Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Hanging Hill - Mo Hayder

Have you read or heard of Mo Hayder? Well, if you're a thriller/mystery/crime addict, you'll want to look her up.

Hanging Hill is in set in England. In the prologue we're introduced to a pair of sisters - Zoe, always the strong, resilient one,  is a police Detective Inspector and Sally, the pretty, 'brainless' one is a struggling, divorced and now single mom. Until the funeral they're now attending - they haven't spoken in eighteen years. A childhood 'event' that spurred this rift is alluded to but not fully explained until later on.

From the opening prologue we go back to start on the events that lead to the funeral. Sally is working as a cleaner, trying to keep up with the bills and ensure that her teen daughter Millie can at least keep up the semblance of the life she used to lead. But when she borrows money from the wrong man, Sally is forced to take on an under the table job at one of her cleaning contracts - a man who produces pornography.

Zoe is on the case of a murdered teen. When the body is found and she begins to investigate, she finds that the girl was one of Millie's acquaintances. After so many years apart, the sister's lives begin to connect in ways on one could never have predicted. As do the dynamics of their relationship......

Oh, boy - Hayder is a master of plotting! Just when I thought I knew what was going to happen, she steers the story in a different direction. When I thought I knew who dunnit, my suppositions are changed in the next chapter.  And the ending! You know when you're at the movie theatre and you think it's over and then something terrifying jumps out at you? Yeah, well Hayder does it with the written word - really, really well.

"But their conversation about children had allowed something thin and cold and cunning to come in from the dark and slide silently between them,. She knew it, he knew it."

Hayder has a dark and devious mind. The crimes and the characters are gritty and disturbing. (not for squeamish readers) I enjoyed the personal story lines of Zoe and Sally and their evolvement as the stakes ratcheted up. I was a bit puzzled by Sally's boyfriend Steve. His mystery job and mystery trips are never fully explained. Is there more to be explored in further books? I would like to see these characters again - especially Zoe - she fits into the wounded female protagonist slot that is so hot right now.

Crime aficionados - you'll want to pick this one up. Read an excerpt of Hanging Hill. You can find Mo Hayder on Facebook.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Goose Lane Editions launches new website

January 30, 2011

Goose Lane Editions launches new website

Fredericton, NB. In 1994, still in the birthing years of the Internet, Goose Lane Editions, Canada’s oldest independent book publisher, made history by becoming one of the first publishing houses in the world to launch their own website. After 18 years, the site has gone through numerous transformations, changing to suit our evolving culture as technology improved and users became more computer-savvy.

Now, we are proud to announce the newest iteration of www.gooselane.com, with new features, new content, and a new promotion to kick off the launch.
In addition to a complete visual redesign, we have added new website elements such as twitter feeds and ongoing blog posts by our many employees. Sample chapters are available for many books, and an ongoing stream of events and notices is added to the main page every day.

To celebrate our launch, we’d like to extend a special offer. For every day the week of January 30, we will be offering one book a day at a special highly-discounted price. Roadsworth, YOU comma Idiot, The Famished Lover, Miller Brittain, The Black Watch, Beaverbrook: A Shattered Legacy, and Ganong: A Sweet History of Chocolate will each take over one day of the week with a drastically discounted price to help celebrate our new look and attitude. All this, in addition to our regular feature of free shipping on orders of $60 or more. To take advantage of these offers, simply create an account with Goose Lane. By doing so, you’ll also ensure that you are regularly updated on upcoming special offers.

We’ve been around a long time, both physically and electronically. Here’s to many more years together."

Friday, January 27, 2012

Menagerie - Sharon Montrose

Menagerie by Sharon Montrose is one of those quirky little books that you can't help but pick up and look through. Montrose is a sought after photographer of - you guessed it - animals.

She has assembled a collection of photos in Menagerie that somehow mimic a photo album you might pull out to show off your family. The animals seem almost like they have posed in a human manner. Their faces and body language seem to mimic human qualities and in many they seem to be looking straight at us (and the photographer)

 The portrait of the slumped bear reminded me so much of a tired man after a hard day's labour.  The shot of the two geese brought to mind two neighbours gossiping by the back fence. The photos of 'baby' animals reminded me of those taken by an indulgent parent. I quite liked the row of 'infant' portraits. I can't say I enjoyed the snakes or reptiles as much! Montrose has a real eye, that's for sure. The close ups of some of the wild animals, such as the fox, and the detailed shot of the flamingo feathers were quite stunning.

Many of the shots were framed or hung in unique ways. While some pictures had accompanying phrases, I almost felt like I wanted more...a bit of a essay or explanation of the photographer's intent.

Menagerie is a unique photo book. Unfortunately, the size and layout of the book meant that many photos were cut in half across two pages. A larger coffee table size would have been more friendly to the photographer's work. Or even going with a landscape layout rather than portrait.

