Sunday, June 30, 2013

Winner - The List Lover's Guide to Jane Austen

And the lucky winner of a copy of The List Lover's Guide to Jane Austen by Joan Strasbaugh, courtesy of Sourcebooks is:
Freda Mans!
I've contacted you by email for your mailing address.
Please respond within 72 hours.
Thanks to all who entered - check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Guest Post - Catherine McKenzie

I'm thrilled to welcome one of my favourite Canadian authors - Catherine McKenzie - to A Bookworm's World today. Catherine's newest book - Hidden - is newly released (my review)

I've been a fan since the debut of Spin in 2010. We did a guest post back then as well. Spin was a fun read, but also touched on a serious issue - addiction. Arranged was more chick lit with a touch of magic. I adored Forgotten  and yes, there were lots of chick lit elements, but I loved the idea of remaking your life. Every book has been completely different. Which brings us to Hidden and again a new direction. Where does your inspiration /idea for a book spring from? And the main character? Do you have a firm idea of where the book will go and end? Or do things change along the way? How 'real' do your protagonists become for you? Whew! Lots of questions!

"It's funny, because when I sat down to write my first book (Arranged) I didn't really think about genre. By that I mean, I didn't set out to deliberate write chick lit or women's fiction (whatever that is, really). I just had this idea in my head and I wanted to see if I could write it as a novel. I knew that some would characterize it as women's fiction (not that there's anything wrong with that!), but I really was just trying to write the best book I could at the time with the idea that wouldn't leave me alone. Same thing for Spin and Forgotten, too. And now with Hidden, again, I got the idea for the book, but I also wanted to stretch myself as a writer. I wanted to challenge myself by writing from three points of view, by writing from a male perspective. I'm an eclectic reader and my ideas come from all sorts of things; pop culture, stories I hear, some things I've experienced but not in the way you'd think (I really try not to write about myself). And I hope that my readers enjoy the fact that my books are all distinguishable from one another. I know that when fans contact me (which is awesome, thank you, thank you) everyone has a different favourite book of mine and for different reasons too. I love that.
As to the mechanics of how I write it goes something like this: (1) overall idea. (2) title (I love my one word titles). (3) Main character sketch (or main characters in the case of Hidden). (4) See the end -- where is this book going to go, where does the premise take you. (5) the twist -- what's the surprise going to be? Once I have those things down (mostly in my head) I start writing, usually without much more of an outline than that. I did use more of an outline for Hidden (I had to) but really, I suck at outlining.
The characters do become real to me. I have to find their voice to write in and when I'm writing them, I have to be in their voice. But once I get to the end of a book, I'm ready to let them go. Some writer friends talk about missing their characters, being sad that they can't spend more time with them. But I know a book is finished, that I've said all I could the best I could, when I know that I'll be fine without my characters, that they are no longer in my head, but on the page."

Thank you so much for stopping by Catherine. I love hearing the story behind the words!  You can find Catherine McKenzie on Facebook (Catherine is hosting an excerpt of Hidden on her Facebook page. The more ‘Likes’ she gets, the more she reveals.)  and  you can connect with Catherine on Twitter, as well as follow along with the blog tour  with the hashtag #HiddenBT. Or check out the tour page on The Savvy Reader.

Hidden - Catherine McKenzie

I've been a fan of Canadian author Catherine McKenzie from book one. She's just released her fourth book - Hidden. I never know what to expect when I start one of her books - all four have been completely different reads. What I do know is that I'm going to enjoy it.

What if you died unexpectedly?  What if there were secrets you were keeping? What would happen then....

"...we all lie about things. Little things, big things. We all keep stuff hidden. And the longer you're with someone, the more stuff there is like that..."

McKenzie explores that premise in Hidden. Jeff Manning is struck and killed by a car one night. This unexpected loss leaves two women grieving - his wife Claire.....and his co worker Tish.

Hidden is told in those three voices, with Jeff recounting his life with his wife and his...relationship... with Tish. We are privy to Claire's grief and her memories of their life together. And we get to know Tish and her family as well. (Sharp eyes will be able to tell whose chapter it is by the font used in the first line)

McKenzie's exploration of the dynamics of these relationships is incredibly well drawn. The sense of grief both women feel is palpable and beautifully written. My heart broke for Jeff's son Seth as he attempted to deal with his father's death. I initially expected to dislike Tish, given that she is 'the other woman'. But is she? When is a line crossed? I found my thoughts on each character and their choices changing with every new chapter and revelation revealed.

Although the main focus is these three characters, Catherine also explores the relationships between family members, friends and workmates as well. Tim and his brother Jeff have one of the most difficult of all. McKenzie does an impressive job writing from a male perspective. Actually, it was all impressive. I was caught up in the story and characters from the first page. The ending caught me totally unawares - and had me rethinking what I had read.

Catherine McKenzie has written a very real, insightful and powerful novel exploring the complex and complicated relationships that shape our lives.  This would be a fantastic selection for a book club - Catherine has come up with a set of questions sure to start a great discussion.

Another fantastic novel from a very talented author. I can't wait to see what she comes up with for book number five!

You can find Catherine McKenzie on Twitter and on Facebook.Check out the Savvy Reader tour for more reviews and features.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Over the Counter # 169

What book caught my eye this week as it passed over the library counter and under my scanner? My Ideal Bookshelf - Art by Jane Mount and Edited by Thessaly La Force.

This one generated lots of talk amongst staff - what would be on your ideal bookshelf?

