Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Testament of Jessie Lamb - Jane Rogers

I turned the last page of The Testament of Jessie Lamb a few days ago, but the book stayed with for quite awhile as I mulled it over. Jane Roger's novel is definitely thought provoking.

It is set in England sometime in the not too distant future and told from the perspective of sixteen year old Jessie. A virus - Maternal Death Syndrome, known as MDS has been unleashed. What does it do? It kills every woman who becomes pregnant, and the child is born infected as well. The virus will eventually kill off the human race. No one know who is responsible.

Jessie is just coming into adulthood, making choices about school, boys and her own beliefs. She joins many activist groups and supports other current causes - fuel consumption, eco-causes, animal rights, children's rights, feminist rights and ultimately the right to choose. But not choose as we know it. Instead, the choice is to become pregnant with a embryo frozen before the virus was unleashed. It is thought that these children will be born healthy. The scientists involved have decreed that young women will be the best incubators. They become known as Sleeping Beauties. And Jessie decides that this is the ultimate act for her. Her part - her dying - will help save the human race.

And this is where all the mulling came into play. Does Jessie have the right to choose death? How much of that choice is made for her with propaganda, peer pressure, societal pressure? Is she making the choice for purely selfish reasons? To show her parents she is grown up? Is she able to make such life altering decisions at what we consider to be a young age? What about a society that has accepted these Sleeping Beauties as part of their culture? And accepts these deaths as necessary. How much change can one individual make with their choices? I could go on and on - you can see why the book stayed with me. The Testament of Jessie Lamb would stimulate lots of discussion for book clubs.

.The first half of the book - Jessie's life and coming of age - rang true. The dialogue seemed to belong to a sixteen year old, as did the situations and attitudes. It was in the second half of the book that I felt Rogers lost me a bit. I just didn't buy into Jessie's reasoning for choosing to die. (But this is where all my questioning started!)

Those looking for dystopian fiction a la Hunger Games won't find it here. Rather, you'll find a book that make you think.

The Testament of Jessie Lamb was long listed for the Man Booker Prize. And is the 26th winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the most prestigious award for science fiction in Britain.

See what others on the TLC tour thought. Full schedule can be found here.

You can find Jane Rogers on Facebook.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Over the Counter #112

Usually it's the brightly coloured covers that catch my eye as they pass over my library counter and under my scanner. But I'm glad I opened this one up.  Prom by Mary Ellen Mark is worth more than a quick look.

From the publisher Getty Publications:

"The high school prom is an American tradition, a rite of passage, and one of the most important rituals of youth in this country. The internationally recognized documentary photographer Mary Ellen Mark took on the extraordinary challenge of working with the Polaroid 20x24 Land Camera to produce this fascinating look at dozens of young people from a diverse range of backgrounds on this memorable night in their lives.

Traveling across the United States to complete the project from 2006 to 2009, Mark photographed prom-goers at thirteen schools from New York City to Charlottesville, Virginia, to Houston to Los Angeles. The filmmaker Martin Bell, Marks husband, collaborated with her on the project to produce and direct a film, also called Prom, featuring interviews with the students about their lives, dreams, and hopes for the future. A DVD of the film is packaged with the book.

The 127 large-format photographs are reproduced in rich detail, and quotations from the student interviews punctuate the book. Some of the students statements are comical, while others are deeply touching. The result is a captivating and revealing document of American youth at the beginning of the twenty-first century."

(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, May 29, 2012

Giveaway - Dog on the Roof

So did the cover catch your eye? What were you thinking Dog on the Roof was about? Here's the subtitle for another clue - On the Road with Mitt and the Mutt.....yes, political satire never goes out of style!

From the publisher Touchstone:

"They were the typical American family on a typical American road trip—Dad behind the wheel, Mom in the passenger seat, their five adorable kids piled in the back. And, of course, their beloved dog strapped to the roof.

Wait . . . what?

Now for the first time, here is the completely true—and only mildly embellished— shaggy-dog story of Seamus Romney, the famously fetching Irish setter whose master, future presidential candidate Mitt Romney, plopped him atop the family station wagon for that infamous 1983 car trip. From the majesty of Mount Rushmore to the fabulousness of San Francisco, from the sacred temple of Salt Lake City to the hallowed halls of Washington, D.C., here at last is Seamus’s rooftop account of that headline-grabbing journey . . . unleashed.