That being said, if you're not familiar with Montrose's work, this is a wonderful little book to start with. Or have a peek inside now. Thanks to IT Books for the review copy.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Invisible Ones - Stef Penney

The Invisible Ones is Stef Penney's second novel, but a first look at this author for me. It won't be my last - I'll be hunting down her first book- The Tenderness of Wolves.

The opening scene is one that will hook you into the story from the first page. Ray awakes in a hospital bed, paralyzed and with no memory of how he came to be there. Penney takes us back to the beginning and on the journey of how Ray ended up where he is.

Ray Lovell is a small time private investigator - he mostly does cheating spouse cases and avoids missing persons after a case went really wrong. But when Leon Wood comes into the office asking Ray to hunt down his daughter Rose, he hesitates. Wood is a traveller - a Romany - a gypsy. Leon has approached Ray as he knows that he is half gypsy himself. The case seems impossible. Wood has not seen his daughter in 7 years - since the day of her wedding in 1978 to Ivo Janko, the last in a line of 'black blood' travellers. But - he agrees.

As Ray delves back into a world he knows, but isn't a part of any longer, he is met with resistance, lies, indifference and hostility. No one is overly concerned where Rose is. "Suddenly I am absolutely determined to find her, because no one else seems really bothered".

The Invisible Ones is told from two parallel viewpoints - that of Ray and of JJ - a fourteen year old boy who is part of the Janko family - in alternating chapters. This was guaranteed to keep me up late - I simply had to keep reading to find out what was happening with the other character. The narrative with Ray flips from present to past as his memory slowly returns.

Ray and JJ are both on journeys, although they may not realize it. Ray rediscovers what it means to be gypsy and at the same time he tries to put his disastrous personal life back on track. Finding Rose becomes a quest long after others would have quit. JJ is an interesting character. He has never 'lived in bricks', having grown up in caravans. He is gypsy, but finds himself sometimes yearning for some 'gorgio' ways.(non Romany) But his ultimate loyalty is to his family. JJ is innocent, yet worldly - he was my favourite character.

I enjoyed the slow building pace of the book as the story slowly unfolded. The characters themselves were just as much of a mystery. I was fascinated with the descriptions of Romany life and culture. (The book is set in England) The whole premise of the book was unique and not your run of the mill mystery.  I had paid enough attention to subtle clues dropped during the last half of the book that I had a good idea wheat the ending was going to be. But this didn't detract from my enjoyment - and I was only partially correct.

Definitely recommended - especially for those looking for something a little different.

Read an excerpt of The Invisible Ones. A reading group guide is available for book clubs.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Over the Counter #94

What caught my eye this week as it passed over my library counter and under my scanner? A book about dinner plates. 813 of them to be exact. Dish by Shax Riegler, photographs by Robert Bean.

From the publisher Artisan Books:

"A globe-trotting, century-hopping celebration of dishes As every great hostess knows, the right dinner plates bring design, color, and drama to the table and elevate an ordinary meal into something special. Dish is a visual celebration of these everyday pieces of art that have been the objects of desire of kings, queens, brides, chefs, and hostesses for centuries.From the first wooden trenchers of the Middle Ages to the seventeenth-century China trade, from twentieth-century designer wares to the colorful melamine plates so widely available today, more than 800 plates are on display here. With insightful descriptions and an expert s knowledge, author Shax Riegler makes the case that the dinner plate is so much more than just a vessel to deliver food; it s a piece of art to be admired.These are plates created by storied masters such as Spode and Wedgwood, modernists like Russel Wright and Homer Laughlin, and even today s contemporary designers like Vera Wang and Diane von Furstenberg. Dish shows them in full color with large photographs, detail shots, and even back-of-the-plate photos, delivering a feast for the eyes for obsessive fans and casual admirers alike.With a timeline of plate highlights in history, sidebars showcasing the most popular designers, and a list of the top 100 patterns of all time, Dish will leave readers looking at the common dinner plate in a whole new way."

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

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The House of Silk - Anthony Horowitz

Once I discovered Sherlock Holmes in my younger years, I devoured every tale, fascinated with Holmes' powers of observation and deductions.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle died in 1930. The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz is the first time a new Holmes story has been sanctioned by his estate.

I started to listen to the book with, I must admit, with more than a little trepidation. Would it do justice to Doyle's characters? Would the story have the same 'feel'?

1890's London England. Sherlock Holmes is called in by an art dealer who fears a member of the Flat Cap Gang has followed him from America to Britain and means him harm. Aided by the trusty Dr. John Watson, Holmes begins investigating - aided by the young Baker Street Irregulars. One of the boys ends up dead - and the case leads to places and people that believe they're untouchable. And really you don't need much more of the plot, as it truly is a Sherlock tale. Horowitz has done a fantastic job of recapturing the tone of previous works - the back and forth between Holmes and Watson, the clues and deductions, the Victorian settings and more.

As I mentioned, I chose to listen to the audio version. And am I ever glad I did!  Derek Jacobi did a simply amazing job. His voice is so expressive and rich and captured completely the tone of the story and the characters.

