Thursday, November 28, 2013

Over the Counter # 190

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? A pair of memoirs this week....

First up was Walden on Wheels: On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom by Ken Ilgunas.

From the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt:

"In this frank and witty memoir, Ken Ilgunas lays bare the existential terror of graduating from the University of Buffalo with $32,000 of student debt. Ilgunas set himself an ambitious mission: get out of debt as quickly as possible. Inspired by the frugality and philosophy of Henry David Thoreau, Ilgunas undertook a 3-year transcontinental journey, working in Alaska as a tour guide, garbage picker, and night cook to pay off his student loans before hitchhiking home to New York.

Debt-free, Ilgunas then enrolled in a master’s program at Duke University, determined not to borrow against his future again. He used the last of his savings to buy himself a used Econoline van and outfitted it as his new dorm. The van, stationed in a campus parking lot, would be more than an adventure—it would be his very own “Walden on Wheels.”

Freezing winters, near-discovery by campus police, and the constant challenge of living in a confined space would test Ilgunas’s limits and resolve in the two years that fol lowed. What had begun as a simple mission would become an enlightening and life-changing social experiment. Walden on Wheels offers a spirited and pointed perspective on the dilemma faced by those who seek an education but who also want to, as Thoreau wrote, “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.”

Next up was A Dog Walks into a Nursing Home: Lessons in the Good Life from an Unlikely Teacher by Sue Halpern.

From the publisher, Riverhead Books:

"A layabout mutt turned therapy dog leads her owner to a new understanding of the good life.

At loose ends with her daughter leaving home and her husband on the road, Sue Halpern decided to give herself and Pransky, her under-occupied Labradoodle, a new leash—er, lease—on life by getting the two of them certified as a therapy dog team. Smart, spirited, and instinctively compassionate, Pransky turned out to be not only a terrific therapist but an unerring moral compass. In the unlikely sounding arena of a public nursing home, she led her teammate into a series of encounters with the residents that revealed depths of warmth, humor, and insight Halpern hadn’t expected. And little by little, their adventures expanded and illuminated Halpern’s sense of what virtue is and does—how acts of kindness transform the giver as well as the given-to.

Funny, moving, and profound, A Dog Walks into a Nursing Home is the story of how one faithful, charitable, loving, and sometimes prudent mutt—showing great hope, fortitude, and restraint along the way (the occasional begged or stolen treat notwithstanding)—taught a well-meaning woman the true nature and pleasures of the good life."

(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 catch your eye as well. See if your local library has them on their shelves!)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tell No Lies - Gregg Hurwitz

I love suspense novels - especially those that throw an 'everyday' person into extraordinary circumstances.

Gregg Hurwitz writes this genre - and does it very well. His latest book is Tell No Lies.

Daniel Brasher comes from money, but decided to make his own way in life and make a difference in other's lives. Daniel works as a counsellor for a group of paroled violent offenders. While checking his oft neglected staff mailbox one night, he comes across a unsigned departmental envelope. The missive inside is chilling...

"Admit what youv don, or you will bleed for it. you hav til november 15 at midnite. jack holley."

The date has passed, and when Daniel and his wife check the paper - they find the news story detailing the murder of Jack Holley. Daniel contacts the police, but more letters - and more deadlines - keep showing up in his mailbox. Could it be one of the ex-cons in his group? Why is Daniel receiving these letters?

Hurwitz has populated Tell No Lies with lots of suspects to choose from. He plants red herrings and provides enough twists and turns that I really had no idea 'whodunit' until the last few chapters. You may have to suspend disbelief on a few plot points, but Hurwitz has written a great piece of escapist reading. Tell No Lies is all about the page turning action (which is exactly what I wanted). Daniel is somewhat fleshed out, but don't expect great characterization. His mother and some of the cons are a bit cliched, but serve their purpose.

The counselling sessions with the parolees were well written and actually provided some food for thought. There are some other social commentary bits scattered throughout the book.

Recommended for suspense and thriller readers. Fans of Harlan Coben and Linwood Barclay would enjoy Gregg Hurwitz.

Read an excerpt of Tell No Lies. You can keep up with Gregg Hurwitz on Facebook and on Twitter.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker - Jennifer Chiaverini - Review AND Giveaway

When I hear Jennifer Chiaverini's name, I immediately think of her Elm Creek Quilt series.

In her latest book, the stitching continues, but the story is much bigger in Mrs Lincoln's Dressmaker. Chiaverini takes us to Washington in the Civil War era.

I was fascinated to learn that Chiaverini's lead character Elizabeth Keckley is a real historical figure. Keckley was a slave who bought her own freedom with money earned from her considerable dressmaking skills. Those skills took her to Washington where she caught the attention of First Lady Mary Lincoln Todd. The business relationship evolved into more - Keckley became a confidante of Mary and was indeed privy to the inner workings of the Lincoln family. Keckley published her autobiography in 1868 - "Behind the Scenes: Or, Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House." I did go and read bits and pieces of Keckley's book. Much of Chiaverini's research is culled directly from this narrative.

The opening chapters set the tone and atmosphere of the charged months leading up to the Civil War. Although much of it is simply factual, Chiaverini gives us a different view by describing the events through the eyes of historical figures. I must admit that I started peeking ahead a few chapters. I am familiar with this period in history and found the opening chapters a bit slow and more of an overview. I wanted to get to know the characters more intimately.

