Thursday, September 27, 2012

Over the Counter #129

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? I think I was hungry for something sweet at the time....

First up was The Sugar Cube by Kir Jensen with Danielle Centoni. Photographs by Lisa Warniger.

From the publisher Chronicle Books:

"This covetable cookbook is a greatest-hits collection from Sugar Cube, a tiny pink food cart in Portland, Oregon, that is thronged daily by hungry hordes craving voluptuous sweets intensified with a spike of booze, a lick of sea salt, or a “whoop” of whipped cream. Sugar Cube founder and baker Kir Jensen left the fine-dining pastry track to sell her handmade treats on the street. Recipes for 50 of Kir’s most enticing cupcakes, cookies, tarts, muffins, sips, and candies are made more irresistible (if possible!) by 32 delicious color photographs. Sassy headnotes and illustrations that resemble vintage tattoos liven up this singular boutique baking book."

Next up was Sugarlicious by Meaghan Mountford. ( I love that little gnome.)

From the publisher Harlequin Books:

"With a dab of bright icing and a sprinkle of color, you can transform drab sugar cookies into glowing planets, plain marshmallows into scary zombies and simple cake pops into blooming flowers. Meaghan Mountford, creator of the blog The Decorated Cookie and the Edible Crafts editor of, shares her secrets for producing adorable, edible art.

Full of beautiful color photos and illustrated step-by-step directions, this guide will demystify professional techniques so that anyone can learn how to pipe icing like a pro and have fun with fondant. With the lively inspiration and foolproof directions in this book, you can discover how to personalize any sweet treat and turn your home kitchen into a studio for sugarlicious works of art!"

(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, September 26, 2012

Immortal City - Scott Speer

It's resident teen blogger Ella's turn today! Here's her thoughts on her latest read - Immortal City by Scott Speer.

"The premise behind this one was actually really cool. Angel books have been the fad lately, but this one was different: Guardian angels have given up saving people for the heck of it and are now for-hire to the highest bidders. Because of this, they're all insanely rich, and have taken the place of A-list celebrities in the real world. The Immortal City is LA, and the male lead in the book, Jackson Godspeed, has an obsessed fanbase to rival Justin Bieber, making him the polar opposite of Madison Montgomery, the 100% average girl he meets by chance who has no interest in angels. Please don't get turned off by the irritating cliche in the description; while there are a few in the book, the unique worldbuilding makes up for it, I felt. Not a heavy read, but a satisfying one."

As always Ella - thanks for sharing! See you at work!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Love Anthony - Lisa Genova

I've been regularly putting out Lisa Genova's last book, Left Neglected, as one of my staff picks. (my review) It's usually signed out by someone the very same day. And when I check it in, I put it right back out. I've been waiting for another book from Genova. (and so have lots of my patrons!)

Well the wait is over. Love Anthony releases today - and boy oh boy,  was the wait worth it! Another absolutely fantastic read from this New York Times best selling author.

Genova sets her latest book in Nantucket. It's the story of two women, whose lives connect in a way they couldn't imagine.

Olivia has retreated to the island - she and her husband have separated after the death of their son autistic son Anthony. Olivia is struggling with her grief and is still trying to understand and give meaning to her son's short life.

"She scoured every self-help book, then every medical journal, every memoir, every blog, every online parent support network. She read Jenny McCarthy and the Bible. She read and hoped and prayed and believed in anything claiming help, rescue, reversal, salvation. Somebody somewhere must know something. Somebody must have the key that would unlock her son."

Another island resident, Beth, is also struggling. Her husband of fifteen years and father to her three daughters has been having an affair for the last year. They too have separated. With her life turned upside down, Beth is also looking for answers.

"But who is she? She's Jimmy's wife, and she's a mother. And if she gets divorced, if she's no longer Mrs. James Ellis, and she's only a mother, then is there less of her? She fears this and feels it already, physically, as if a surgeon has taken a scalpel to her abdomen and removed a whole and necessary part of her. Without Jimmy, she doesn't recognize herself. How can that be? Whom has she become?"

And what connects the two? Anthony. In a very unusual way.

Genova has an amazing way with words. Her portrayal of Beth and Olivia was so realistic, I could imagine myself curled on their couches, listening to them try to work through things. Olivia's journals were especially poignant. Genova's exploration of marriage, motherhood, love and loss is so authentic. The island setting sprang to life with her details. The description of Anthony's stones was palpable and I will never look at a smooth white stone at the beach quite the same.

Anthony's 'voice' was truly wonderful. Genova's exploration and imagining of a non verbal autistic child's thoughts was by turns heartbreaking and heartwarming. As Genova holds a PhD in neuroscience, I like to think that she's not too far from the truth. I think readers will view autism with new eyes and understanding after reading this book.

Some of the coincidences might seem a bit too serendipitous for some readers, but didn't detract from the story for me. For, it is a story - but on the other hand, who says such things couldn't happen?

Genova caught me from the opening chapters and held me rapt until I turned the last page. The final chapters had me reaching for the tissue box. And really, past that, as I thought about Love Anthony long after I finished.

