Friday, January 31, 2014

Red Rising - Pierce Brown

I quite enjoy dystopian fiction. I devoured the Hunger Games and Allegiant series and have been keeping an eye out for another series that will capture me....

...and boy did I find one! Pierce Brown has just released his debut novel - Red Rising - the first in a planned trilogy. You're going to want to get your hands on this one.

Darrow is a Red - the lowest class of a future world. His colour toils in the mines under the surface of Mars to prepare the planet for settlement by the higher colors. Gold is the highest.

" You brave Red Pioneers of Mars - strongest of the human breed - sacrifice for progress, sacrifice to pave the way for the future. Your lives, your blood, are a down payment for the immortality of the human race as we move beyond Earth and Moon. You go where we could not. You suffer so that others do not. Soon the red planet will have breathable air, livable soil. And soon, when Mars is habitable, when you brave pioneers have made ready the red planet for us softer Colors, we will join you and you will be held in highest esteem beneath the sky your toil created."

The Reds have faithfully and obediently worked for generations to achieve this mandate...until the day that Darrow discovers that they have lied. Lied for hundreds of  years. Mars is already fully settled and the Reds are nothing more than slaves.

You see it coming don't you?  Darrow is the hope of the Reds- can they pass him off as a Gold, send him to their academy and eventually infiltrate the higher ranks to bring them down?

"I am no Gold. I am a Red. He thinks men like me weak. He thinks me dumb, feeble, subhuman. I was not raised in palaces. I did not ride horses through meadows and eat meals of hummingbird tongues. I was forged in the bowels of this hard world. Sharpened by hate. Strengthened by love. He is wrong. None of them will survive."

Brown has done a fantastic job with world building. He started with a great premise and as the book goes on it only gets more imaginative and descriptive. I was totally transported to the future.

All the elements are in place for a gripping, action packed, no stopping 'til you're done read...

Think it's only for teens or boys? No way! This middle aged female reader was transported to a faraway planet in a distant time where the seeds of rebellion have been sown.... Where the thirst for vengeance is played out in an arena where rules fall by the wayside.... Where the underdog is fueled by a burning need to set things right... Where honour and revenge collide.... Where friendships are dangerous, alliances are formed and broken, love blossoms and everything can change in a heartbeat....Where thinking two steps ahead of your enemy will keep you alive....

Red Rising hooked me from the very first pages and I only slowed down when I reluctantly realized I was nearing the end. Brown gives us a satisfying conclusion to this chapter of the trilogy and only whets our appetites for more with the segue into the next book. ( I will absolutely be picking it up!)
Read an excerpt of Red Rising.

"Reds at the bottom, everyone else standing on our back. Now you're looking at me and you're realizing that we don't bloodydamn like it down there. Red is rising....

"Pierce Brown spent his childhood building forts and setting traps for cousins in the woods of six states and the deserts of two. Graduating from college in 2010, he fancied the idea of continuing his studies at Hogwarts. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a magical bone in his body. So while trying to make it as a writer, he worked as a manager of social media at a startup tech company, toiled as a peon on the Disney lot at ABC Studios, did his time as an NBC page, and gave sleep deprivation a new meaning during his stint as an aide on a U.S. Senate campaign. Now he lives Los Angeles, where he scribbles tales of spaceships, wizards, ghouls, and most things old or bizarre." You can find Pierce Brown on Facebook and on Twitter.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Over the Counter #199

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Well, this week it's teddy bears and puppies.  I actually found this week's selections in a magazine that I browsed - and I wish my library owned them!

First up was Much Loved by Mark Nixon.

From the publisher, Abrams:

"Award-winning photographer Mark Nixon has created a trove of quirky and nostalgic portraits of teddy bears and other stuffed animals that have been lovingly abused after years of play. Much Loved collects 60 of these images along with their accompanying background tales. An exhibit in the photographer’s studio led to a small sensation on the Internet when a few of the pictures circulated unofficially on scores of blogs and on many legitimate news sites. Viewers have been intrigued by the funny, bittersweet images and their ironic juxtaposition of childhood innocence and aged, loving wear and tear.  When you see these teddy bears and bunnies with missing noses and undone stuffing, you can’t help but think back to childhood and its earliest companions who asked for nothing and gave a lot back."

Next up was Shake by Carli Davidson.

From the publisher, Harper Design:

"Original, amusing, and brilliantly documented, Shake is a heartwarming collection of sixty-one beguiling dogs caught in the most candid of moments: mid-shake. This glorious, graphic volume will stop you dead in your tracks as you are presented with images of man's best friend caught in contortion: hair wild, eyes darting, ears and jowls flopping every which way.

With Shake, photographer Carli Davidson proves how eager and elated we are to see our pets in new ways. The result is a one-of-a-kind book: a colorful assemblage of photographs that are simultaneously startling and endearing, consistently hard to look away from, and revealing."

(Over the Counter is a regular weekly 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, January 28, 2014

Giveaway - The Eye of God - James Rollins

Thanks to the great folks at Harper Collins, I have THREE mass market copies James Rollins' book The Eye of God (releasing today!) to giveaway! Simply leave a comment to be entered. Open to US only. No P.O. boxes please.
 Ends February 16/14.
"A comet is set on a collision course with Earth,
An ancient prophecy about the end of time is hidden within a lost gospel,
The only thing that can save humanity from certain destruction is…

"We have always been fascinated by apocalyptic themesto learn how the world might end, how we might (or might not) survive the next global threat. In each of his bestsellers, James Rollins weaves hidden facts, startling secrets, and amazing yet plausible circumstances to craft a story unlike any other. 

THE EYE OF GOD is James Rollins’ next in his series featuring Sigma Forcean elite and covert arm of the Department of Defenses DARPA unitwhich reveals an apocalyptic vision of the day after tomorrow, of a future predicted by the distant past, of a world doomed to burn.