Doggedly chronicled by satirists Bruce Kluger and David Slavin (NPR’s All Things Considered), and cleverly illustrated by Colleen Clapp (The Chris Matthews Show, NBC News), this American tale is more than just the story of a dog on a hot tin roof. It is the inside (well . . . overhead) look at the Man Who Would Be President and the wild ride that’s sweeping—and bewildering—the nation."

Look like somthing you'd like to get your hands on? Well, thanks to the generosity of the folks at Touchstone, I have THREE copies to giveaway. Entering is simple - just leave a comment. US only. Closes June 23/12.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Wife 22 - Melanie Gideon

Oh, I absolutely adored Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon! It's clever, warm, witty, charming, funny, quirky, thoughtful, entertaining - did I say clever? And just - well - just a really good read!

Alice Buckle has been happily married for over twenty years, but lately finds herself wondering about many things - her children, her health, her job and more, but most notably her relationship with her husband. They seem to be drifting apart. Or is it just settling into mid life together?

"I know roommate is a taboo word, but here's a thought: what if being roommates is the natural stage of the middle part of marriage? What if that's the way it supposed to be? The only way we can be while getting through the long, hard slog of raising kids and trying to save money for retirement and coming to terms with the fact that there is no such thing as retirement anymore and we'll be working until the day we die?"

When the opportunity to make $1000 participating in an online relationship survey appears in her inbox, Alice decides to participate. For anonymity's sake, she is labeled as Wife 22 and paired with Researcher 101.

Gideon utilizes many different methods to tell Alice's story. Google search results, Twitter and Facebook postings, emails and the answers to the survey - without the questions. (Now they are listed in the back of the book. I thought about flipping back and forth but found it more fun to discern from the answer what the question might have been.) As Alice continues the survey, the professional lines between herself and Researcher 101 become blurred and Alice has to make a choice about the direction she wants her life to go....

Ahh, where to start? I loved Alice Buckle - the way her mind worked, her actions, her insecurities, her failures, her successes and more. She just seemed to be such a 'real' person. Gideon's cast of supporting characters is no less captivating. They're all equally well drawn, but Peter, her twelve year old son, was a stand out for me.

Employing the online excerpts was a clever way to expand on Alice's story. Gideon is a very funny woman - I found myself laughing out loud many times. And stopping to think many times as well - Wife 22 explores married life with a keen eye.

Highly recommended - I predict this one showing up on lots of summer reading lists. Book clubs would enjoy it as well - a reading group guide is available. Get a head start - read an excerpt of Wife 22. You can find Melanie on Facebook and on Twitter.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Patti Callahan Henry

Patti Callahan Henry's new book Coming Up for Air has just released.

From the publisher St.Martin's Griffin:

"Ellie Calvin is caught in a dying marriage, and she knows this. With her beloved daughter away at college and a growing gap between her and her husband, she doesn’t quite seem to fit into her own life. But everything changes when her controlling mother, Lillian, passes away. Ellie sees her ex-boyfriend, Hutch, at the funeral, and learns that he is in charge of a documentary that involved Lillian before her death – and he wants answers to questions that Ellie’s not sure she can face.

As Ellie and Hutch start digging into Lillian’s history, and speaking for the first time in years, Ellie’s closed heart slowly begins to open. Using both a hidden diary that Ellie found in her mother’s things, and a trip to the Summer House, a mysterious and seductive bayside home, they gamble that they can work together and not fall in love again. But in piecing together a decades-old unrequited-love story, they just might uncover the secrets in their own hearts…"

But here's the neat thing........Author Patti Callahan Henry has a new book app -  WILDFLOWER WISHES based on the book. "It is the first book app ever to be created through the inspiration of one scene from a novel, rather than encompassing the entire novel itself or focusing on the author.

Inspired by a gorgeous garden scene, the Wildflower Wishes App is a greeting app created by  the design team at Chronicle LLC.  The free app comes with five wildflower icons that hold a special meaning (I'm sorry; I love you; Good luck.)  Additional wildflowers can be purchased for $0.99 – and all can be sent to email, other WW friends or Facebook along with a heartfelt personal message – with just the click of a finger.  It is a gentle and simple gesture that can be shared to celebrate graduation, birthdays, anniversaries and more. The paperback edition of Coming Up for Air will feature the QR code for the Wildflower Wishes App on the cover."