From the publisher - Little, Brown and Company:

"The books that we choose to keep --let alone read-- can say a lot about who we are and how we see ourselves. In MY IDEAL BOOKSHELF, dozens of leading cultural figures share the books that matter to them most; books that define their dreams and ambitions and in many cases helped them find their way in the world. Contributors include Malcolm Gladwell, Thomas Keller, Michael Chabon, Alice Waters, James Patterson, Maira Kalman, Judd Apatow, Chuck Klosterman, Miranda July, Alex Ross, Nancy Pearl, David Chang, Patti Smith, Jennifer Egan, and Dave Eggers, among many others. With colorful and endearingly hand-rendered images of book spines by Jane Mount, and first-person commentary from all the contributors, this is a perfect gift for avid readers, writers, and all who have known the influence of a great book." Look inside.

(Over the Counter is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World. I've sadly come to 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 catchy your eye as well. See if your local library has them on their shelves!)     

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Death's Last Run - Robin Spano

Death's Last Run is the third installment in Robin Spano's series featuring undercover agent Clare Vengel, but is a first read of this author for me.

At twenty four years old, Clare has already worked undercover for the RCMP and is currently employed by the FBI. This time out, it's a joint case between the two agencies. Clare is sent to Whistler, BC where Sacha, the daughter of a US Senator, has committed suicide. Or has she? The Senator doesn't think so - and she has clout. So, it's Clare's job to infiltrate the local scene.

And infiltrate she does - Clare ends up with Sacha's roommate, her job and one of lovers. And more. Told by her handlers to not sample the local drugs, Clare goes right ahead.

This was my first introduction to this conflicted character. On the one hand, she wants to do a good job, but consistently bucks her superiors, taking risks that endanger both herself and the case. She desperately wants a secure relationship with her boyfriend Noah, but has no problem sleeping with suspects and calling it work. To be honest,  I'm not sure if I like her or not. But you don't have to like a protagonist to keep turning pages. And that I did.

Spano has done a great job bringing the underculture of Whistler to life and has populated her novel with colourful characters. Spano effectively switches points of view, telling the story through the eyes of the cop, the undercover agent and the suspects.  The plotting is inventive and multi-layered with lots of suspects to choose from. I did find it a bit hard to believe that the policing in Whistler - " Canada's most expensive playground" is so lackadaisical.

Spano has opened the door for Clare to go international - I'll be interested to see where she goes and who she becomes next. And what direction  Clare's personal life takes as well.

Heads up for gentle readers - sex and drug use included. Read an excerpt of Death's Last Run. You can find Robin Spano on Twitter.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Stranglehold - Robert Rotenberg

I had a lively discussion with a patron at the library a while ago. He was looking for a good mystery or legal thriller to read. But he had a qualifier - nothing Canadian, he just finds American books 'better'. Oh boy, do I love a challenge...we compromised and I'm just waiting for him to come back and let me know what he thought of the Canadian titles/authors I sent him home with.

Robert Rotenberg was one of those authors. This gentleman likes series, so I sent him home with the first in Rotenberg's excellent series -  Old City Hall. The fourth book, Stranglehold, is newly released and I have to say - Rotenberg gets better and better with every book.

Recurring character Detective Ari Green returns, but in a different role. Rather that being the one in charge of the investigation; this time he's the one being investigated.....for murder. Green finds Jennifer, the married Crown Attorney he has been having an affair with,  dead in the motel room they were meeting at - and the police arrive before he has time to call 911......

I just love the Canadian setting - the descriptions of streets, stores and neighbourhoods that I recognize. It really brings the novel to life. Rotenberg himself is a criminal lawyer in Toronto. His courtroom descriptions and intimacy with the Canadian legal system again brings that 'extra' sense of authenticity to his work. There are some sly nods to present day Toronto that Canadian will 'get'. Notably, the overweight Mayor who coaches a boy's rugby team.

I enjoy Rotenberg's recurring characters. Green is less than perfect and this makes him all the more human. I really enjoy his father's scenes in this book. Kennicott is also a character I really enjoy as he feels his way  through his new position. I hope we see more  of  Awotwe Amankwah, a reporter for the Toronto Star. Rotenberg gives each of his characters an excellent second story line with their personal lives. It lets us get to know them a bit better and carries their story forward into the next book.

The plotting in Stranglehold is excellent, believable and well played. But the exploration of relationships - familial and work are just as much a part of the story. I think this is probably my favourite of the series (so far) An excellent series and definitely recommended eh?

You can find Robert Rotenberg on Facebook and on Twitter.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Giveaway - A Royal Pain - Megan Mulry

It’s time to play A Royal Pain Baby Name Game! To celebrate Megan Mulry's upcoming July release, If the Shoe Fits, Sourcebooks would like to know what you think the name of Will and Kate’s new addition will be! One reader will win a cop of Megan’s first book A Royal Pain. Simply leave a comment below with your boy name or girl name prediction to be entered. Open to US and Canada. Ends July 6th.

If The Shoe Fits:

"The only thing worse than being in the spotlight is being kept in the dark. With paparazzi nipping at his heels, Devon Heyworth, rakish brother of the Duke of Northrop, spends his whole life hiding his intelligence and flaunting his playboy persona. Fast cars and faster women give the tabloids plenty to talk about. American entrepreneur Sarah James is singularly unimpressed with "The Earl" when she meets him at a wedding. But she's made quite an impression on him. When he pursues her all the way across the pond, he discovers that Miss James has no intention of being won over by glitz and glamor—she's got real issues to deal with, and the last thing she needs is larger-than-life royalty mucking about her business..."