THE EYE OF GOD finds Sigma Force on the hunt for a crashed U.S. military research satellite in the remote wilds of Mongolia. The last blurry image from the falling satellite displayed the eastern seaboard of the United States smoldering and in utter ruin.
At the same time, a mysterious package arrives at the Vatican containing two artifacts: a skull scrawled with ancient Aramaic and a tome bound in human skin. DNA confirms they both came from a single body the long-dead Mongol king, Genghis Khan. It is up to Commander Gray Pierce, aided by a pair of Vatican historians, to discover a truth tied to the fall of the Roman Empire, to a mystery going back to the very roots of Christianity, and to a weapon hidden for centuries that holds the true fate of humanity.'

JAMES ROLLINS is the New York Times bestselling author of international thrillers, translated into more than forty languages. His Sigma series has been lauded as one of the "top crowd pleasers" (New York Times) and one of the "hottest summer reads" (People Magazine). In each novel, acclaimed for its originality, Rollins unveils unseen worlds, scientific breakthroughs, and historical secrets--and he does it all at breakneck speed and with stunning insight.

Q and A with James Rollins:

In The Eye of God, you take your readers to some exciting and exotic locales: Macau, Mongolia, North Korea. What drew you to set parts of the book in those locations?

I personally love to travel to remote corners of the world, to explore those lost edges or seldom traveled landscapes. I also love to ask locals odd questions ("Tell me something no one knows about this place." "What is a mystery left unsolved here?"). It is from such journeys and questions that many of my stories begin. During my travels to Macau, I was struck by its strange mix of European colonialism, Chinese history, and Las-Vegas glitz. And I knew I always wanted to set a story in North Korea and interviewed several people who had firsthand accounts of the strange "ghost town"-like atmosphere of its capital city. And it was the country’s rich history that drew me to Mongolia, with its ties to Genghis Khan.

You raise a historical mystery in The Eye of God, one concerning the apostle, St. Thomas, how this apostle may have traveled to China. You also reveal a possible connection between the Chinese language and Biblical stories. How much of all that is true?

It’s fairly accepted that St. Thomas traveled to India, but there remains some intriguing speculation that his journeys may have taken him as far as China, maybe even Japan. In the book, I also demonstrate a strange connection between the Chinese language and its odd correlation to Biblical stories. All of this is based on real information - though I leave it to the readers to decide if such correlations are mere coincidences or in fact valid, hinting at some ancient lost knowledge of the Book of Genesis.

As with all of your books, history is only half the story. You love raising interesting bits of science. In The Eye of God, you introduce the concept of "biohacking," of people altering their bodies in strange ways. A new member of Sigma has magnets embedded under his fingertips to add to his "senses." Is this really something that’s going on?

It is indeed. Over a thousand people have had rare-earth magnets implanted at the edges of their fingertips, that vibrate in the presence of electromagnetic fields. It allows them to experience electrical fields in amazing ways. Those I’ve interviewed describe these fields as having texture, shape, rhythms, and even colors. They can sense the flow of electricity through wires, or "feel" a hard drive that is malfunctioning, or even diagnose a misfiring carburetor. It opens up an entirely new way of experiencing the world. And once accustomed to them, it’s apparently hard to go back. Many say they feel blind without them. It definitely is a new world."

Monday, January 27, 2014

Ripper - Isabel Allende

Isabel Allende's Island Beneath the Sea is one of my favourite books. (my review) I think she's brilliant when it comes to writing historical fiction. Her last novel, Maya's Notebook, (my review) was a contemporary piece with a teenage protagonist.

Ripper is Allende's latest novel and is again set in present day with a teenage protagonist.

Amanda and her five teenage online friends from around the world are part of a role playing game named Ripper. They investigate "fictional nineteenth century crimes in a fog-shrouded London where characters were faced with scoundrels armed with axes and icepicks, archetypal villains intent on disturbing the peace of the city."

When a famous astrologer (who just happens to be Amanda's godmother) predicts a "bloodbath" in Amanda's city (San Francisco) the young crime solvers move their focus to real time cases.

Okay, so that's the basic premise. It actually took me a bit to get into the novel. There are numerous characters and connections introduced in the first few chapters. I admit to feeling a bit confused as I tried to work out what the focus of the book was. Is it the murders? Or is it the story of Amanda's mother Indiana? Indi is a free spirited new ager who is torn between two lovers. There are many more storylines as the book continues - a few too many in my opinion. I usually enjoy Allende's  in-depth study of her characters, but in Ripper I just felt overwhelmed.

Some of the relationships seemed odd, stilted and convenient. Amanda's father just happens to be the Deputy Police Chief of Homicide. Much of the Ripper players' knowledge is freely and easily obtained from him. ( I just never really bought the Ripper players - they seemed more of a prop than an effective part of the book.) Many of the (numerous) other characters are clichéd and overdrawn.

From the author's acknowledgements:

"This book was born on January 8, 2012 when my agent, Carmen Balcells, suggest to my husband, Willie Gordon, and me that we cowrite a crime novel. We tried, but within twenty-four hours it was clear the project would end in divorce. So he stuck to his own work - his sixth detective novel- while I shut myself away to write alone, as always."

I appreciate that an author would be interested in exploring something new and applaud Allende's foray into new genres. But, for this reader, Ripper was a bit of strange read. It was just way too busy and tried to do too much. There's the murder mystery, social commentary on war and the legal system, history, a love story, exploration of alternative therapies, new ageism, and more. The identity of the whodunit is well telegraphed despite the twist that Allende employs at the end. And the murderer's motive has been done many times before. (And the publisher's blurb of 'fast-paced mystery' misses the mark completely)

I still think Allende is a wonderful writer, but Ripper missed the mark for me. Read an excerpt of Ripper.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Film on Friday #9 - Garibaldi's Lovers

Garibaldi's Lovers from Italian director Silvio Soldini is the ninth entry in the Film on Friday series. As with all Film Movement releases, it is an official selection or winner at multiple film festivals.

Soldini opens the film with a series of statues in an unnamed Italian park conversing on the current state of things. (One of them is Garabaldi - I stopped to go look this up - he  considered to be one of  Italy's "fathers of the fatherland".)