Infinite Love – Bellflower
I Am Grateful – Bluebells
Sending Encouragement -- Black Eyed Susan
Thinking of You – Zinnia
A Mother's Love – Impatiens
Pure Loyal Love -- Daisy
Bond of Love -- Honeysuckle
Purple Hyacinth -- I am sorry; Please forgive me
Don't forget me -- Forget me not (at right)
I will never forget you – Everlasting
Sending Protection -- White Heather and many more.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

In the Bag - Kate Klise

I know where you might find copies of Kate Klise's adult debut novel In the Bag this summer ..... in quite a few beach bags! It's absolutely perfect for summer reading  - sweet, charming, light and fun.

Chef and single mom Daisy is on her way to Paris to take a much needed vacation with her teenage daughter Coco. Single dad Andrew is on that same flight with his teenage son Webb on their way to Spain. When Andrew accidently spills a glass of wine on Daisy, he feels terrible....but also smitten. Daisy is well - the kind of woman he could fall for. So he decides to tuck a note into her carry on luggage with his email contact information. You never know, right?

It is only when each pair arrives at their hotels that the teenagers discover that they have picked up someone else's luggage. Three guesses here. Yes - Coco and Webb have each other's bags. When they discover contact info in the bags, they begin conversing by email. And the conincidences don't stop there.....

Klise has conjured up a simply delightful plot, full of miscommunications, misperceptions, missed cues and misunderstandings. She has chosen to tell the story from the viewpoint of each of the characters, which really worked. The characters were believable and rang true. I nodded my head and chuckled at much of the parent's thoughts and dialogue.  It brought back memories of my own two (now grown) teenagers. Klise also did a great job with Coco and Webb. Much of their communication is done through email and Kate wrote witty missives that seemed to capture the tentative beginnings of teenage relationships. Interestingly it is only when they meet in person that Coco and Webb have trouble communicating, mirroring today's dependence on electronic connections.

And no summer beach read is complete without a happy ending. Yes, you can see it coming but Klise makes the journey there so much fun. Chick lit fans will love it. And it would make a cute rom/com movie too!  Read an excerpt of In the Bag.

And it was only when I finished the book that I discovered the idea behind the book. Klise found a hand written note in her own carry on bag. I wonder if she ever followed up?

"Kate Klise spent fifteen years working as a correspondent for People magazine. When she wasn't reporting for the magazine, Kate was home on her Missouri farm, writing such bestselling children's books as Regarding the Fountain, Dying to Meet You, and Grounded."

See what others on the TLC tour thought -  the schedule can be found here.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Over the Counter #111

What book caught my eye this week as it passed over my library counter and under my scanner? Dear Photograph by Taylor Jones. I think this is such a neat idea.....

From the publisher Harper Collins Canada:

"We all have moments we wish we could relive. We’d give anything to skid down the toboggan hills of our youth, to breathe in the smell of our children as babies or to spend just one more minute with a loved one we’ve lost. Dear Photograph provides a way to link these memories from the past to the present.

The idea is simple: hold a photograph from the past up in front of the place where it was originally taken; take a second photograph; add a sentence of dedication about what the photograph means to you. The results, however, are astounding, which is why millions have flocked to the site, and thousands have submitted their own Dear Photographs.

This stunning visual compilation includes more than 140 never-before-seen Dear Photographs. By turns nostalgic, charming and poignant, Dear Photograph evokes childhood memories, laments difficult losses and, above all, celebrates the universal nature of love."

(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, May 22, 2012

Insurgent - Veronica Roth

In a continuing effort to indulge my secret passion for YA dystopian fiction, I happily picked up Insurgent - the second (and highly, highly anticipated) volume in Veronica Roth's trilogy.

I've had many patrons in the library looking for their next read after finishing the Hunger Games trilogy - and I have been heartily recommending the first book - Divergent.

Just to play catch up here's the premise of Divergent -  Chicago in some dystopian future. Society has divided itself into five factions: the honest, the selfless, the brave, the peaceful and the intelligent. On their birthday, sixteen year olds must pick the faction they will live with for the rest of their lives. It can be the one they were born into...or the one they feel they should belong to. One or the other, but not more than one. For most citizens, it's an easy choice. But for Beatrice, the choice is a difficult one - her test scores indicate she could easily belong to more than one faction - she is divergent and it's a dangerous thing to be.