A Royal Pain:

"A life of royalty seems so attractive...until you're invited to live it... Smart, ambitious, and career driven, Bronte Talbot started following British royalty in the gossip mags only to annoy her intellectual father. But her fascination has turned into a not-so-secret guilty pleasure. When she starts dating a charming British doctoral student, she teases him unmercifully about the latest scandals of his royal countrymen, only to find out—to her horror!!—that she's been having a fling with the nineteenth Duke of Northrop, and now he wants to make her...a duchess? In spite of her frivolous passion for all things royal, Bronte isn't at all sure she wants the reality. Is becoming royalty every American woman's secret dream, or is it a nightmare of disapproving dowagers, paparazzi, stiff-upper-lip tea parties, and over-the-top hats?"

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Winner - Shadow of Night

And the randomly chosen lucky winner of a copy of Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness, courtesy of Penguin Books is:

Sue Farrell!

Congratulations! I've contacted you by email for your mailing address. Please respond within 72 hours. After that time, a new winner will be chosen.

Winner - The Original 1982

And the randomly chosen lucky winner of a copy of The Original 1982 by Lori Carson, courtesy of William Morrow is:


Congratulations! I've contacted you by email for your mailing address. Please respond within 72 hours. After that time, a new winner will be chosen.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

If You Were Here - Alafair Burke

Alafair Burke is the author of two wonderful series featuring recurring characters Samantha Kincaid, a lawyer and Detective Ellie Hatcher. In her latest book If You Were Here (a stand alone) she brings us another great protagonist - and another fantastic book for some hot summer reading.

McKenna Jordan is a journalist for a NYC magazine. This is a second career for McKenna. She was an Assistant District Attorney for the city, but she resigned in disgrace after badly fumbling her first big case.

Looking for her next story for the magazine, McKenna decides to follow up on a report of a woman rescuing a young man from certain death on the subway tracks; then disappearing. Bystander cell phone footage is blurry, but McKenna is sure the woman is her old friend Susan - who disappeared ten years ago. Her husband Patrick went to school with Susan and he's equally sure it can't be her.

"She watched the video one more time. There was no way to be certain, but somehow the woman in the video looked more like Susan with every viewing. If Susan was still alive, where had she been all this time? Why did she leave? Why didn't she tell anyone? And why was she back now?

Hooked! Oh yes, I do love this kind of book. And Burke takes it to a new level with If You Were Here. I loved the slow peeling back of layers as McKenna revisits the disappearance of Susan, the case that cost her her ADA career - and her relationship with her husband. We're along for the ride with McKenna chasing leads and wondering who is telling the truth. I really enjoyed McKenna as a character - she's dogged and determined, but not perfect.

Burke's plotting was complex and intricately carved from seemingly disparate puzzle pieces just waiting to be clicked into place. Read carefully - ostensibly innocuous comments end up being subtly inserted clues to the final answer. And that final answer was nowhere near where I thought the book would go. Burke kept me guessing and kept me engaged from first page to last. This one's on my hot summer reads list. If you haven't read Alafair Burke yet - what are you waiting for?! Read an excerpt of If You Were Here.

"Alafair Burke is the author of “two power house series” (Sun-Sentinel) that have earned her a reputation for creating strong, believable, and eminently likable female characters, such as NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher and Portland Deputy District Attorney Samantha Kincaid. Alafair’s novels grow out of her experience as a prosecutor in America’s police precincts and criminal courtrooms, and have been featured by The Today Show, People Magazine, The New York Times, MSNBC, The Washington Post, USA Today, and The Chicago Sun-Times. According to Entertainment Weekly, Alafair “is a terrific web spinner” who “knows when and how to drop clues to keep readers at her mercy.” You can find Alafair Burke on Facebook and on Twitter."

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

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Over the Counter #168

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Two very different women's memoirs this week.

First up is Drinking with Men by Rosie Schaap.

From the publisher, Riverhead Books:

"A vivid, funny, and poignant memoir that celebrates the distinct lure of the camaraderie and community one finds drinking in bars.

Rosie Schaap has always loved bars: the wood and brass and jukeboxes, the knowing bartenders, and especially the sometimes surprising but always comforting company of regulars. Starting with her misspent youth in the bar car of a regional railroad, where at fifteen she told commuters’ fortunes in exchange for beer, and continuing today as she slings cocktails at a neighborhood joint in Brooklyn, Schaap has learned her way around both sides of a bar and come to realize how powerful the fellowship among regular patrons can be.

In Drinking with Men, Schaap shares her unending quest for the perfect local haunt, which takes her from a dive outside Los Angeles to a Dublin pub full of poets, and from small-town New England taverns to a character-filled bar in Manhattan’s TriBeCa. Drinking alongside artists and expats, ironworkers and soccer fanatics, she finds these places offer a safe haven, a respite, and a place to feel most like herself. In rich, colorful prose, Schaap brings to life these seedy, warm, and wonderful rooms. Drinking with Men is a love letter to the bars, pubs, and taverns that have been Schaap’s refuge, and a celebration of the uniquely civilizing source of community that is bar culture at its best.

Next up was A Spoonful of Sugar: A Nanny's Story by Brenda Ashford.

From the publisher Doubleday Books:

"Brenda Ashford is the quintessential British nanny. Prim and proper, gentle and kind, she seems to have stepped straight out of Mary Poppins. For more than six decades Nanny Brenda swaddled, diapered, dressed, played with, sang to, cooked for, and looked after more than one hundred children. From the pampered sons and daughters of lords ensconced in their grand estates to the children of tough war evacuees in London’s East End, Brenda has taught countless little ones to be happy, healthy, and thoroughly well bred. In this delightful memoir, Brenda shares her endearing, amusing, and sometimes downright bizarre experiences turning generations of children into successful adults.