From Soldini's liner notes:

"...the idea of giving a voice to the statues that have been in our streets and parks for centuries. While we may not even know who they are or what they represent, perhaps they might have something to say to us with respect to where our country is headed."

These statues are given the stage many times to share their thoughts and bicker amongst themselves.

We meet  Diana, an artist (Alba Rohrwacher) who is behind on her rent and is desperately trying to collect money owed to her. Leo (Valerio Mastandrea) is a widowed plumber trying to raise his two children - Elia and Maddalena.

Garibaldi's Lovers is a busy film. There are many players and plot lines - Amanzio (Giuseppe Battiston) , an oddball landlord determined to educate the public, Elia's fascination with a stork, Maddlena's fascination with boys, a crooked lawyer, the plumber's assistant whose wife is sure he is cheating and Leo's dead wife (although it took me a scene or two to realize she was dead) Each of these characters is used as a vehicle for social commentary. Soldini manages to serendipitously weave them all the various plot lines together by the end. (although there a few loose ends).

Soldini provides a light touch in addition to the social commentary through whimsical touches and almost slapstick situations. The apartments of all the characters are filled with colour and oddities that capture the eye. There is oompah circus style music in the beginning of the film as well. I did laugh out loud at Diana's mural for the lawyer. I quickly grew tired of the plumbing assistant yelling down the phone at his wife.

Soldini uses a pinhole closing to certain scenes to be sure that our attention is on that moment. There is a lot of symbolism used throughout the film - the stork being the most obvious.

I am really enjoying sampling what Film Movement has to offer and experiencing films from other countries.  However, Garibaldi's Lovers is probably my least favourite so far. No, don't get me wrong - it's good. The acting is solid and the plot involving the 'real' people was captivating. The statues and their commentary just didn't work for me. I was able to easily walk away and return the next day to finish watching.

I always enjoy reading the bios of the actors at the end of the film. I was disappointed to find that only the director and Alba Rohrwacher included. I would have liked to read more about the other actors as well - especially Valerio Mastandrea - I thought he was wonderful.

Italy /2012 /Italian with English subtitles / 108 min

As always, there's a small short included with the DVD. The Kiosk is an animated short from Switzerland. A kiosk lady finds herself too large to leave her stand, yet dreams of travelling. A bit sad, but with a sweet little ending.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Perfect - Rachel Joyce - Review AND Giveaway

Rachel Joyce's debut novel The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was an international bestseller. It was one of my top reads for 2012. (my review)

Her second novel is Perfect. (And it really is)

1972 England. Twelve year old Byron and his friend James are incredibly bright young men - their parents have earmarked them for great things and have set them on a path to their perfect destiny. But when James hears about two seconds being added to the global clock as a result of a leap year, he worries. And worries.

" Two seconds are huge. It's the difference between something happening and something not happening." Byron, his mother and younger sister are driving in the car when something does happen - something that changes everything in Byron and James's lives forever.

"It was all because of a small slip in time, the whole story. The repercussions were felt for years and years. Of the two boys, James and Byron, only one kept on course. Sometimes Byron gazed at the sky above the moor, pulsing so heavily with stars that the darkness seemed alive, and he would ache - ache for the removal of those two extra seconds. Ache for the sanctity of time as it should be."

Joyce cuts her narrative between 1972 and present day, where we meet Jim, wiping down tables in a supermarket café.

"He has spent his adult life in and out of care. Years have passed, and some of them he can't even remember. After treatment he could lose whole days; time was merely a selection of unconnected empty spaces. Sometimes he had to ask the nurse what he had eaten that day and if he had been for a walk. When he complained about memory loss, the doctors told him it was his depression. The truth is, he found it easier to forget."

Oh, how do I even begin to describe how much I loved this book! I raced through the first few chapters, then forced myself to put it down - I didn't want it to end too quickly. I was inexorably drawn to the story of James and Byron, past and present. How was Joyce going to connect the two? What happened? What was going to happen? And I put the book down because I was afraid. Afraid of what would happen to Jim. His attempts to cope and his thoughts had me in tears. Jim captured me much as Harold did in Joyce's first book. And then, there's a small glimpse of what could be....if only....

The title figures into so much of the book. The boys are expected to be perfect, as are their parents, their lives, their surroundings et al. And when it breaks down, the drive to perfection still lurks, insidiously stealing from the lives of everyone.

I thought I had everything figured out going into the last pages of the book, but was pleasantly caught off guard by the ending that Joyce chose. Not what I saw coming at all.

Joyce's exploration of the human spirit is by turns heart breaking and life affirming. Perfect is an eye
opening testament to both the frailty and the resilience of the human spirit and the power of redemption.

Perfect was a five star read for me and will be one of my top reads for 2014. Absolutely, positively recommended. Read an excerpt of Perfect.

"Rachel Joyce is the author of the international bestseller The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. She is also the award-winning writer of more than twenty plays for BBC Radio 4. She started writing after a twenty-year acting career, in which she performed leading roles for the Royal Shakespeare
Company and won multiple awards. Rachel Joyce lives with her family on a Gloucestershire farm. " You can find Rachel Joyce on Facebook.

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

And, I have a copy to giveaway to one lucky reader! Simply leave a comment to be entered. Open to US only, no PO boxes please. Ends Feb 15/14.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Over the Counter #198

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Well, it's not my favourite thing to do, but it's cookbooks this week! Time saving and foolproof.....

First up was The Can't Cook Book: 100 + recipes for the Absolutely Terrified! by Jessica Seinfeld.

From Atria Books:

"From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Deceptively Delicious, an essential collection of more than 100 simple recipes that will transform even the most kitchenphobic “Can’t Cooks” into “Can Cooks.”

Are you smart enough to dodge a telemarketer yet clueless as to how to chop a clove of garlic? Are you clever enough to forward an e-mail but don’t know the difference between broiling and baking? Ingenious enough to operate a blow-dryer but not sure how to use your blender? If you are basically competent, then Jessica Seinfeld’s The Can’t Cook Book is for you.