The House of Silk is climbing up bestseller lists  - and with good reason.  Definitely recommended.

Listen to an excerpt of The House of Silk or read an excerpt.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Betrayal of Trust - Susan Hill

Susan Hill is a prolific and prize winning author, but a new name for me. Her latest release The Betrayal of Trust, is the sixth book in her Simon Serrailler crime novels.

Simon is Detective Chief Superintendent in Lafferton, a city in England. When a severe storm hits Lafferton, a skelton is unearthed. Could it be that of a young girl gone missing sixteen years ago? And then a second skeleton is found nearby.

Cat is Simon's sister - a doctor and supporter of the local hospice. Both Cat and Simon are dealing with budget cuts at their institutions and trying to do much with too little.

Although this is billed as a crime novel, Betrayal of Trust was much more than that. I was immediately drawn into the lives of the two main characters. Their emotions and thoughts rang true and allowed us into their quite believable lives, grappling with grief, loss, love, family relationships and the business of everyday living. This made it a much more 'personal' read.

A parallel plot line dealing with terminal illness, assisted suicide and mental illness brings a lot of food for thought to the table. Viewpoints for and against are discussed through a patient, doctor and family members. Hills tackles a very difficult topic quite thoughtfully.

These seemingly disparate stories converge in the most unlikely way. Death and betrayal in many forms permeates both plot lines.The ending is complete, but left with enough threads to continue with in book seven. And I want to see where Simon and Cat's lives go from here - I really liked these characters.

Those looking for a thoughtful, intelligent mystery will find it here. Definitely a satisfying read - read an excerpt of The Betrayal of Trust.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Whisperer - Donato Carrisi

The Whisperer is Donato Carrisi's first novel. It has been translated from the original Italian to English by Shaun Whiteside.

The Whisperer grabs you by the throat from the opening chapters. Six severed left arms are found buried in a circle in a forest glen. Those left arms belong to children. Girls, in fact - five of them reported missing. But no sixth child has been reported missing. No bodies have been found at all.

Criminologist Goran Gavila brings in Officer Mila Vasquez to work with his team. Mila's specialty is finding missing children.She is battling her own demons as the team struggles to follow the clues left by a deranged and devious serial killer. But he seems to be one step ahead of them at all times, playing cat and mouse with the sixth girl as the prize.

It took me about 50 - 75 pages to get a good firm grasp on the characters and plot in The Whisperer. Carrisi has crafted a complex labyrinth of a tale - you'll want to read carefully as the plot twists and turns rapidly (and the ending is a real twister). Indeed, I sometimes felt slightly off balance as I read - bodies and characters are added to the tale in quick succession. This is a minor complaint - but clues are referred to by the characters with no sense of how they were obtained - such as school pictures and homework from the past of one suspect. Some procedural details that don't quit ring true were bothersome. A police officer on a major crime scene reviewing tapes that asks for help because "I don't know a thing about electronics". Why in the world would he be allowed to touch evidence then?

Carrisi has taken the crime novel a step further with the care he has take to explore the main character's psyches. I would like to see Carrisi continues with Mila as a protagonist in future books.

I did find the translation to be a bit choppy in places. The setting of the book in terms of country is never really defined -  niggly I know, but I would like to have known where the book was taking place. Did I enjoy The Whisperer? Yes I did. But, it's probably not for the faint at heart. Judge for yourself - Read the prologue and first chapter of The Whisperer.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Over the Counter #93

What caught my eye this week passing over my library counter and under my scanner? Smithsonian titles. First up was Violent Earth.

From the publisher DK Books:

"A spectacular reference book for the entire family, Violent Earth is an authoritative, stimulating, and visually arresting exploration of the dramatic forces that are constantly shaping our planet—often without warning and with devastating results.

Using powerful photography, specially commissioned illustrations, and intuitive infographics, Violent Earth explores plate tectonics, vulcanology, and seismology in unprecedented detail.

Drawing on the latest scientific research and including detailed maps, revealing areas of key geological activity, such as earthquake zones, volcanic sites, and plate boundaries, Violent Earth also looks at some of the most famous events associated with these places, from the historic eruptions of Laki, Iceland, which is credited with triggering the French Revolution, to the devastating earthquake in Haiti that killed more than 250,000 people in 2010.

Established in 1846, The Smithsonian Institution is a world renowned research center, dedicated to public education, national service, and scholarship in the arts, sciences, and history."

And Smithsonian Timelines History.

From the publisher DK Books:

"Beginning with the emergence of our earliest African ancestors and taking readers through the history of cultures and nations around the world to arrive at the present day, Timelines of History caters to readers who want a broad overview, a good story to read, or the nitty-gritty of historical events.

With easily accessible cross-references that build bite-size pieces of information into a narrative that leads readers back and forth through time, Timelines of History makes the past accessible to all families, students, and the general reader."