This is one that will be on my staff picks for a quite a while. (until I replace it with the fourth book Genova is working on.) Read an excerpt of Love Anthony. Book clubs - this is a must - a reading group guide is available.

You can find Lisa Genova on Facebook and on Twitter.

****Canadian Peeps - Lisa Genova has three Canadian events!****
Meet Lisa Genova in TorontoFriday, October 5, 2012
Indigo Manulife Centre
55 Bloor Street West
Meet Lisa Genova in OttawaSaturday, October 6, 2012
Costco Kanata
770 Silver Seven Rd
Meet Lisa Genova in VancouverSaturday, October 13
Chapters Robson
788 Robson Street

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Three Day Affair - Michael Kardos

The Three Day Affair is the debut novel of author Michael Kardos. It's also the first novel bearing the imprint of the newly re-launched Mysterious Press.

We meet Will - the narrator of the tale in the first chapter. And the hook is set deep with the last paragraph of that first chapter...

"Three years had passed since our move to Newfield, and we felt ready for this child in our lives, By then, violent crime was about the furthest thing from my mind, until the night when I helped one of my best friends kidnap a young woman."

Four college friends  reconnect every year for a weekend to play some golf and catch up. This year they're meeting in Will's town. They stop at a convenience store for Jeffrey to run in and grab a few things. Well, he does grab something - but it's the teenage clerk. When he thrusts her into the car and yells 'Drive' - Will does. He believes the girl has been hurt and is heading for the hospital. But she's not - Jeffrey has just....taken her. And now they're all involved.

And as they argue over what to do, the clock keeps ticking.....until it's too late to just open the door and tell her to get out.

Over the next three days, we are privy to long held resentments, simmering tensions, outright violence and desperation as they frantically try to figure out a way to extricate themselves from an unbelievable situation.

Kardos paints intimate pictures of the players, flashing back and forth in alternate chapters from their college days to the present. We get to know them well - or do we really? Do they really know each other as well as they think?

The pacing is quite quick in The Three Day Affair. It isn't a long book - it had the feel of an extended short story for me. But in a good way. I was just waiting for a twist - I knew there had to be one. And, yes there was - and it was a good one - or two!

A very clever debut. I'd pick up another by this author. Read an excerpt of The Three Day Affair.
You can find Michael Kardos on Twitter.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Over the Counter #128

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Flea market finds and decorating. I love digging through antique malls and stalls to find quirky little pieces.

First up was Flea Market Chic by Liz Bauwens and Alexandra Campbell. Photography by Simon Brown.

From the publisher Cico Books:

"Flea market chic is the smart way to decorate now, adding texture, colour and depth to contemporary interiors. In modern rooms, a distressed chair or a vintage mirror adds a perfect finishing touch. And in traditional decorating schemes, flea market chic is a key part of the mix: faded textiles, weathered furniture, mis-matched china and the occasional flamboyant lamp or work of art are all part of the charm. Of course, Flea market chic is about saving you money, along with recycling, upcycling and repurposing. Every piece in these interiors has a story: the colourful jug you found at a car boot fair, the vintage telephone you reclaimed when a favourite aunt finally bought a modern handset, the little chair you found in a village junk shop or the old dustbins that have been converted into fashionable zinc planters. Liz Bauwens and Alexandra Campbell show you how to spot the clever find in a pile of junk, where to look and how to negotiate, how to smarten up (and when not to smarten up) second-hand items, and how to re-discover and re-use things you or your family already have."

Next up was New Cottage Style from Better Homes and Gardens.

From the publisher Wiley:

"Cottage" is a perennially popular decorating style, with the flexibility to adapt to changing tastes over the decades. It's associated with comfort, simplicity, and family-friendliness, and allows for a great deal of personalization. This all-new edition of New Cottage Style is packed with decorating ideas and inspiration to achieve a cottage look that's clean, simple, and light—all from the experts at Better Homes and Gardens. Completely updated, New Cottage Style shows you what cottage style means today, with new interpretations that keep it fresh, different, and current. You'll discover the secrets to creating harmony and simplicity with paint, furniture, fabrics, and accessories. Examples of homes in a variety of settings—the country, the beach, the city, and suburbia—will inspire you to bring cottage style to your own home, wherever you happen to live.

  • Shows you how cottage-style décor can be beautiful in any room
  • Gorgeous full-color photos depict a wide variety of cottage-style homes
  • Expert advice helps you interpret what makes a cottage-style space work and gives you ideas for implementing it in your home
Who doesn't want to achieve a casual, easy lifestyle? New Cottage Style gives you practical ideas and decorating techniques to create a comfortable getaway look in any living space.

(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!)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Giveaway - Seconds Away & Shelter- Harlan Coben

Many of my favourite authors have started writing YA series. Harlan Coben is one of them. He first introduced us to Myron Bolitar's nephew Mickey Bolitar in Live Wire. Mickey's first book on his own series was Shelter. (I quite enjoyed it) And the next book Seconds Away is newly released.