From the moment Brenda first held her baby brother David she was hooked. She became a second mother to him, changing his nappies, reading him stories, and giving him all the love her warm heart contained. Knowing a career caring for children was her calling in life, Brenda attended London’s prestigious Norland College, famous for producing top-notch nannies. It was a sign of privilege and good taste for the children of the well-to-do to be seen being pushed in their Silver Cross prams by Norland nannies, who were recognizable by their crisp, starched black uniforms with white bib collars, and their flowing black capes lined with red silk. And what skills were these trainees tested on daily? Lullaby singing, storytelling, pram shining, bed making, all forms of sewing, cooking simple meals, and dispensing first aid—including knowing the best way to help the medicine go down.

In A Spoonful of Sugar, Brenda recalls her years at Norland and her experiences during the war (after all, even if bombs are dropping, there’s no reason to let standards slip), and recounts in lovely detail a life devoted to the care of other people’s children.

Sprinkled throughout with pearls of wisdom (you can never give children too much love, and you should learn how to sew a button, for goodness’ sake), this delightful memoir from Britain’s oldest living nanny is practically perfect in every way."

(Over the Counter is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World. I've sadly come to 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 catchy your eye as well. See if your local library has them on their shelves!)       

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Out of Range - Hank Steinberg

 Out of Range is Hank Steinberg's debut novel. But Steinberg was also the creator and producer of a television show I enjoyed - Without a Trace. The fictional tv show setting was the Missing Persons Unit of the FBI in New York City and their search for - you guessed it - missing persons.

Well, Steinberg has taken that successful one hour formula and parlayed it into a novel that I also really enjoyed.

Charlie Davis and his wife Julie were living and working in Eastern Uzbekistan in 2005 when the country erupted in violence. They barely made it out with their lives - and newborn son. They move back to the US to raise him in a stable and safer environment. Life is good for the Davises. Or so Charlie thought. Until the day his children are found alone in the family's vehicle on a dead end street. And Julie is missing.

Out of Range is my favourite kind of suspense novel - an everyday person forced into extraordinary circumstances. Steinberg ups the ante with an international setting and by incorporating actual events into his story.

Out of Range is a perfect summer read. Lots of action, suspense, cliff hangers, international intrigue, terrorist and more all added up to a entertaining read.  Yes, some of it is a bit over the top, but again - perfect escapist reading. Fans of Harlan Coben and Linwood Barclay would enjoy this new author. And this reader will be looking for his next novel.

And if sounds like a great movie is. Steinberg is working on the screenplay for Out of Range for Paramount Pictures. Read an excerpt of Out of Range.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Killing Hour - Paul Cleave

The promo paragraph for The Killing Hour by Paul Cleave immediately caught my eye and sounded like the kind of thriller book I really enjoy - everyday person in the wrong spot at the wrong time.

"Imagine waking up covered in blood - but it's not your blood. There's a nasty bump on your head, and the morning paper reports that two young women were brutally murdered. You recognize their names. Pieces of the night before come back to you through the haze. And now you're the suspect in their grisly deaths. Welcome to Charlie's world."

Spoiler alert - If you have plans to read this book, stop here.

Although the premise is excellent, the delivery fell short, very short for me. We've got at least three viewpoints going on - the dying cop who decides to pursue Charlie on his own and exact justice on his terms, Charlie's narrative and that of  Cyris, the man Charlie claims is the killer.  The cop's narrative was the most readable of the three. Charlie's first person narrative was rambling.  He also talks to 'ghosts'.

The plotting seemed over the top and far fetched. Charlie watches two women get attacked, jumps in, saves them,  kills the bad guy and then accompanies them back their house to take a shower rather than go to or call the cops!? Really? There were other situations that just had me shaking my head - his wife going along with his plan to catch the 'real' killer was unrealistic as well. And still, they never call the police.....Same thing, over and over again.

And the killer. Well, the original incarnation of The Killing Hour as a horror novel is quite obvious. The guy won't die. And frankly, he just got tiresome. Cleave seems to delight in provide grisly, graphic details to shock the reader. Breast in a box on a bed anyone?

An excellent premise, but sadly it just fell (really) short for me. The Killing Hour was originally written as a unpublished horror novel in the nineties. Cleave reworked it as a crime novel after selling another book. And it was rewritten again for release to the North American market. (Cleave is a Kiwi author and this book is set in New Zealand)

For this reader, this first taste of Paul Cleave will be my last. Although his newer novels may be an improvement over The Killing Hour, I won't be bothering to pick up another book by this author. Read an excerpt of The Killing Hour.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Giveaway - The List Lover's Guide to Jane Austen - Joan Strasbaugh

Calling all Jane Austen fans! Thanks to the generous folks at Sourcebooks, I have a brand new 'Jane' book to giveaway! But this one's a little different....

From the publisher:

"Her life, her work, her legacy—step into the world of the incredible Jane Austen. It's Jane like you've never seen! Through fun and breezy lists, discover everything there is to know about Jane Austen, the sassy literary genius we know and love. Learn her likes and dislikes, her haves and have-nots, where she traveled, how she lived, and who she knew. The List Lover’s Guide is incredibly detailed and offers readers an in-depth look at the context of Ms. Austen’s life from birth to her final days, and expands upon why she is still so relevant today in both literature and life. Anyone who loves or appreciates Jane’s smart, timeless literature will devour this text and will refer to it again and again."