(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, January 18, 2012

Gun Games - Faye Kellerman

I started reading Faye Kellerman's Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus series way back in 1986 when it first started. I haven't kept up with the last three or four books, so I thought I would pick up Gun Games, the 20th entry in this long running series.

Lieutenant Decker is petitioned by a distraught mother to investigate her son's death. It has been ruled a suicide, but she can't accept it. Decker agrees - and finds that her mother's instincts may be right. When another student at the same school also kills themself, a full scale investigation is launched.

Rina and Peter have taken in 15 yr. old Gabe as a foster child. He comes from a troubled background, but is having success as a talented pianist. He runs into a group of teens who are looking for trouble, but escapes unscathed - this time. Gabe also meets a family acquaintance of the Deckers - 14 yr. old Yasmine.

I have always enjoyed the personal interaction between Rina and Peter in this series. Their home life, learning of their Jewish faith, description of food, Rina's gentle nature and Peter's gruff competence. The supporting cops on Decker's team - Marge and Oliver are characters I've enjoyed following as well. Sadly, there is little of this in Gun Games. Rather we are forced to endure endless pages of texting between Gabe and Yasmine. Their undying love for each other. Promise? Poor Gabe's sexual frustration. Gabe's deflowering of Jasmine.Yeah, I know - I felt like I was in a (bad) YA novel.

I found myself skipping pages of italicized texting and moony phone calls to try and get back to Decker and his case - which ended up playing a sad second fiddle to Gabe and his libido. The police work seemed lackluster, only hitting some sort of action at the end, when a list of names and assignments is given (over and over again) in a ten page flurry.

A reference to a previous case involving New Mexico is introduced early in the book, ignored and brought back in the last few pages. It added nothing to the book except as a possible set up for book 21.

I was disappointed with Gun Games - Kellerman jumped the shark on this one. It just might be time for Decker to retire. Read an excerpt of Gun Games.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Chalk Girl - Carol O'Connell

Well, I was going to take lots of notes and quotes while I was reading Carol O'Connell's newest book, The Chalk Girl, so I could write a fabulous post telling you how much I love this character and author.

The notes and quotes didn't happen.....because I couldn't put the book down long enough!! But I can tell you that I do love O'Connell's 'Mallory' books.

As a child, Kathleen (Kathy) Mallory was found living alone on the streets of New York City by NYPD Lieutenant Lou Markowitz. She was taken in and raised by Markowitz and his wife (with some help from Lou's fellow cops and friends). She is streetwise, cunning, an expert thief and described as 'a baby sociopath.'

Following in Lou's footsteps, Mallory (she refuses to answer to Kathy) has joined the NYPD and is paired up with Markowitz's old partner. She is a brilliant detective, but her methods and her relationships with people are strictly on her terms. No one breaks through the walls she has erected. The term sociopath is still bandied about.

In The Chalk Girl, the 10th in the series, there may be a little chink in Mallory's armour.  A small girl is found wandering alone in Central Park...with blood on her tee shirt. She says the blood fell from the sky while she was looking for her uncle who turned into a tree. There is something special about Coco. She has Williams Syndrome and can't really tell them exactly where she's from or who she is. But with help from psychologist Charles Butler, they are able to decode what she's trying to tell them. Coco seems to stir something in Mallory - one wounded child recognizing another.

When Mallory locates the uncle, the case leads to places no one could have ever predicted.

And that's the beauty of O'Connell's books. You just never have an idea where the plots will lead. They're inventive, intriguing, intelligent and will keep you guessing until the end. They might keep you up late too - the crimes are bizarre and gruesome -  perfect fodder for crime thriller aficionados.  Each chapter opens with an excerpt from what seems to be a journal of someone called Ernest Nadler. I'm glad I read everything on the page - these entries told a story on their own that eventually met Mallory's path.

The character of Mallory continues to intrigue me. Small details about her past and small glimpses past the barriers she has erected have been slowly inserted into each new entry in this series. We still really have no idea who Kathy Mallory really is. But I am inextricably hooked by this flawed protagonist.

See what I mean - read an excerpt of The Chalk Girl.  You can find O'Connell on Facebook.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Coming Soon to a Book Near You #1

This is the first post in a new semi regular feature at A Bookworm's World. There are so many great trailers being made for books now. I thought I would share some of them for books I'm looking forward to reading And the first one is for The Professionals by Owen Laukkanen.

From the publisher Putnam Books:

"Save the date for the most anticipated thriller debut of 2012: March 29.

Four friends, recent college graduates, caught in a terrible job market, joke about turning to kidnapping to survive. And then, suddenly, it's no joke. For two years, the strategy they devise-quick, efficient, low risk-works like a charm. Until they kidnap the wrong man.

Now two groups they've very much wanted to avoid are after them-the law, in the form of veteran state investigator Kirk Stevens and hotshot young FBI agent Carla Windermere, and an organized-crime outfit looking for payback. As they all crisscross the country in deadly pursuit and a series of increasingly explosive confrontations, each of them is ultimately forced to recognize the truth: The true professionals, cop or criminal, are those who are willing to sacrifice . . . everything.