From the publisher Penguin Books:

"When tragedy strikes close to home, Mickey Bolitar and his loyal new friends—sharp-witted Ema and the adorkably charming Spoon—find themselves at the center of a terrifying mystery involving the shooting of their friend Rachel. Now, not only does Mickey have to continue his quest to uncover the truth about the Abeona Shelter, the Butcher of Lodz and the mysterious death of his father, he needs to figure out who shot Rachel—no matter what it takes.

Mickey has always been ready to sacrifice everything to help the people he loves. But with danger just seconds away, how can he protect them when he’s not even sure who—or what—he’s protecting them from?"
Read an excerpt of Seconds Away. You can find the Mickey Bolitar series on Facebook as well.

And thanks to the great folks at Penguin, two lucky winners will each win a copy of Shelter AND Seconds Away! US only, no PO boxes please. Ends Oct 13. To be entered simply let me know if you read YA fiction - it's that easy! 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Deception of Livvy Higgs - Donna Morrissey

I knew The Deception of Livvy Higgs was going to break my heart from the opening chapter. Canadian author Donna Morrissey has done it to me before - her prize winning first novel Kit's Law, is a favourite of mine.

Livvy Higgs is an eighty year old woman living alone in Halifax. Livvy is growing tired, she seems to be losing track of time and can't keep up with her day to day chores. As a winter storm batters the city, Livvy lies down just to rest a bit. But Livvy is more than just tired - in fact she is having a series of mini heart attacks. And as she drifts in and out of consciousness, she dreams....

"If there's one good thing age has taken from me, it's the burden of memories. In the past eighty years they've burned themselves out, leaving little more than a spattering of images that dim and glow like embers in the receding path of the fire they once were."

But, the memories are returning as she weakens. She dreams of the past and her life and what led her to the house she lives in. We are transported back to 1930's Newfoundland where young Livvy lives with her mother Cecile and shopkeeper father Durwin in the French outport of Sables d'Or.  There are unspoken undercurrents between her parents and hints of a deal between her father and her maternal Grandmother Creed - despite the fact that they despise each other. Solace for Livvy and her mother is found in the raucous household of Missus Louis. The house is overrun with children, noise, food, chores, animals....and love.

Livvy's present day neighbour Gen, a single mom to young Ronny, checks on Livvy as she tries to venture out, but doesn't realize that she is ill. Gen has her own set of problems.

The story is told from past to present with Livvy uncovering and remembering more and more of her life.  Livvy has been subjected to secrets, lies and manipulation since she was a small child.

"I sit digging at my palms, digging out nuggets of stories Mother seamed into my bones, I chink them into being, like a miner, and they fall onto my lap like ill-fitting pieces that fossilized before truth set them right. I search amongst them for the girl cloaking herself against a too horrible truth and who curls now inside the silence of an old woman's heart, her feelings too deep to be told."

Morrissey's prose just grab me and squeeze. They are raw and powerful, painting vivid pictures and evoke such strong emotions. Livvy's bewilderment, heartache, anger and reclamation of her life made my heart ache.

Livvy was the character who touched me the most - I think she reminded me a bit of my own gran,  but all of the players were just as well drawn. I wanted to stay and visit with the boisterous Louis family, shout at her father, console her mother and dance with Henri.

Morrissey weaves much historical detail into her tale. The history of the shipping trade in Newfoundland and the importance of the Halifax Harbour during the war provided a rich backdrop to Livvy's story. Having visited Halifax last summer, I was able to vividly picture what Morrissey was describing. It really brought the book to life for me.

The Deception of Livvy Higgs stayed with me long after I turned the last page. This is one I'll definitely be recommending. Read an excerpt of The Deception of Livvy Higgs.

Donna Morrissey is the award-winning author of Kit’s Law, Downhill Chance, What They Wanted, and Sylvanus Now, which was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. She recently wrote a children’s book, Cross Katie Kross, illustrated by her daughter, Bridget. Morrissey grew up in The Beaches, a small fishing outport in Newfoundland, and now lives in Halifax.

You can find Donna Morrissey on Facebook.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Cutting Season - Attica Locke

I have a mental list of authors that I faithfully follow and I pick up everything they write. I know what I like and I have a good idea of what I'll be reading. But on the other side of that coin - picking up a book by an unfamiliar author is an adventure.

The Cutting Season is Attica Locke's second book. I missed her debut novel - Black Water Rising - it won numerous prize nominations and lots of praise. But, after reading The Cutting Season, I can see why. Attica Locke is good -really good.

Caren Gray and her young daughter have returned home to Belle Vie - the Louisiana plantation Caren was raised on. Her family history with Belle Vie stretches back to the days when her ancestors were slaves in the sugar cane fields. Now the plantation is a tourist attraction and Caren is the manager. It's not the path she wanted to pursue in life and she has mixed feelings about returning to the plantation.

When an migrant worker is found murdered on the grounds, old and new wounds are opened - long buried history and new controversy. And Caren puts herself in the middle....