If you find cooking scary or stressful or just boring, Jessica has a calm, confidence building approach to cooking, even for those who’ve never followed a recipe or used an oven. Jessica shows you how to prepare deliciously simple food—from Caesar salad, rice pilaf, and roasted asparagus to lemon salmon, roast chicken, and flourless fudge cake. At the beginning of each dish, she explains up front what the challenge will be, and then shows you exactly how to overcome any hurdles in easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions.

Designed to put the nervous cook at ease, The Can’t Cook Book is perfect for anyone who wants to gain confidence in the kitchen—and, who knows, maybe even master a meal or two."

Next up was Week in a Day 5 Dishes > 1 Day by Rachel Ray:

From Simon and Schuster:

"Relax with a tasty meal after a busy day. Enjoy your evenings around the dinner table with your friends and family. Sound too good to be true? Not if you plan your Week in a Day. Rachael Ray’s Week in a Day, the companion book to her hit cooking show of the same name, offers more than two hundred recipes that will help you prepare five nights’ worth of meals in a single day. The woman who taught America how to make a meal in 30 minutes is sharing more of her practical and easy tips that will have you eating well for days to come!

Each week features its own theme, including From a Taco to Morocco, A Chicken in Every Pot, and Stew on This, allowing your taste buds to travel around the world with dishes such as Chicken and Chorizo Spanish Enchiladas, Argentine Chili with Chimichurri, and Zinfully Delicious Short Ribs.

In addition, Rachael shows you how to fit all the groceries you need for three fabulous meals into a single bag with her special section, 1 Grocery Bag, 3 Meals. And you can enjoy bonus content and extra recipes for side dishes by scanning the QR codes displayed throughout. When the weekend rolls around, this book has everything you need to get ready for your Week in a Day. Come Monday night, you’ll be glad you did!"

(Over the Counter is a regular weekly 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, January 21, 2014

The Vanishing - Wendy Webb - Review AND Giveaway

I love creaky old houses, dusty attics and ghost stories. So does Wendy Webb. She's taken on the modern Gothic in her last two novels and again with her latest book, The Vanishing.

Webb sets the stage with a prologue from 1875 - a seance gone horribly wrong in the mansion known as Havenwood.

Present day. Julia Bishop's life is a mess. Her husband has died - but not before he swindled hundreds of people of their savings. He's gone, the money is gone and any friends Julia had are gone. She has no family either. So, when a stranger shows up offering her a job as a companion to his reclusive mother, she has nothing left to lose by saying yes. He's offering her the opportunity to start again and completely vanish from her current life. Oh, the job just happens to be at Havenwood....

Now, there's nothing better than immersing yourself in a spooky tale on a cold winter's night. So, although I found the premise a little bit flimsy and questioned some of Julia's actions,  I just went with it. Because, I really wanted to see what secrets the mansion held. What happened there in 1875? Why has Julia been sought out as a companion? Where would Webb take her story from this beginning?

I had great fun imagining walking through the many wings of Havenwood - the library particularly caught me! All the hallmarks of a great ghost story are here - mysterious family matriarch, son who travels a lot but discourages others from leaving the estate, handsome stable hand, a wonderful set of dogs who can sense things not seen and more.

While not overly frightening, The Vanishing was a lovely, atmospheric read for a miserable day. (The power goes out during a snowstorm at the mansion. This actually happened at my house that day as well!) Webb throws in a delicious twist at the end that was perfect.

Read an excerpt of The Vanishing. You can find Wendy Webb on Facebook and on Twitter.

And thanks to the great folks at Hyperion Books, I have a copy to give away to one lucky reader. Simply leave a comment to be entered. U.S. only, no PO boxes please. Ends Feb 15/14.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Start Something New with DK Canada!

Okay, so did you make New Year's Resolutions? Did they involve your health?'s it going? I don't know how many years I've made great plans, started off great.....and kinda let things peter out. Well, this year, I started in December with the idea to do nothing more than eat healthy and move. And you know what? So far so good!

DK Canada has a great selection of books to help you start something new - maybe it's your health, a new hobby or learning a new language. There are lots of choices in the Start Something New Boutique - all at 30% off.

I'm looking for lots of tips and hints to keep me on this path to better health.  Susannah Marriott has come up with quite a few them of them in her book 1001 Ways to Get In Shape.

Marriott has approached improving your health from many perspectives. The book is broken down into chapters including: Think Yourself in shape, Healthy at Home, Workout in your Work Life, Active and Outdoors, Have Fun Getting Fit, Family Heath Fix.

A couple I've put into play already:  When I really, really think I need that bread and butter, I've been doing 10 minutes of activity instead - turning on the stereo and dancing is fun - and then re-evaluating if it's really worth eating what I was craving. For the most part, the answer is no.

The workplace tips were really helpful. I spend a lot of time on a computer - there's a great piece on self-help reflexology for your hands and wrists.

There are recipes, exercise suggestions, calming strategies and so much more. And being a DK book, it's incredibly readable. Lots of colour pictures and well laid out on glossy stock. 1001 Ways to Get in Shape is one of those fun pick up and put down books - you'll always find another snippet to catch your eye and interest!

Now, Canada's fitness guide recommends 150 minutes of activity a day. I'm meeting that time frame most weeks. I started off with a fairly low key intensity but have been ramping things up slowly but surely. I ran when I was younger and have never forgotten how good it feels to just run. I would love to do it again. to do it safely and correctly?

The Complete Running and Marathon Book seems to have the answers I'm looking for.

The book starts off with the basics - an anatomy lesson on how the body works when we run. Getting ready to run - shoes, nutrition, stretches. And a handy chapter labelled - If You are a Beginner. That's the one for me!  Extra chapters include training programs for various distances, strengthening exercises, how to avoid injuries and more.

Now, the marathon is way beyond me, but I have high hopes for a shorter distance. Check in with me in the fall.

The Complete Running and Marathon book is replete with colour photos and very clear, concise information. DK books simply produces the best 'information' books around. They're always my first choice.