A finger-burning page-turner, filled with twists, surprises, and memorably complex characters, The Professionals marks the arrival of a remarkable new writer."

On my must read list! You can find Laukkanen on Facebook and Twitter.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Winners - One Moment, One Morning

And the three lucky winners of a copy of One Moment, One Morning by Sarah Rayner, courtesy of St. Martins Griffin are:

1. Kara D.
2. Faithspage
3. Anjan Vasan

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

Friday, January 13, 2012

The House at Sea's End - Elly Griffiths

I was captured by Elly Griffiths' Ruth Galloway series from the first book, The Crossing Places (my review) and the second - The Janus Stone. (my review)

So I settled in to read the third - The House at Sea's End - knowing before turning a page that I would enjoy it.

Forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway is ready to return to work from maternity leave. When a local research team discovers a skeleton during an erosion study in Norfolk, Ruth is called in. When they delve further into the little cave where the body seems to have been hidden, five more skeletons are discovered - all with their hands tied behind their backs. Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson is then called in. Further investigation reveals a wartime link that someone doesn't want uncovered.

I have so enjoyed the character of Ruth. I think it's because she isn't a 'cookie-cutter' protagonist. She is a new, single mother at forty, she is overweight, messy, and doesn't overly worry about what people think. But she is highly intelligent, empathetic and tolerant. Griffiths has not endowed her with super sleuth abilities, rather she comes off as an actual person - unabashedly and happily herself. Her only worry is if she'll be a good mom.

Griffiths' plots are also very intelligent. I was able to solve the clues leading to one piece of the puzzle ahead of the characters, but it didn't detract from my enjoyment of the book at all. I always enjoy the setting in the books - the Norfolk area, while seemingly bleak is beautiful in Ruth's eyes. I used the map in the frontispiece to place where the action was happening. While I enjoy the mystery in Griffiths' books, it is the characters I come back for.

The father of Ruth's baby is DCI Harry Nelson, married father of two. Their (non) relationship, evolved over the course of the first two books, has resulted in baby Kate. Where will it go from here? I can't wait to see what happens next with their lives and the ending was perfect cliffhanger.

The supporting cast is wonderfully eclectic. Cathbad, the self proclaimed Druid is one of my favourites. He's quite enigmatic, showing up just when needed and seems to see and recognize things that others don't. I hope his interaction with a member of Nelson's staff is taken further. Archaeologist Trace is a character I can't quite nail down - it's nice not being able to second guess where the author is going to take her characters. I did find a 'visiting' character, a friend of Ruth's called Tatjana, to be a bit awkward. I understood her contribution to the story, but she never rang as true as the other players.

Griffiths has created an engaging series, one I am hooked on. I can't wait to read the fourth book - A Room Full of Bones. Read an excerpt of The House at Sea's End.

You can find Griffiths on Twitter and on Facebook.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Over the Counter #92

This slim little volume caught my eye this week as it passed over my library counter and under my scanner. Beard - photographs by Matthew Rainwaters.

From the publisher Chronicle Books:

"Hundreds of bearded men strutted their stuff at the World Beard and Moustache Championships in Anchorage, Alaska, and photographer Matthew Rainwaters was there to capture it all. This resulting collection of portraits features the bushiest, most stylish, and downright weirdest beards from around the world. Taken straight on, the photographs are stark and stunning—the beards speak for themselves. Alongside the images are essays by several of the championship competitors, including $teven Ra$pa and his beard Prepostero. A magnificent showcase of chops, bristles, and whiskers, this book belongs on the shelf of any true facial hair connoisseur."

(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, January 11, 2012

Listomania - The Listomaniacs

A World of Fascinating Facts...in Graphic Detail

This was such a fun book!! I'm a sucker for those best of books and year end compilations but Listomania  from It Books is absolutely addicting.

I've had this book for a bit and have been picking it up over the course of the last month and I've read every page at last. We've had so much fun at home asking each other if we can come up with some of the entries on the list. Examples? There are 62 rooms you might find in a house...name as many as you can.There's a list of movies with 'ridiculously high body counts'...any thoughts? Movies with giant rabbits?

I was enamoured of the book lists. Most translated books? The Bible was number one, but Pinocchio was number two - translated into 260 languages! Books with an animal protagonist? Books with nameless protagonists?

There are so many topics covered - the book is broken down into eight great sub categories. Lists pull in facts from around the world. But it's not just dull lists on a page. Each page is completely different. The graphic presentation of the facts is shown through photographs, charts, graphs, drawings and more, all in full colour.

Many of the entries had me going to the computer to follow up, such as '14 Cool Things to View on Google Earth.' In Chile, 70,000 Coke bottles spell out the company logo. Or the Badlands Guardian in Canada.

