Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Over the Counter #134

Yes, it's a day early for Over the Counter this week, but there's been so many great Hallowe'en books crossing over the library counter and under my scanner I couldn't resist. Because tonight's the night for zombies.....

First up is Zombigami - Paper Folding for the Living Dead by Duy Nguyen.

From the publisher Sterling Books:

"Fold at your own risk: these creatures are dangerous … fun! Create the ultimate “undead” crew of 13 ghoulishly gruesome origami zombies. Eager to crush skulls, eat brains, and drink blood, they range from Suzie Gravemaker (not your average mom--but she'll ALWAYS invite you to dinner) to Abominable Deadman (he takes a licking and keeps on ticking). This great package includes 50 sheets of origami paper plus a tear-out poster of all 13 zombies!"

And how about Lily Vanilli in A Zombie Ate My Cupcake.

From the publisher Cico Books:

"Cupcakes have been iced up in pink and glitter for far too long... and now they are getting their revenge! Here, Lily Vanilli shows how you can take inspiration from the macabre and grotesque to create some really evil<-looking cakes that taste divine. Using natural ingredients and edible decorating materials, such as edible lustre dusts, gum paste and glazes, Lily shows you how to turn basic cupcakes into amazingly realistic – and delicious – sculptures, from Eerie Eyeballs to Ghastly Ghouls. For really gory desserts, why not make Dracula's Bite red velvet cupcakes, or some Bleeding Hearts, which are moulded with deep red fondant into human hearts and covered with a cherry blood' sauce? You can also go for heavenly Fallen Angel Cakes, made with a divine, honey-flavoured icing, or indulgent, truly dark chocolate Devil's Food Cupcakes, with ganache icing and chocolate devil's horns. With 25 brilliant recipes and tips and tricks throughout, this is the perfect introduction to the world of alternative cake decoration."

Happy Hallowe'en!

(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, October 30, 2012

Invisible Murder - Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis

Lene Kaaberol and Agnete Friss's first Nina Borg book - The Boy in the Suitcase -  was a New York Times bestseller. I've been eagerly waiting for the second book - Invisible Murder - from this Danish writing duo.

Nina Borg is a Red Cross nurse living and working in Denmark. She works with the marginalized, the desperate and those who can't help themselves. Her official home base is the Red Cross's Coal House Camp. But Nina also works under the radar, helping out those who have no official status - and her heart is with the children in these situations. When her cohort tells her of sick Roma children living in an old garage, she hesitates. She has promised her husband she wouldn't put herself in danger after her last outing. But her compassion wins out - she finds the group - and much more than she bargained for....

Inspector Soren of the Danish Security and Intelligence Service is  also looking for this group of Roma - there are whispers of terrorism and more.....

Kaaberol and Friis have created a wonderfully different protagonist in Nina. I like that she's not a law enforcement officer, but follows her own sense of justice, working within but bending the rules as need be. She's a caring individual with an iron will, but her need to go forward with her ideals is costing her her marriage and children. The exploration of her relationship with her daughter especially has the ring of truth.

The supporting characters are just as interesting. Soren is the walking wounded, dedicated cop in the series - I like him and hope to see him again. I'm not 100% sure how I felt about Sandor - the half Gypsy law student who becomes embroiled in a nightmare he had no part in starting. Did he redeem himself or not? His ending was left with some unanswered possiblities.

The plot of Invisible Murder is just as compelling and socially relevant as the first book. Although a work of fiction, I can see reading of something like it in the headlines.

"The hatred that flowed in wide, black rivers across the Internet venting itself at Danes, Muslims Gypsies, gays, Jews, liberals, conservatives, women - at every conceivable and inconceivable minority in Denmark and the rest of the was more than just stupidity. It was evil."

The story moves along quickly, with lots of action and bite your nails moments.The ending is tied up but leaves the door open for the next in the series - one I will be picking up for sure.

Some English translations of books feel awkward or wooden - not so in this case - Tara Chace did an excellent job. Definitely recommended.  Read an excerpt of Invisible Murder.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Casual Vacancy - J.K. Rowling

Well, I really don't think there's anyone who is not familiar with the name J. K. Rowling. The Harry Potter books will forever be part of our culture. So, with that series ended, Rowling's announcement that she was writing an adult novel was greeted with much (much!) anticipation.

And with it's publication - much scrutiny. As a fan of the Potter books, I had to read The Casual Vacancy.

"6.11  A casual vacancy is deemed to have occurred :
(a)  when a local councillor fails to make his declaration of acceptance of office within the proper time; or
(b) when his notice of resignation is received';
(c) on the day of his death..."

And in the parish of Pagford, England, it's option (c) when councillor Barry Fairbrother unexpectedly dies. The local council is warring amongst themselves. The issue? Who should be responsible for the local estate - referred to as The Fields. Should it be Pagford or neighbouring city of Yarvil. This vacancy offers up the chance to turn the tide for one side or the other...the race is on to fill the seat....

'Both, as they watched....were contemplating the casual vacancy: and they saw it not as an empty space but as a magician's pocket, full of possibilities."

Rowling rapidly introduces us to a plethora of characters. Each is well-drawn and provided me with  vivid mental images. Inthe beginning I did have to make myself a reference list of characters and their relationships until I had a firm grasp of who was who.

The Casual Vacancy is driven by it's characters. Most of them are not nice people. But it's an interesting social commentary. The 'better-offs' in Pagford are quite sure they are above those 'lower classes' living in The Fields. But our behind the scenes view allows us to see that they are no different from each other. The Pagfordians are just more polite about it.

The Casual Vacancy is not a small book - it's five hundred pages long. Although I'm a voracious reader, it took me almost two weeks to finish. Why? Well, packed into that five hundred pages is a lot of pettiness, bullying, selfishness, cruelty, vindictiveness, conniving, get the picture. And it made me sad, just really sad. I really didn't get much enjoyment from reading this book. But I soldiered on, determined to see what happened at the end. Which I didn't like. The one character I enjoyed met a depressing fate.