Locke drew me in immediately. I was of course caught up in the present day whodunit. There are lots of suspects and the path to the answer is winding. But, at the same time, Caren is caught up in the disappearance of her ancestor Jason, one hundred years ago.  Locke skillfully weaves the unravelling of both narratives together.

The mysteries are intriguing, but I enjoyed Locke's exploration of race, politics, business, history and yes, love, just as much. The juxtaposition of abolished slavery and the plight of migrant workers today provides much food for thought.

The character of Caren came across as 'real'. Her own uncertainties, her relationship with her daughter, her ex and her coworkers all rang true. All of the supporting characters were just as well drawn. Having worked as a historical interpreter I enjoyed the descriptions of the cast and their dialogue.

Locke's prose are wonderfully rich and atmospheric and brought her settings to life.

"That beneath its loamy topsoil, the manicured grounds and gardens, two centuries of breathtaking wealth and spectacle—a stark beauty both irrepressible and utterly incapable of even the smallest nod of contrition—lay a land both black and bitter, soft to the touch, and pressing in its power. She should have known that one day it would spit out what it no longer had use for, the secrets it would no longer keep.”

An invitation to a wedding held on an old plantation in Louisiana provided the spark for The Cutting Season. Read the article in the UK newspaper The Independent.

For this reader, a winner on all fronts. (And I'll be hunting down that first book!) Locke has been added to my 'list'. Read an excerpt of The Cutting Season.

Dennis Lehane has picked The Cutting Season as the first book for his new imprint for Harper Collins.

"I was first struck by Attica Locke's prose, then by the ingenuity of her narrative and finally and most deeply by the depth of her humanity. She writes with equal amounts grace and passion. After just two novels, I'd probably read the phone book if her name was on the spine."

You can find Attica Locke on Facebook and on Twitter.

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

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Dog Stars - Peter Heller

Peter Heller is an acclaimed adventure writer, but The Dog Stars is his debut fiction effort.

Hig is one of the few who survived the flu that devastated the earth. He also escaped the blood sickness that followed. Not many did - Hig's wife and unborn child perished. His dog Jasper survived.

And now, Hig, a pilot, lives in an airport hangar with Jasper and a weapons obsessed loner named Bangley. Hig flies the perimeter of their staked claim every day, ready to defend against all intruders. But, what if it isn't enough to just be safe. Isn't there more to being alive? Once, about seven years into this new world, Hig heard another voice on the airplane radio - just briefly. And that staticky voice stays with him - until he decides to leave and fly until the point of no return.....however far the gas tank on the plane will take him.

I love post apocalyptic fiction and Heller has done a fantastic job with his imagined outcome. Heller's novel explores what it takes to stay alive and what physical lengths his characters will go to. But, it is much more than that. Heller also explores the emotions of the few characters that populate his novels - grief, sadness, loneliness, hope, joy and what it means to be human.

I chose to listen to The Dog Stars. The reader was Mark Deakins. I've listened to him before and he was somewhat 'overdone' in his interpretation. This time he was a perfect choice. His voice reflected all the emotions of the writing. Heller chose a first person narrative style that absolutely worked for the audio version.  I think some of the short, fragmented sentences would have annoyed me on paper.  But, in the audio version they simply seemed like an extension of Hig's thoughts. Listen to an excerpt of The Dog Stars.

If you liked The Road, you'll love The Dog Stars. Not as bleak, but just as moving. And a testament to the human spirit. Read an excerpt of The Dog Stars.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Winner - Return to Willow Lake

And the lucky winner of a copy of Return to Willow Lake by Susan Wiggs is:

Karen B.

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

Winner - 12-21

And the lucky winner of a copy of 12-21 by Dustin Thomason, courtesy of Dial Press is:


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

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Vanishing Point - Val McDermid

Best selling and award winning author Val McDermid has been practicing her craft for many years now. And you know what they say - practice makes perfect.

McDermid's latest book is The Vanishing Point.

British resident Stephanie Harker lands in an American airport with five year old Jimmy in tow. Stephanie sets off the alarm and is tagged for a more thorough search. While locked in the clear inspection box, she witness Jimmy being led away by away by a stranger. And she can't get anyone's attention.....and by the time she does, Jimmy is gone.

And that's the first few pages. What a heck of a good opener - I was hooked.

As Stephanie tells her story to the FBI agent in charge, we learn who Jimmy really is - the son of reality TV star Scarlett who recently passed away. Was it a stranger who took him? A stalker from Scarlett's past? A kidnapping? Someone from Stephanie's life? A former staff member?

I loved the form of narrative McDermid chose to use. We relive the past with Stephanie and the events leading up to her being in this airport. Alternate chapters cut to the present and the search for Jimmy. McDermid kept me on my toes, dropping another piece of the puzzle and story in as the story went back and forth. The possibilities of whodunit are many, as are the plot lines.

The twist at the ending was really, really good. My only complaint would be that it felt rushed after the slow building of so many threads. Some of the story lines are left unresolved - such as the one involving domestic violence.

This latest book was a bit of a departure from what I usually expect from McDermid. But I quite enjoyed it. Read an excerpt of The Vanishing Point.