This is one of those books that everyone will enjoy. Leave it out on the coffee table - it's like a bag of chips - you won't be able to just rhard to resist....Can you name a karaoke song that makes the top ten list in the US and England -- hint: it's a Madonna tune. What 13 crayon colours has Crayola retired? What country has the fastest internet connections in the world? Name the top 10 cheese eating countries in the world. What is....

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Cell 8 - Anders Roslund & Börge Hellström

Roslund and Hellström's  novel, Three Seconds, hit bestseller lists in their native Sweden and in the US. (my review)

Their latest book, Cell 8, opens in the US - in a prison on death row. John Meyer Frey was sentenced to death at 17, for a murder he says he didn't commit.

On the other side of the world in Sweden, John Schwartz assaults another man. He is remanded to jail, but his reaction to being locked up is unsettling. John knows..."He had to get away from there. He couldn't face dying again."

The case is brought to the attention of Swedish Detective Inspector Ewert Grens. But..."He could not possibly know that this single act of violence was linked to a murder, and was the continuation of a process that had started many years ago, far away; it would prove to be the most extraordinary criminal investigation he had ever come across."

I really don't want to give away any more of the plot. Roslund and Hellström have concocted an ingenious, devious plot that makes for a fantastic read. Flashbacks within the current timeline provide the answers from the past. The levels of machinations, manipulations and recriminations are masterful. I kept telling myself 'just one more chapter' and then I'll shut down for the night...I was up very late. But the story also touches on a issue that is controversial in any country - the death penalty. Roslund and Hellström provide social commentary through their characters, both for and against.

I was really hoping that this writing duo would bring back Grens again. He is a complicated character - emotionally wounded, very eccentric and clever. "Detective Inspector Ewert Grens was the sort of person that people moved away from on the pavement, the sort of man who is heard without having to say a word." But there are some chinks in his armour against the world in Cell 8. We learn more about his past and he lets his guard down with a new arrival on his team. I'm not quite sure if I like him or not - my opinion changed throughout the novel.  But I am intrigued by him, especially since we have been allowed a personal glimpse.

The supporting cast members are also very well drawn. The hate of the father of Frey's victim is palpable, pulsating on the page. I enjoy the interactions between the members of Grens' team - the addition of young Hermannson has interjected a new dynamic, in many ways.

The run up to the ending of the book had me frantically turning pages and hoping for a certain ending. But I was caught off guard by the direction the authors took. And I love it - not being able to predict what will happen makes the read all the more enjoyable.

What makes this writing duo unique is their backgrounds. Anders Roslund is a award winning journalist who specialized in criminal and social issues and Hellström is an ex-criminal who worked with newly released prisoners stay on the straight and narrow. Their experience shows in their writing - it has a gritty, real tone that will grab you from first page to last.

Get a sneak peek - click here to read an excerpt. You can find Roslund & Hellstrom on Twitter and on Facebook.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Review and Q&A - Red Means Run - Brad Smith

I've added Brad Smith's previous books to my Canadian authors displays at the library in the past, but I admit I hadn't read this author until I picked up his new release  - Red Means Run. And I really wish I had, because he's good - really good.

Criminal attorney Mickey Dupree is found dead at the local golf course. It looks to be murder - the golf club shaft through the chest points to it. And the cops think the clues point straight to Virgil Cain. Once they've locked him up in jail, Virgil realizes that the only way to prove his innocence is to do it himself. So....he breaks out of jail and starts to work the case himself.

Smith's forté is the characters he has created. Virgil is described as a 'clever, laconic charmer' and I don't think I could say it any better. But I would add in sexy. Kind of a country Jack Reacher if you will. The two cops pursuing Virgil are poles apart. Joe Brady is an inept bumbler completely unaware of his deficiencies, certain that he is the man. But Claire Marchand is another story - she's a match for Virgil - maybe in more ways than one. Their cat and mouse game is fantastic. The aging vet, Mary, is a solid supporting character with many of her own tales I suspect.

But those characters are also carrying a plot that is fun, fast and furious. The run up to the ending (which featured a great twist) had me turning pages at breakneck speed. Okay, so the characters and the plot are great - what else? The dialogue - short and snappy, matching the pace of the action. The book is set in the US, but I enjoyed the sly Canadian jibes and references thrown in.

Red Means Run will appeal to all readers - Smith has provided strong protagonists of both sexes. I can't wait to read the next in this new series.

Just a fantastic read - highly recommended. You can see Brad talking about Red Means Runs in this video. (And I think there's more than a little of Brad in Virgil.... which means I'm a little bit in love with Brad too...)

You can find Brad Smith on Facebook. Appetite whetted? Read an excerpt of Red Means Run.

I'm thrilled that Brad was able to stop by for a quick Q&A.

1) The title Red Means Run is taken from the Neil Young song Powderfinger. Did the lyrics inspire the idea behind the book? Or was the title added after you'd finished writing? (Check out the Red Means Run playlist)

The lyrics were definitely an inspiration as the song is a presence in the book. Virgil mentions that his late wife used to sing it to him from the porch when he walked home from a day in the fields. And the lyrics come back to him in the book’s climactic scenes.