We were left hanging at the end of Divergent, wondering what Tris and her faction would do now. Insurgent literally picks up from that last page. In fact, you really wouldn't want to read Insurgent without having read the first book - you would be lost as to who's who and what is going on.

That being said, I really had no idea where Roth was going to take her characters. She truly kept me guessing, entertaining me until the very last page. In the first book Roth did a fantastic job of world building - the future society she has envisioned was brought to life with lots of detail. (and was quite thought provoking actually) Many characters were introduced, but are explored further in Insurgent, now that the stage has been set. Tris herself must take the time to deal with her grief and try to understand her role in this uncertain world that is poised on the brink of great change.

And being a YA novel, of course there is the requisite love push/pull angst. Tris' relationship with Four (more commonly known as Tobias in this book) didn't capture me quite as much as it did in the first book. There's a few too many 'misreads' of actions and words. (But I have to remind myself - they are teens)

I mostly choose to listen to my YA fiction. Emma Galvin is the reader for this series and I don't think they could have chosen anyone better. Her voice is slightly gravelly and rough - exactly like I thought Tris would sound. She captures the action and emotions of the characters really well - her voice is quite expressive. In fact, Galvin won awards for her Divergent performance. See for yourself - listen to an excerpt of Insurgent.

Chaos, danger, friendship, betrayal, choices, loss, romance - Insurgent has it all. For great escapist, entertainment reading, the Divergent books are perfect. Be warned - there is a fair amount of violence. The last page of Insurgent ends in the same dramatic fashion as Divergent - with a cliffhanger. Unfortunately, book three is not due until Fall 2013...far too far away.....

You can find Veronica Roth on Twitter and on Facebook.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Happy Victoria Day

Or as we Canadians say - May 24!

What are we celebrating? Well officially it's to celebrate
Queen Victoria's birthday . She was born on May 24, 1819. Following the death of three uncles and her father, she became Queen of the United Kingdom on June 20, 1837 and reigned until her death on January 22, 1901. Victoria is still the longest-reigning monarch of the United Kingdom.

The monarch's birthday has been celebrated in Canada since before the beginning of Queen Victoria's reign. After her death, in 1901, May 25 became known as Empire Day. In 1952, Empire Day was moved to the Monday before May 25 and since 1953, the official birthday of Queen Elizabeth II has been celebrated on this date in Canada. In 1958, Empire Day became known as Commonwealth Day, which was moved to the second Monday in March. The Monday before May 25 then became known as Victoria Day, which is a Canadian statutory holiday.

Victoria Day serves as the unofficial marker of the end of the winter season, and the beginning of the summer. Victoria Day is also a mark of the beginning of the cottage season. Gardeners in Canada use  the May 24 weekend as a safe time to fully plant gardens with no chance of frost.The holiday is also known as May 24, referencing both the date and the slang term for a case of beer in Canada. (24 bottles). Fireworks are lit off at night as well - kids often refer to it as Firecracker Day.

And this blogger is off to plant her veggies....and maybe quaff a beer or two. Hope you're all having a great weekend as well.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Winner - Afterwards - Rosamund Lupton

And the lucky winner of a copy of Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton, courtesy of Crown Books is:


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

Friday, May 18, 2012

Giveaway - Dog Days - Elsa Watson

It's time to think about stocking your beach bag for the summer. And I can help you with that! I have a copy of Dog Days by Elsa Watson up for grabs.

What's it about? From the publisher Tor Books:

"Struggling café owner Jessica Sheldon volunteered to be the chairperson of Woofinstock, Madrona’s annual dog festival, to overcome her reputation as “number one dog hater” in her dog crazy town. Determined to prove her dog-loving credentials, Jessica rescues Zoe, a stray white German shepherd—and in the process the two are struck by lightening.

Jessica wakes to discover paws where her feet should be, and watches in horror as her body staggers around the town square…Zoe and Jessica have switched bodies. Learning to live as a dog is difficult enough, but Jessica’s real worry is saving her café from financial ruin. To complicate matters, she’s falling hard for Max, the town veterinarian.

It’s clear that Zoe is thrilled to live life on “human terms,” but she’s also anxious to use her new skills to find her missing family—who may not want her back. And Jessica needs to confront a complicated figure from her past before she can move on with her new life. Jessica and Zoe will need to learn from each other to set things right, and possibly find love and acceptance in the bargain."