We do get a more personal view once Elizabeth is ensconced in Mary's inner circle. But that view seems to focus primarily on Mary and Elizabeth's action and reactions to Lincoln's life and crises. Details of Keckley's life are woven in, I just never felt like I connected with this character. I wanted to - her story is fascinating. My strongest reactions were for the Lincoln's - the President is well portrayed and the reader sympathizes with the difficult times and choices he must make, Elizabeth doesn't fare as well - she's unlikeable and difficult.

Chiaverini's previous series also explore history, but are much loved for the warm female relationships, 'folksy' feel and the sense that you too, are sitting around the table with the characters. That sense of being 'in the book' was missing for this reader in Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker. I wanted more fiction than fact.  Still, it was well written  - Chiaverini is a talented wordsmith. Read an excerpt. A reading group guide is also available for book clubs.

January 2014 will see the release of Mrs. Lincoln's Rival - "the First Lady’s very public social and political contest with Kate Chase Sprague." You can keep up with Jennifer on Facebook and on Twitter.

"Jennifer Chiaverini is the author of the New York Times bestselling Elm Creek Quilts series, as well as five collections of quilt patterns inspired by her novels. Her original quilt designs have been featured in Country Woman, Quiltmaker, Quiltmaker's 100 Blocks Volumes 3-5, and Quilt, and her short stories have appeared in Quiltmaker and Quilters Newsletter. She has taught writing at Penn State and Edgewood College and designs the Elm Creek Quilts fabric lines from Red Rooster Fabrics. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame and the University of Chicago, she lives with her husband and two sons in Madison, Wisconsin."

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

Jennifer Chiaverini fans will want to add this title to their library (and quilting aficionados - there is a quilt in Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker) Thanks to the generosity of Dutton Books, I have a copy to giveaway to one lucky reader. Simply leave a comment to be entered. Ends December 14/13. Open to US and Canada.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Winner - Sweet Nothings - Janis Thomas

And the lucky winner of a copy of Sweet Nothings by Janis Thomas, courtesy of Berkley Books is:
Heather Sebastian!
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. Thanks to all who entered - check the sidebar for other great giveaways.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Over the Counter #189

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Well, I've got a bit of a sweet tooth....

First up was Dress Your Cake by Joanna Farrow.

From Octopus Books:

"Create cakes with a big personalities, and then eat them! Bake, dress and enjoy 50 outrageously adorable designs!Munch on a Millipede! Graze on a Golf Course! Snack on a Skateboard! Give your cakes the ultimate 'bakeover'.

With 40 stunning creations to choose from, here you will find cakes for everyone and every occasion - from rockets and kittens to a hamburger with chips and even a casino table! So whether you want a rainy-day activity to do with the kits or something colourful and different to bake and create for family and friends baking and decorating cakes has never been so much fun! Easy-to-follow makes mean this book has no end of ideas and inspiration. It caters for every taste and style imaginable. Pirate Ship, Super Spaceship and Flamin' Skateboard are perfect for a boy's party, with Toadstool Cottage, Ballerina Shoes and Elephants on Parade ideal for their little sisters!

Treat the man in your life to the golf-enthused Tee Time, the ever-so classy Monsieur Moustache and Poker themed Luck of the Draw. And for the grown-up girls the gorgeous Vintage Birdcage, Japanese Blossom cake and the indulgent Macaron Gift Box should be the perfect focal point for any celebratory occasion. This book has four cake recipes(Vanilla Sponge, Vanilla Cupcakes, Madeira Cake and Rich Chocolate) and four icing recipes (Vanilla Buttercream, Royal Icing, Homemade Rolled Fondant, Dark Chocolate Ganache) giving you an excellent springboard to your decorating endeavours."

Next up was The Icing on the Cake: Your Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide to Decorating Baked Treats by Juliet Stallwood.

From Duncan Baird Publishing:

"Welcome to the world of baking and decorating! Whether you’ve never picked up a cookie cutter or a piping nozzle before or you’re an experienced baker, this book will show you how easy it is to transform a humble cake, cupcake, biscuit, cake pop, macaron or other baked treat into a stunning creation.

Juliet Stallwood runs a bakery specialising in decorated goodies and is renowned for her unique and imaginative designs. For the first time she is sharing her secrets in a book. In Chapter One of The Icing on the Cake, ‘Decorate to Indulge’, you’ll find recipes for sweet comforts such as Chocolate Swirl Cupcakes and Raspberry Dust Macarons. Chapter Two, ‘Decorate for Love’, revels in the art of romance, including wonderful wedding favours like Kissing Birds Biscuits and a Heart Chocolate Box Cake for your Valentine. Chapter Three, ‘Decorate to Celebrate’, gives you recipes for birthday parties, baby showers and festive occasions, including teddy bear and rabbit cupcakes and a Gingerbread House. The book finishes with a flourish in Chapter Four, ‘Decorate to Impress’, which is full of extravagant show-off pieces like the Ivory Corsage Wedding Cake and Magnificent Mini Cakes.

There are over 50 gorgeous recipes that are completely do-able, all with practical information and clear instructions. Plus, in Chapter Five you’ll find all of Juliet’s ‘Best-Kept Secrets’, from tools and equipment to techniques and downloadable templates, making this a must-have book."

(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 catch your eye as well. See if your local library has them on their shelves!)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Rosie Project - Graeme Simsion

It was a dark and stormy night....our power went out on Sunday night - reports indicated that it would be out for most of the night. Rather than digging around for a flashlight, I realized I could use the handy dandy flashlight app on my iPad - and that I could easily hunker down and read in the dark. (Others in the house were moaning about televisions and PlayStations)

Well, I read until the iPad ran out of juice. (I didn't have a full charge when I started) Do you ever start a novel and realize you're in for a fantastic read within the first few pages? Graeme Simsion's debut novel, The Rosie Project, was one of those books.