Do you have a favourite DK book? Enter the I Love DK Contest (Canada) and you could win a $250 shopping spree. Ends January 30/14. Enter here.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Enter the I Love DK Books Contest!

When I want a 'how-to' or an 'information' book, DK is my absolute first choice. Their books are beautiful and chock full of easy to read information and colour photographs. They're all great!

But DK Canada is asking you to pick your one favourite DK title of all time! You have until January 30/14 to simply let them know what title you love and you're entered to win a $250.00 DK Canada website shopping spree.

And the top 20 books as selected by readers will go on sale in February. Win-win! So head on over to the website and list your fave title. Enter the I Love DK Contest here. Hmm, now to pick my fave.....


Friday, January 17, 2014

Inherit the Dead - Lee Child, Charlaine Harris, C.J. Box et. al.

At first glance, I thought that Inherit the Dead was a collection of short stories from some of my favourite authors. (20 of them to be exact) Upon closer inspection I realized that it was one story, a serial novel,  with each chapter written by  a different author. And that there was a purpose behind the compilation - monies raised go to support Safe Horizon - an organization championed by Linda Fairstein. 

Perry Christo is a disgraced former cop turned P.I. When a wealthy 'uptown' woman summons Perry, he runs - he really needs the money. But the case is odd - Drusilla wants Perry to find her daughter Angel - she hasn't seen her in two weeks, but hasn't bothered with the police either. Christo takes the case, but as he digs, it just gets more complicated - everyone has their own agenda and Angel may have been right to disappear.

I was quite eager to read this as I do follow about half of the authors regularly. The initial chapter sets the stage and from there, each author added their own twist and direction. But, sadly, as the book progressed, I found myself losing interest. I like a good meaty mystery. With the format used here, the flow was choppy and the plot seemed cobbled together. Which it was. You can easily identify the hood or twist that dictates where the plot is headed.  I did have reading each chapter and identifying the style of known authors. And finding some new authors to try. You would think that with so much talent, it would be a great book.  It's a neat premise and a good hook for a fundraiser, but for this reader, it was just an okay read. Here's an excerpt of Inherit the Dead.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The House on the Cliff - Charlotte Williams

I enjoy a good crime novel, but I also really enjoy psychological thrillers. The cover copy of Charlotte Williams' debut novel, The House on the Cliff, sounded right up my alley.

"A riveting psychological novel featuring Jessica Mayhew, a therapist who becomes entangled in the long-dormant murder mystery that haunts her patient's family."

I was intrigued by the initial meeting of Jessica and her patient, actor Gwydion Morgan. He has a fear of buttons. (It is a real phobia! Who knew?) However as their sessions continue, the button phobia takes a backseat to a remembered dream from childhood. Gwydion dreams of hiding in a box to escape an loud argument. His father is a well known director and a serial philanderer. Could the dream be a repressed memory? Is there more for Gwydion to remember?

Jessica herself is dealing with issues as well - her husband has had a brief affair and although they are still together for the sake of the children, she has not forgiven him.

Here's my problem - I didn't like Jessica at all. Not as a person, wife or mother and certainly not as a therapist. She crosses way too many lines, all while justifying her actions to herself. Her daughter is involved in a potentially dangerous situation, yet she blithely lets her walk into it anyway. For me, this storyline seemed more intriguing and more 'psychologically thrilling' than the main plot.

Williams has a very clinical style of writing, that perhaps suits a psychotherapist recounting a tale. But, I found it dry and somewhat tedious. Although Williams does give us a twist at the end, I wasn't overly surprised by the whodunit. Sadly, for this reader, The House on the Cliff wasn't quite what I had hoped for.

The House on the Cliff  is the first in a planned series featuring Mayhew. Read an excerpt of The House on the Cliff.

"After studying philosophy in college, Charlotte Williams went on to work as an arts journalist, writing for newspapers and magazines, and making documentaries for the BBC. She now works in radio drama, writing original plays and adaptations."

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

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Over the Counter # 197

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Fun DIY stuff to do with your Mom and Dad....

First up was Made by Dad: 67 Blueprints for Making Cool Stuff. Projects you can build for (and with) your kids! by Scott Bedford.

From Workman Publishing:

"The Snail Soup Can Decoy to keep the candy stash safe. The Customizable “Keep Out” Sign to deter meddlesome siblings and parents. A Bunk Bed Communicator made from cardboard tubes (“Psst! Can you keep the snoring down?”). Clever, whimsical, and kind of genius, here are 67 unique projects that will turn any dad with DIY leanings into a mad scientist hero that his kid(s) will adore.

No screens, no hi-tech gadgetry. Made by Dad combines the rough-edged, handmade ethos of a Boy Scout manual or The Dangerous Book for Boys with a sly sense of humor that kids love. Scott Bedford, a creative director by day and Webby Award–winning blogger by nights and weekends, wields an X-ACTO knife, magic marker, and prodigious imagination to create endlessly delightful projects for his two sons. He knows that kids like contraptions and gadgets, things that are surprising—a chair that appears to be balanced on eggshells. Things that are complex—a multilevel city, with buildings, tunnels, and roads, built from old boxes around the legs of a table. And especially things with humor—the Snappy Toast Rack, made to resemble a crocodile’s gaping mouth.

The projects are shown in full-color photographs, and the instructions are illustrated in detailed line drawings that exude personality. Some are quick and simple enough to be done in a coffee shop; others are more of an afternoon project— yielding hours and hours of rich, imaginative playtime."

Next up was Let's Get This Party Started: DIY Celebrations for You and Your Kids to Create Together by Soleil Moon Frye.

From Abrams Books:

"Let’s Get This Party Started is a guide to more than 15 parties you can throw for your kids that are inexpensive, wildly inventive, and fun. Each party includes two crafts, one game, and one recipe—all of which you can put together with your child. Author Soleil Moon Frye also offers countless tips and ideas that will inspire you. Among the thematic parties featured in the book are the fairy party, the pirate party, the movie-on-the-lawn party, the camp party, the ’80s party, the rainbow party, the Halloween party, the luau, and many more, captured in gorgeous and colorful images by Frye’s brother, photographer Meeno. Timely and fun, this book is a must-have for parents who love entertaining with their kids."