Rowling's writing is impeccable, the town and the machinations of it's inhabitants are all part of a tightly woven plot and her characterizations are spot on. So it's going to be a very hard book to rate for me. The writing is a four, but my enjoyment was only a three, so I'll go with 3.5/5.

The Casual Vacancy is definitely an adult novel, with lots of profanity, drug use, self harm, sexual situations and more. Read an excerpt of The Casual Vacancy.

Giveaway - Crystal Clear - Jane Heller

Jane Heller started out promoting authors, but ended up switching hats - she's been writing chick lit for the last fifteen years, with thirteen books to her credit. And to celebrate her backlist now being available in ebook format, I have a digital copy of Crystal Clear up for grabs.

From the publisher:

"Practical, no-nonsense New York accountant Crystal Goldstein is the last person to buy into her friend Rona’s New Age philosophies – no psychics, no tarot readers, no aura cleansers. But Crystal is long overdue for a vacation and when she takes Rona’s suggestion to travel to Sedona, Arizona, she finds herself in the epicenter of all things metaphysical.

After checking in at the posh Tranquility resort, Crystal signs up for the five-day “Sacred Earth Jeep Tour” figuring a little enlightenment couldn’t hurt. Also along for the tour is fellow hotel guest and international socialite Amanda Wells Reid, who should provide some interesting people watching, if nothing else. But – surprise! – it’s Terry Hollenbeck, the tour driver, who needs watching.

Crystal is stunned to be reunited with Terry, the irresistibly handsome, totally irresponsible husband she divorced years ago. He’s been living in Sedona since they split up, raising his daughter, working hard and becoming a grownup. Who would have guessed that his appeal for Crystal would be stronger than ever?" Read an excerpt of Crystal Clear. You can find Jane Heller on Facebook and on Twitter.

Sound like a book you'd like to read? Simply leave a comment to be entered for a digital copy of Crystal Clear. Please make sure I have a way to contact you - either through email or on your blog. Ends Nov 17th. And because it's digital - it's international!

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Time Keeper - Mitch Albom

Mitch Albom's latest book is The Time Keeper.

How often have you heard yourself say " I wish there was more time in the day. I just need more time. Where does the time go?"

Our days and lives are measured against time - calendars and clocks. But what about the first person to measure time?

Albom spins a fable about Dor - the first man to map the passage of the moon and sun, to track the minutes, hours, days and years. And how angry he made God with his measuring. For that,  Dor is imprisoned in a cave for thousands of years. His chance at redemption lies with the fate of two very disparate people. Sarah - a teenager determined to end her time on earth. And Victor - a terminally ill senior who desperately wants to prolong his time.

I chose to listen to The Time Keeper. Dan Stevens was the reader. He has a British accent, but is easily understood. He has a very versatile voice, conjuring up three very different voices for the characters. Albom's prose are quite spare and Steven's interpretation of the book really suited. Listen to an excerpt of The Time Keeper.

In retrospect, I was glad I chose to listen rather than read. It like I was being told a story.

The book is quite short and easily read in one sitting. Albom has written a book that is sure to make you stop and re-evaluate the passage of time in your own life. And to appreciate what we have and how precious it is.....

Read an excerpt of The Time Keeper. You can find Albom on Twitter and on Facebook.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Over the Counter #133

Are you headed to a Hallowe'en party this weekend? Or hosting one? Some really great holiday books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner.

First up was Ray Villafane's Pumpkins. These were truly amazing!

From the publisher Gibbs Smith:

"If Ray Villafane’s pumpkins look familiar, you may have seen them on the Food Network’s Pumpkin Challenge, CBS News, or the Martha Stewart Show. Acclaimed by the Wall Street Journal as the Picasso of pumpkin carving, Ray Villafane’s Pumpkins celebrates some of his most “ghoulish” creations. From carving for the president at the White House to Bermuda’s Sousa’s Gardens, the exposure of Ray’s style, talent and creativity has amassed an all-new appreciation for pumping “carving.” As you admire the pumpkins within these pages, you’ll be inspired to pick up your own tools and follow Ray’s advice and tips on creating a one-of-a-kind
Halloween accoutrements. Ray Villafane is most well known for being a world famous “Pumpkin Artist.” He is the two-time champion of Food Network’s Challenge Show, “Outrageous Pumpkins,” as well as a contestant on season one of the Food Network’s Halloween Wars."

Or you could get some ideas from Artful Halloween by Susan Wasinger.

From the publisher Lark Crafts:

"These 30+ costume, pumpkin, and home-decorating ideas are not just beautiful--they are scary beautiful. From unique pumpkin decorations to a “blood”-splashed dinner-party centerpiece to a Yard Specter made from two poles, a string of lights, and torn, draped fabric, these creepy but stylish Halloween projects will give your home a spooky, sophisticated look . . . with gothic flair!"

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

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Say You're Sorry - Michael Robotham

Oh boy! I'm a big fan of Michael Robotham and his latest book - Say You're Sorry - is absolutely one of my top thriller reads for 2012.

I was hooked from the opening chapter....

"My name is Piper Hadley and I went missing on the last Saturday of the summer holidays three years ago."

In Say You're Sorry, Robotham brings back recurring character Joe O'Loughlin, a clinical psychologist, in the sixth entry of this series. Joe is in Oxford to give a lecture to his peers. "Only in the last few years have we begun to investigate the psychopaths who hide successfully among us."

Joe is asked to stay on to assist when a snowstorm turns up not two, but three bodies. A married couple in a farmhouse have been brutally killed. A young man with mental illness seems to be the likely suspect. Another body is found beneath the ice, just beyond the house. And when this body is identified as that of Tash, a young girl who went missing three years ago with her friend Piper, all the stops are pulled out  - could Piper be possibly still alive?

Robotham cuts the narrative between the current search for Piper and the journal she has been keeping during her captivity. We become privy to the details of the girls' imprisonment, but we also come to know Piper herself. Robotham has done a fantastic job of bringing this character to life. I had a hard time stopping for the night as I wanted to get to the next entry in Piper's story.