Genetics Professor Don Tillman leads his life by a strict schedule, strict rules and rigidly adheres to them. He's brilliant, but socially inept, unable to read facial clues or experience emotion. He's had a few first dates (very few) but never a second one. Nearing his fortieth birthday, he decides he needs to find a mate. But how to do that without wasting time? Aha!

"A questionnaire! Such an obvious solution. A purpose-built, scientifically valid instrument incorporating current best practice to filter out the time wasters, the disorganized, the ice-cream discriminators, the visual-harassment complainers, the crystal gazers, the horoscope readers, the fashion obsessives, the religious fanatics, the vegans, the sports watchers the creationists, the smokers, the scientifically illiterate, the homeopaths, leaving, ideally, the perfect partner, or realistically, a managed short list of candidates."

And The Wife Project is born. And then Rosie Jarman walks into Don's office. Don thinks she is there to apply for The Wife Project, but  Rosie is looking for a geneticist to help her find her biological father.  Rosie is everything Don is NOT looking for in a mate. But he's intrigued by her search. And so, The Father Project is born. And maybe, just maybe, Rosie is a little intriguing as well...

I loved Don and his view of the world. His scheduling, his routines, his reaction to the rest of the world - and theirs to him. Simsion manipulates the reader wonderfully. I became so invested in Don and his search and his burgeoning self awareness. I empathized, I laughed, I cheered. The supporting cast of married couple Gene and Claudia were just as well drawn. It was interesting to see their story revealed through Don's eyes.

Don narrates the whole story and never breaks character. It was truly eye opening to see the world through a 'different' filter.

The Rosie Project was absolutely wonderful and beguiling and just a really, good heartwarming, read. Think The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Night-Time meets The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. Read an excerpt of The Rosie Project. Keep up with Graeme Simsion on Twitter.

Sony Pictures has optioned film rights to The Rosie Project and Simsion is working on a sequel.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Sycamore Row - John Grisham

Twenty five years ago, the initial print run of John Grisham's first novel, A Time to Kill, was 5000 copies. His second novel propelled him onto the bestseller lists - where every subsequent novel has landed.

In his latest novel, Sycamore Row, Grisham takes us back to Clanton, Mississippi and his first character - 'street lawyer' Jake Brigance. Three years ago, in 1985, Jake successfully defended a black man accused of murder - the murder of the white rapists of his ten year old daughter. The trial and verdict divided the town and racial tension still runs high.

I was waiting for just the right time to crack the spine of Sycamore Row. (Figuratively speaking of course because I would never hurt a book.  ;)
I just knew that once I started, I wouldn't want to put it down. And I was right - I was hooked from the opening lines....

"They found Seth Hubbard in the general area where he had promised to be, though not exactly in the condition expected. He was at the end of a rope, six feet off the ground and twisting slightly in the wind."

It turns out that reclusive Seth was extremely wealthy. And that he changed his will in the days before his death. His new handwritten will lands in the office of Jake Brigance, delivered by mail the day after Seth's death.  Hubbard has cut out his children and left the bulk of his estate to his housekeeper of three years - a black woman named Lettie Lang. Jake doesn't know Seth Hubbard but is determined to follow Seth's instructions to the letter of the law.

By doing so, he's in for another fight....

Oh man! I loved it, loved it, loved it!!! Nobody does legal thrillers like Grisham. Really, you don't even need the 'legal' qualifier. Grisham is pure and simple, one heck of a storyteller. Absolutely one of the best.  His prose flow seamlessly, drawing the reader ever deeper into the story and the town of Clanton. I could picture myself sitting at the diner, with Dell pouring coffee, and listening to the latest gossip.

The characters are really well drawn. Jake is extremely likable, principled and the kind of lawyer you'd want in your corner. I also quite enjoy the other supporting legal players - drunken, but canny Lucien Wilbanks, the pronouncements of Harry Rex and the astuteness of Sheriff Ozzie Walls.

Grisham brings his setting to life - the town, culture, attitudes and more are all detailed and benefit greatly from the author's own past. The legal machinations employed are just as detailed (and interesting) Grisham both grew up in the South and practiced law in Mississippi.

The plotting is excellent, the tension palpable and the journey to the final pages and reveal is oh so good. Absolutely addictive reading, Stick this one in your own stocking - five stars for sure!

Read an excerpt of Sycamore Row. You can find John Grisham on Facebook.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Death of a Nightingale - Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis

Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis return with their third book - Death of a Nightingale - featuring protagonist Nina Borg.

Nina is a Red Cross nurse working in a Danish refugee camp. She's passionate about her work and the people she looks after - to the detriment of her own life.  Her marriage has broken down and she's lost custody of her children.

Death of a Nightingale continues the story of two of the residents of Coal House Camp - Ukrainian national Natasha and her daughter Katerina. Natasha has been convicted of the attempted murder of her abusive Danish boyfriend, but escapes custody on her way to sentencing, determined to reclaim her child.

Alternate chapters tell the story of two little girls in Stalinist Ukraine in 1934. The glimpse into the past is chilling and compelling. Written from a child's viewpoint, I found these chapters fascinating and found myself heading to the 'net to read more about this period in history. Slowly but surely Kaaberbol and Friis meld the two story lines together. I enjoyed the well plotted and slow paced reveal.

Friis and Kaaberbol have populated the book with incredibly strong female characters, each with dogged and determined wills. Lines are blurred often - what is right versus what is lawful. And what needs to be done. I think this is why I like Nina so much. She is far from perfect, but tries to do right by everyone in her life. She's failing, but is able to see her shortcomings and indeed acknowledges she may not be able to change - her family may be lost to her.