(Over the Counter is a regular weekly 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, January 14, 2014

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches - Alan Bradley

Faithful readers will know that I absolutely adore this series by Canadian Alan Bradley. I have been eagerly awaiting the sixth entry in this fantastic series.

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches marks the return of Bradley's eleven year old sleuth - the intrepid, indefatigable, indomitable Flavia de Luce!

Flavia, her two older sisters and her father live at Buckshaw, a crumbling old mansion near the village of Bishop's Lacey, England. She's incredibly bright, with a passion for concocting and distilling poisons in a forgotten wing of the estate. She also has a propensity for happening upon dead bodies. Besides her lab, her greatest joy comes from solving 'whodunit'. If she can solve it ahead of the local constabulary, all the better!

Minutes before he finds his maker, courtesy of the train at Buckshaw Halt, a mysterious stranger approaches Flavia and desperately asks her to "Tell your father that the Gamekeeper is in jeopardy. He'll understand. I must speak to him. Tell him that the Nide is under - "

Over the last five books, Bradley has slowly been surely dropping hints about Harriet, Flavia's mother, who disappeared many years ago when Flavia was just a baby. There are few cracks in Flavia's armour, but the loss of her mother is one. Bradley finally reveals the answers to Harriet's whereabouts and in The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, takes the story to places I didn't see coming (But that I am very excited about!)

Why do I love this series so much? The time period, the crumbling mansion, the poky village and all of it's quirky inhabitants.  All of the characters are wonderfully drawn, but it is Flavia and her busy little mind who captures me.

I've said it before and I'll say it again...."Flavia is one of the most endearing, captivating, curious, beguiling, precocious characters I've ever discovered in the pages of a book."

I love her view of the world - here are a few 'Flavia-isms'....

"I counted to eleven, partly because it was my age (although not for much longer) and partly because eleven seconds seemed to me a perfect balance between awe and insolence."

"One of the marks of a truly great mind, I had discovered, is the ability to feign stupidity on demand."

"As I have mentioned before, it has been my experience that a prolonged silence has the same effect as a W.C. plunger when  it comes to unclogging a stuck conversation."

But, despite her talents, she is still a little girl. Bradley has fleshed out her character beyond her talents with poisons and her brilliant mind. Because, after all that she is still a lonely, little girl whose best friends are Dogger, the family retainer and Gladys - her bicycle. Flavia unconsciously transfers and attributes many of her own feelings to Gladys.

"There was nothing that excited Gladys more than sneaking out the back way. We had performed that maneuver together on many occasions, and I think she took a certain naughty delight in having the opportunity to do it again. She gave a tiny squeak of pleasure and I hadn't the heart to reprimand her."

" I thought of her sitting home alone, wondering why I had forsaken her. Although Gladys loved nothing better than whizzing hell-for-leather down hills, she loathed being shoved up them. It made both of us cranky."

See what I mean? I love her! I wanted to be Nancy Drew and Harriet the Spy when I was younger. I devoured each and every book and carried around my own notebook full of observations and clues. Flavia will appeal to all ages, but I like imagining myself in her eleven year old shoes.

Absolutely, positively recommended! If you haven't read any of this series yet, I encourage you to start at the beginning. For established Flavia fans - you won't be disappointed. And like me, you'll be counting down the days until the seventh book is released! Read an excerpt of The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches.

Flavia has a fan club - and of course I'm a member! Join the Flavia de Luce fan club. (Also, the UK is making this series into a television program in 2015)

Monday, January 13, 2014

Stay Warm With Simon and Schuster Canada

Well, in my neck of the woods this week the temperature (with wind chill) went down to - 40 degrees Celsius. For my American friends, this is one of the times the two thermometers meet - that translates to - 40 degrees Fahrenheit as well.

Yeah, baby it's cold outside. But by gosh, we're Canadians and we know how to deal with the cold! But, just in case, Simon and Schuster Canada has some suggestions AND a great sweepstakes to help keep you warm as well!

Just head over to They've come up with five ways to stay warm for winter. And to warm you up further - enter to win a great Stay Warm Kit that includes:

 - 1 pair of mittens
- 1 pair of reusable hand warmers
- Scented candles
- 1 pair of socks
- 1 hot water bottle
- 1 Simon & Schuster Canada signature mug
- 1 Sower's Blend tea
- The Ultimate Survival Guide (Canadian Edition)
- The Demonologist
- The Troop (I just finished this last week - it may give you chills! My review)

- The Best Cook Book Ever
- Chicken Soup for the Soul: Wonders of Winter
- Hyperbole and a Half
- Octopus's Garden

Friday, January 10, 2014

Film on Friday #8 - The Key of Life

The eighth entry in the Film on Friday series is Key of Life from director Kenji Uchida. This Japanese film was an official selection of TIFF and over fifteen others.

Kanae (Ryôko Hirosue) is a successful magazine editor. She happily announces at work one day that she is getting married - she just hasn't selected the groom yet....Kondo (Teruyuki Kagawa) is a contract killer who decides he needs to use the public bath after his latest mission - it got a bit messy....Sakurai (Masato Sakai) is a down on his luck actor at the end of his rope - literally. After a failed suicide attempt he too heads for the public baths....

.....where he steals Kondo's identity after the hitman falls and blacks out. When Kondo awakes, he has amnesia. Presented with Sakurai's papers, he assumes the actor's life. And then Kanae's path crosses with both men.

Key of Life is a comedy of errors as Sakurai slowly comes to realize that the identity he as stolen may be more than he bargained for. And Kondo, unable to remember his past life, seems quite content to pursue his acting career. Kanae seems to be falling in love with one of the men - but has no idea who he really is.

This was a fun movie to watch. There are many comical bits and the mistaken identity twist is played to the max. However there are serious bits to catch too - familial and societal expectations and the pursuit of love.