With a wealth of little-known and fascinating information, find out:

•Her friends and her beaux
•Every place she lived or visited
•Books in her library
•Her quirks
•The last lines of everything she wrote
•and much more!

Here's a short one for you..... What was Jane's pet peeve?

Pet Peeve: Untidiness

"Mary does not manage matters in such a way as to make me want to lay in myself. She is not tidy enough in her appearance; she has no dressing-gown to sit up in; her curtains are all too thin, and things are not in that comfort and style about her which are necessary to make such a situation an enviable one. Elizabeth was really a pretty object with her nice clean cap put on so tidily and her dress so uniformly white and orderly." - Jane Austen to Cassandra, November 1798.

Sound like a book you'd like to have on your shelves? Simply leave a comment to be entered. Open to US and Canada. Closes June 29/13.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Over the Counter #167

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Exploration is this week's theme.

First up was Hidden Cities: A Memoir of Urban Exploration by Moses Gates. Subtitled: Travels to the Secret Corners of the World's Great Metropolises.

From the publisher, Tarcher Books:

"In this fascinating glimpse into the world of urban exploration, Moses Gates describes his trespasses in some of the most illustrious cities in the world from Paris to Cairo to Moscow.

Gates is a new breed of adventurer for the 21st century. He thrives on the thrill of seeing what others do not see, let alone even know exists. It all began quite innocuously. After moving to New York City and pursuing graduate studies in Urban Planning, he began unearthing hidden facets of the city—abandoned structures, disused subway stops, incredible rooftop views that belonged to cordoned-off buildings. At first it was about satiating a nagging curiosity; yet the more he experienced and saw, the more his thirst for adventure grew, eventually leading him abroad. In this memoir of his experiences, Gates details his travels through underground canals, sewers, subways, and crypts, in metropolises spanning four continents.

In this finely-written book, Gates describes his immersion in the worldwide subculture of urban exploration; how he joined a world of people who create secret art galleries in subway tunnels, break into national monuments for fun, and travel the globe sleeping in centuries-old catacombs and abandoned Soviet relics rather than hotels or bed-and-breakfasts. They push each other further and further—visiting the hidden side of a dozen countries, discovering ancient underground Roman ruins, scaling the Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg bridges, partying in tunnels, sneaking into Stonehenge, and even finding themselves under arrest on top of Notre Dame Cathedral.

Ultimately, Gates contemplates why he and other urban explorers are so instinctively drawn to these unknown and sometimes forbidden places—even (and for some, especially) when the stakes are high. Hidden Cities will inspire readers to think about the potential for urban exploration available for anyone, anywhere—if they have only the curiosity (and nerve!) to dig below the surface to discover the hidden corners of this world."
Next up was Tales From the Sustainable Underground: A Wild Journey With People Who Care More About the Planet Than the Law by Stephen Hren.

From the publisher, New Society:

"Activists striving for any type of social change often find themselves operating on the fringes of legal and social norms. Many experience difficulties when their innovative ideas run afoul of antiquated laws and regulations that favor a big business, energy- and material-intensive approach.Tales from the Sustainable underground is packed with the stories of just some of these pioneers – who care more for the planet than the rules – whether they’re engaged in natural building, permaculture, community development, or ecologically based art.

Equally entertaining and informative, the profiles in this highly original book provide a unique lens through which to view deeper questions about the societal structures that are preventing us from attaining a more sustainable world. By examining such issues as the nature of property rights and the function of art in society, the author raises profound questions about how our social attitudes and mores have contributed to our current destructive paradigm.

Tales from the Sustainable Underground is a must-read for sustainability activists in any field, or for anyone who wants to learn about more radical forms of sustainability activities in an entertaining way.

(Over the Counter is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World. I've sadly come to 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 catchy your eye as well. See if your local library has them on their shelves!)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Eat St. - James Cunningham

The local city council for the city I work in has been debating for the last few months on whether or not to allow mobile food trucks in the city. Their initial proposal was to allow three trucks at three specific sites between eight am and nine pm. In a city of over 350,000 people. That recommendation didn't pass and this hot potato issue is back on the table. (pun definitely intended)
But perhaps City Council should investigate a little closer - either by watching Eat St. on the Food Network or by picking up the companion book -Eat St. from Pintail Books. (There are quite a few Canadian entries)
Comedian James Cunningham is the host of Eat St. "It has been a wild ride traveling all over North America and the U.K. to find the most daring, delicious, and inventive street food around." And now fans can have the "recipes from the Tastiest, Messiest, and Most Irresistible Food Trucks"
Of course there are fries - a staple of the wagons found nearly everywhere. But these are not your ordinary greasy spoon fries. Next time I'm in Calgary, I'll be looking up the Fries and Dolls truck and their 'Farrah' fries - garlic, parsley, pink sea salt and Padano cheese......yum.

Burgers and dogs are also taken to a new level. Burgers with crushed pineapple as the secret ingredient.  Peanut butter with that burger? Japanese fusion hot dogs. How about a side of beet home fries to go with that?

Sandwiches - oh man, I was drooling through this chapter - The veggie melt from The Grilled Cheese Truck looks so delicious (and healthy) A little far for me to go (they operate in LA) but I've got the recipe bookmarked.

There's a separate chapter on tacos and wraps.... cones. Yes cones - and not filled with ice cream, but mac and cheese with bacon topping. Those of you in Baltimore can stop by the Gypsy Queen Cafe for a taste.