The plot is well crafted and 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. Read an excerpt of The Death of a Nightingale. You can find Kaaberbol and Friis on Facebook.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Giveaway winner - Dark City - F. Paul Wilson

And the lucky winner of a copy of Dark City by F. Paul Wilson, courtesy of Tor Books is:

Todd Banks!

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.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Film on Friday #6 - Broken

The sixth entry in the Film on Friday series is Broken - starring Tim Roth and Cillian Murphy, directed by Rufus Norris. This film has won a large number of awards - amongst them, Best Film at the British Independent Film Awards and it was also an opening night film at Cannes Critics Week.

Eleven year old Skunk lives with her brother, father and housekeeper in a cul-de-sac populated by only a few families. Hers is not the only family touched by tragedy (Mom has run away). Neighbour Bob Oswald's wife has died, leaving him to raise his three hellion daughters. Mr and Mrs Buckley live with their brain damaged adult son Rick across the street.

Skunk witnesses a violent attack on Rick by neighbour Bob who is convinced that Rick has sexually assaulted one of his daughters. That attack seems to be a catalyst, triggering a chain of events that impacts every resident of the cul-de-sac. But none more than Skunk. Her naivete is slowly eroded by the anger she witnesses both outside of her home and within - the housekeeper and her boyfriend have a tumultuous relationship.  Skunk makes tentative overtures into exploring her own burgeoning sexuality, but is exposed to more than an eleven year old needs to see. The violence continues to escalate, following her to school and eventually erupting on that dead end street.

Each and every character in Broken is, well, broken. Norris explores the human condition through the dysfunctional relationships portrayed. But also through the good and positive as well. Themes of love, hate, forgiveness, loss, hope, friendship, bullying, mental illness and more are explored.

You could draw many parallels between To Kill a Mockingbird and Broken - Scout/Skunk, fathers who are lawyers, a minority being persecuted and a loss of innocence. But Norris puts his own stamp on things in Broken. I started out feeling one way about a number of the characters and found my reactions and thoughts turned around by the end.

Eloise Laurence is new to acting, but I predict she has a future in the biz. She was wonderfully unaffected and realistic. Each and every actor involved was excellent. Norris effectively uses single, isolated shots of the principles, underlining their isolation.

I thought Broken was truly an excellent film. Not easy to watch by any means - I did stop it two or three times to get up and come back in a few minutes, but one that was absolutely riveting. Five stars.

United Kingdom. 2012. 90 min. Drama. English

As always, Film Movement includes a short with their main feature. The Way the World Ends again manipulates our perception, starting off with what seems to be a light premise and turning into something altogether different. And it paired well with Broken.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Over the Counter # 188

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Well, this week it was books as art - in two different ways...

First up was Art Made From Books: Altered, Sculpted, Carved Transformed. Compiled by Laura Heyenga. Preface by Brian Dettmer. Introduction by Alyson Kuhn.

From Chronicle Books:

"Artists around the world have lately been turning to their bookshelves for more than just a good read, opting to cut, paint, carve, stitch or otherwise transform the printed page into whole new beautiful, thought-provoking works of art. Art Made from Books is the definitive guide to this compelling art form, showcasing groundbreaking work by today’s most showstopping practitioners. From Su Blackwell’s whimsical pop-up landscapes to the stacked-book sculptures of Kylie Stillman, each portfolio celebrates the incredible creative diversity of the medium. A preface by pioneering artist Brian Dettmer and an introduction by design critic Alyson Kuhn round out the collection. Presented in an unusual, tactile package with an exposed spine, this is an essential addition to the libraries of book lovers and art aficionados.''

Next up was Sorted Books by Nina Katchadourian. (And a shout out to A-G at my library, who makes me laugh with the book poetry that mysteriously appears on my desk!)

Also from Chronicle Books:

"Delighting in the look and feel of books, conceptual artist Nina Katchadourian’s playful photographic series proves that books’ covers—or more specifically, their spines—can speak volumes. Over the past two decades, Katchadourian has perused libraries across the globe, selecting, stacking, and photographing groupings of two, three, four, or five books so that their titles can be read as sentences, creating whimsical narratives from the text found there. Thought-provoking, clever, and at times laugh-out-loud funny (one cluster of titles from the Akron Museum of Art’s research library consists of: Primitive Art /Just Imagine/Picasso/Raised by Wolves), Sorted Books is an enthralling collection of visual poems full of wry wit and bookish smarts."

(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 catch your eye as well. See if your local library has them on their shelves!)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The October List - Jeffery Deaver

Jeffery Deaver has been on my must read author's list from the very beginning. But with The October List, he's challenged both himself as an author and the reader.

For you see, The October List is written backwards. Yes, a novel in reverse. The last chapter is the first one in the book So we know the outcome - or do we? - from the very beginning.

Gabriela is waiting in an apartment with a man, hoping that the other two men who have set out to rescue her kidnapped daughter are successful. The door opens and .....

 Okay, that's the end. Now who is Gabriela, who are the men helping her? Why was her daughter targeted? What does she have that they want?