Check out the book trailer here!

From 1996 to 1998, Elsa Watson served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa, where she began writing novels, all in longhand. She now lives in Washington State with her husband, cat, and two dogs. Her short work has appeared in the Writers Journal, Snowy Egret, and Renaissance Magazine. Elsa is proud to live by the motto: any day on which you pet a dog is a good day. You can find Elsa on Facebook and on Twitter.

I agree! If you'd like to be entered, simply leave a comment. Open to US and Canada, ends Sat. June 9th.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Over the Counter #110

What caught my eye this week as it passed over my library counter and under the scanner? Support the Girls - Bra Art for Breast Health compiled by the West Parry Sound Health Centre Foundation.

From the publisher Second Story Press:

"Can a book about breast health be both beautiful and funny? This one is.

When the women from a community in Central Ontario needed to raise funds to buy a mammogram machine for the local hospital, it wasn’t laughter that led them to the “Art Bra” project. More likely, it was the fear of breast cancer and the need for early detection that motivated them. But the result is full of fun and whimsy, as people from across the country responded to their call to craft an “art bra”, sending in their creations along with the stories behind them.

You will smile at the bras that have been turned into works of art, with names like “Got Milk”, “Lucky Charms”, “Go, Girls, Go”, and “Cradles of Civilizations”. The book showcases over fifty bras, with accompanying personal stories that celebrate the curative power of laughter. Even hockey greats Bobby Orr and Sidney Crosby have gotten into the act by signing “sports bras”.

The bras come from a community of breast cancer sufferers and survivors, health care workers, friends, and family. These bra “artists” will inspire you and bring you to tears – both of laughter and sadness. Gathered together, their creations bring a sense of lightness and hope to an all-too serious problem.

A portion of the proceeds from every sale will benefit community health care."

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

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Objects of My Affection - Jill Smolinski

Objects of My Affections is author Jill Smolinski's third novel.

I always enjoy looking at covers first, imagining what the story inside will be. Moving on and lots of baggage? And I wasn't far off.......

Lucy Bloom (loved the name) has seriously downsized - in fact she's sold just about everything she owned, including her house.  Why? Well, her son Ash is an addict and she finally got him to go to a rehab, but needed the money to finance it.

Lucy had mild success with her initial book Things Are Not People - an organizational and de-cluttering guide. That book has gotten her an interview with Will Meier. He's the son of reclusive (and difficult) artist Marva Meier Rios and there is a deadline for clearing out the clutter in the house. Lucy lands the job, but what she finds is more than simple clutter - Marva's home could be featured on one of those television shows about hoarding. There's a deadline to meet and Marva isn't going to make it easy - she needs to look at each and every item before a decision is made.

The cover of Objects of My Affection immediately brings chick lit to mind. And yes it is, but the story is much more than that. There needs to a be another genre heading - Chick Lit with Heart, Chick Lit with More? Something along those lines. For while Smolinski's book is light and breezy and does include the requisite hunky guy and missed meanings and connections, there's more to the story.

Jill handles some serious situations and topics with thoughtfulness and candor. Hoarding of course, which usually involves an underlying catalyst not dealt with. And the opposite - Lucy herself is able to let things go with no problem.  I thought that Ash's drug use and Lucy's struggle to deal with it was done very well - it read as quite real. Relationships of all sorts are explored with an emphasis on mothers and sons.

I really enjoyed Lucy's ex boyfriend Daniel. His sense of humour, his caring, giving nature and his honesty made him one of my favourite characters. Nelson, the care nurse was also quite funny. And for reasons I'm not quite sure of,  I actually found myself enjoying Marva over Lucy. Marva's crotchety ways actually endeared her to me!  But, that's not to say I wasn't cheering for Lucy to succeed.

As one of her characters says " it's clear that everything here at one time was worth something to you but that doesn't mean it has to be forever. They're holding you back from the life you could have. Let it go."

Smolinski has crafted a warm, funny, sweet read that touches on the question what do we keep in our lives and what do we need to let go? Food for thought....

Recommended summer reading - tuck this one in your beach bag for 2012. Get a head start - read an excerpt of Objects of My Affection. Fans of Jennifer Weiner would enjoy this book.