Of the three actors, I enjoyed Hirosue the most. I thought her role was well played - understated yet moving. Kagawa and Sakai essentially played two roles and two characters each. Of the two, I enjoyed Kagawa's performance more. Sakai seemed a little over the top with his exaggerated facial expressions that simply annoyed me by the end. Now, that being said, he was nominated for best actor at the Japanese Academy Awards for this role. And really, this is a Japanese comedy - everything is a little over the top - at times reminding me of a game show. (the ambulance drivers especially)

There are some fun twists in Key of Life that were unexpected and kept things interesting. And of course, there was the ending I hoped for.

Key of Life was an enjoyable film that was a breath of fresh air and a change from the heavy films I've been watching. 2012 / Japanese with English subtitles / 128 min

Film Movement always includes a short on their DVD's. This entry is "Finale" from Hungary. There is no dialogue - instead we are left to puzzle out what these well dressed men are up to - and it's not what you would expect. An excellent little short that paired well with Key of Life.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Over the Counter #196

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? This week it's beautiful coffee table books.

First up was Dawn to Dark Photographs: The Magic of Light.

From the publisher, National Geographic:

"Full of exquisite, one-of-a-kind photographs depicting the wonders of nature and the world as only National Geographic can—this stunning photo collection charts the changing light over the course of a day, from dawn to midday to evening and night.

The world's best landscape photography and photojournalism stunningly depicts the passage of a single day, from dawn's first light to the closing moments of sunset. Experience shimmering mornings and opaque nights through the eyes of our finest photographers in this gloriously uplifting volume—the latest entry in National Geographic's best-selling annual photography collection. Daybreak whispers mauve over a long ocean horizon. The morning sun twinkles in a drop of dew. The broad heat of midday radiates over a beach strewn with sweat-baked sunbathers. A slender crescent moon caresses a gnarled tree standing alone on the heath.

National Geographic Dark to Dawn Photographs gives readers a front-row seat to the world's wonders, from its most imposing cityscapes to its most pristine landscapes. Selected from the portfolios of the most celebrated photographers, the images in this book are strikingly arranged to depict the beauty and majesty of light in all its variations. Short legends accompany every photograph to explain the picture, the scene it conveys, or how the shot was captured, along with inspiring quotations from literature. With the widest possible array of perspectives, close-ups, and details, these photos present a new experience of time and light. Large-format pages and a simple, striking design play up the photographs as they demand. Chapters dedicated to each phase of the day show distinctly different yet harmonizing visions, with unique insight and perspective from photographers, confirming that around the world and throughout all time, the passage of light from dawn to dusk, from morning to night and back again, connects us all."

Next up was Bear: Spirit of the Wild by Paul Nicklen:

Also from National Geographic Publishing:

"Following on the heels of his National Geographic blockbuster Polar Obsession, Paul Nicklen turns his keen photographic eye to North American bears. Stunning images shot by the renowned photojournalist are enriched with personal accounts by noted environmentalists, providing a glimpse into the endangered realm of North America's bears: the grizzly, the polar bear, the black bear, and the rare all-white spirit, or Kermode, bear.

Paul Nicklen, wildlife photojournalist, showcases his stunning photography for National Geographic with this collection of North American bears: the grizzly, polar bear, black bear, and the rarest spirit bear. Evocative storytelling combines with Nicklen's landmark photographs to reveal the truths and myths about these amazing creatures, and sheds light on their threatened ecosystems. Years of photographing bears in their habitat have given Nicklen a special understanding of these majestic mammals: the polar bear, ranked most popular species on Earth; the grizzly, feared and misunderstood; and the black bear, as well as its precious white counterpart, the spirit bear.

Nicklen believes that sharing knowledge and stories about bears will impact the way we think of them, and thus ensure their future. Well-known environmentalists such as Wade Davis and Sylvia Earle, filmmaker Werner Herzog, and Nicklen himself contribute essays to enhance the message of Nicklen's photographs. Quotes from literary figures punctuate the pages, offering insight into the magnificence of these impressive mammals. An epilogue takes a global look at the future of bears."

(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, January 8, 2014

The Troop - Nick Cutter

Right off the top, I have to say - I had this review written and then discovered they had changed the cover from the original - which was much better in my opinion. But what's inside is good, no matter what the cover looks like.

Nick Cutter is a pseudonym for a Canadian author Craig Davidson. His latest novel is The Troop. Remember last week I said I liked scary stories? Well, this one filled the bill - and more.

Five Scouts from Troop Fifty Two set off with Scoutmaster Tim for a weekend camp on isolated Falstaff Island, Prince Edward Island.

Their first night there, a gaunt, skeletal man appears and begs to be fed - he's so very, very hungry. The reader alone is privy to his thoughts..."Would they come for him? He was their failure - a human blooper reel - but also the keeper of their secret. And he was so. so toxic. At least, that's what he overheard them say."

Okay, great set-up eh? Isolated island, scary, weird guy showing up and five fourteen year old boys left to face whatever has come to camp on Falstaff Island with them.

"And so when adults find themselves in a situation where that nimbleness (of mind) is needed ..well they can't summon it. So they fall to pieces: go insane, panic, suffer heart attacks and aneurysms brought on by fright. Why?" They simply don't believe it could be happening. That's what's different about kids: they believe everything  can happen, and fully expect it to."

But, there's dissension among the troop as well. Cutter has given us five protagonists - all with their own strengths and weakness. A bit predictable - there is a smart one, a fat one, a psycho one, etc. But Cutter does an excellent job at fleshing them all out and making them quite believable.

The infection process is squeamishly nasty - I found myself doing the book version of covering your eyes with a pillow whilst watching a scary move - I started skimming the visceral, detailed descriptions. It's not something I usually do, but Cutter had me squirming.

While the boys are trying to figure what's going on, Cutter employs a good tactic to let us, the reader, know the truth. Newspaper articles, police reports and classified documents are interspersed throughout the scenes on the island. (As I noted the locations used in the book, I realized I had visited many of them!)