You must read carefully, paying attention to details. With every chapter (remember, counting backwards on the clock) more connections are made, more characters and motives introduced. And with each new chapter there seems to be another twist, another piece of the puzzle,  another 'no way!' as Deaver carefully manipulates the reader. You'll be completely unable to predict what will happen by the last (which is of course the first) chapter. I loved the fact that I had no idea where the story was going - it was refreshing to be completely clueless! I know, it's hard to wrap your head around. I can't even begin to imagine the detailed notes Deaver must have kept to write the book. And when you finally reach that last (first) page, you absolutely have to go back to the beginning (the end) and reread that last chapter. It turns around 360 degrees! I wonder if anyone has gone back and read it from last page to first?

I absolutely loved The October List - I thought it was a brilliant and bold premise.  Read an excerpt of The October List. You can find Jeffery Deaver on Facebook and on Twitter.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Theory of Opposites - Allison Winn Scotch- Review AND Giveaway

Allison Winn Scotch is an author whose name I was familiar with - I've read many, many positive reviews of her book. But, her latest (5th) book, The Theory of Opposites, is the first one I've read. And I wish I'd picked up one of her books sooner - she really is a delight to read.

Willa and Shawn are that couple - you know  - the ones who do everything together, don't fight and seem to have it all. You know - Shilla.

Because Willa believes it all - we don't control our fate. Our lives are pre - determined. Her father's best selling book "Is It Really Your Choice? Why Your Entire Live May Be Out Of Your Control", has been the defining force in her life....."No one has a choice. We all lead the lives we were meant to live."

Until....Willa finds a wine bar receipt for the night Shawn said he was out playing pick up basketball. Until....Willa's advertising presentation tanks and she's summarily fired. Until....the pink line on the pink line on the EPT test keeps coming up negative. Until....Shawn says he wants time apart and takes a job for the summer in another city..

Until her best friend Vanessa challenges her to take a chance, change her life and live her life exactly opposite to her father's theory....

It takes a bit to make me laugh, but I have to tell you that I was chuckling out loud in the lunch room reading the first few chapters of The Theory of Opposites. Winn Scotch has created absolutely wonderful characters - I was rooting for Willa every step of the way. Her doubts, her insecurities, her thoughts, her dialogue were realistic. The eventual outcome was so satisfying. (Willa and Vanessa would be great friends to have!) The supporting cast was no less endearing. Willa's family had me in stitches, as did the emails sent amongst the family. Scotch is a clever, clever wordsmith.

So, yes there's a huge, fun, chick lit element to the book. But it goes much deeper than that. Willa has to decide if she has the desire, the want and the need to change and be the master of her own fate. So, yes, this is a coming of age story - albeit a little later in life. And it's not just Willa - all of the characters are searching for something. I have to say, Winn Scotch made me stop and think about my own life. Truly is it ever too late to try something new, make changes and just grab life with both hands?

What an excellent introduction to a talented writer. This may have been my first book by Winn Scotch, but definitely won't be my last. Read an excerpt of The Theory of Opposites.

"Allison Winn Scotch is the bestselling author of four novels, including Time of My Life, The Song Remains the Same, The One That I Want, and The Department of Lost and Found. Her fifth novel, The Theory of Opposites, will be released on November 12, 2013. In addition to fiction, she pens celebrity profiles for a variety of magazines, which justifies her pop culture obsession and occasionally lends to awesome Facebook status updates. She lives in Los Angeles with her family." You can keep up with Allison Winn Scotch on Facebook and on Twitter.

Sound like a book you'd like to read?! I've got a copy to giveaway to one lucky reader. Open to US only. Simply leave a comment to be entered. Closes November 30/13.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Alligator Man - James Sheehan - Review AND Giveaway

This is the first book I've read by James Sheehan. Sheehan writes a legal series with lawyer Jack Tobin as the recurring character, but his latest book, The Alligator Man is a stand alone and introduces us to a new character - lawyer Kevin Wylie.

Kevin's life is about to be turned upside down - his shady boss has decided that now is the time to get ride of Kevin, he gets word that the father he hasn't seen in twenty eight years is dying and his girlfriend isn't happy with Kevin at all.

What's a lawyer to do? Well, Kevin decides to see his father one last time and get answers before it's too late. He reconnects with some barely remembered pieces and people from his past. One of them is family friend Billy, who has just been arrested for the murder of Roy Johnson, a corporate criminal who ruined the lives of thousands of his employees when he bankrupted the company. And yes, Billy was one of them. With nothing waiting for him back in Miami, Kevin teams up with his lawyer father on their first - and what will probably be their last case.

Sheehan has two story lines running parallel in The Alligator Man. The race to prove Billy's innocence is full of pitfalls, false leads and possible outcomes. Sheehan does a capable job of providing a solid legal thriller accentuated with realistic courtroom drama.  Sheehan makes his home in Florida and his living from the law. This adds immensely to both setting and locale descriptions as well as the legal aspects of the case.

The other storyline is one of fathers and sons, forgiveness and redemption and a healthy dose of romance as well. Sheehan deftly explores broken relationships - specifically fathers. There is another player in the story who has also lost his father. While I appreciated this plot line, I also felt that the situations were somewhat clichĂ©d and wooden. I never truly became invested in Kevin's emotions - they remained as words on the page. Readers will always be sure of who is on the 'right' side and who is 'wrong' as the lines and characters are clearly drawn and delineated. Some of the supporting characters were overly 'folksy' for my taste - Rosie the diner owner was grating on my nerves by the end.

But, that being said, I encourage legal fiction fans to seek out James Sheehan. He spins a good, solid legal thriller. Read an excerpt of The Alligator Man.