You can find Jill Smolinski on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. She's also started a Bucket List Blog, where "I chronicle my experiment in which I do ONE thing, however small, EVERY DAY that I've never done before, that challenges me, or that just sounds fun. I hope to make it a full year." Or invite her to your book club!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Stolen Prey - John Sandford

John Sandford is back with the latest installment (#22) - Stolen Prey - in his wildly successful and hugely popular series featuring Lucas Davenport, an agent for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

"Lucas's job at the BCA was mostly self-invented, and included politically sensitive cases, or cases that might attract a lot of media attention." When a pair of tweekers rob him at an ATM, breaking his wrist and damaging his ego, he embarks on a long term mission to find them. This is put on the back burner when the superintendent of the BCA calls - a case that is definitely going to be in the spotlight needs Davenport's skills. An entire family has been found murdered - slaughtered really, tortured in unimaginable ways. Lucas's investigation leads places no one saw coming - this isn't just a spree killer. It looks like a Mexican gang hit. What could this software engineer have done to bring this wrath on his family? Soon enough the DEA and a pair of Mexican Federales are also on the case. But everyone seems to have their own priorities concerning the case.....

I've always enjoyed Lucas and his irreverent flaunting of the rules. He's getting older and little mellower, but still has no problem side stepping protocol to get things done. I love the barbed banter between himself and team members Del Capslock, Jensen and Shrake, but no Davenport book is complete without Virgil Flowers. Those tweekers robbing ATM's? Flowers has been put to work on the case - which seems to be leading to manure?

"Somewhere along the line, it occurred to him that he hadn't spoken to Virgil Flowers. He'd probably taken the day off, and knowing Flowers, he'd done it in a boat. The thing about Flowers was, in Lucas's humble opinion, you could send him out for a loaf of bread and he'd find an illegal bread cartel smuggling in heroin-saturated wheat from Afghanistan. Either that, or he'd be fishing in a muskie tournament, on government time. You had to keep an eye on him."

I have expressed doubts about Davenport's adopted daughter Letty in past books, but my opinion has changed. She's definitely growing on me and I think we'll see more of her in future books.

As always, Sandford has concocted a whip smart, action filled plot with lots of threads to keep your finger on. He employs a great twist that caught me unawares part way through.

I have enjoyed this series from book one and nothing has changed - I still eagerly await every new entry from one of my favourite authors - and curse myself when I finish it in a day! Read an excerpt of Stolen Prey.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Step-By-Step Home Design & Decorating - Dorling Kindersley

My house is a work in progress - and has been for many years! It's always fun to plan the next project. (Which was my laundry room when I picked up Step-By-Step Home Decorating by Clare Steel from Dorling Kindersley)

The book is divided into chapters based on...rooms of course! Each room starts out with a wonderfully logical 'What to do When Renovating Your....' section that details the steps you should take. A 'mood board' is suggested for each room - collect paint chips, fabric swatches, pictures from magazines - things that suggest the look you're going for. Then plan your layout, choose your materials and furniture.

Throughout each chapter are examples of just about everything you may be considering - flooring, wall coverings, tiles, lighting, appliances, window treatments, furniture and more. Many step by step colour photos of projects you can undertake yourself such as roman blinds, stencilling and others.

There is a myriad of ideas presented with lots of food for thought. Where the book fell down for me was in the use of line drawings with one colour. For example in the entry '7 Ways with Planters', I feel actual pictures would have been much more effective in presenting options, rather than a picture of doors with pictures of pots in varying positions. Or how about line drawings of curtains that are full length vs. sill length vs. dress curtains presented in two tones - blue and black. It just seemed a bit cheesy and almost juvenile. This same presentation method was utilized in many many sections. This was a disappointment as I have come to expect so much from a DK book. Although there are some colour photos used, there were not enough in my opinion. It dropped what could have been a really good book down to a mediocre one.

There was good, solid information included, but I am a visual learner and much of the book came across as bland to me. Just okay for this reader.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Over the Counter #109

What book caught my eye this week as it passed over my library counter and under the scanner? The Cast Iron Cookbook by the Lodge Company. I was really hungry at the time and that apple pie on the cover looked so good! And truthfully, I had never thought about making a pie in my cast iron frying pan!

From the publisher Oxmoor House:

"Cast iron cooking has always been a kitchen favorite with its even heating, great heat retention and its flexibility to go outdoors and grill or cook over an open fire.