Joe's personal story is engrossing as well - his battle with Parkinson's Disease, his failing marriage and a teenage daughter determined to live older than her fifteen years. Joe is especially well drawn and comes across as a real person, not a character in a book.  Retired cop Victor Ruiz is also back, but in a supporting role. These are both characters I've really come to like.

This was a breakneck read for me - I literally couldn't put it down. The plot is great, the action never lets up, the suspense is palpable and and I adore twist endings! If you love suspense/thrillers you've got to add Robotham to your must read list.  Trust me - you won't be sorry......Read an excerpt of Say You're Sorry.

You can find Michael Robotham on Twitter and on Facebook.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Frozen Heat - Richard Castle

I'm a latecomer to the world of 'Castle' - which is a hit television series built around author Richard Castle's time with the NYPD as a ride along observer with Detective Kate Beckett. Castle has turned those ride alongs into a series of successful books featuring Detective Nikki Heat and writer Jameson Rook. But.....Richard Castle isn't real either. He's portrayed by actor Nathan Fillion who does a fantastic job pitching 'his' writing. With me so far? It's a great fun premise! I enjoyed Heat Rises last year. (my review) I don't watch a lot of television, but you don't have to be a fan of the show to enjoy the books.

The fourth book is Frozen Heat. Detective Heat's latest case involves a woman found stabbed and stuffed into a suitcase in Manhattan.  Nikki is in shock - her own mother was found killed in this manner. It can't be coincidence. And when she looks closely at the suitcase, she finds her own initials - the suitcase belonged to her. Nikki's mother's murder is unsolved after ten long years. Who has duplicated her murder? Why? Did the two women know each other? As she digs further, whoever is out there seems determined to make Nikki number three.....

I chose to listen to Frozen Heat as I knew the reader - Johnny Heller - was excellent. Although you might think that a male reader for a female protagonist might be an unusual choice, in this case, it just really works. Heller has a unique gravelly voice that is perfect. He modulates it to differentiate between the male and female voices. Much of the charm of Castle's books lies in the short, snappy dialogue and one liners. Heller's animated delivery of these lines is really entertaining.

But, along with all that snappy dialogue, Frozen Heat is a good mystery as well. The plot was well-paced and action filled. The ending left me a bit unsatisfied, but the door has been left open for the next book in the series. And I'll be listening!  Read an excerpt of Frozen Heat.

You can find Richard Castle on Twitter and on Facebook.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Bat - Jo Nesbo

Jo Nesbo left me hanging at the end of the previous Harry Hole novel - Phantom (my review). Phantom was the 9th book in this Scandinavian series that features the conflicted and complicated Detective Hole. But the first book - The Bat - that introduces us to Harry is only now newly released in North America. You can bet I jumped at the chance to read it!

Harry is sent to Australia to assist with a murder investigation as the victim was a Norwegian national. But the local cops define 'assist' differently.

"What you're gonna do is watch carefully while we haul the bastard in, tell the Norwegian press along the way what a wonderful job we're doing together - making sure we don't offend anyone at the Norwegian embassy, or relatives, - and otherwise enjoy a break and send a card or two to your dear Chief Constable."

Harry is not the focus of the first part of the book. Instead we are introduced to Aussie detective  Andrew, who has a sense of where he wants the investigation to go. Andrew was a strong personality and I felt slightly overwhelmed by this character. Nesbo weaves much Aboriginal history and lore into the narrative, which I found really interesting. It also added much to the plot.

Harry and his personality begin to emerge slowly as the book progresses. I was hoping that Nesbo would allow us some insight as to where Harry's tortured psyche springs from and I wasn't disappointed. And, as the case develops, the Harry that I've come to enjoy so much emerges. The character of Harry has been refined and darkened and sharpened over the course of the next eight books, but in The Bat we meet a raw, wounded version of the detective to come. One with "a weakness for living."

But, what hasn't changed is Nesbo's plotting. The Bat is an excellent detective novel that provided a 'kept me guessing' plot with lots of suspects to choose from. Reading the first in this series just confirmed why I have Jo Nesbo and Harry Hole on my must read list. Nesbo combines fantastic characters, great plotting, lots of action and suspense and yes, social commentary into addictive reads.  Check out an excerpt of The Bat.

You can find Jo Nesbo on Facebook.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Bad Little Falls - Paul Doiron

Bad Little Falls is the third book in Paul Doiron's Mike Bowditch series, but a first read of this author for me.

Bowditch is a game warden. He's been sent to a remote outpost in Maine by his superiors for past transgressions.  And it's mighty cold in Maine in the winter. One of his first call outs is for a man missing in a snowstorm. His friend made it to the house of a local couple, but the other man is still out there. When that man is found dead by means other than the weather, it becomes a murder investigation. And the dead man - he's a known drug dealer.

The weather is cold and so is the welcome from the locals for Mike. Someone nails a dead coyote skin to his door and his superior officer makes light of it. He seems to be butting heads with nearly everyone in town - a renowned wilderness expert, the local sheriff, local trappers and more. The one person who doesn't seem to hate him is Jamie Sewall - MacDonald's employee of the month, a single mom to a strange little boy and a woman with lots of ties to the murder investigation.

Doiron has written an entertaining if not overly involved mystery. There are lots of red herrings and possible suspects. I did find myself wondering at a game warden's seeming over involvement in a murder investigation. I enjoyed the actual references to game warden activity (the frozen zebra was a great story), but there weren't that many. I follow another series featuring a game warden who is a little older, a little more established and a little wiser. I found Bowditch's decision to become romantically involved with Jamie Sewell somewhat rash, hurried and unbelievable. And one sided as well - we never really hear from Jamie herself. He's been exiled to Maine by his superiors because of his impulsiveness and bad judgement, but it really doesn't seem to have sunk in, although he mentions needing to change several times.

Doiron is a native of Maine and his descriptions of the land and the locale have that extra ring of authenticity.