"James Sheehan was born and raised in New York City, the fourth child of Jack Sheehan and Mary (Tobin) Sheehan. There would eventually be six children. He moved to Florida in 1974 to attend law school and became a lawyer in 1977. He was a trial lawyer for thirty plus years. Prior to that time, he worked at various jobs: paper boy, shoeshine boy, iron worker, stock proofer, grocery boy, dishwasher, short order cook, and restaurant manager. Presently, he is a law professor at Stetson University College of Law and the Director of the Tampa Law Center. James currently resides in St. Petersburg, Florida." You can find James Sheehan on Facebook and on Twitter.

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

And thanks to the folks at Center Street Books, I have a copy to giveaway to one lucky reader. Open to US and Canada, no PO boxes please. Simply leave a comment to be entered. Ends November 30/13.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

LEGO® Play Book Challenge

We sometimes run LEGO® Create afternoons at the library on weekends and holidays. I don't think there's one staff member who can't resist running their hands through the big buckets of pieces and people before putting them out!

Apparently either can the staff at the Dorling Kindersley (DK) offices!

To celebrated the release of the LEGO Play Book, and inspired by the Handful of Bricks Challenge that appears throughout the LEGO Play Book where LEGO Fan Builders have 10 minutes to build something from just a few basic bricks, DK Canada has challenged the other DK offices around the world to a LEGO 10 Minute Handful of Bricks challenge.

"Building on the success of wildly popular The LEGO® Ideas Book, LEGO Play Book has all-new ways to encourage kids to think, build, and play creatively.

Featuring more than 200 different builds, this fun guide inspires readers with LEGO ideas to bring their bricks to life while encouraging them to use their imagination and play in new ways, creating amazing LEGO models of their very own. Featuring a mixture of simple, medium, and complex models, LEGO Play Book will teach builders tips and tricks to get the most out of their blocks. All-new models along with all-new photography spark new play ideas and LEGO creations.

There are "ten-minute builds" for quick play sessions, a "cool brick" feature with ideas for using key LEGO bricks, and a "handful of bricks" section exploring what can be done with a limited collection of LEGO bricks. This book is fantastic for any LEGO builder looking to be inspired to build and

The creations of 9 DK offices from around the world are now online! UK / USA / China / India / Germany / South Africa / Spain / Australia. Vote for your favourite before December 1/13.

"Canadians -We'd like to see what you can build too, send us a photo of YOUR 10 Minute Handful of Bricks LEGO creation to and we will post your creation here and some will be featured on our Facebook and Twitter pages." #LEGOPlay

Friday, November 8, 2013

Pilgrim's Wilderness - Tom Kizzia

A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier
Truth is many times, much stranger than fiction. Very true in the case of Pilgrim's Wilderness by Tom Kizzia.

I've always thought that I was born too late - when I was younger, I often daydreamed of a cabin in the middle of the woods and self sufficiency. (Instead I got a job as a living history museum interpreter and played Little House in the Big Woods for many years.)

When Papa Pilgrim showed up in the remote town of McCarthy, Alaska with his wife and fifteen children in tow, the residents, although initially wary of newcomers, welcomed them to their community. Pilgrim seemed to want nothing more than to live in peace and practice his Christian values on his newly purchased plot of land within the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.

Initially everyone enjoys the 'old-timey' nature of the family, their music and Christian values. But that original welcome soon starts to show cracks and eventually divides the town. Pilgrim decides to bulldoze a road through the park, the spark that ignites his 'war' with the National Park Service. The actions of the family don't always match the preaching done by Papa. Papa is a master manipulator, able to twist the scriptures to suit his purpose. And Papa? Well, he's twisted as well. The outward appearance of the family belies the terror he inflicts on his wife and children. (The children range from late twenties to a newborn.) Things escalate, not just with the NPS, but within the cabin housing the Pilgrims. The older children begin to question their lives, their faith and their Papa......

Kizzia is an Alaskan journalist and covered the story as it unfolded. In Pilgrim's Wilderness, he has expanded on those articles with interviews from townsfolk, detractors and supporters, with Pilgrim himself and later with some other family members. He investigates, digs further and uncovers and exposes the man who was born Robert Hale. Again, truth is stranger that fiction - some of it just had me shaking my head in disbelief.

Kizzia has a family cabin in McCarthy as well. His familiarity with the area and the issues truly enhanced his account. Although there are some disturbing (okay a lot disturbing) parts of the story, Kizzia handles it all in a fair and true manner, without delving into lurid or tabloid like descriptions.

I was riveted from first page - Kizzia opens the book with a gut wrenching, white knuckle prologue -to last, caught up in the story of the madness that was Papa Pilgrim and the fate of his family. (And after the last page was turned - I headed to the computer to follow up) Pilgrim's Wilderness also explores the politics of land use, from many points of view.

Pilgrim's Wilderness has been labeled true crime, not a genre I really like. However this book is an exception. Five stars for this reader. See for yourself - Read an excerpt of Pilgrim's Wilderness.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Over the Counter # 187

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Well, this week things are going to the dogs....and cats....

First up was Throw the Damn Ball: Classic Poetry by Dogs by R.D. Rosen, Harry Prichett and Rob Battles.

From Plume Books:

"A hilarious collection of poetry by dogs perfect for lovers of literature and pups alike.

Dogs seldom make passes
At dogs passing gasses.

Are these the words of Dorothy Parker? Ogden Nash? Nope, the author is Sparky from Milton, Pennsylvania. Sparky, Snowy, Tucker, Louie, these canine laureates have written a volume of poetry displaying the brilliance and wit we ve always suspected our dogs were hiding from us. They also, it turns out, revere the human geniuses who came before them, as you ll see with There Is No Frigate Like A Pavement an homage to Emily Dickinson and Do Not Go Gentle. Yes, Dylan Thomas would love it."
And from the feline side - Grumpy Cat: A Grumpy Book by Grumpy Cat.