You can find McDermid on Facebook and on Twitter.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Over the Counter #127

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? A pair of biographies - from very different women.

First up was It's Not About the Pom-Poms by Laura Vikmanis with Amy Sohn. Subtitled: How a 40-Year-Old Mom became the NFL's Oldest Cheerleader - and Found Hope, Joy, and Inspiration Along the Way.
From the publisher, Ballantine Books:
"A forty-year-old cheerleader? When Laura Vikmanis, a single mom in Ohio, told friends that she wanted to be an NFL cheerleader, they said it would never happen. But she proved them all wrong. . . .

Laura Vikmanis has got spirit . . . and pom-poms, too! But before she stepped onto the field as the oldest cheerleader in the National Football League, she was sidelined by a bad marriage and the many responsibilities of stay-at-home motherhood. She finally got the courage to leave her husband and to ask herself something she had never asked before: What do I want to do? Remembering her teenage love of dance, she signed up for a pole-dancing fitness class, where she met a former cheerleader for the Cincinnati Bengals. When the woman suggested that Laura audition to be a “Ben-Gal,” Laura laughed her off but soon realized that the audition process could be a way of healing herself—and regaining her confidence. Her boots were made for walking—but also for stomping on a football field.

She tried out for the team next to girls young enough to be her daughters. Girls with tighter abs, fuller hair, no kids, and no crow’s-feet. After much adversity and multiple auditions, she finally made the team, becoming the oldest cheerleader in the League.

It’s Not About the Pom-Poms follows Laura’s inspiring, funny, and eye-opening journey from demoralized divorcée to high-kicking Cincinnati Ben-Gal. Readers will cheer her on as she rediscovers her passion for dancing, takes hip-hop classes with twelve-year-olds, loses twenty-five pounds, discovers her abs, finds love again, and becomes a new kind of role model to her daughters. Laura also provides an inside look into the fascinating world of NFL cheerleaders—the grueling workouts, bad pay, twice-weekly weigh-ins, but, most important, the lifelong bond between the women, who do it all for the glory.

Leading with her heart, Laura Vikmanis faces adversity with her head held high as she learns in mid-life to take a flying leap. Powerful and uplifting, It’s Not About the Pom-Poms shows that, no matter your age, it’s never too late to go, fight, and win!"

And Eyes Right - Confessions from a Woman Marine by Tracy Crow.

From the publisher, University of Nebraska Press:

Just out of high school in 1977, her personal life already a mess, Tracy Crow thought the Marines might straighten her out. And sure enough, in the Corps she became a respected public affairs officer and military journalist—one day covering tank maneuvers or beach assaults, the next interviewing the secretary of the navy. But success didn’t come without a price.

When Crow pledged herself to God, Corps, and Country, women Marines were still a rarity, and gender inequality and harassment were rampant. Determined to prove she belonged, Crow always put her career first—even when, after two miscarriages and a stillborn child, her marriage to another Marine officer began to deteriorate. And when her affair with a prominent general was exposed—and both were threatened with court-martial—Crow was forced to re-evaluate her loyalty to the Marines, her career, and her family.
Eyes Right is Crow’s story. A clear-eyed self-portrait of a troubled teen bootstrapping her way out of a world of alcoholism and domestic violence, it is also a rare inside look at the Marines from a woman’s perspective. Her memoir, which includes two Pushcart Prize–nominated essays, evokes the challenges of being a woman and a Marine with immediacy and clarity, and in the process reveals how much Crow’s generation did for today’s military women, and at what cost."

(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, September 12, 2012

A Girl Called Digit - Annabel Monaghan

And here's a midweek review from our resident teen blogger Ella!

A Girl Named Digit by Annabel Monaghan.

"This is another light read. Farrah Higgins was nicknamed Digit because of her genius-level talent at numbers and math, but switched schools in order to blend in and actually enjoy high school, away from the pressure of her gift. She's outwardly average, until the day she spots a code during the opening of her friends' favourite teen soap opera. Unluckily for her plan to blend in, cracking codes is a hobby she shares with her professor dad. Soon after reporting her findings to the FBI, she's on the run from a terrorist group, being protected by a young (handsome) agent named John and helping investigate the case. Adorable romance and hijinks ensue.  I really liked Digit as a character, and enjoyed her smartness. Despite some identity issues and a few other flaws, the author managed to write a believable and likable main character. I hope there's a sequel!"

As always, thanks for sharing your thoughts Ella - see you at work!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

And When She Was Good - Laura Lippman

I'm a long time fan of author Laura Lippman and her Tess Monaghan series. But Lippman has written a number of stand alone novels that I've really enjoyed as well. Every book is an adventure as you're never quite sure what to expect from this award winning author.

When I read the opening chapters of And When She Was Good, I felt like I had already met the protagonist - Heloise. On further investigation I found I had.  Lippman contributed a story to an anthology called Death Do Us Part in 2006 that featured Heloise - a high end prostitute.