2) Continuing with that idea - was the name of the main character - Virgil Cain - inspired by the song The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down? (also penned by a Canadian)

In part, yes. The book has a real musical element to it on several levels. And because Virgil lives near Woodstock – where The Band resided around the time they produced The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down – it just seemed to fit. And Levon Helm – whose wonderful vocal makes that song so memorable – still lives in the area. I want to send him a copy of the book. (you’ll note I did drop the final “e” from Cain, though)

3) You've pursued a number of jobs and professions - what made you pick up writing? How much of your personal experiences do you draw on for your books?

I always wanted to write, but it took me a lot of years to develop the self-discipline required. During my ‘20’s I was pretty much committed to having fun (which can be a great source of research). As it turned out, I use a considerable amount of my personal experience in my books.  You’ll notice I write more about carpentry than I do about interpretive dance. Trust me, that’s not by accident.

4) The cover of Red Means Run also carries the tag line " A Virgil Cain Mystery". I'm thrilled that there will be more of this - can you tell us anything about the next in the series?

Yes. In the next book, Virgil stumbles upon a steel cylinder containing a couple million dollars’ worth of pure cocaine and suddenly finds himself pursued by a whole bunch of unsavory characters – mad Russian cowboys, dirty cops, homicidal drug dealers…and a single mother trying to keep herself from returning to prison. Sort of like The Sound Of Music…without the music…and the Alps…and the Von Trapps…

5) I'm always interested to see what authors are reading themselves. What  books/authors have been influential in your life?

I read a lot of non-fiction when writing.  I recently finished Rin Tin Tin by Susan Orlean and Charlotte Gill’s terrific Eating Dirt. Going back to my youth, I’ve had a lot of influences – Fitzgerald, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Hammett, William Kennedy. I like Richard Russo, Jim Harrison, Willie Morris, the early fiction of Ellen Gilchrist. I love all of Charles Portis.

Thanks Brad! Red Means Run releases January 10.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Clockwork Prince - Cassandra Clare

New Year and new reviews from our resident teen blogger Ella.  Guess what she got for Christmas? Yep, a Kobo. And Clockwork Prince, by Cassandra Clare is the first book she's read on her new ereader.

"Clockwork Prince is the second book in the Infernal Devices trilogy by Cassandra Clare. It's a spin-off of her first series, Mortal Instruments, set in Victorian England, telling the story of the ancestors of the Mortal Instruments characters. It's one of approximately 4 steampunk series that don't make me want to poke my own eyes out with the corner of a paperback, probably because it's more fantasy than steampunk. She's one of those authors that I have never heard of someone disliking. I'm sure haters are out there, but I can't imagine why.

 There are too many spoilers from the 1st book if I give a synopsis of Clockwork Prince. Suffice to say, Tessa is a cool heroine, torn between 2 attractive guys, fighting a frighteningly sneaky bad guy, with a fabulous cast of supporting characters. Excellent worldbuilding, witty repartee, demons, descendants of angels, robots etc, etc. I almost woke my family up in the middle of the night finishing it, because it's so SHOCKING.

Definitely read them in order, though. It's worth it when you notice they have the same last names in both series. Read an excerpt of Clockwork Prince. If you don't have a kobo/kindle, whatever, I would strongly advise buying one.  I LOVE IT!!! Santa rocks! Hope you had a good Christmas!!!"

Thanks Ella - I know we're looking forward to more of your reviews in 2012!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Over the Counter #91

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over my library counter and under my scanner? Books about pie!

First up was Perfect Pies by Michelle Stuart. From the publisher Ballantine Books:

"The smell of a pie baking in the kitchen immediately conjures up feelings of comfort, nostalgia, and love. Michele Stuart vividly remembers standing at her grandmother’s apron hem as a child, as she fine-tuned (and improved!) family recipes that had been passed down for generations. Eventually, Stuart’s lifelong passion for pie-making inspired her to open what would become the world-famous shop Michele’s Pies.
You don’t have to travel to Michele’s Pies in Norwalk and Westport, Connecticut, though, to taste Stuart’s mouthwatering creations. Perfect Pies shares nearly eighty delicious recipes, many of them National Pie Championships winners: There are desserts bursting with fruit (Country Apple Pie, Blueberry-Blackberry Pie), crunchy with nuts (Chocolate-Pecan-Bourbon Pie, Maple Walnut Pie), cream-filled delights (Coconut Custard Pie, Lemon Chiffon Pie), and pies perfect for a party (Ultimate Banana Split Pie, Candyland Pie). And let’s not forget Stuart’s sensational savory creations, from Lobster Pot Pie to Quiche Lorraine to Italian Wheat Pie. Stuart also passes along easy recipes for Hot Fudge Sauce, Raspberry Jam, and Whipped Cream to top it all off."