Soups, noodles, seafood, salads, pasta and so much more. Truly - every food imaginable can be had on a food truck somewhere. Ohh - and the last chapter - sweet stuff....smoothies, donuts, cookies, donuts and cupcakes (maple-bacon anyone?)

There are so many wonderfully different trucks represented, each featured along with the recipe of their signature dish. Eat St. is a fabulous exploration of a wildly creative, talented bunch of chefs who just happen to operate on wheels. Have a peek inside Eat St.

(There are some very cleverly named trucks out there - I Dream of Weenie, The Dogfather Diner and The Rolling Stove to name just a few)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Never Saw it Coming - Linwood Barclay

I'll read anything with Linwood Barclay's name on it - he is one of my favourite suspense authors.

I loved his latest novel, Trust Your Eyes (my review) and can't wait for August's release of Tap on the Window.

But in the meantime, pick up Never Saw it Coming, to tide you over. Never Saw it Coming is a fleshed out version of a novella originally published in the UK in 2011 as Clouded Vision.

Keisha Ceylon is a psychic. Or so she says. What she really does is comb the news for missing persons reports. And then she helpfully offers her psychic services to the distraught families....for a fee of course.

Hot on the heels of a successful scam, she hears about Ellie Garfield's disappearance. Perfect. But perhaps her predictions are a little too close to the truth this time. Ellie's husband thinks so. And he doesn't like loose ends.

Never Saw it Coming does read like a short story with lots of rapid twists and turns. Barclay is a master manipulator and takes the narrative in oft changing directions. And finishes up with an ending I didn't predict. Those looking for great character development and intricate plotting won't find it with this offering. But if you're looking for a fast paced read to keep you turning pages for an evening, this is definitely for you. Currently #2 on the Globe's Canadian Fiction Bestseller list

If you haven't, by any wild chance, read Linwood Barclay yet, this is a great introduction to his style of writing. This fan is now anxiously waiting for August.....

You can find Linwood Barclay on Facebook and on Twitter.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Dads Rock with DK Canada

Father's Day is just around the corner - Sunday, June 16 this year.
Have you picked up anything for the dad, grandpa or husband you'll be celebrating with that day? Not yet? Well, DK Canada has some great suggestions and 30% off a number of titles in their
I love to give books as a gift (go figure eh?) and must admit, my DH got his hands on one of his a bit early this year. Star Trek - The Visual Dictionary. Yes, he's a Trekkie. And we have many gadgets and books gracing our bookshelves - but not this one. So, he was pretty darn happy.
The subtitle is The Ultimate Guide to Characters, Aliens, and Technology. The verdict from my DH? It delivered. Every captain that has piloted the Enterprise is portrayed as well as their crew. Equipment too (Phasers on!) And every alien species ever encountered. (I do remember The Trouble with Tribbles) The book is well laid out, includes full colour photographs of everything with lots of detail. DH had lots of fun with this book. Unfortunately for me - it led to (re)watching remembered episodes!

Now I must admit that this book - The Beginner's Photography Guide - was for both of us. I kinda, sorta um dropped our old digital last year......and it was unrepairable. So, I upgraded to a newer (and with more features) digital camera last year. And I'm ashamed to admit that I really don't have a firm grasp on all that it can do. (And either does the DH) So this one is for both of us. With a subtitle of: The Ultimate Step-by-Step Manual for Getting the Most From Your Digital Camera, I thought I might find some answers!

The introduction confirmed I was on the right track."The aim of this book is simple: to provide you with a solid foundation in digital photography. It cuts through the jargon and complicated technicalities that can make the subject unnecessarily intimidating, and shows you how to the get the most out of your camera"

You know, I've heard the words bandied about and had a little understanding but I feel like I know have a firmer grasp of exposure, shooting modes, lighting, focusing and more. And that I can take control or used the automatic settings. There's a great chapter on editing your photos as well.

DK books are always filled with high quality colour photographs. And lots and lots of detail. I'm a visual learner, so I love their titles. And I definitely feel like I 'own' the camera a little more now. I'm really looking forward to just playing with it and getting some great outdoor shots this summer. DH says that's fine with him - he'll be on the couch watching Star Trek re runs.......

Winners - A Spear of Summer Grass

And the two lucky (and randomly chosen) winners of a copy of A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn, courtesy of Harlequin Books are:

1. Kim
2. Maureen

Congratulations! I've contacted you by email for your mailing addresses. Please respond within 72 hours. Thanks to all who entered - check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Bootstrapper: A Memoir - Mardi Jo Link

Subtitled: From Broke to Badass on a Northern Michigan Farm.

Bootstrapper: to promote or develop by initiative and effort with little or no assistance --- Merriam-Webster dictionary.
Mardi Jo Link is living the life she always dreamed of - three amazing young sons and the opportunity to raise them in the countryside in a beautiful old farmhouse sitting on six acres. And yes, there was a husband too - but with divorce now a certainty, Mardi Jo is determined to hang onto her sons, her house and her land - by herself. 

"I'm claiming my sons, the farm, the debt, the other debt, the horses, the dogs, and the land. I'm claiming our century-old farmhouse, the garden, the woods, the pasture, the barn, and the Quonset-hut garage. They're all mine now, and this is how I will raise my boys: on cheerful summer days and well water and BB guns and horseback riding and dirt. Because I'm claiming our whole country life, the one I've been dreaming of and planning out and working for since I was a little girl."