From Chronicle Books:

"Internet sensation Grumpy Cat’s epic feline frown has inspired legions of devoted fans. Celebrating the grouch in everyone, the Grumpy Cat book teaches the fine art of grumpiness and includes enough bad attitude to cast a dark cloud over the whole world. Featuring brand new as well as classic photos, and including grump-inspiring activities and games, Grumpy Cat delivers unmatched, hilarious grumpiness that puts any bad mood in perspective.
Grumpy Cat is a small cat with a big frown who has inspired a hugely popular meme. With a sour expression that could stop traffic (and make it feel bad about itself), Grumpy Cat’s talents include passing judgment, raining on parades, and making happy people grouchy. Grumpy Cat lives in Arizona."

(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 catch your eye as well. See if your local library has them on their shelves!)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Giveaway - Sweet Nothings - Janis Thomas

I've got a sweet little giveaway for you today - Sweet Nothings by Janis Thomas.

From Berkley Books:

"Life’s sweetest moments happen when you least expect them . . .

When Ruby McMillan’s husband announces one morning that he’s dumping her for another woman, she’s unable to decide which indignity stings the most: the dissolution of their eighteen-year marriage or the deflation of her white-chocolate soufflĂ© with raspberry Grand Marnier sauce. Without a good-bye to their two teenaged children, Walter leaves Ruby to cope with her ruined dessert, an unpaid mortgage, and her failing bakery.

With only royal icing holding her together, Ruby still manages to pick herself up and move on, subsidizing her income with an extra job as a baking instructor, getting a “my-husband’s-gone” makeover, and even flirting with her gorgeous mortgage broker, Jacob Salt. For as long as she can remember, Ruby has done what’s practical, eschewing far-fetched dreams and true love in favor of stability. But suddenly single again at the age of forty-four, she’s beginning to discover that life is most delicious when you stop following a recipe and just live." Read an excerpt of Sweet Nothings.

"Janis Thomas, author of Sweet Nothings, is a native Californian, lives in Orange County with her husband, their two children, and their dog, Ruby. Janis has written more than fifty songs and (with her dad) two children's books, and is also an avid baker. She is also the author of Something New." You can find Janis Thomas on Facebook and on Twitter.

I've got a copy to giveaway to one lucky reader. To be entered, simply leave a comment. Open to US and Canada, no po boxes please. Ends November 23/13.

Open Secret - Deryn Collier - Cover Reveal

Well, you might be wondering where the title and author is on the cover shot on the left. In fact this is just one piece of the cover of Open Secret by Deryn Collier.

Collier's first book, Confined Space, introduced us to ex–Canadian Forces commander Bern Fortin who cut short his military career to take a job as a coroner in a small town in British Columbia.

The second Bern Fortin novel, Open Secret, doesn't release until April 8, 2014, but here's a sneak peek and a chance to add this one to your TBR list! (It's on mine!)

From Simon and Schuster Canada:

"Deryn Collier’s debut mystery, Confined Space, was called an “intelligently conceived, suspenseful, and elegantly written story” by The Toronto Star. Now Coroner Bern Fortin is back in a riveting new mystery.

After the abrupt end to his military career Bern has settled into an uneasy peace in his new life in Kootenay Landing—a peace he knows can’t last. Out for a fall hike, he discovers Dr. Juniper Sinclair, the town’s lone doctor, attempting to revive small-time drug dealer Seymour Melnychuk, who has been shot in the forehead. In a seemingly unrelated incident, Gary Dowd abandons his van while crossing the US border. Gary is a local father of two, an accountant, and a steady, predictable guy. He’s also been best friends with Seymour Melnychuk since elementary school.

 Bern knows the two disturbing events must be related and works with police constable Maddie Schilling to uncover the hidden ties that connect the two cases. Why was Dr Sinclair already on the scene? Why is there no exit wound on Seymour’s body? Why did Gary Dowd disappear while trying to cross the border? Who truly controls the hills and forests around Kootenay Landing? Amidst the chaos of the case, Bern’s military background comes back to haunt him, forcing him to confront the secrets of his own past that he has long sought to keep buried.

As Bern and Schilling close in on the killer, each is drawn into the case personally and the stakes are higher than anyone can imagine. Everyone has something to hide, and no one in Kootenay Landing seems willing to talk. But Bern Fortin is well aware that no secret can remain buried forever—not even his own."

Photograph © Laura Wilby
"Deryn Collier grew up in Ottawa and Montreal and is a graduate of McGill University. After a very short career as a federal bureaucrat she ran away to the mountains of BC where she has been ever since. She has worked in a log yard, a brewery, as a doctor recruiter and a communications consultant.

Deryn’s first novel, Confined Space was shortlisted for an Arthur Ellis Award for best unpublished first crime novel by the Crime Writers of Canada. It was published in Canada by Simon & Schuster in 2012.
Deryn lives in Nelson, BC with her family and blogs about crime fiction and life in the mountains."

You can find Deryn Collier on Facebook and on Twitter.

We won't keep it a can discover the rest of the cover at Mysteries and More as well as The House of Crime and Mystery.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Harem Midwife - Roberta Rich

Roberta Rich's debut novel, The Midwife of Venice, was 'richly' received by reading audiences everywhere. I really enjoyed it (my review) and remember writing at the end of my review..." it ended too soon! But it looks like a sequel is in the works - I'll be picking it up for sure."

Well, that sequel - The Harem Midwife - is here. It's just as good as the first book and provided a lovely Sunday afternoon's read for me.