If you think a whole pie is too much, what about Mini Pies by Christy Beaver and Morgan Greenseth? (gluten free crust recipes included!)

From the publisher Ulysses Press:

"What’s a hip baker to do with her cupcake pan now that serving those frosted nightmares is about as cool as wearing Uggs while hostessing a Sex and the City 2 movie night? Luckily, this book shows her how to use that same pan to bake the newest, most awesome dessert—mini pies. Offering step-by-step recipes along with tips, tricks, and techniques for mini pie success, this book teaches how to make flaky crusts and luscious fillings that will combine into mouth-watering petite pies. Readers learn how to capture all the delicious flavor of a traditional pie while gaining the adorable look and eat-out-of-your-hand convenience of a cupcake. From beloved favorites like pumpkin, apple, and pecan, to more creative flavors such as Raspberry Rhubarb Whiskey, Chocolate Chipotle, and Cranberry Almond Pistachio, Mini Pies presents recipes to please any palate. Also included are savory recipes for quick snacks and appetizers like mini veggie pot pies, plus vegan and gluten-free recipes to ensure that everyone can enjoy these delightful delicacies."

(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, January 4, 2012

The Retribution - Val McDermid

Wow...Val McDermid's latest book, The Retribution, was literally a non-stop read for me. Picked it up in the morning and finished late that night.

Now, I don't know if you're familiar with this fantastic Scottish author, but if you love crime novels, she's an author you want to read. She has written three series, but my favourites are the Tony Hill/Carol Jordan books. A television series - Wire in the Blood - is also based on these characters.

In The Retribution, Hill, a psychological profiler and Jordan, a Detective Inspector with the MIT - major incident team - are stunned to learn that Jacko Vance, a charismatic serial killer they imprisoned, has escaped. Jacko - "killer of seventeen teenage girls, murderer of a serving police officer and a man once voted the sexiest man on British TV", promised he would seek retribution against those who put him away. At the same time, the MIT is working to solve the gruesome murders of local prostitutes. All this while the higher ups have decided to dismantle the crack team Carol has put together, due to budget constraints.

These two characters have always fascinated me. Neither one of them completely 'fits' into society, especially Tony. "When he interviewed the psychopaths that became his patients, he heard so many echoes of his own empty childhood. It was, he thought, the reason he was so good at what he did. He understood them because he had come within a hair's breadth of being them." The tenuous building of the relationship between Carol and Tony has been building over the course of the series. We get to know more of what makes Tony tick in this offering. My opinion of Carol changes from book to book - still no final opinion. The MIT team is filled with interesting support characters with their own stories.

Vance is a diabolical character. We are privy to his plans and thoughts and they are truly disturbing. The second case involving the prostitutes was good but had a bit of a 'filler' feel to it. That being said, McDermid's plotlines are always ingenious, complex and gritty. I was caught a bit off guard by the ending of the book, but then again, I like it when an author can keep me on my toes.

Definitely recommended. Read an excerpt of The Retribution. You can find McDermid on Twitter.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Breakdown - Sara Paretsky

Picking up the latest Sara Paretsky book is like sitting down with an old friend to hear a new story. Paretsky penned her first book featuring private investigator V.I. Warshawski in 1982. Nearly thirty years later, the newly released Breakdown is the fifteenth book in this long running series.

V.I. receives a frantic call from her cousin Petra late one night - a group of girls holding a initiation ceremony based on their favourite author's vampire books get more than they bargained for when they stumble across a corpse - staked through the heart. And these aren't just any teens - they're the offspring of some of Chicago's wealthiest and politically powerful families. Rescuing the girls makes V.I. late for a meeting with her old friend Leydon Ashford. By the time V.I. makes their meeting, it's too late - either troubled Leydon has jumped from a balcony or she was pushed. In a coma, she is unable to let anyone know what happened. As V.I. decides to investigate further into both of these seemingly disparate occurrences, she is warned off - by more than one party. Of course, that only fuels V.I.'s fire....

What has made this such an enduring series? V.I. has aged and her life has progressed in real time. She was a character I liked from the first book and my opinion hasn't changed. She's true to her principles and beliefs, always with an eye towards justice. Now, that's not to say that she won't bend the rules just a bit to get the results she needs. And she's tough, having taken more than her fair share of hard knocks. But she gives as good as she gets. She says what she thinks, she's smart, loyal and someone you'd want on your side. "...sometimes you are so single-minded in your search for answers that you don't always think of the consequences."

Paretsky's plotting is always good - the mysteries are intricate and not easily solved. It is the personal issues and plot lines that elevate this series beyond a simple whodunit. It almost feels like V.I. and her friends and family are real people. The writing and reading flow effortlessly.

You can certainly read Breakdown without having read any of the others in this series, but I bet you'll be hunting down her backlist once you discover this fantastic female protagonist!

You can find Sara Paretsky on Facebook and on Twitter.