I chose to listen to Bad Little Falls. Henry Leyva was the reader. He's got a well modulated voice that is easily understood. His voices for the characters were well done and easy to differentiate. The voices that required accents - many Maine characters and his French Canadian boss - were believable. The voice of the young boy reading his journal was definitely creepy. Mike is a younger character and the voice for Mike seemed to fit the mental image I'd come up with.

The jury's still out for me on this character. Doiron received numerous awards and nominations for the first two books in this series. I think I would have a better appreciation for this character if I had read those The Poacher's Son and Trespasser first. The ending was a bit unsatisfying, but there are two future books planned for Mike. But, I'd try this author again to see where Mike goes from here.

Read an excerpt of Bad Little Falls. You can find Paul Doiron on Facebook and on Twitter.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Over the Counter #132

What book caught my eye this week as it passed over the library counter and under my scanner? I'm on my feet most of the day by Ed Stafford took it to a new level - Walking the Amazon. 860 days. One Step at a Time.

From the publisher Plume Books:

"As seen on Discovery Channel and for readers of Bill Bryson, Jon Krakauer, and David Grann, a riveting, adventurous account of one man’s history-making journey along the entire length of the Amazon—and through the most bio-diverse habitat on Earth. Fans of Turn Right at Machu Piccu will revel in Ed Stafford's extraordinary prose and lush descriptions.

In April 2008, Ed Stafford set off to become the first man ever to walk the entire length of the Amazon. He started on the Pacific coast of Peru, crossed the Andes Mountain range to find the official source of the river. His journey lead on through parts of Colombia and right across Brazil; all while outwitting dangerous animals, machete wielding indigenous people as well as negotiating injuries, weather and his own fears and doubts. Yet, Stafford was undeterred. On his grueling 860-day, 4,000-plus mile journey, Stafford witnessed the devastation of deforestation firsthand, the pressure on tribes due to loss of habitats as well as nature in its true-raw form. Jaw-dropping from start to finish, Walking the Amazon is the unforgettable and gripping story of an unprecedented adventure."
(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!)

Ontario Public Library Week

Chrystal over at Snowdrop Dreams of Books is running a great feature this week to celebrate Ontario Public Library Week ("and to include all things library related.")  There's lots of great interviews and more with folks who work in libraries. Including me - my Q&A is today's post. You can find it here! And while we all love to own books....make sure you support your local library as well!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Forgotten - Catherine McKenzie - Review AND Giveaway!

Forgotten is the third novel by Catherine McKenzie. I've enjoyed both previous novels - Spin (my review) and Arranged (my review) but I think that Forgotten is my favourite - so far.

I always stop and look at a cover before reading and wonder - what does the picture have to say about the story? What's in the gift box? Who has has given it to her? What is she thinking about?

The gift? Well, when Emma Tupper's mother dies, she leaves Emma a ticket for a journey she wished she could have taken herself - a month in Africa.

"Her death was a fractional thing. One moment she was still and pale, but alive. The next she was gone. It seemed like almost nothing had happened, but that almost nothing changed everything for me."

Emma is a lawyer and has been working towards  partnership for many years. When her firm strongly discourages her taking a month long absence, she surprises herself by going anyway. The trip starts out well, but within a few days, Emma is seriously ill. The safari leader leaves her with volunteers in a remote village with a promise to send a doctor. But then an earthquake decimates the country. Emma recovers, but there is still no way for her to contact anyone from her remote village. Six months later, she is finally able to return, ready to step into her life again. But, that life is no more - the key to her apartment doesn't work, there's a strange man living there, she can't reach any of her friends by phone, someone else has her job...and more. When Emma googles herself, she discovers the truth - she's been declared dead.

McKenzie has concocted a great premise that just opens up so many avenues. As one supporting character advises Emma -  to "treat what happened to me like an opportunity to change the things in my life I didn't like."

Emma was an eminently likable character. Her best friend Stephanie was loads of fun - I'm quite taken with her bookstore/match making concept! All the classic elements of a great chick lit read are here - love interests (then and now), b****y co-workers, a great supporting cast with both humorous and wise characters, missed cues and found opportunities. But in addition to all that, there is that underlying question - what's important and what would you change? Lots of food for thought here.

McKenzie's prose flow easily, deliciously enveloping me in Emma's tale for hours at a time. If you're looking for a feel good read that will both entertain  and have you thinking about what's really important, make sure you include Forgotten. It's one you won't forget. (sorry - couldn't resist!)

And thanks to the great folks at William Morrow, I have two copies to giveaway! Simply comment to be entered. US only. Ends Nov. 10/12

CATHERINE McKENZIE was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec. A graduate of McGill University and McGill Law School, Catherine practices law in Montreal. An avid runner and skier, her novels SPIN and ARRANGED are national bestsellers. Visit her online at Or you can find Catherine on Facebook and on Twitter.

(This review originally appeared on this blog on April 24/12 with the Canadian release of Forgotten. I wanted to make sure all of my US readers knew about this great book - and had a chance to win a copy!)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Secret Keeper - Kate Morton

It was raining, cold and damp the day I started to read Kate Morton's latest book - The Secret Keeper. And the perfect day to snuggle in to my favourite chair and lose myself in Morton's absolutely wonderful storytelling.

The prologue of The Secret Keeper is a show stopper it will hook you and the tale will keep you enthralled until you turn the last page. Early 1960's England. Sixteen year old Laurel lives an idyllic life with her beloved mother, father, her three sisters and brother in an isolated house in the countryside - until the day a stranger surprises their mother outside their home. Laurel, hidden in a treehouse, witnesses this meeting - and it's shocking outcome. And although life carries on afterwards, there's an unmistakable rift in the fabric of their lives.

"There were moments, Laurel solemnly believed, in which a person reached a crossroads; when something happened, out of the blue to change the course of life's events."

Fast forward to 2011. The siblings are called back to Greenacres Farm; their mother Dorothy is approaching her 90th birthday and her health is not good. Laurel sees these final days as her last opportunity to get answers from her mother as to what happened that day over fifty years ago.

"Not about Ma. I mean that young woman. She was a different person back then, with a whole other life we know nothing about. Do you ever wonder about her, about what she wanted, how she felt about things - Laurel sneaked a glance at her sister -  the sorts of secrets she kept?

Morton again effectively uses her technique of past and present narratives to tell Dorothy's story. We meet her in 1941 as 'Dolly', a vivacious seventeen year old girl with dreams and ambitions. I found myself immersed in the past as Morton sets the scene and tone of wartime England perfectly. I was completely captured by Doll's life, drawn in and on tenter hooks to see what happened next. And just at a crucial point, the narrative jumps forward to the present day.

Laurel is determined to piece together the truth from the cryptic sentences and words her mother murmurs. Between those and the contents of an attic trunk, she and her brother pursue the past. We, as readers, are of course privy to more as we follow Dolly back to the 1940's and the events that lead up to that fateful day outside the farmhouse.

I was so conflicted about Dorothy/Dolly - the woman the siblings know is so far removed from the Dolly of the war years. Which incarnation is true? And then a third narrative from the past is added in the last bit of the book. And this is, of course, when I stopped looking at the clock, because there was no way I was going to bed without knowing the ending.

Oh, the ending! Morton has done it in previous books - caught me unawares in the final pages. She's done it again in The Secret Keeper - the ending has a fantastic twist. I went back and re-read earlier passages with a different eye.

Morton's writing is rich and atmospheric, with a bit of a gothic feel. The story builds slowly and deliciously, with layer upon layer peeled away as secrets are revealed over the course of 450 pages.

Kate Morton has another bestseller on her hands with The Secret Keeper - and it's one you'll want to get your hands on! It releases today. Highly, highly recommended - 5+ stars! Read the prologue of The Secret Keeper now.

And make sure you visit The Secret Keeper's webpage to win 1 of 5 complete Kate Morton libraries and more. You can find Kate Morton on Facebook as well.

Canadian peeps - You can meet Kate in person at:

October 18, 2012 - 7pm - 8pm
Indigo Yonge & Eglinton
2300 Yonge Street
Toronto, ON M4P 2W6
(416) 544-0049
October 19, 2012 - 11am - 1pm
150 Kingston Road East
Ajax, ON L1Z 1E5
(905) 619-6677
October 20, 2012 - 1pm - 2pm
1900 Cyrville Road
Gloucester, ON K1B 1A5
(613) 748-9966


Monday, October 15, 2012

Giveaway - The Gemini Virus - Wil Mara

Well, cough and cold season is quickly approaching.... and Wil Mara's new book The Gemini Virus will have you thinking twice about that person sneezing beside you on the subway....

From the publisher Forge Books:

"Bob Easton thinks he has a cold. Before he dies in agony, four days later, he infects dozens of people. Local health agencies become quickly overwhelmed by the sick and dying and beg the CDC for help. Dr. Michael Beck and Cara Porter, a member of the Epidemic Intelligence Service, race to identify the deadly bug. They can't cure it until they know what it is.

Dennis and Andi Jensen and their children are terrified. Schools and offices close. Fresh food disappears from store shelves. Three of their children's friends die. Their neighbors are dying or running away, fleeing the unstoppable infection. Desperate, the Jensens join the exodus, making a nightmarish journey to their isolated mountain cabin along empty roads, through abandoned towns, past looted shopping malls.

The superbug—and the panic—quickly spreads beyond America’s borders. On a packed plane, someone coughs—and at their destination, the pilots are told, “you can’t land here.” US military bases are quarantined. Yet the virus continues to spread. Some believe the plague is man-made. Others see it as a sign of the end times.

In the lab, Cara Porter makes a potentially fatal mistake. In the mountains, Andi Jensen tells her husband that she doesn’t feel well.

The world is running out of time." Read an excerpt of The Gemini Virus.

Sound like a book you'd like to read? Well, here's the deal - Thanks to the lovely folks at Forge and Wil Mara, I have an autographed copy (and the author will personalize it for you as well!!!) and bookmark to give away! Open to US and Canada, simply leave a comment to be entered! Ends Nov. 4/12.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Winner - Seconds Away

And the two lucky winners of a copy of Seconds Away AND Shelter by Harlan Coben, courtesy of Penguin Books are:

1. KMichelleC87
2. Myra C

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

Friday, October 12, 2012

Crusher - Niall Leonard

Crusher is Niall Leonard's debut novel.

Finn Maguire returns home from his dead end job at a fast food place to find his house dark. Although it's just him and his dad since his mother ran off five years ago, his Dad usually waits up for him. Finn finds his dad inside - bludgeoned to death at his desk.

The cops arrive but rather than treat Finn as a victim, they see him as the suspect. When the cops are forced to release him,  Finn decides to find answers himself. And his first steps lead him to a London crime boss known as The Guvnor. What was his father into? As Finn searchs further, it becomes clear that someone does not want him to find answers.....

Crusher caught my interest easily and held onto it. The pacing is quick, the whodunit is not overly obvious (there are lots of suspects and red herrings) and Finn was a strong protagonist. He's not an overachiever, but rather an underdog. Other characters are easily picked out - bad guy, crooked cop, mysterious girl and some others. There are some serendipitous coincidences that help the narrative along, but I was willing to overlook these as I really wanted to know what happened next!

Leonard has written an interesting debut. Should it be classed as YA fiction based on the age of the protagonist - 17? Interestingly, one online website does and another doesn't. I wouldn't recommend it to the very young YA reader, there are some 'older' situations in the book. Many 'big name' authors have entered into the YA market lately. Fans of Harlan Coben's Mickey Bolitar series would enjoy this title. A sequel is in the works - I'll be interested to see where Finn goes from here.

Leonard wrote Crusher as part of 2011's NaNoWriMo (and he was the winner that year). He's also a screenwriter and that action movie feel is present in Crusher. And, because some of the promo literature mentions it, I will too. Leonard is the husband of author E.L. James. You can find Leonard on Twitter.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Over the Counter #131

What books caught my eye this week as it passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Well, books about books!

First up was The Repurposed Library by Lisa Occhipinti.

It seems like sacrilege to cut up a book....but there were some pretty neat ideas inside this one!

From the publisher Abrams Books:

"We all love to read and learn from books, but The Repurposed Library takes our passion even further, presenting us with 33 projects to make--quite literally--out of books. For these projects, Lisa Occhipinti rescues and repurposes orphaned and outdated books from flea markets and library sales and turns them into new art objects and practical items for the home. Her creations range from artfully constructed mobiles, wreaths, and vases, to functional items like shelves, storage boxes, and even a Kindle "keeper" for those who want to replicate the sensation of holding a "real" book while reading from an e-reader. Projects utilize every imaginable part of a book--from hardback cover to individual pages--and are a DIY celebration of a new way to view a book's potential."

Next up was 1000 Artists' Books - Exploring the Book as Art by Sandra Salamony  with Peter and Donna Thomas. This one takes repurposing to a whole new level!

From the publisher Quarry Books:

"The book is a timeless art form, one that is as alive today as ever before, and artists continue to explore and explode the boundaries of what a book is and can be. In this beautiful collection, you will experience close-up various aspects of hand-crafted books: covers, bindings, scrolls, folded and origami structures and books made from found objects. You will find richly illustrated and calligraphed pages as well as books created from a variety of printed processes. Ingenuity and creativity abounds in this carefully curated collection of both historically important and modern works."

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

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Kill You Twice - Chelsea Cain

Chelsea Cain writes thrillers with a twist. Her latest book Kill You Twice is the fifth book in the Archie Sehridan/Gretchen Lowell series. No, they're not a pair of detectives. Rather, Archie is a Portland detective and Gretchen...Well Gretchen is a serial killer with no fixed address. Except she does now - she's securely locked away in a psych ward.

Archie and Gretchen have a complicated relationship. He's the one who put her away, but he still finds himself attracted to her despite the fact that Gretchen, also known as the Beauty Killer, nearly killed him.

A fresh set of killings in Portland look like they might be the work of Gretchen. But they can't be - she is locked away. Is it a copycat? An apprentice? Gretchen claims to have information - but only if Archie comes himself. If he does, their intricate game of cat and mouse will resume.

Devoted fans of this series will be thrilled to find that some of Gretchen's past is finally revealed. Favourite (for me) characters such as reporter Susan are included - again with some unexpected revelations. Archie - well Archie is just as enigmatic, dogged and determined as ever. But his judgement is always clouded when it comes to Gretchen.

I chose to listen Kill You Twice and actually think I'll listen to future books in this series. The reader was Christina Delaine and she was excellent. She had a nice, low gravelly voice for Archie. Her voice for Gretchen was sexy and scary at the same time. And Susan - Delaine has come up with a slightly squeaky voice that really does conjure up the image I had in mind. Delaine is a truly expressive reader. And very easy to listen to.

The plot is quite devious and the story moved along really well. I enjoy the cat and mouse game between Archie and Gretchen. And I'm pretty sure Cain has more in mind for these two.

Listen to an excerpt of Kill You Twice. Or read an excerpt.

Fair warning to gentle readers/listeners - this series may not be for you. Cain writes graphic, gory thrillers.  In her own words "But I guess that I shouldn't be surprised to find myself writing thrillers. It does bring together many of my interests: forensic pathology, medicine, damaged heroes, dead pets, Nancy Drew, TV cops shows, my home of Portland, Oregon, and having an excuse to be alone in a room for long periods." You can find Chelsea Cain on Twitter.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Purchase - Linda Spalding

Linda Spalding's new novel The Purchase is a finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction. Trust me, it's an absolute must read.

1798. Daniel Dickinson is a devout Quaker. But when his wife dies leaving him with five young children and he quickly marries Ruth, a fifteen year old orphan, he is cast out of the fellowship. With no home and no community, he then packs his family in a wagon and heads to Virginia to homestead. At an auction to buy needed farming tools, Daniel instead ends up with a young slave boy. As an abolitionist, this goes against everything he believes in. This purchase is the catalyst for a series of events that will change the lives of family, friends, enemies and more.

I literally hurtled through the first part of The Purchase. Spalding drew me into the lives of the Dickinson family. The characters are exceptionally well drawn. Daniel struggles with his ownership of Onesimus, his marriage to a girl he doesn't even know, his efforts to build a new life for his children in a wilderness that he is ill prepared for and trying to follow his beliefs. His oldest daughter Mary is stubborn, petulant, wilful but also kind and giving. But not to her stepmother. But it is quiet, silent Ruth that I was most drawn to. And to the slave Bett as well. There is a large cast of characters, each bringing a turn in the tale. And all elicit strong emotions and reactions. The interactions between the players sets up an almost tangible sense of foreboding.

I stopped after part one, which ends on a cataclysmic note, to gather my thoughts. Where could the story go from here? I started part two a few days later and didn't put the book down until I turned the last page. And then I sat and thought again.

Spalding's prose are rich, raw, powerful  and oh, so evocative. She explores so much in The Purchase - freedom, faith, family, love, loss and more.

On reading the author's notes, I discovered that The Purchase is based on Spalding's own family history. She visited sites and settings that are used in the book. I think the personal connection added so much to the book.

Brilliant. One of my top reads for 2012. Can lit rocks!

Read an excerpt of The Purchase.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Relentless - Simon Kernick

I have a fondness for British crime authors - and Simon Kernick is one of them. He's perhaps not as well known as some of his counterparts in North America, but is worth checking out.

Relentless starts off with one of my favourite hooks - an everyday guy thrown into an unbelievable situation.

John Meron is at home with his two kids when he receives a call from his old college friend Jack, whom he hasn't seen in years. Jack is screaming for help and as John listens on in horror, he hears him being murdered in the phone. And he also screamed out one more thing - John's name and address.....

His intuition says run and John does. He grabs his kids and is driving away when he sees a black car stop at his house ....Why in the world are they after him? Why did Jack give his address? What happened to Jack?

"I saw from the clock on the whitewashed wall that it was five o'clock in the afternoon. In the space of two hours, my life - so ordinary, so mundane, so desperately missed - had been torn irreparably apart. Two hours earlier, I'd been a normal working man living a pleasant, easy life. Now...there were people after me for a reason I had no knowledge of.....What I didn't know was that this was only the beginning. Things, if you can believe it were about to get one hell of a lot worse."

The story then alternates narratives between John and the cop on the case - Detective Inspector Mike Bolt from the National Crime Squad. Bolt has faced his own demons in the past and is forced to make some tough decisions on this case.

Relentless has the feel of an action movie with loads of twists and turns that keep us on our toes throughout. The story is pure action with little character development.  I did find the ending a bit of a disappointment, but the window is open for a continuation with these characters. Relentless was not the best of Kernick's books for me, but definitely provided some great entertainment reading. Fans of Harlan Coben and Linwood Barclay would enjoy this author. To quote Coben "“Simon Kernick writes with his foot pressed hard on the pedal. Hang on tight!” Read an excerpt of Relentless. 

You can find Kernick on Facebook and on Twitter.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Blackberry Winter - Sarah Jio

I was offered the chance to review Sarah Jio's debut novel, The Violets of March, in 2011.  I am sooooo very glad I said yes. And I've happily said yes to every one since!

Sarah's latest book is Blackberry Winter. And it might just be my favourite - so far.

In the opening chapter we meet Vera Ray. Times are tough in 1933 and Vera is lucky to have a job cleaning rooms at night at a posh hotel in Seattle. But it also means she is forced to leave her three year old son Daniel alone in their attic rooms. After her shift finishes she races home through a freak snowstorm (it's the 2nd of May!) and finds Daniel's bed empty.....

The book then moves forward almost eighty years and we meet a Seattle newspaper reporter named Claire. It's the second of May and a snowstorm has hit Seattle. Claire is assigned to write a piece for the newspaper on this anomaly. Her research uncovers the story of a missing boy named Daniel.

Jio alternates her narrative between the past and present, revealing a little more each chapter. (which made it hard for me to find a place to stop for the night!)

I slipped easily into the story. Jio sets the scenes and establishes the players effortlessly. I was drawn to both women leads - they are both likable and sympathetic characters. Although there is the mystery of what happened to Daniel, there is much more to the story. Claire's marriage is falling apart and she has yet to deal with a heartbreaking loss in her life. And what of Vera? Daniel was a much loved child - but who was his father?

As Claire investigates further, connections appear between her life and Vera's. I love the serendipity of it all - it makes you think (hope) that maybe, just maybe, there are things beyond our control that happen for a reason.

In Blackberry Winter, Sarah Jio explores the connection between mother and child, love and loss, regret and redemption with emotion and candor.

Emily from The Violets of March makes a cameo appearance in this book as well. I was glad to see how her life has progressed and it was nice to visit Bainbridge Island again.

The title? Blackberry Winter "is old-fashioned weather jargon for a late-season cold snap - think of plunging temperatures and snowfall in May, just when the delicate white flowers are beginning to appear on the blackberry vines."

One of the main characters loves hot chocolate. I think a big steaming mug of cocoa would be the perfect accompaniment for this warm, rich, satisfying book. Settle back in a comfy armchair and enjoy yet another wonderful read from Sarah Jio.

Read an excerpt of Blackberry Winter. Book clubs - a reading group guide is available. (And I'll be waiting for the next book - The Last Camellia, to be published on May 28, 2013.)

You can find Sarah Jio on Facebook and on Twitter.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Over the Counter #130

What books caught my eye this week as it passed over the library counter and under the scanner? Two memoirs - both about getting back to the basics - in one way or another....

Sheepish. Two Women, Fifty Sheep & Enough Wool to Save the Planet by Catherine Friend. I loved the cover.

From the publisher DeCapo:

"What do you do when you love your farm . . . but it doesn’t love you? After fifteen years of farming, Catherine Friend is tired. After all, while shepherding is one of the oldest professions, it’s not getting any easier. The number of sheep in America has fallen by 90 percent in the last ninety years. But just as Catherine thinks it’s time to hang up her shepherd’s crook, she discovers that sheep might be too valuable to give up. What ensues is a funny, thoughtful romp through the history of our woolly friends, why small farms are important, and how each one of us—and the planet—would benefit from being very sheepish, indeed."

Next up was The Year of Learning Dangerously - Adventures in Homeschooling by Quinn Cummings.

From the publisher Penguin Books:

"Think homeschooling is only for a handful of eccentrics on either end of the political spectrum? Think again. Today in America, two million primary- and secondary-school students are homeschooled. Growing at a rate of 10 percent annually, homeschooling represents the most dramatic change in American education since the invention of the mimeograph—and the story has only just begun.

In The Year of Learning Dangerously, popular blogger, author, and former child actor Quinn Cummings recounts her family’s decision to wade into the unfamiliar waters of homeschooling—despite a chronic lack of discipline, some major gaps in academic knowledge, and a serious case of math aversion. (That description refers to Quinn.)

Trying out the latest trends, attending key conferences (incognito, of course), and recounting the highlights and lowlights along the way, Quinn takes her daughter’s education into her own hands, for better and for worse. Part memoir, part social commentary, and part how-not-to guide, The Year of Learning Dangerously will make you laugh and make you think. And it may or may not have a quiz at the end. OK, there isn’t a quiz. Probably."
(Over the Counter is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World. I've sadly come the realization that I cannot physically read every book that catches my interest as it crosses over my counter at the library. But... I can mention them and maybe one of them will catch your eye as well. See if your local library has them on their shelves!)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Wanted Man - Lee Child

Jack Reacher returns in the A Wanted Man - the 17th entry in this series by Lee Child. And did I mention - one of my favourite characters and series!

Reacher is former military police. These days he criss-crosses the country, going where the wind blows, no home and no baggage. But trouble? Well, it seems to find Reacher no matter where he is. And with his unerring moral compass, he can't help it - he steps up and steps in....

This time he's hitch hiking in Nebraska. No one is stopping for him -the busted up face and the sheer mass of him puts people off. But then someone does stop and it looks like he's got a ride to Virginia with the two men and the woman in the car. (faithful readers will remember the voice on the other end of the phone that he wants to meet....) But Reacher's radar is alerted - something just doesn't seem quite right in the car....and what about the two roadblocks they drive through......

The first third of  A Wanted Man is slower than previous novels. I liked how Reacher came his conclusion that something was wrong in the car. I enjoyed being privy to his thoughts on how and what he was going to do.  There's not as much physical action in this book as previous books, although the run up to the end is good and fulfills the kick ass Reacher quotient. Child inserts a good twist, just to keep us on our toes....and makes you wonder about the alphabet agencies and their agendas.

Lee Child has created a character that appeals to all readers, men and women. He's the quintessential hard boiled hero. No backing down, his own set of morals and tough as nails. He has a firm moral compass, carefully delineated lines on what's right and wrong, but has no problem using questionable methods to get to the bottom of things. He's big, strong, smart and....well.... kinda sexy too.

There have been quite a few readers who really truly disliked this book. I'm not one of them. It's different, but for me it was still a really good read.  Read an excerpt of A Wanted Man.

Reacher Creatures can rejoice  - the 18th book is in the works and to quote Child....

.... "I have started work on next year's installment, titled "Never Go Back" Reacher finally makes it to Virginia and meets Susan Turner...but as you might imagine, he also runs into a world of trouble there. Let's hope he survives."

My only complaint is the choice of Tom Cruise to play Reacher in the film adaption. Reacher is described as '...a big man, six foot five inches tall, heavily built..." Tom Cruise - not so much.

You can find Jack Reacher on Facebook and Lee Child on Twitter.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Sad Desk Salad- Jessica Grose

Well, if you're reading this, you're connected online in some way - reading blogs, surfing websites, tweeting, posting etc. Now how much time do you spend online?

Alex Lyons, the main character in Jessica Grose's debut novel, Sad Desk Salad, spends a minimum of twelve hours a day online. She's a writer for Chick Habit - a women's website that skewers just about anything and everything. When Alex receives an anonymous email with a link to a blockbuster scoop, she has to decide if her job is worth more than her morals. For, the scoop may ruin another young woman's life. And is the job ruining hers?

It was interesting to see behind the scenes of an online site - the frenetic postings, the pressure to find the next scoop, to have the comments and stats needed to stay on top. Grose herself worked as an editor at Jezebel and Slate. Both publications bear a remarkable similarity to Chick Habit, so it truly seems like Grose has given us a real insider's look behind the curtain.

Grose raises interesting questions about our fascination with celebrity, gossip and the effect modern media has on our lives, using Alex as a vehicle.  Sadly though, I just didn't like the main character. I found Alex to be shallow and self centred and very two dimensional. I identified more with her best friend Jane, who was more grounded and saw things with clearer eyes. Although Alex makes some personal revelations as the book progresses, they just came too late for this reader. (And I'm pretty grossed out by the fact that she doesn't bother showering and wears the same mu mu for nearly a week.)

There is a thinly veiled 'mystery' that kept me reading as I wanted answers. And, I wanted to know if Alex would reclaim her life. The final chapters do provide neat tying up of ends.

Fans of the aforementioned online sites will eat this book up, but for this reader it was just okay.Tag lines have declared the book funny and comic. Others may find it humourous, but I didn't. The cover is pretty cute though. Speaking of eating - the title?

"We get the most readers around lunch-time, when girls in offices all over the East Coast eat their sad desk salads and force down bites of desiccated chicken breasts while scrolling through our latest posts. We get another traffic bump around four, when our West Coast counterparts eat their greens with low-fat dressing."

On reading the author's notes at the end, Grose thanks many people - "for encouraging the crazy idea that I could write a novel in five months while holding down a full-time job without having a nervous breakdown. And they were mostly right." Hmm..... Read an excerpt of Sad Desk Salad.

"Jessica Grose is a writer and editor. She was previously a senior editor at Slate and an editor at Jezebel. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Glamour, Marie Claire, Spin, and several other publications, and on She lives in Brooklyn with her husband." You can find Jessica Grose on Facebook and on Twitter.

Mine is just one opinion on the TLC tour. See what others thought - full schedule can be found here.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Criminal - Karin Slaughter

I was hooked on Karin Slaughter's writing from the first book, Blindsighted.  The first six books were set in Grant County and featured the local sheriff and his wife, the local coroner. They're excellent crime/mystery books, with great plots and wonderful characters. In fact, it is the characters themselves that draw me back, over and over again.

Things move in real time in Slaughter's books. Her writing has segued to focus on another character from the Grant County books - Georgia Bureau of Investigation detective Will Trent. Slaughter's latest book Criminal is the seventh in the Trent series.

The question always arises with series books - can you read them as stand alones? Well, yes you could, but in my opinion you'd be missing out on some really great reading and a lot of backstory if you didn't start earlier on in the series.

In Criminal, a local college student goes missing and although this would normally fall into Will's lap, his boss Amanda pulls him off the case. The case bears marked similarities to a case from forty years ago - the case that launched Amanda's career. And both have blood ties to Will.....

Slaughter employs a great past and present narrative. In Criminal, we are finally get answers to the question of Will's murky past and his boss Amanda's interest in his life. And best of all, we get to know Amanda a whole lot better. I also really enjoyed Amanda's partner Evelyn. Although we know her in the present day books, the 1970's Evelyn had me laughing out loud, gasping at the treatment female officers were shown and cheering the pair of them on. Slaughter brings the 1970's to life, with attitudes and lifestyles faithfully reproduced.

The plotting is intricate, believable and gripping. Faint readers, be warned - the crimes are graphic. Crime fiction aficionados - this is a must read series. Check out an excerpt of Criminal now.

You can find Karin Slaughter on Facebook. Can't wait to see what happens in the next book!