And this is where the bootstrapping comes into play -for Link is working with next to nothing in the way of finances. And wants to do it on her own - "I made this bed and I'll either lie in it or die in it, but I won't ask anyone for help."

Mardi Jo details the physical ups and downs - the day to day business of providing, but Bootstrapper also reads like a personal diary with Link's hopes, dreams, triumphs, losses and more laid bare. But what shone through the brightest was the love for her sons. These are the passages that stayed with me the longest. There are struggles, but the love and support they feel for each other is tangible. And quite humorous at times.

""Boys," I announced, "we're going to raise some chickens."
"Another pet to play with!" said Will, the idealist.
"Another kind of poop to clean up, said Luke, the worker.
"Another animal in bondage," said Owen, the activist."

I couldn't put Bootstrapper down - I was cheering Mardi Jo on with every chapter. And I empathized - we too bought an old farmhouse and there were some mighty lean years in the beginning - and there were two of us. I loved the descriptions of her garden - I too have grown our own vegetables for many, many years. Seed catalogues are exciting.

And at the end of the year is there a happy ever after ending? I'll let you discover that for yourself.

Bootstrapper is a one sitting read, one I enjoyed for its honesty. These are the memoirs I like to read - real people, real life. And she sounds like the kind of person I'd like to visit with on the porch. You can find Mardi Jo Link on Facebook.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Over the Counter #166

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under the scanner? Retro this week!

First up was The Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Sixties Cookbook: Subtitled More Than 100 Recipes for the Modern Cook by Heather MacLean and Rick Rodgers.

From the publisher Running Press:

"As Don Draper famously said, “Nostalgia: a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone.” Nostalgia, of course, also calls to one’s appetite. Thanks in part to the popular series Mad Men, fans are discovering the classic cuisine of the 1960’s; whether to revisit the favorite recipes of their childhoods or to celebrate the comforting, sometimes kitschy, always-satisfying dishes of the era, including:• Waldorf Salad• Sweet and Sour Meatballs• Beef Stroganoff• Steakhouse Creamed Spinach• Buttermilk Dinner Rolls• Cherries Jubilee• Daiquiri Lime and Gelatin Mold• Classic cocktails such as Blue Hawaiians, Brandy Alexanders, and Manhattans• And many more!Each recipe is adapted for the modern palate, with less fat and healthier ingredients than in the originals (no more bacon fat as a kitchen staple!). Full-color photographs showcase the food, proving that retro cuisine can be sophisticated and delicious. The Sensational Sixties Cookbook will also provide tips on hosting the ultimate sixties soiree, complete with menus, music playlists, and table decorations. So grab a swizzle stick, put Bobby Darin on the turntable, and get cooking—sixties style!"

Next up was '50's, '60's, & 70's Kitchen Collectibles by Douglas Congdon- Martin and Tina Skinner.

From Schiffer Publishing:

"Relive an era when the kitchen was kitsch -- melamine bowls were pink and purple, cocktail shakers and party glasses sported fun themes, iced tea was served in sweaty spun aluminum of futuristic metallic shades, and wall clocks kept time in bright plastic frames shaped to evoke the jet age. This wonderful collector's guide helps to date and value items manufactured for the kitchen in the mid-20th century. items range from ever popular cocktail accessories to serving ware, pitchers and glassware, canisters, spice racks, trivets, ashtrays, rotary wall phones, chalkware ornaments, and salt and pepper shakers. Here is a nostalgic trip back in time, to mom's eat-in kitchen where family and neighbors gathered for cards, gossip, and good eats."

(Over the Counter is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World. I've sadly come to 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 catchy your eye as well. See if your local library has them on their shelves!)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Far Piece to Canaan - Sam Halpern

A Far Piece to Canaan is not my usual reading fare. But I was extremely curious to read it, as Sam Halpern is the father of Justin Halpern - author of Sh*t My Dad Says. Could the same dad with the somewhat foul mouth and no filter really write a book befitting such a bucolic cover?

Surprisingly, yes.

English Professor Samuel Zelinsky's wife Nora has just died of cancer. Before her death, she made Sam promise to return to the hills of Kentucky where he spent part of his youth. Sam has never really talked about those years, growing up as the son of sharecroppers, but somehow Nora knew he had unfinished business. And Sam honours that promise.

As Sam tours through his childhood haunts, the narrative switches back to 1945 and we meet ten year old Sam and his soon to be best friend Fred Cody Mulligan. Halpern does an admirable job in bringing this time and space to life. His descriptive prose bring to life the croak of frogs, the sweetness of an apple and the coolness of a mountain stream. But not everything is idealic - there is something evil lurking around the bottomless Blue Hole. Local superstition says it's the devil, but the boys find evidence that the evil is human. This event is the catalyst for what transpires, shapes and changes the lives of Sam, Fred and their two friends. For me, A Far Piece to Canaan had a very 'Stand By Me' feel to it.

We are transported back and forth from past to present as Sam tries to come to terms with his actions in the past and make reparations in the present.

About halfway through the book, I wondered about there really being Jewish sharecroppers in Kentucky in the 1940s. It was only as I searched our more about the author that I discovered that this was truly Sam Halpern's life. He was that Jewish sharecropper's kid in Kentucky. (Read the full interview here at Tablet Magazine.) And upon discovering that I looked at the book with a different set of eyes in the second half.

For Halpern is writing what he knows, what he lived and what he remembers. "Like every novel, it’s a mixture of fact and fiction. Much of the description of central Kentucky and the life of the sharecroppers are real." It is this 'insider' knowledge that gave the book such a real feel.