And now with The Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook, every cook will learn the simple, savory secrets of cast iron cookery. From the kitchens of Lodge, America’s leading manufacturer of cast iron cookware, this unique cookbook offers over 200 mouth-watering recipes. The delectable dishes range from breakfast specials to the secrets of great fried food.

Inside the book you will find:
Over 200 delicious, classic recipes all made in cast-iron

  • Over 200 big, beautiful four-color photos
  • Cast Iron Memories—historical and allegorical sidebars highlighting cast-iron recipe memories from cooks around the country
  • Crazy for Cast Iron—covers all things cast-iron from the history of Lodge Manufacturing to types of pots and pans, care of cast-iron, basics of outdoor cookery, what NOT to cook in cast-iron, and how to renew neglected hand-me-down pan
  • Stand-alone sidebars such as How to Make a Roux and Basics of Campfire Cooking
(Over the Counter is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World. I've sadly come the realization that I cannot physically read every book that catches my interest as it crosses over my counter at the library. But... I can mention them and maybe one of them will catch your eye as well. See if your local library has them on their shelves!)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Vanished - Liza Marklund

I read my first Liza Marklund book last year (review of The Bomber) and quite enjoyed it.

Reporter Annika Bengtson returns in Vanished. I hadn't read the books in between and found Annika in a different state of mind and place. She's at the newspaper, but is a copy editor, not out in the field. She lives in a stark apartment in a condemned building, simply existing, trying to deal with numerous tragedies in her personal life. But while editing a story on a recent double murder on the waterfront one night, a random call is routed to her desk and she finds herself immediately intrigued. Rebecka claims to be able to erase a person's past and set them up with a new identity and life. Annika's boss gives her the go ahead to pursue the story - he's happy to see her excited about something again. But The Paradise Foundation may not be everything Rebeckah claims.  And when she discovers that the waterfront murders and the Foundation may have a connection, Annika is drawn in....

This was a very different Annika for me. At times I saw the strong, fearless reporter, at other times she was a puddle on the floor. I understood her grief, but the neediness shown at a certain juncture is well - obsessive. I had a hard time accepting that she could swing so far from one side to the other in such a short time.

I found the idea of The Paradise Foundation fascinating. Office politics and ethics, Eastern Bloc Mafia, marriage, happiness and the Swedish social assistance program are also stirred into the plot of Vanished. There was a bit of proselytizing near the end that I did find myself skipping over. It was only as I read the end notes, that I discovered Marklund's basis for this book. While working as a night reporter on a Swedish newspaper, Marklund really did receive a call about a foundation exactly as described and ended up investigating it. I wonder how much of Liza Marklund is part of Annika?

The pacing is a bit slower, with lots of personal story this time. Marklund ends the book with a good twist - identifying the author of small diatribes scattered throughout the book - one I did not see coming. All in all a good read. I'm intrigued by this character and will definitely read another in this series. Read an excerpt of Vanished.  You can find Marklund on Facebook

Monday, May 7, 2012

Robert B. Parker's Lullaby - A Spenser Novel - Ace Atkins

Robert B. Parker passed away just over two years ago. With the blessings of his estate, Parker's iconic characters - Jesse Stone and Spenser will continue to live on the written page. Author Ace Atkins was chosen to continue the tale of Boston P.I. Spenser.

It's always a gamble for a publisher to have someone new take on the voice of a character so many have read and loved. I really enjoyed Ace Atkins' first book The Ranger last year (review here) and am eagerly awaiting the second. Atkins himself credits Parker with his direction in life.

"I got into writing crime fiction because of Bob Parker," Atkins says. "For my 21st birthday, my mom waited in line for an hour at a bookstore in Atlanta to get a signed copy of (Parker's) Double Deuce. It was the greatest birthday present ever, and it shaped what I ended up doing for a living. I wanted to grow up to be Robert Parker."

So I had a feeling that things might turn out okay...and I was right.

Fourteen year old Mattie Parker stops by Spenser's office, looking to hire him. Her mom was killed four years ago. Although there's a man doing time for her murder, Mattie says he didn't do it. She know who really did - she saw them. Something about the girl - mostly her attitude -  radiates with Spenser, so look into her case. And he finds she might be right......

The trademark short snappy dialogue is there from page one and never lets up. Spenser's wry outlook, his witty wise cracking repartee with Hawk and his smooth as silk interactions with Susan all ring true. Spenser's love of food, drink, good music and literature are all lovingly continued and described.