1578. Hannah and her husband Isaac have fled Venice and made a life for themselves in Constantinople. Hannah is a talented midwife and her skills have been noticed by the palace of Sultan Murat III. She is called to ascertain the purity of a new girl purchased for the harem. But Hannah feels pity for the young woman and lies. Will that lie be revealed and threaten everything Hannah and Isaac have together? Or will the threat come from a 'family' member with their own devious agenda?

I like historical fiction, but don't usually go this far back. However, Roberta Rich has changed my mind. She slowly and lavishly paints her settings with the sounds and sights of time and place vividly described. I learned so much from the details woven into her tale - not just of the Ottoman Empire, but of midwifery and Jewish life and customs.

Hannah is a great lead character - warm, caring and yes, fallible - and the reader becomes invested in her life. The love for her husband and depiction of their home life made her even more 'real.' I did question her lying to the palace and her friends' willingness to go along with her seemingly foolhardy plan, but this only added to the wonderful mix of history, suspense and romance Rich has again woven. Here's hoping there's a third book in the works! Read an excerpt of The Harem Midwife.

You can find Roberta Rich on Twitter and on Facebook.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Travel, Sex and Train Wrecks - Julie Morey - Feature AND Giveaway

Do you ever think - Ahh, I'd love to just chuck it all and travel? Well Julie Morey did.....

"What does one do when they’ve suffered a bad break up, and are trying to “find” themselves, but aren’t quite ready to deal with reality? Travel - of course."

Her travel memoir - Travel, Sex and Train Wrecks - lets the reader do some armchair travelling along with Julie.

"Julie Morey was a good Christian girl who'd spent 10 years married to a man she deeply loved. When alcoholism destroyed her marriage she decided to spend seven months in exotic South East Asia doing everything she shouldn't.

With only her backpack and a broken heart, Julie found herself dancing all night at Thailand's famous Full Moon Party, crashing her scooter, eating happy pizza, kissing gorgeous men with accents, hitchhiking, breaking into national monuments, and couchsurfing all over India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.

A 10 day silent meditation retreat finally connected Julie with the deep inner reserves that allowed her to grieve and break with her past. She realized that even if her life is a train wreck all she has to do is face in the right direction and keep walking.

Brave, brutally honest, sexy, and laugh-out-loud funny, Travel, Sex, and Train Wrecks is the story of one young woman's first steps towards living life on her own terms."

Hear Julie read from her book below. (Or you can read a sneak peek here) You can also keep up with Julie on TwitterAnd, I've got a digital copy up for grabs for one lucky reader - just leave a comment. Ends Nov. 23/13

Hear more of Julie's story on the rest of the tour....
Nov 8: The Lazy Travelers  Nov 11: Justice Jennifer    Nov 12: Women Travel Blog 
Nov 13: The Pin Junkie       Nov 14: A Certain Bent Appeal

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Winner - Songs of Willow Frost

And the lucky winner of a copy of Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford, courtesy of Ballantine Books 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. Thanks to all who entered!

Winner - The Stranger You Know

And the lucky winner of a copy of The Stranger You Know by Andrea Kane, courtesy of Harlequin/Mira is:

Linda H!

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. Thanks to all who entered - check the sidebar for other great giveaways!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Giveaway - Dark City - F. Paul Wilson

Are you a Repairman Jack fan? (Stephen King is president of the Repairman Jack Fan Club!) Do you want to get to know this 'fix-it' man?

"For over twenty years, Repairman Jack has been one of the most popular characters in contemporary dark fantasy and thrillers. Blending science fiction, horror and mystery elements, F. Paul Wilson has woven a deep mythology around the beloved character in fifteen highly-original and engaging books. In May 2012, the series came to a close with Nightworld—Wilson’s definitive edition of a great, long-out-of-print work. Although previously published, this new version of Nightworld garnered a spot on the New York Times bestseller list proving fans are still hungry for more adventures.

Luckily for those longtime fans as well as any fan of great thrillers, Wilson now ventures into the earlier days of the Repairman in DARK CITY the second of three prequel novels which depict the naive New Jersey refugee’s metamorphosis into the urban mercenary known as Repairman Jack. 
DARK CITY takes readers back to February 1992.  Desert Storm is raging in Iraq but twenty-two-year-old Jack has more pressing matters at home. His favorite bar, The Spot, is about to be sold out from under Julio, Jack’s friend. Jack has been something of a tag-along to this point, but now he takes the reins and demonstrates his innate talent for seeing biters get bit. With a body count even higher than in Cold City, this second novel of the Early Years Trilogy hurtles Jack into the final volume in which all scores will be settled, all debts paid.

More of a straight crime novel than the later books of the Repairman Jack saga, DARK CITY is a perfect entry point for new readers and is sure to excite Wilson’s legion of fans by shedding more light on the background of their favorite “fix-it” man." Get a sneak peek - read an excerpt of Dark City. You can find F. Paul Wilson on Twitter.

Repairman Jack is one of the most original and intriguing characters to arise out of contemporary fiction in ages. His adventures are hugely entertaining.”
—Dean Koontz
Repairman Jack is one of the greatest fictional characters created by any thriller writer in the past half century. If you haven’t discovered him and his world yet, what a fabulous, extraordinary,
and electric reading experience awaits you.”
—Douglas Preston, cocreator of the Pendergast novels
And thanks to the lovely folks at Tor Books, I have a copy of Dark City to giveaway. Open to US and Canada, no po boxes please. Simply leave a comment to be entered.  Ends Nov. 16/13