 I enjoyed the character of Sam and his description of day to day life. The supporting cast of characters were just as well drawn. I did have a bit of problem accepting the reason the boys 'won't tell', as well as Sam's relationship with Ben and the need to keep it a secret.

Some of the vernacular used was easy to decipher. Hit'll for It will I got, wudn't for would not, but some words I had to guess at. Hun'ney for honey? It is only used by one ten year old boy talking to the other and seemed a bit odd. It seemed a bit hit or miss, with some words that would be easily contracted being spelled out fully such as old (ole) and just (jes'). Minor quibble.

For this reader, the best part of the book was set in the past. I found the 'redemption' part of the story in the last few chapters didn't hold my interest as well (I thought it was a bit too saccharine)

All in all, an admirable debut. And much different than I expected! Read an excerpt of A Far Piece to Canaan.

Sam Halpern is the legendary father of Justin Halpern, author of the phenomenal #1 New York Times bestseller Sh*t My Dad Says. A professor of nuclear medicine, he lives in southern California.

You can find Sam Halpern on Facebook.

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

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Doll - Taylor Stevens

Doesn't the cover of The Doll just promise an 'edge of your seat' read? And Taylor Stevens delivers one....again!

I've devoured the first two books featuring Vanessa Michael Munroe - The Informationist (my review) and The Innocent (my review) - and have been early awaiting the third novel to feature this kick*** character. The Doll releases today.

Vanessa Michael Munroe is....well, she's deadly, with incredible physical skills and she's brilliant - she speaks many languages and easily assimilates into the situation or culture she finds herself in. She can read people and situations and think three moves ahead. She's also a bit of an enigma - her past is murky and has shaped her into the woman she is today. For a living, she hunts.... people. She's the shadowy figure people call on to do the impossible. Her weak spot? Innocents.

When the last book left off, Michael had allowed herself to let down her guard a bit and enjoy her relationship with Bradford - the owner of Capstone Security Consulting. In this latest book Michael herself is the one taken. A criminal kingpin called The Doll Maker has 'recruited' Michael to deliver a package - a living doll ordered by a wealthy client. To ensure her compliance, he has also taken hostage one of the few people Michael has let get close to her - Logan, the man she considers her brother. 

The Doll is told in two narratives. First, from Bradford's point of view as he and his crew try to track down and rescue both Michael and Logan. Secondly from Michael's as she tries to figure out a way to save herself and her 'package'. And then destroy The Doll Maker. Each storyline was equally addictive and kept me rapidly turning pages as the action escalated. And it truly is non stop.

What makes Steven's writing so good is her lead character. It's so much fun to have such a - as I mentioned earlier - kick*** female character. The action scenes are great, but there's a deeper level to this character as well.  She is the walking wounded and Stevens does a fantastic job depicting Munroe's inner emotional turmoil and her physical struggle to control herself. Each book out, we learn a little bit more about Munroe and her background. She is a fascinating enigma. And a character I'm hooked on. Read an excerpt of The Doll. You'll be hooked too!

Here's what Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher books has to say...."Munroe is a sensational character and Stevens is a sensational writer, and together they put The Doll high on my books-of-the-year list."

You could read The Doll as a stand alone, but I really do recommend starting with The Informationist to fully appreciate this series. (Film rights for this The Informationist have been optioned to James Cameron)

Well, I raced through The Doll far too quickly.... I'll be eagerly waiting for book number four. You can keep up with Taylor Stevens on Facebook and on Twitter.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Thinking of You - Jill Mansell

Well, my summer beach bag wouldn't be complete without Jill Mansell's latest North American release - Thinking of You.

I do love a good chick lit read and British author Mansell never fails to deliver.

Ginny's daughter Jem is on her way to university and that leaves the divorced Ginny with an empty nest, time on her hands and some extra finances needed. She ends up with a new roommate, a new job and a new man in her life. Sounds perfect doesn't it? But....

Jem too, has a new set of roommates, a new job and a new man. But...

What I liked about Thinking of You was the two story lines from two different age perspectives. Mansell has done this in a number of her books. I think this makes her books more appealable to a larger audience. Mansell does an great job writing from each viewpoint.

Ginny was of course a character you'd love to count among your circle of friends - generous and good hearted but with enough insecurities to make her 'real'. And a best friend who's a little over the top - Carla. I have to say I didn't really ever warm up to Carla at all - not before or after 'the incident'. Ginny's ex-husband Gavin was fun and I enjoyed his scenes very much. Jem was portrayed well - a young girl out on her own for the first time experiencing the heartache and heartbreak of youth. And I really enjoyed the scenes of Mom visiting the university - I've lived those and they had me laughing out loud.

There are a few situations where I thought " Oh really, no one would fall for that" or some situations that were a bit too fortuitous, but then I gave my head a shake and reminded myself that it's chick lit. A place not to take things too seriously. A place where love is lost, love is found, friendships are made and tested and happy endings are the norm. In locations and places you'd like to live and work. So, while most of us will never live the lives of chick lit characters, we can visit, daydream and enjoy some escapist reading on a sunny day in the porch swing with Jill Mansell. Read an excerpt of Thinking of You.

You can find Jill Mansell on Facebook and on Twitter.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Winner - The Bookman's Tale

And the randomly chosen lucky winner of a copy of The Bookman's Tale by Charlie Lovett, courtesy of Viking Books is:

Gina D!

Congratulations! I've contacted you by email for your mailing address. Please respond within 72 hours, after which time a new winner will be chosen. Thanks to all who entered - check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways.