all well and good to be told that you need an acyclic yarn for this buy this size of needle, but I want to know why and what alternatives I have. The Knitting Book has it all! In glorious, glossy colour with lots and lots of detail.

It starts off with basics - I had no idea there were so many types of yarn available beyond the basic wool - bamboo, soy protein, ribbon, cottons and more. (Even using wire, plastic and fabric!)And a description of needles and where and why they should be used. And embellishments - ribbons, beads and buttons.

And on to the basic techniques - almost 20 pages on different casting on methods. Very clear and concise instructions with detailed photographs that make it look really easy. Tons and tons (okay really only 250!) of various techniques are covered in the same careful detailing - from the simple knit and purl to Fair Isle, circular, felting,  how to read patterns and so many more.

Also included are glossaries detailing stitch patterns with instructions and pictures as well as how to finish your project, sew it together, embellish and care for it.

And projects! Lots of choices - from a simple scarf, to more involved hats, mittens, socks, tea cosies, bags, baby gifts etc. And much as I might imagine that I could whip up a quick dozen pairs of mittens for gifts for Christmas, it's not going to happen. But I am thinking I could whip up a few cute little egg cozies to get my feet wet. Stay tuned to this space for progress photos!

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Dorling Kindersley publishes the best reference books. They're substantial, chock full of detailed information. But I am a visual learner, so it is the clear, colour, detailed photographs I appreciate the most.

If you've got a crafter on your Christmas list, I'd definitely recommend The Knitting Book.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Winner - Falling Together

And the lucky winner of Falling Together by Marisa de los Santos, courtesy of William Morrow Publishing is:

And we have an international winner - Gisele Alv!

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

Friday, October 28, 2011

Held - Edeet Ravel

Resident Teen Blogger Ella is back! And this close to Hallowe'en she's reviewing a book that gave her the shivers - Held by Edeet Ravel.

"SUCH A SCARY BOOK. It was unsettlingly believable. Chloe gets kidnapped on her vacation in Greece, and wakes up alone in a gross warehouse. Understandably, she freaks out, to the point that when she meets her kidnapper for the first time, she feels relieved to see him, to get a break from the isolation. The kidnapper tells her she's being held ransom for a prisoner exchange, so she has no definite end of captivity in sight. The rest of the book is a crazy roller-coaster of emotion as she fights to escape and stay sane. She eventually develops feelings for her kidnapper, and you can't help but wonder if it's Stockholm syndrome or real, because he seems to care for her too. The whole thing is really eerie, and at the the end I couldn't tell if he was sincere, or just a terrifyingly good manipulator, although since he kidnapped her, I guess it doesn't really matter (attractive kidnappers are still kidnappers, no matter how many romance novels I read). Super good. I loved this book, despite the shivers I got. Ravel was in my head."

Read an excerpt of Held.   As always Ella, thanks for sharing your views on some great YA titles!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Over the Counter #81

With Hallowe'en not too far off,  A Zombie Ate My Cupcake by Lily Jones (aka Lily Vanilli) caught my eye this week as it passed over my library counter and under my scanner.

From Cico Books:

"Cupcakes are getting their revenge! After being banished for so long to the land of the pretty and identical, the domestic and the twee, cupcakes are biting back. Here, Lily Vanilli shows how you can take inspiration from anywhere, insects, roadkill, zombies and recreate it in cake, but always with a delicious result. This book is an introduction to making cakes that look weird, ugly, and even grotesque but that taste divine! There are amazing materials for making edible sculptures and hundreds of things you can do with natural ingredients. Give guests a shock with revoltingly realistic Marzipan Beetles, or add a crunch to your desserts with Morbid Meringue Bones, dipped in raspberry blood sauce. Try out a black cherry Dracula's Bite red velvet cupcake with cream cheese, eat your way through heavenly Fallen Angel Cakes, or go for indulgent and truly dark chocolate Devils Delight Cupcakes. If Ozzy Osbourne made cupcakes, these are the ones he'd want to eat."

(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, October 26, 2011

Twelve Drummers Drumming - C.C. Benison

I was off sick one day last week, cuddled up under a quilt on the couch, just waiting for it to pass. I picked up C.C. Benison's latest book Twelve Drummers Drumming to spend the day with me. What a perfect choice this cozy little mystery was!

The Reverend Tom Christmas takes a new posting in the village of Thornford Regis after his wife was murdered in the city. He hopes this English village will offer a place to heal and and a chance to move on for both himself and his nine year old daughter Miranda. But the new vicar is not long into his new posting when one of his young parishioners turns up dead - stuffed in a large drum at the local May Fayre. Father Tom's natural curiosity has him quietly asking questions and discovering that this sleepy little village is not as idyllic as he had hoped.

Father Tom is a great character - very likable and real. He's struggling with coming to terms with his grief and trying to move on. Yes, he's a vicar, but the book never gets overly 'preachy' at all. I enjoyed his honest and thoughtful observations on life and people. The village is populated with many, many characters - a 'who's who' list is at the front of the book. Quirky, suspicious, friendly, nosy, secretive, helpful - there's no lack of suspects in this parish! The whodunit has many possibilities.

There are actually a few mysteries tucked into the pages of Twelve Drummers Drumming. The plot kept me engaged and I enjoyed following the vicar as he pieced together the clues.