Heloise is now a madam - running her own service. She's a single mom to twelve year old Scott. To everyone in her suburban neighbourhood, she's a widow who works as a lobbyist for wage parity. But in her basement office, she runs a successful and elite escort service. And she's very, very careful to keep the parts of her life separated. But the past has a way of catching up.....

Lippman has written a book that has mystery, crime and suspense elements to it. And they're good, but not edge of your seat stuff. (Who the bad guy is is fairly obvious) The basic premise of the book has been done before, but Lippman's exploration of prostitution does generate lots of food for thought.

Instead, it was Heloise's story that was the big draw. We follow her life from a teen in a dysfunctional family, to a young woman falling in with the wrong man, to working for a really wrong man and to the birth of her son. And the desire to protect him at all costs. Heloise intrigued me - her instinct to survive, her strength and her drive were admirable. I applauded her 'do what you have to do attitude', but unfortunately, I just found I never really liked her. But I did enjoy her story, although I found the ending a little too neatly tied up. Read an excerpt of And When She Was Good.

I'm still a big fan of Lippman, but this latest offering was not the best of the bunch for this reader. See what others on the TLC tour thought - full schedule here.

"Laura Lippman was a reporter for twenty years, including twelve years at The (Baltimore) Sun. She began writing novels while working fulltime and published seven books about “accidental PI” Tess Monaghan before leaving daily journalism in 2001. Her work has been awarded the Edgar ®, the Anthony, the Agatha, the Shamus, the Nero Wolfe, Gumshoe and Barry awards. She also has been nominated for other prizes in the crime fiction field, including the Hammett and the Macavity. She was the first-ever recipient of the Mayor’s Prize for Literary Excellence and the first genre writer recognized as Author of the Year by the Maryland Library Association." You can find Lippman at her website and on Facebook.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Kept in the Dark - Penny Hancock

 Kept in the Dark is British author Penny Hancock's debut novel.

Forty something Sonia lives in a beautiful home on the Thames River in England. She is being pressured by her family to sell the house now that her children are grown, but she is quite resistant to this idea. Their constant pressure seems to have widened a crack in Sonia's psyche.

Fifteen year old Jez comes to the door of River House to take up an offer from Sonia's husband to borrow some music. He's not home, but Sonia invites him in anyway......and decides that he won't be leaving. He is a beautiful boy and she decides she will be the one to protect him and keep him safe. So she drugs him and locks him in the music room.....

All of this happens within the first few chapters of the book. So, we know the crime early on. The question is will Jez escape? And why is Sonia doing this? We get little glimpses into her past as the book progresses, revealing more and more of a relationship that was distinctly unhealthy.

What drove this book for me was Sonia's rationalizations and thought processes. Hancock has written wonderful dialogue for Sonia. She is able to completely twist the situation around in her mind - she is truly only doing her best to help this poor boy - completely obliterating the fact that she is the one putting him in danger. She can't understand why Jez is not more grateful. The crime Sonia has committed is horrifying, but is Sonia herself who is gave me that creepy, unsettled feeling in my stomach as I read. There is a twist at the end, that I did suspect was coming a few chapters before.

Hancock employs a first person narration style for Kept in the Dark. It's unusual as the entire book is told from the criminal's point of view and we never really get to know the victim at all. We know Jez wants to escape, but only from what Sonia tells us. Readers looking for an action packed book won't find it here. Instead the book moves at a slower pace as Hancock deliberately and deliciously builds the story bit by bit.

Read an excerpt of Kept in the Dark.

Hancock has penned an interesting debut. I would pick up another book by this author - her next is scheduled for the first half of 2013.  You can find Hancock on Twitter and on Facebook.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Trust Your Eyes - Linwood Barclay

 Trust Your Eyes is the latest book from Canadian author Linwood Barclay. In tiny letters on the front cover it also says 'A Thriller.' This really should read A Thriller. Barclay is always good for a wild ride of a read, but this time he's outdone himself!

Thomas Kilbride loves maps. When a new computer program called Whirl360 is released he is in heaven. He can continue his 'work' - memorizing the streets of all the major cities in the world.

"You picked a spot anywhere on the globe and initially viewed the location from above, either in a traditional map form or in satellite mode, as though you were suspended in the sky. You could click on a specific street, and see it. Really see it. Like you were standing there, right in the middle of it. With each click of the mouse you progressed several yards ahead. If something in a store window or a restaurant caught your eye, you could zoom in on it. Read the daily special - 'Liver and onions $5.99' if you wanted." (sound familiar?)

And then one day, Thomas looks up at a building in New York.  Normally he doesn't, but today he does. And he sees something - "What was that he was witnessing?  Someone putting a bag over another person's head? Cutting off their air supply? Smothering them? Who was this happening to? A man? A woman? And who was doing it to them?"

But who can he tell? Who will believe him? For map obsessed Thomas is also schizophrenic and lives an isolated life, never leaving  his home. When Thomas's brother Ray comes back home to help him out, he is torn between humouring Thomas and dismissing his ramblings. But what if...?

And don't worry, I haven't spoiled the book for you, as that's all in the first few pages! Each subsequent chapter introduces us to many other characters, scenes and situations. I wondered how in the world would these disparate threads be woven together? Quite ingeniously as it turns out.

Barclay kept me frantically turning pages as the action ramped up and the twists and turns kept me off balance as the plot went places I could never have imagined. There were several little gotchas that were really clever and had me going back to reread to see what I had missed catching. And I really couldn't put it down - I devoured in a day when I had no electricity for 10 hours. (long story)

Check out the book trailer below.......I know you'll be hunting down a copy for yourself. And maybe thinking twice about a certain computer progam....

You can find Barclay on Facebook and on Twitter.

In a recent interview in The Toronto Star, Barclay is quoted as saying "“Trust Your Eyes is the best book I’ve written, and I don’t know if I can do any better.” Watch for the next book A Tap on the Window in the fall of 2013. Betcha it's just as good or better.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Over the Counter #128

What book caught my eye this week as it passed over the library counter and under my scanner? This week's selection speaks for itself!!

Books Make a Home by Damian Thompson.  Elegant Ideas for Storing and Displaying Books.

From the publisher RylandPeters:

"Books fulfil myriad functions in our lives. They provide information, foster our enthusiasms and spark our memories. But these personal treasures also add colour and a true sense of personality to our homes. Books Make a Home explores the important role they play as Decoration, as well as functional items. Author and bibliophile Damian Thompson tours the rooms of the home in turn – Living Rooms, Home Libraries & Studies, Kitchens, Bedrooms & Bathrooms, Corridors & Staircases and Children's Spaces – discovering a host of techniques for stacking, shelving and closeting volumes, and illustrating how space can be brought to life by books. Alongside inspirational photography is a wealth of practical design solutions for each space and every size of collection. You will learn how to make the best use of existing storage and create new space for an ever-growing collection; how to combine books with other personal effects to create eye-catching displays; and helpful feature spreads will illustrate how to organize and care for your books. Beautifully presented and elegantly written, scattered with quotes from famous readers throughout, Books Make a Home is an insightful guide to enjoying books with the eye as well as with the mind."

(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, September 5, 2012

Watching the Dark - Peter Robinson

I've said it before and I'll say it again - if Peter Robinson's name is on it, I know I'm in for a good read. I enjoyed last year's stand alone novel - Before the Poison. (Winner of the 2012 Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novel by the Crime Writers of Canada) (my review) But, I've waiting for the latest installment in Robinson's Inspector Banks series. And it's here! Watching the Dark is the 20th entry in this wonderful series.

Watching the Dark opens at the St. Peter's Police Treatment Centre. Annie Cabot has just left the centre, finally ready to return to work after a lengthy convalescence. So, Alan Banks is familiar with the centre, but didn't expect to be working a case there. Bill Reid, a fellow officer has been murdered on the grounds - by a crossbow. On searching Reid's room, photos of a compromising nature are found. Banks is determined to not judge until his investigation is complete, but Inspector Joanna Passero from Professional Standards (internal investigations) is brought in to 'help' Banks with his inquiries. As Banks digs into Reid's past, he wonders if a cold case of Reid's could be tied to his death.

Robinson takes us out of Eastvale with Banks' investigation and into Estonia. I must admit, I truly had no firm grasp on this country but Robinson did a great job of setting the stage with detailed descriptions and characters. I was surprised to learn that English stag and hen parties take cheap flights over for weekend parties.

I was glad to see Annie Cabot back on the job. She's out to prove herself after being injured and off the job for so long, so she delves into the case with dogged determination. Her investigations keep her in Eastvale, but dealing with the ugly underbelly of this bucolic Yorkshire countryside. She is following the tracks of migrant workers tricked and abused by local criminals. Her storyline takes the stage almost as much as Banks's in this book. That's a good thing, as she's a character I quite enjoy.

Inspector Passero was an interesting addition. I was never really sure of her agenda and Robinson keeps us guessing until the very last chapters. And, I'm still not sure if we really know her - I think she'll make an appearance in the next book, but I'll reserve judgment until then.

I've always enjoyed Banks's love of music and the references to what he's listening to. However it seemed like there were quite a few this time - enough that I found myself skimming over some of these passages. 

Robinson has crafted a multi faceted, well paced plot that takes inspiration from current day issues.  I did find the end to be tied up a bit too neatly, but all in all it was a read I quite enjoyed. And I'll be waiting for the 21st book!

Read an excerpt of Watching the Dark. You can find Robinson on Facebook

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Y - Marjorie Celona

 Y is Marjorie Celona's newly released debut novel.  I think you're going to be hearing lots more about this author and title.

"Y. That perfect letter. The wishbone, fork in the road, empty wineglass. The quetion we ask over and over. Why?"

And the Y is where the story begins as well - the YMCA in a town on Vancouver Island. The Y is where Shannon's mother Yula leaves her when she is a day old, wrapped in a dirty sweatshirt with a Swiss Army knife as her legacy.

As a baby Shannon is shifted through various foster homes until she lands with Miranda and her daughter Lydia-Rose. It is with Miranda that she finally finds some stability and safety. But it is here that she also begins to act out, to question, to search, to need and to want to find her parents and answers.

"I want to know who my real family is, who I really belong to, why I look this way, why I feel this ay. I want to know these things more than anything in the world." "I don't need my mother to be a good person. I just want to know who she is."

Celona has chosen an unusual narrative style for her book - but it's one that absolutely works. Young Shannon recounts her life and that of her mother as an almost disinterested third party observer, then switches to current day. The story goes back and forth, past and present, between Shannon's story and that of her mother Yula. Each woman's tale is so addicting and absorbing that I could not find a place to stop. I had to keep reading, to discover the why of Yula's decision, to discover if Shannon finds her way, her place, the answers she needs and if it is enough.

Celona's prose flow easily and seamlessly, drawing the reader deeper and deeper into the story. Both Shannon and Yula's narratives are powerful and poignant. Although Yula's story is no less compelling, it was Shannon I wanted to hug and comfort. Their lives are not easy to read about, but impossible to turn away from.

I was thinking about Y long after I turned the last page. Did I like the ending? What if....? What is the right thing to do? Who can judge? What is love? And that's the mark of a good book - one that keeps you thinking about it after the last page is turned. Definitely recommended.

Read an excerpt of Y. This would be a great selection for a book club. A reading group guide is available.

Marjorie Celona received her MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she was an Iowa Arts Fellow and recipient of the Ailene Barger Barnes Prize. Her stories have appeared in Best American Nonrequired Reading,Glimmer Train, and Harvard Review. Born and raised on Vancouver Island, she lives in Cincinnati.

See what others on the tour thought:

Aug. 28 Michele @ Just a Lil Lost
Aug. 29 Evie @ Bookish
Aug. 30 Sarah @ Just Another Story
Aug. 31 Nicole @ Nicole About Town
Sept. 3 Corrine @ Lost For Words
Sept. 4 Luanne @ A Bookworm’s World
Sept. 5 Zoe @ In The Next Room
Sept. 6 Christy @ Home of Ohm
Sept. 7 Sharonne @ Tales of a Ranting Ginger
Sept. 10 Maria @ Bored Mommy
Sept. 11 Sarah @ Workaday Reads

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Beautiful Mystery - Louise Penny

The Beautiful Mystery is the eighth entry in Louise Penny's Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series. This series has become one of my favourites, but I have to say that this latest book is exceptional.

The series is set in Canada. Gamache is with the Sûreté du Québec, as is his second in command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir. In The Beautiful Mystery, Gamache and Beauvoir are called out on an unusual case and location. A monk at a monastery hidden away in the wilds of Québec has been murdered. The monastery has rebuffed visitors for the last four hundred years. There are only twenty four residents, all who live with a vow of silence - except when they are singing ancient Gregorian chants. Twenty three suspects. 

Penny has yet again devised an ingenious 'closed room' mystery that had me guessing until the last pages. The exploration of the monastic lifestyle and the chants were especially interesting. In her acknowledgments Penny says "I wanted to explore this beautiful mystery. How just a few notes can take us to a different time and place. Can conjure a person, an event, a feeling. Can inspire great courage, and reduce us to tears. And in the case of this book, I wanted to explore the power of ancient chants, Gregorian chants. On those who sing them, and those who hear them." The explanation of the effect of the music on the listener was compelling.  I listened to the audio version of this book and the inclusion of chants at the beginning and end of the book prompted me to put holds on some Gregorian chant CDs at the library.

 But the real draw of Penny's books are the characters - especially Gamache. He is such a wise, intuitive, caring person. But he has faced his share of heartache - most notably with Beauvoir. A previous case has left both men physically and emotionally damaged. The healing has started, but has miles to go. A surprise appearance by Gamache's superior at the monastery complicates things further.
And take Gamache to a very dark place. I become so invested and immersed in the characters that populate Penny's novels that they almost feel quite real. Gamache and Beavoir's complicated relationship and their attempts to continue moving forward despite the past make them all the more believable.

Penny's storytelling is rich and varied, full of nuance and inflection. The pared down setting for this book was perfect, echoing the raw truths that are exposed. The ending has only left me hoping that Penny gives us more Gamache before too much time elapses.

I chose to listen to this latest book and may well do so with all the Gamache books. There's always a worry that a narrator will not be the right fit for the mental image you've created for a character. Ralph Cosham was the reader for The Beautiful Mystery...and he was perfect. He has a rich, full bodied voice that is deep and sonorous, conveying the quiet strength of Gamache.  The cadence, rhythm, pauses and more sound like actual conversation, not simply a reading of pages. The accent passes muster and is easily understood.

Just an absolutely fantastic read/listen/series - highly recommended. Listen to an excerpt of The Beautiful Mystery or Read an excerpt. You can find Louise Penny on Facebook.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Where Do You Retreat to Read?

Have you checked out Retreat - the great new blog from Random House Canada? It's full of fun stories, contests and more....and the more today! Yes, in a rare move, I step out from behind the avatar as Retreat's Featured Blogger for this month.