Favourite characters make a return  - Hawk is just as big and bad as ever, but Atkins gives him a soft spot that was unexpected. We really know nothing of Hawk's past. Mattie's plight leads him to reveal something Spenser wasn't even aware of after twenty odd years. Susan is just as stunning, sexy and wise as always. And Pearl the Wonder Dog hasn't changed a bit. Many characters from previous books are mentioned or appear in Lullaby.

So the characters, settings, actions and dialogue are all ringing true. But what about the plot? Well, it was just as good. Mattie was a tough, but vulnerable character in a tough situation. I wonder if she'll be brought back in future books, in the same way that Paul Giacomin was? Short chapters, lots of action and Spenser's unerring sense of justice made this a quick read that ended before I knew it.

Spenser lives on - the tough guy with a soft heart. Atkins has chosen to not tinker with the characters too much. Definitely the right decision. No, it's not Robert Parker, but it's really damn close. Kudos to Atkins - he's done a fantastic job. Fans of Spenser will want to pick this one up - and the next one. I will be.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Over the Counter #108

Slowly but surely we are heading towards summer. Summer for me brings fond memories spent in the cottage my grandfather built. Sadly, it is no longer in our family, but I always dream of having one of my own one day. So Vintage Cottages by Molly Hyde English with photographs by Tom Lamb caught my eyes this week as it passed over my library counter and under the scanner. It's the kind of picture book I enjoy leafing through. Anyone lucky enough to have a summer place?

From the publisher Gibbs Smith:

"The simple, unique and interestingly appointed cottage is a place for escape, filled with art, books, color scents, sounds, textures, and memories. Vintage Cottages features unique and personalized décor ideas focused on style, color, and regional taste and liveliness that honors tradition while looking forward to a lifestyle that is uncluttered, unhurried, and reflective of rugged, unapologetic individuality. "

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

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Mother's Day giveaway from Simon and Schuster Canada!

Here's a great sweepstakes from the wonderful folks at Simon and Schuster Canada! Win one of five 'pick your own' prize packs for Mom ( or maybe yourself!)  Runs from May 1- May 13, 2012.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Stray Bullets - Robert Rotenberg

 Stray Bullets is Toronto lawyer Robert Rotenberg's third novel and it releases today. I have to say - Rotenberg keeps getting better and better. This is my favourite so far.

Cedric Wilkinson and his four year old son Kyle stop by a Toronto Tim Hortons for a quick donut one November evening. It's the first time Kyle has seen snow. And sadly it's his last - Kyle is struck by a bullet meant for someone else. Only one witness knows exactly what went down and he runs - he's in the country illegally.

Recurring characters Homicide Detective Ari Greene, Officer Daniel Kennicott and lawyer Nancy Parish return. It doesn't take long for those involved to be arrested, but who really did the killing? While head Crown Attorney and local philanthropist Ralph Armitage makes a quick deal to close the case, Greene isn't convinced it's the right play. He continues to investigate, despite Armitage's assurances that they've got the killer cold. Parish doesn't think so either - for once, she believes her long time client Larkin St. Clair when he says he's innocent. The wild card? The missing witness....

Rotenberg uses his own knowledge of the Canadian legal system to great advantage. The details, settings, dialogue and situations all ring true. The plotting was excellent, nicely leading the actual whodunit to a grand finale in the final chapters. Sadly the premise of this case is not too far from recent newspaper headlines. It's so enjoyable to read a book set in Canada, even more so when I'm familiar with Toronto and the locations Rotenberg describes. (One small peeve - Uncle Tom's Cabin is in Dresden, not Chatham)

I quite enjoy the characters and the window into their personal lives outside of the cases. Greene is a likable protagonist and I'm quite taken with Nancy Parish . I liked the addition of Sikh Constable Darvesh and hope he makes it to future books. The stage has been set for book number four and this reader will have it on my must read list. (And I want to know what's in Green's father's envelope!)

Those looking for an excellent legal thriller series will find it here. Start now - read an excerpt of Stray Bullets.  Watch the book trailer here. You can find Robert Rotenberg on Facebook and on Twitter.

And if you're in the GTA, stop by Indigo at the Eaton Centre on Tuesday May 8/12 from 1230 - 2 pm. 12:30pm-2:00pm to here Robert read and have him sign your copy! Free, open to the public. Details here.