But the real strength of this book is in the village, the inhabitants and this great new protagonist. I look forward to seeing what happens next in Thornford and seeing the residents again. Benison has nicely set up the framework for future books in this new series featuring Father Christmas. Care to garner a guess on what the next one is called?!

Read an excerpt of Twelve Drummers Drumming.  You can find Benison on Facebook.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Virgin Cure - Ami McKay

Ami McKay's first novel The Birth House was a phenomenal success. I have no doubt that her  newly released second novel - The Virgin Cure - will also be bestseller. And, it's one of my favourite reads for 2011.

I was hooked from the opening line..."I am Moth, a girl from the lowest part of Chrystie Street, born to a slum-house mystic and the man who broke her heart."

And so begins the story of Moth, born into the slums of Manhattan in New York City. In 1871 Moth's mother sells her - to a wealthy woman looking for a young servant. When that situation becomes untenable, Moth runs away and finds herself alone on the streets with no prospects. Until the owner of a brothel in the Bowery that 'caters to men looking for young companions who are 'willing and clean' takes her in. In Miss Everett's "Infant School", the most desirous of  all are virgins, for it is said that a virgin can cure a man of that most scurrilous of diseases - syphilis.

One bright light in Moth's life is Doctor Sadie, one of the first female physicians in New York City, who attends the girls at Miss Everett's establishment. The idea for the Virgin Cure was based on McKay's search into her own roots. Her great-great grandmother was a physician in New York City.

What did I love so much about this book? Well, everything! McKay's characterizations are rich, detailed and believable. I became so invested in Moth and Dr. Sadie, sharing their fears and dreams. Both of these characters are strong, strong female leads, staying true to themselves despite the obstacles put before them.

The setting is just as much of a player in the novel. McKay's depiction of 1870's New York conjured up vivid scenes crackling with detail.  McKay includes historical side notes, newspaper articles, pictures and more throughout the book. I found myself on the Internet many times following up with the history she presented.

Ultimately - it's a book that is so engrossing, so readable, so fascinating that I wish I could give it six stars. I just can't seem to articulate what a great read this is from such a skilled Canadian story teller. Highly, highly recommended! Check out The Pear Tree Planchette for excerpts and ephemera. You can find Ami McKay on Facebook and on Twitter.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Oxford Project - Peter Feldstein and Stephen G. Bloom

I originally thought I would feature The Oxford Project in my regular Over the Counter post on Thursdays. But as I started glancing through it, I knew I wouldn't be able to stop, so I signed it out and took it home. And I was right - I sat and read it in one sitting.

What is The Oxford Project? Photographer Peter Feldstein moved to tiny Oxford, Iowa in 1965. In 1984, he had the idea to photograph every person living in Oxford. (population 693) And twenty years later he photographed them again. (population 705) Writer Stephen G. Bloom interviewed about 100 of the townsfolk and their stories are included with their 'then' and 'now' shots.

The photographs are raw and untouched as are the stories told. Honest and real. I felt privileged to be let into someones life in such an intimate fashion. The collection of photos and stories paints a vivid picture of a town and the people living within its boundaries. Just everyday people getting on with life.

I think that Bloom says it very well: " Despite its withered exterior, Oxford, and the countless towns like it across the United States, continue to hold fiercely to their roots. They remain, in many ways, like large protective families, insulated and untouched by the energy and vulgarity of urban America. Peter's portraits of the residents of Oxford and their own deeply felt words combine to create a national portrait of over-looked triumphs and travails. In the faces and voices of these strangers, we grow to understand ourselves better. They remind us of who we dreamed we would become, and who  we turned out to be."

I found myself thinking of the residents of Oxford long after I turned the last page. Just a fantastic idea and book. Loved it.

Friday, October 21, 2011

40 Love - Madeleine Wickham

The name Sophie Kinsella is immediately recognizable as the author of the hugely successful Shopaholic chick lit series. How about the name Madeleine Wickham? No? Well, they're one and the same.

The Tennis Party, originally published in 1995, was Wickham's first book. It has been re-released in North America as 40 Love.

Four couples gather for a weekend tennis party. - but the host believes it should be a tournament instead. And although tennis is ostensibly the reason for being there, each of the couples have their own reasons and agendas for the weekend. With a little too much sun and a lot of too much drink, the social facade begins to slip. Quite a bit.

I chose to listen to 40 Love rather than read it. I don't think I would have enjoyed the book near as much in written form. The reader was award winner Katherine Kellgren - one of the best around.  Her accents are spot on, reflecting every character's personality and nuances. Each character sprang to life and immediately formed a picture in my mind. Her intonation and inflection give the story life and verve. It is such a treat to listen to her narrate.

Having read all of the Shopaholic series, I was expecting more of the same. And yes, in a way it's there - it is chick lit for sure. There are the 'lighter' characters such as the 'innocent' couple Annie and Stephen. And I found the children delightful. But it is the darker characters that really gave me pause. I enjoyed the tale up until the last few chapters. It is a bit of a farce, poking fun at the 'noveau riche' and the desire to have more, more, more. But, the character of Charles was just plain cruel and truly vicious. I was actually quite shocked by the words Wickham put in his mouth and the violence he displayed. Kellgren's reading intensified the effect. I was disappointed with the direction taken with this character and his wife's reaction and subsequent (non) action. It rather spoiled what had been a good listen up to that point. I guess I just associate chick lit with a feel good read.

Wickham/Kinsella has definitely improved since this original effort.

Listen to an excerpt of 40 Love.  Or read an excerpt.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Over the Counter #80

Self sufficiency seemed to be the theme this week for books that caught my eye as they passed over my library counter and under my scanner this week.

First up was Quarter Acre Farm: How I Kept the Patio, Lost the Lawn, and Fed My Family for A Year by Spring Warren.

From the publisher Seal Press:

"When Spring Warren told her husband and two teenage boys that she wanted to grow 75 percent of all the food they consumed for one year—and that she wanted to do it in their yard—they told her she was crazy. She did it anyway.

The Quarter-Acre Farm is Warren’s account of deciding—despite all resistance—to take control of her family’s food choices, get her hands dirty, and create a garden in her suburban yard. It’s a story of bugs, worms, rot, and failure; of learning, replanting, harvesting, and eating. The road is long and riddled with mistakes, but by the end of her yearlong experiment, Warren’s sons and husband have become her biggest fans—in fact, they’re even eager to help harvest (and eat) the beautiful bounty she brings in.

Full of tips and recipes to help anyone interested in growing and preparing at least a small part of their diet at home, The Quarter-Acre Farm is a warm, witty tale about family, food, and the incredible gratification that accompanies self-sufficiency."

Next up was Chicken & Egg: A Memoir of Suburban Homesteading with 125 Recipes by Janice Cole:

From Chronicle Books:

"Chicken coops have never been so chic! From organic gardens in parking lots to rooftop beekeeping, the appeal of urban homesteading is widespread. Chicken and Egg tells the story of veteran food writer Janice Cole, who, like so many other urbanites, took up the revolutionary hobby of raising chickens at home. From picking out the perfect coop to producing the miracle of the first egg, Cole shares her now-expert insights into the trials, triumphs, and bonds that result when human and hen live in close quarters. With 125 recipes for delicious chicken and egg dishes, poultry lovers, backyard farmers, and those contemplating taking the leap will adore this captivating illustrated memoir!"

(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, October 19, 2011

The Echo Man - Richard Montanari

The Echo Man is the 5th book in Richard Montanari's series featuring Detectives Balzano and Byrne.

Jessica Balzano and Kevin Byrne face one of their most baffling cases to date. A body is found - completely shaved, with the head wrapped in paper and sealing wax and a temporary tattoo on one finger. As the detectives delve further, they realize that the spot where the body was found is the scene of an unsolved cold case from eight years ago. The placement of the body is identical. And then - it  happens again. Who has knowledge of these past crimes and what is the link?

The common link seems to be music. And Kevin Byrne. One of his first cases was that of a gifted musician. It seemed open and shut at the time....

" When the woman opened her eyes, Byrne felt something flicker in his chest. In his time on the streets of Philadelphia he had met all types of people, from soulless drug dealers, to smash-and-grab artists, to hopped-up joyriding kids. But never before had he encountered anyone so detached from the crime they had just committed. In her light-brown eyes Byrne saw demons caper from shadow to shadow. 'My name is Detective Kevin Byrne', he said. It's going to be all right'. It was November 1, 1990. Nothing has been right since."

But Kevin Byrne has demons of his own to battle. Nearly killed in a past case, he has been subject to blinding headaches, black outs and visions.

I enjoy the character of Jessica Balzano very much. The secondary storyline featuring her home life and family provides a continuing thread I have enjoyed following. I'm never sure what I think of Kevin Byrne. He's highly intelligent, quite determined, but doesn't always include his partner on his actions. I'm not sure if Montanari is aiming to be different with the vision thing, but I feel it sometimes interferes in what would be a solid detective series without adding it to the mix.

The plot of The Echo Man is quite ingenious and highly original. Reader beware - some of the descriptons are quite graphic. Lots of red herrings will keep you guessing until the end. Read an excerpt of The Echo Man.

You can find Montanari on Facebook and on Twitter.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Covenant - Dean Crawford

Newly released today is Dean Crawford's debut novel Covenant.

Archaeologist Lucy Morgan is on a sanctioned dig in Israel. But it is what she discovers on her own time nearby that is unbelievable.

"The remains bore testimony to an enormously powerful creature, the internment a cavity over eight feet long....Ahmed looked at the bones, confused now by the unfamiliar terminology and the doctor's excitement. 'What's so special about it ?' A ghost of a smile touched Lucy's lips. "It's not human'."

But before Lucy can share her discovery with the world, she is abducted. When her family is unable to get assistance from either the American or Israeli government, they turn to former marine and war correspondent Ethan Warner for help. As Warner and Lucy's mother Rachel search, they find a conspiracy deeper than anyone could have imagined - governments, church, military and many unsavoury individuals - all with their own agendas.

Covenant's first five or six chapters introduce us to all the players  - and there are quite a few. I did find I had to refer back to some of the opening chapters in order to keep everyone straight for the first bit. Protagonist Ethan Warner is an interesting character who is still fighting demons from his own past. I was glad to see that Crawford did not make him omnipotent - able to figure out every puzzle right away or fight his way out of every situation. It allowed him to be both believable and likable. But I think my favourite character was actually Lopez, one of the DC cops who stumble onto the collusion. I was glad to see she will be brought back along with Warner in the next book of this planned series.

As for the plot - in some ways it seems a bit far fetched - a take on Area 51. But Crawford had me running to my computer many times to check out the science and historical references he makes in the book. And you know, they're out there and documented. Enough to really get you thinking and wondering. I thought it was an inventive, ambitious storyline. There are many twists and turns on the way to the final page.

For those who love mysteries, history, conspiracies and adventure, Covenant has it all. Recommended for fans of James Rollins and  Michael Crichton.
Read an excerpt of The Covenant.

On his blog, Dean Crawford describes himself as "A thriller writer with a good chance (I think) of success."  I think so too Dean! You can find Crawford on Facebook and on Twitter.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Hallowe'en Giveaway- Dracula in Love - Karen Essex

I read and reviewed Dracula in Love by Karen Essex in last year. What better book to offer up as a Hallowe'en giveaway!? Thanks to Random House, I have three copies to giveaway. And Karen stopped by for a quick Q&A!

Q: Why do you think we're so fascinated with vampires?
A: Vampires have always fascinated humans but the role of the vampire has shifted dramatically in recent years. Vampires used to reflect our fears but now they reflect our fantasies. My theory is that while every generation has longed for a fountain of youth, today we have many youth-extending tools that enable us to reject the very idea of aging. It seems to me that humans today downright abhor the idea of mortality. We live in a youth-seeking, youth-worshipping society—on steroids. We have stem cell treatments, hormone therapies, cosmetic surgery both invasive and noninvasive, and loads of medicines that can keep us alive past our expiration date. We are very close to being vampires already. I sometimes run into people who look younger than they looked twenty years ago!

Besides that, the vampire’s kiss has always been a metaphor for sex, and specifically, sex with someone forbidden and dangerous who promises a dark and thrilling experience that takes us out of our mundane quotidian lives. Is there anyone who secretly doesn’t desire that?

Q: Can you tell us anything about the novel you're working on now? Another historical piece?
A: I am writing a stand alone sequel to my novel Leonardo’s Swans. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for some years and I am finally getting around to it. In fact, I have just returned from a very inspiring and informative trip to my favorite places in northern Italy—Milano, Verona, Ferrara, and Mantova. After this, I plan to write a sequel to Dracula in Love, which I hope will be the second of many about the adventures of Mina and the Count as they chase each other through time.

Q: Is there a time period in history you'd rather live in?
A: Yes, the future. Because that is the only possible time period where life would be as good or better for women as it is now. I can be romantic about the past, but I am all too aware of what was lacking in women’s lives—choice about one’s destiny, for example, and legal rights. I think that I would find it absolutely infuriating to live in a female body in a world where women were second-class citizens, or in many instances, not even entitled to citizen status.

Q: Where do the ideas for your book spring from? What does your writing day look like?
A: The idea for Dracula in Love came differently than any other work of mine. I'd read Bram Stoker's Dracula when I was fifteen years old, and even at that time, I was sure that the character Mina Harker was dissatisfied with her role as the passive, cooperative Victorian virgin. Though I loved the book, Stoker’s portrayal of Mina left me wanting to know so much more. Then, several decades later, strangely—inexplicably—I was sitting at my computer one night staring into space and the thought popped into my brain: What if I retell the original Dracula myth from Mina Harker's perspective? The idea just descended on me.

Now that said, I had my "vampire epiphany" long ago. I used to race home from grade school on my bike to catch "Dark Shadows" on TV. I grew up in a family of spooky women in New Orleans, which is a haunted city. I adored Anne Rice's books, and then later, as a screenwriter, adapted Rice's The Mummy or Ramses the Damned for James Cameron and 20th Century Fox (sadly, the film remains unmade!). So while the idea seemingly just "occurred" to me, I have loved vampire lore for a very long time. Moreover, my novels retell the stories of women in history in an empowering way, so empowering the vampire's "victim" was a natural for me. 
My workday looks like this: I write until I am empty. That could be fourteen hours or fourteen minutes. If I don’t have much writing in me on a given day, I turn to researching, outlining, or rewriting. I’m fairly obsessed when it comes to writing. I figure, it I don’t feel enraptured while I’m writing, why should anyone feel that way about my work when they’re reading it?

Q: What book is on your nightstand?
A: I just finished rereading Gone With the Wind, which was such fun because I was obsessed with that book when I was twelve and thirteen years old. I’m reading The Night Circus, which I am enjoying for its elegant, magical qualities, and which was edited by my own brilliant editor at Doubleday, and I am also reading a scholarly book on a 15th century Italian poet and courtier.  

Q: How are you going to celebrate Hallowe'en!?
A: If I told you, you might warn my victims.

Thanks for stopping by Karen! If you'd like enter, simply leave a Hallowe'en comment to be entered.
Three copies up for grabs. Open to US and Canada.  Ends Oct 31 at midnight! Read an excerpt of Dracula in Love.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Most Dangerous Thing - Laura Lippman

Laura Lippman is another favourite author who has taken a break from their recurring character (Tess Monaghan) to pen another stand alone novel.

The Most Dangerous Thing is the story of five childhood friends - Mickey, Gwen, Sean, Tim and Gordon aka Gogo - in the Baltimore area. They spend the summer of 1977 running through the woods near their homes, until a tragic event changes everything. Fast forward - Gogo has died and the others gather for the first time in twenty years. Was Gogo's death an accident or suicide? Could the events from that long ago time still be affecting the present? For each of them? What really happened? They never spoke of it aloud after that day.

Each character (and a few more including the parents of the five) recounts their take on the event and what ripples and changes it may have caused in their lives. But the incident is not the only topic of each character - their hopes, dreams and disappointments are all fodder for each 'vignette'. Definitely a character driven novel.

I chose to listen to this book in audio format and I'm glad I did. I don't honestly think I would have enjoyed it as much in written form. (Or would it have kept my interest) Listening to reader Linda Emond made it a little more intimate, more like listening to someones thoughts and conversations with themselves. Emond's voice has rich undertones. She reads in a well modulated tone and pace, conveying the introspection of each character well.

The events of that day are central to the book and I wanted to find out what really happened. I don't think you could slot this book into any one category. There is a mystery, but It would also fit just as well into contemporary fiction - exploring the themes of friendship, betrayal, jealousy, guilt and much more.

A cameo appearance by Tess Monoghan ensures that her life is moving forward and that we can hope to see a new book about her soon.

The most dangerous thing?.......a secret?.....or the truth?......

Listen to an excerpt of The Most Dangerous Thing. Or read an excerpt. You can find Lippman on Facebook.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Over the Counter #79

What caught my eye this week as it passed over my library counter and under my scanner? Steampunk. Lots and lots of steampunk. Some of you may be scratching your head, saying "What the heck is Steampunk?"
From Wikipedia: "Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction, fantasy, alternate history, and speculative fiction that came into prominence during the 1980s and early 1990s. Steampunk involves a setting where steam power is still widely used—usually Victorian era Britain—that incorporates elements of either science fiction or fantasy. Works of steampunk often feature anachronistic technology or futuristic innovations as Victorians may have envisioned them, based on a Victorian perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, art, etc. This technology may include such fictional machines as those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne." And it's popular enough that this week I have three books to share.

First up was 1000 Steampunk Creations by Dr. Grymm with Barbe Saint John.

From the publisher Quarry Books:

"Steampunk is a burgeoning counter-cultural movement; a genre, community, and artform. The Steampunk movement seeks to recapture the spirit of invention, adventure, and craftsmanship reminiscent of early-nineteenth century industrialization, in part, to restore a sense of wonder to a technology-jaded world.

Packed with 1,000 color photographs, 1,000 Steampunk Creations features a showcase of stunning jewelry, fashion, accessories, headgear, artwork, home decorations, and curious contraptions."

Next up was The Art of Steampunk by Art Donovan.

From Fox Chapel Publishing:

"Celebrate the world of Steampunk: a world filled with beauty and innovation. A world in which steam power and technology intertwine to create machines that are not only functional and practical, but also unique and striking.

The Art of Steampunk brings the vision of Steampunk artists from around the world, alive on the page, providing a unique insight into the captivating and dynamic world of a vastly underground genre. The 17 artists featured have had their work displayed at an exhibition at The Museum of History of Science at the University of Oxford in England, and have attracted the media attention of BoingBoing, one of the world's largest blogs.

Their artwork consists of everything from clocks and watches to light fixtures and jewelry, and every piece demonstrates hours of painstaking work and devotion from its creator. In most cases, the artists themselves are just as unique and colorful as their masterpieces. Those fully embracing the Steampunk ideology have adopted a Victorian alter ego - mad scientists and world explorers - to match the complicated intricacies of their artwork."

And for those of you looking for a cuddly version - how about Steampunk Softies by Sarah Skeate and Nicola Tedman?

From Andrews McMeel Publishing:
"Sarah Skeate and Nicola Tedman offer crafters an array of charmingly raffish characters inside Steampunk Softies: 8 Scientifically Minded Dolls From a Past That Never Was. Even if you're unfamiliar with the term "steampunk," chances are you've already discovered it through the works of Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Tim Burton, Mary Shelley, or Lemony Snicket. Steampunk is an artistic movement that includes stories involving steam-powered versions of modern technology in a fictionalized Victorian setting.

Staying true to steampunk style, Skeate and Tedman's inventive Steampunk Softies feature prominent science fiction and fantasy elements, as well as anachronistic inventions and props. In addition, many have dual roles that add practicality to their punk existence—the Lady makes an excellent paperweight, while the Illusionist's cloak doubles as a screen cleaner.

Despite their meticulous detailing, Steampunk Softies are simple enough for even a sewing novice to construct. A short biography accompanies each softie, providing a background story for each character. Also included are a complete list of supplies, illustrated step-by-step blueprints, and a handy, back-of-the-book reference section that provides tips on aging and distressing project materials."

Whew! That was long one today eh? (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, October 12, 2011

Devoted - Hilary Duff

Teen blogger Ella is back with her thoughts on Hilary Duff's latest book Devoted - newly released yesterday.

"The first thing I would say about this book is that you pretty much get what you expect. Hilary Duff is an attractive, successful singer, actress and designer, among other things I've probably forgotten; it ought to be a statistical improbability for her to also be an amazing author capable of writing fantasy fiction that absorbs the reader and takes them to a brand-new world of possibilities.

That being said, this is not a terrible book. It's got a pretty cool premise that hasn't been done to death (Clea Raymond has had a star-crossed love affair with her immortal soul-mate Sage for many past lives. He's been kidnapped by a group that's PO'd he drank the Elixir of Life all those centuries ago, and it's up to Clea to find him before they kill him for it).   Devoted has some fancy twists and turns (and a rather foxy last bombshell). What it lacks is sophistication. The diction, for example, somehow falls flat. The dialogue, both internal and between characters, is missing depth, and the wording often seems more like something a classmate of mine would write, and not the wording of a twice-published author.

As well, her bad guys are kind of ridiculous. Some of them are pretty believable, but Devoted has more than it's fair share of old-school tattooed, scarred, missing-toothed thugs, which somewhat eroded the effect the less over-the-top bad guys were trying for (it's hard to let an author make you feel something when you're choking on kitsch). Another big complaint is that I was kind of confused for big chunks of time because I haven't read Elixir, the first book in the series, for months. I have a pretty good memory for plots, but I'm not always good with names and fiddly details. All sequels walk a fine line between too much and too little when it comes to giving back-story from the previous book(s), and Devoted fell on the too little side of things. I would not suggest reading this book if you haven't read Elixir first, and relatively recently.

Like I said, though, this isn't a terrible book. There's less running around in Devoted than in Elixir, which was kind of nice, and a crazy new element was added to the plot. In some parts, actually, I was more into the flashbacks of said Crazy New Element than I was in the "present" drama, and Crazy New Element has certainly not been done before, at least that I've read. If you liked Elixir, go for it, and read Devoted, it's a pretty good follow-up. If Elixir wasn't your thing, though, or you don't really have the time or inclination to read something that will in all likelihood fall shy of rocking your world, don't bother with Devoted."

 Read an excerpt of Devoted. You can check out the book trailer here.

As always Ella, thanks for sharing your take on books!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Before the Poison - Peter Robinson

Peter Robinson has long been one of my favourite authors and I pick up anything with his name on it, knowing I'll be in for a good read. His latest book Before the Poison, is not part of his series featuring Inspector Banks, but is instead, a stand alone work.

Chris Lowndes left England when he was younger for the United States. He made quite a name for himself as a movie score composer. When his wife dies, Chris decides it's time to return home to England. He and Laura had planned to retire there. He buys an isolated house, sight unseen. When he arrives at the home, he is curious about the former inhabitants of the house. When he finds that it was the site of the murder of local physician, Dr. Fox and that his wife Grace was hanged for that murder, Chris indulges his curiosity and begins looking further into the trial. Curiosity quickly turns into almost obsession as he begins to doubt the official version of what really happened.

" I had a curious sensation that the shy, half-hidden house was waiting for me, that it had been waiting for some time."

This was a very different read from the Banks books. The pacing is much slower, taking time to build the layers of the story slowly and carefully. We follow Chris as he becomes increasingly insistent on discovering more about Grace. The story is told from three sources - Chris's inquiries,  excerpts from a book called Famous Trials and finally bits from Grace's own journal, kept during her wartime nursing years. I found the journal entries especially poignant and extremely well written.

Much time is spent on developing the characters, their reasoning and their emotions. And this absolutely works for this story - anything faster would have ruined the atmospheric, period piece tone and feel of the tale. Some of that atmospheric feel comes from Chris's thinking he's seen something in the mirror of an old wardrobe in the house. There is another 'incident' such as this in Chris's childhood and I wondered if this would be explained or used in the story further. It wasn't, but added another layer to Chris's obsession. A revelation I didn't see coming late in the book does much to explain Chris's behaviour.

Robinson has always injected music into the Banks books. The Inspector's music collection and choices always provide a soundtrack for the story. This is continued in Before the Poison as well. Chris's choice of music often sent me online to listen to Robinson's selection of musical background.

Although others may find the pacing and lack of action a bit too slow, I enjoyed the change of pace from an author I have followed for many years, but Banks still remains my favourite. Before the Poison deserves to be slowly savoured under a single lamp, by a crackling fire in a house with creaking floors....

Read an excerpt of Before the Poison.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving Day

Enjoy the day with friends and family - and take the time to be thankful.....

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Winner - Iron House

And the lucky winner of an audio book copy of Iron House by John Hart, courtesy of Macmillan Audio is:

Molly! Never heard back from Molly, so next up was Tiffany!

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

Friday, October 7, 2011

Resident Guest Blogger Julia returns!

We haven't heard from resident guest blogger Julia in awhile, but she's back today with two great reviews!  The Sisters Brothers, by Patrick DeWitt and Hand Me Down World by Lloyd Jones.

"I joined the 50 Book Challenge this year, and I am almost there! #45 and #46 were The Sisters Brothers, and Hand Me Down World, respectively.

Both books are about a person on a journey, although the journeys are taken by very different people and for different reasons. I read The Sisters Brothers on my iPad, and loved being able to highlight and make notes along the way. Hand Me Down World was a good, old-fashioned paper book.

First, the Sisters Brothers. To quote from the book: “Here was the picture of moral negligence”. This tale of two hapless brothers, Charlie and Eli, making their way across the American Wild West in the mid-1800s, leaving murder and mayhem in their wake, is indeed a story of two men who appear to have no morals. They are called “serial killers” and need only invoke their names to bring fear to the people around them. The narrator, Eli tells the story and indeed the reader comes to understand some of his motivation and why things turn out as they do for him. Charlie is clearly the leader, Eli the follower. Yet in some ways Eli is the more thoughtful and perhaps wise brother.

The book is full of quirky characters, including a prospector named Hermann Warm and a horse named Tub. There is bloody, gory mindless killing for sure, but the reader has some sympathy when Eli tells Warm about their childhood. Eli has a poetic streak in him, which makes the telling of the story colourful and always entertaining. For example, when they come upon a fellow reduced to brewing dirt for coffee, Eli says “It would seem to me that the solitude of working in the wilds is not healthy for any man.” Indeed. This is story about two desperados, but with a twist. Not your “normal” cowboy story for sure! Read an excerpt.

The other book about travels, Hand Me Down World, is equally as complex and blurs the lines between good and evil, black and white. This is the story of a black woman (and her colour is important to the story) working in a resort hotel, who gets involved with a guest, and has his baby. This is not a romance novel, so the story does not end happily there. The man confiscates the baby and flees home to Berlin, Germany.

The story is about the woman, and for most of the story we think her name is Ines, travelling to Germany, finding the baby, and then doing what she must to see the little boy, as he is by then. The story is told through the eyes of all the people she comes in contact with through the journey, both to and within Berlin. The Blind Man, The French Man, The Truck Driver. Finally we hear her heartbreaking story, and then the story of the wife of the man.

Again, this woman does some not very nice things to achieve her goals. We sympathize with her, but we do not always like her. As with The Sisters Brothers, the reader is forced to look at humanity from many different sides. Everyone has a story that makes them who they are and makes them do the things they do.

If you read Jones book, Mr. Pip, you will know he writes about the dark side of humanity. The story of a woman searching for her child is of one of our most basic instincts, but this story is combined with other human emotions and actions, some lovely and some not so.

I loved both of these books and would recommend them to anyone who likes reading books with complex characters!" Read an excerpt.

As always, thanks Julia for such thoughtful,  well written reviews!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Over the Counter # 78

This week it was books about space that caught my eye as they passed over my library counter and under my scanner. Houses that is - not stars.

First up was In-laws, Outlaws, and Granny Flats by Michael Litchfield.

From the publisher The Taunton Press:

"In-Laws, Outlaws, and Granny Flats is the first book to explore the many designs, uses and benefits of this time-honored and emotionally satisfying living arrangement. In-law units take many forms and they’re all shown here: attic, basement and garage conversions, bump-out additions, carve-out suites, and backyard cottages. This book covers every aspect of turning one house into two homes. Its first four chapters deal with the specifics of assessing your needs, selecting an appropriate design, choosing space- and energy-saving appliances, and getting your plans approved. The book’s second half is a warm and engaging portfolio of in-law units and the families who created them: what needs prompted their decisions, which layouts worked best, and how they met life challenges with common sense, creativity and compassion. With more than 200 color photographs, 50 floor plans and architectural details, and a lively, personable voice, In-laws, Outlaws, and Granny Flats is perfect for homeowners who want richer lives and a more secure future."

Next up was Same Place, More Space (something I need at my home) by Karl Champley.

From the publisher Chronicle Books:

"Master carpenter and DIY Network host Karl Champley offers 50 home improvement projects to maximize space in any dwelling, no matter how big or small. Keeping an eye on style and economy, Champley outlines tools, materials, and techniques for searching out and using hidden-away space to achieve incredible results. Readers will learn how to carve out shelving niches between studs in the wall, tuck more into kitchen cupboards, build hidey-holes beneath floor boards, and much more. The projects range from easy organization solutions to weekend construction projects and more ambitious undertakings. With easy-to-follow instructions for making more out of less, detailed illustrations, and no-nonsense advice on clutter control, Same Place, More Space makes it simple to create a more functional, expansive, and beautiful home without moving or remodeling."

Karl Champley has over 25 years of building experience. He is the host of DIY Network's DIY to the Rescue and Wasted Space, and satellite radio's Home Live. He is Australian and lives in Santa Monica, California."

(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, October 5, 2011

YA reviews with Ella!

Resident teen blogger Ella is back to school and back to work at the library, but has lots to share on what she read this summer. And we're glad to have her back - her take on books is fun and unique.

First up is Blood Red Road by Moira Young.

"First, let me say how refreshing it was to have a truly selfish protagonist. Paragons of virtue are all very well and good, but every once in a while it's nice to read about someone who has less than any interest in being a hero. Saba's twin brother has been kidnapped and her father murdered, so she starts an epic journey across the dusty wasteland of their dystopian world to get him back. They have a little sister that Saba truly harbors nothing but jealousy and anger towards (which was nice while it lasted) who insists on tagging along. Gladiator-style cage matches, slavery, a drug empire, an attractive young man named Jack and some truly cool warrior girls all come included. The book is divided into parts, which I found made it slightly disconnected, like a series of novellas in one book, but it was still pretty good, despite Saba's disappointing sudden growth of a conscience. More of a library read than a addition to a personal collection is my advice." Read an excerpt of Blood Red Road.

Next - Wildefire by Karsten Knight.

"Yet another teenage girl has a crazy catalytic thing happen to her, and gets sent to boarding school. 3 guesses what she finds out there, and the first 2 don't count. You got it! She has magic powers, and is part of an epic power struggle between light and dark. What makes Wildefire different is that it's AWESOME! Ashline Wilde (I'm jealous of her name) has a pretty original power, and the drama with her homicidal, cuckoo-for-cocoa-puffs sister was kind of cool. What made this book stand out of the identical backstory crowd? I really don't know. It just clicked. The amazing ending had something to do with it. Be warned, I was left gasping in shock and upset I have to wait to find out what was going to happen. Also, be aware before you get attached to characters that Knight has no qualms killing people off. The clever, evil man is ruthless, and knows how to play your emotions like a piano. It gets a little tiresome in the middle, cause it seems like the book is just doing exactly what every other book like it would do, but stick around a few more chapters and you won't regret it." Read an excerpt of Wildefire.

Thanks Ella for sharing your thoughts on some great YA titles - watch for more in the coming weeks. See you at work on Thursday Ella!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Giveaway - Falling Together - Marisa de los Santos

I have a copy of Falling Together by Marisa de los Santos to giveaway, thanks to the generosity of William Morrow Publishing. It releases today.

From the publisher:

"What if saying hello to an old friend meant saying good-bye to life as you know it?

It’s been six years since Pen Calloway watched her best friends walk out of her life. And through the birth of her daughter, the death of her father, and the vicissitudes of single motherhood, she has never stopped missing them.

Pen, Cat, and Will met on their first day of college and formed what seemed like a magical and lifelong bond, only to see their friendship break apart amid the realities of adulthood. When, after years of silence, Cat—the bewitching, charismatic center of their group—e-mails Pen and Will with an urgent request to meet at their college reunion, they can’t refuse. But instead of a happy reconciliation, what awaits is a collision of past and present that sends Pen and Will, with Pen’s five-year-old daughter and Cat’s hostile husband in tow, on a journey across the world.

With her trademark wit, vivid prose, and gift for creating authentic, captivating characters, Marisa de los Santos returns with an emotionally resonant novel about our deepest human connections. As Pen and Will struggle to uncover the truth about Cat, they find more than they bargained for: startling truths about who they were before and who they are now. They must confront the reasons their friendship fell apart and discover how—and if—it can ever fall back together." A reading guide is also available.

This one is open internationally. Simply comment to be entered. Ends Sat Oct 29 at 6 pm EST.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is certainly creating some buzz lately. So, I was excited to receive a copy and see what all the talk was about.

"The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

Le Cirque des Réves
(The Circus of Dreams)
Opens at Nightfall
Closes at Dawn."

But what visitors don't know is that the circus is a venue for a game. A game between two enigmatic magicians (although they are much more than simple magicians) of indeterminate age and otherworldly skills.  Each has chosen a player and trained them for many years. And now that the circus is open, the game begins. The young players, Celia and Marco, are not even sure of the rules, how a winner will be dictated or what the playing should even consist of. And so we follow the circus, the game and the lives of everyone touched by the magic.

Where Morgenstern absolutely excels is in imagination. She has conjured up fanciful, magical places and times. Her prose are rich and lush, painting very vivid images. I often found myself rereading these passages and imagining what one of the attractions would be like. For the attractions at the Cirque des Réves are unlike any other. Each tent contains an unfathomable wonder that you may have only dreamed of.

I loved the following imagery - books as both vehicle and voyage.

"When she opens her eyes, they are standing on the quarterdeck of a ship in the middle of the ocean.  Only the ship is made of books, it's sails thousands of overlapping pages, and the sea it floats upon is dark black ink. They stand silently together as the ship drifts toward the endless horizon."

Where the book fell from a five to a four for me was in the pacing and character development. The first half of the book moved a little too slow for me. I did end up putting it down for a few days. When I picked it back up, the second half moved much faster, with more action and consequences happening.

Although Celia and Marco are the main protagonists, there are many, many others integral to The Night Circus. Celia and Marco remained for me attractions - I never became truly invested in their love story or struggles, despite the fairy tale feeling of it all.  I found myself drawn to many of the other players, especially Bailey. His character is more tangible and I was able to believe him in him more. This could simply reflect the pragmatic nature of this reader.

The Night Circus is a intriguing, inventive foray into a magical world that, deep down, every one of us wishes existed. A very strong debut novel. And a bit of a magical time for Morgenstern - movie rights to The Night Circus have been sold to Summit Entertainment - who also brought you the Twilight movies. It will interesting to see what movie magic can do to reproduce The Night Circus.

Read an excerpt of The Night Circus. Or listen to an excerpt. You can find Morgenstern on Twitter and on Facebook.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Winners - Yankee Doodle Dixie

And the three lucky winners of a copy of Yankee Doodle Dixie by Lisa Patton, courtesy of Thomas Dunne Books are:

2.Melanie Ski

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