The Troop is classified as a horror book - not my usual genre. But it was undeniably addicting. The cause of the contagion/virus/mutation is revealed by the final page. I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry - it's an excellent social comment on human behaviour.

Fans of Stephen King would love this book. (And King himself says The Troop scared the hell out of me, and I couldn’t put it down. This is old-school horror at its best."

 Think Lord of the Flies paired with Scott Smith's The Ruins. And just for fun - here's the original cover.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Bombproof - Michael Robotham

I often have library patrons asking me if I can recommend a crime author or series to them. Absolutely! It's my favourite genre.

One oft overlooked author is award winning Australian Michael Robotham. He's been on my must read list for quite awhile.

Robotham opens Bombproof with an explosive (literally) opening sequence. How could Sami MacBeth's life get any worse...

"Three days ago he walked out of prison and swore he'd never go back. Thirty-six hours ago he was shagging Kate Tierney, the woman of his wet dreams, in a suite at the Savoy thinking life was looking up. Now he's carrying a rucksack that could send him to prison for the rest of his life through the West End of London and he's turned himself into the most wanted man in Britain. This is how it happened."

I was hooked! Robotham is a master storyteller. Bombproof is fast-paced, action-packed and full of surprises. The plot is dark and gritty, but Robotham inserts some dark humour as well. A bit of stretch in a few places, but absolutely a page turner. Bombproof reads like an action flick. Read an excerpt of Bombroof.

Bombproof is an older stand alone story of Robotham's. Mullholland Books has released it in the U.S. as an ebook. Robotham  pens a fantastic series featuring psychologist Joe O'Loughlin and homicide Detective Vincent Ruiz. The next U.S. release in this series is Watching You (about a woman who has been stalked - her entire life). It's due out in March/14. Watch for it - I will be.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Over the Counter #195

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Well, I'm involved in a community connecting project, so Pocket Neighborhoods: Creating Small-Scale Community in a Large-Scale World  by Ross Chapin made me stop and take a second look.

From the publisher, Taunton Press:

"Pocket Neighborhoods: Creating Small Scale Community in a Large Scale World introduces an antidote to faceless, placeless sprawl — small scale neighborhoods where people can easily know one another, where empty nesters and single householders with far-flung families can find friendship or a helping hand nearby, and where children can have shirt-tail aunties and uncles just beyond their front gate.

The book describes inspiring pocket neighborhoods through stories of the people who live there, as well as the progressive planners, innovative architects, pioneering developers, craftspeople and gardeners who helped create them.

The book is filled with rich photographs, drawings, illustrations and site plans, and a Resources section at the end provides leads for the reader to explore the topic in further detail."

The downtown of the large city I work in is not somewhere I choose to go. I find it dirty and I don't feel either safe or comfortable, especially at night. This is in stark contrast to the city my daughter lives in. The downtown is vibrant, clean and a destination. So, Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America One Step at a Timey by Jeff Speck also speaks to community and  was worth a second glance.

From the publisher, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux:

"A Best Book of the Year according to Planetizen and the American Society of Landscape Architects

Jeff Speck has dedicated his career to determining what makes cities thrive. And he has boiled it down to one key factor: walkability.

Making downtown into a walkable, viable community is the essential fix for the typical American city; it is eminently achievable and its benefits are manifold. Walkable City—bursting with sharp observations and key insights into how urban change happens—lays out a practical, necessary, and inspiring vision for how to make American cities great again."

 (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!)

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Starter House - Sonja Condit

And starting off the 2014 reading year is..... Sonja Condit's debut novel - Starter House.

I have to say right off the bat - I like scary movies (not gory) and scary books. So the premise of Condit's novel immediately appealed to me.....

A young couple expecting their first child are house hunting. After 108 viewings, Lacey knows the house on Forrester Lane is the one. The realtor's comments to a neighbour are a bit odd, but the price is right and their offer is accepted. But right from the beginning, there is an annoying young boy who seems to be hanging around their property.....but it's only Lacey that can seem him....and talk to him....and she quickly begins to sense that something is not quite right with their dream home....

Oh, dark, snowy night, pot of tea, and a solitary reading lamp set the tone for enjoying this modern day twist of a ghost tale.

Condit is not subtle about her haunting. It starts from the first few pages and builds momentum as the story quickly progresses. I found Starter House hard to put down - I really wanted to know what the final pages would reveal.

Condit's characters are a bit cliched - the husband Eric was somewhat predictable as the voice of reason and the disbeliever. But there has to be a non-believer in every ghost tale. I quite enjoyed Lacey's Mom - new age proponent Ella Dane. Her faith in her own beliefs was consistent and convincing. Supporting characters such as Eric's boss and secretary were predictable. I'm torn on Lacey - I thought her views as a teacher were spot on. Suspended disbelief is necessary to go along with her acceptance of the boy Drew and what he can do. But, of course we must - it's a ghost story! So without overthinking it too much, I just kept turning pages. Glimpses of the past provide clues to the secrets of the house on Forrester Lane - and the final reveal.

Starter House was a good debut and a fine way to start off my 2014 reading list. If you have an older house, Starter House will make you wonder about the history of your house. (Mine is 135 years old and I've had great fun researching who has lived in it and their stories.) Read an excerpt of Starter House."Sonja Condit received her MFA from Converse College, where she studied with Robert Olmstead, Leslie Pietrzyk, R.T. Smith, and Marlin Barton. Her short fiction has appeared in Shenandoah magazine, among other publications. She
plays principal bassoon in the Hendersonville Symphony Orchestra and the Greater Anderson Musical Arts Consortium. She teaches at the South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities."

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


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

Another year already! I always used to hear my grandmother say "the older I get, the faster time flies." And I now know what she meant - 2013 flew by!

Do you make resolutions? I don't write them down, but do have ideas of what I'd like to do and accomplish in 2014.

I'll never be able to stop reading, but I'd like to even my hobbies out a bit more this year and spend more time with other interests.

Whatever the year brings, I hope to find joy and thankfulness in each and every day.

Wishing all of you a healthy, happy 2014. Thank you for all your caring, comments and community.