Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!!

Almost 2012! It's hard to imagine that another year has gone by already! The older I get, the faster they go.

So what are you doing to celebrate? I have decided to do a 5K Resolution Walk/Run at 5 pm on New Year's Eve. Ahem - I will be doing the walk part - in the winter - at night - in Canada. What the heck was I thinking? Well, I'm thinking it's a fine way to kickstart my plans to keep working on getting healthier. We've also been invited to a house party - not sure if I'll make it after doing the walk!

Lots of books read and listened to in 2011 - a total of 154 (list here)  ! Every time I think that I should cut back, I hear of another great book or new author. So there's no fighting it - I love to read and I don't think that will every change!

Best wishes for a happy, healthy New Year to all of you from
                               A Bookworm's World!

Friday, December 30, 2011

52 Small Changes - Brett Blumenthal

Yes, it's almost the end of the year, Christmas is over, the New Year is fast approaching and for many people, resolutions are being planned. We can make changes anytime in our lives, but for some reason, we see the new year as a clean page to start.

"Many of us yearn for instant gratification, and when something takes too long, we give up or move on. Unfortunately, the instant gratification we crave is the exact thing that hinders us from achieving success in our quest for change. The secret to making change that lasts is to acknowledge and accept that change takes time and that patience during the process is essential."

I agree with Blumenthal that 'small changes feed our need to succeed." To that end Brett Blumenthal's book 52 Small Changes actually spans the entire year. She has come up with one change per week that we can incorporate on our way to becoming a "happier, healthier you." The book has four target areas: Diet and Nutrition, Fitness and Prevention, Mental Well - Being and Green Living.

Week One's topic is water - drinking more of it. A basic tenet that we're all aware of and recognize the importance of, but really don't carry out. By just having the one goal for an entire week and following through, one could achieve a feeling of success and the desire to continue on with other small but beneficial changes.

Blumenthal targets a lot of other 'known' issues such as adequate sleep, food choices, additives, vitamins etc. Some of the suggestions such as breathing right, taking at least a half hour a day for yourself, cleaning products and identifying additives provided lots of food for thought. Each topic is explored and the benefits explained. If you're already following that week's suggestions there are ideas for taking it up a notch.

I think the idea of one small change a week is great. However I think some of the ideas would require greater introspection and thought, such as Participate in Your Life (mindful thinking), Find Your Own Spirituality and Living with Purpose. However, that being said, 52 Small Changes does introduce the ideas for consideration.

The book is cleanly laid out, easy to read and includes pictures, graphs and blurb boxes. I think a reader could pick and choose ideas from the book that are pertinent to the changes they would like to see in their lives. I don't think every idea would work for everyone. Do I think I could make 52 changes this year? No, but I will be making some and 52 Small Changes has given me some ideas.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Over the Counter #90

Kids still on holidays? Looking for a fun breakfast? OMG Pancakes by Jim Belosic caught my eye as it passed over my library counter and under my scanner.

From the publisher, Avery, a division of Penguin Books:

"Over 75 recipes for crazy pancake concoctions... great for any occasion from holidays to everyday Sundays!

When Jim Belosic started making pancakes in unusual designs, he was just trying to earn some cool cred with his daughter, Allie. Little did he know how happy he'd make her-and the millions of fans who eagerly await his latest creations on the Internet.

Pancake unicorns, beehives, and even bridges, Ferris wheels, and construction cranes have all risen to life through Jim's artful use of squeeze bottles, tasty and nutritious coloring and flavor techniques, and fearless creativity. OMG Pancakes also includes holiday-themed creations like Ghost and Pumpkin for Halloween, Turkey for Thanksgiving, a Christmas Tree, and much more.

Now-with a little help from Jim-everyone can turn breakfast into art. Filled with four-color photos, and step-by- step instructions, OMG Pancakes! will be devoured by families and crafty foodies alike."

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

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Bomber - Liza Marklund

I certainly know of Liza Marklund - I've been steering patrons towards her books when they ask for 'another' Scandinavian author. I've read reviews of her books and know that they're good reads, but hadn't actually sampled one myself until I sat down with The Bomber. And yes - she's very good!

Annika Bengtzon is the newly promoted head of the crime division at The Evening Post newspaper in Stockholm, Sweden. She's having a hard time juggling family life with two small children and a husband who is also devoted to his career. Adding in staff that seem determined to see her fail ratchets up the stress in her life.

When a call comes in that there had been a bombing at the Olympic village that is under construction for the upcoming summer Olympics, Annika answers the initial call herself. But is it a terrorist act or murder? Annika's nose for ferreting out the real story is fantastic for the paper, but maybe not so good for her personally. She's put herself on the killer's radar....

I loved this character! Annika is nowhere near perfect. Marklund has made here into a believable, likable 'real' person. She struggles with everyday pressures, tries to overcome her insecurity and be a good mother, wife and boss. She doesn't always succeed. But where she does succeed is in her dedication to ferreting out a story, seeing clues and connections that others miss.  Bengtzon's reporter instincts and actions ring true as Marklund herself worked as a reporter and editor, and it shows in her writing.

I also found the plotting to be excellent. Although there were plenty of suspects, I didn't figure out who is was until almost the last page. I became quite caught up in the story. The everyday details of Annika's life also provided an interesting look at life in Sweden.

This was a character and series I definitely enjoyed and I'll be picking others by this author. (And I can forgive Marklund  teaming up with James Patterson for a co written book.)

Read an excerpt of The Bomber.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

77 Shadow Street - Dean Koontz

I remember begging my parents to buy The Exorcist for me to read when I was 11 or 12. They did - not really realizing what it was about. I devoured it in the hammock at the cottage in a few days. It's easy not to be frightened in a sunny place! That was the beginning of scary books for me. Dean Koontz quickly found a place on my list of horror authors that I faithfully followed. But my tastes evolved over the years and it's been quite awhile since I've read one of Koontz's books, so I thought I would give his latest book 77 Shadow Street, a shot.

The Pendleton is a luxury apartment building - in its' former life it was the private home of the well to do Pendleton family. The book opens with a great scene - one of the residents hops on the elevator to ride up to his apartment, but when the doors open - definitely not his floor. Other residents of the building start seeing shadows and more - creatures, ghosts and .....

We are introduced to a myriad of characters in the beginning. I enjoyed the many different players and wondered how they would fit into the plot. Koontz has included floor plans of the building in the opening flyleaves. I found myself studying the floor plans as the action progressed. The detail provided added much to bringing the story 'alive' in my imagination.

One of the residents, a retired lawyer, is also a expert amateur historian. As events progress, he realizes that events from 38 years ago are repeating themselves. Something is very, very wrong in their building.

What is frightening? To everyone it's a little something different. I think the shadow seen flitting by out of the corner of your eye or the television watching you is much more terrifying than blatantly grotesque 'creatures'. Subtlety works better for me.

Koontz cuts in and out with short narratives from a being who calls himself The One. I found his pronouncements a bit cheesy and found myself skimming over them.

The second half of the book moves much more quickly and caught my interest more when the residents start taking action. Although there is a large cast of characters, for me,  it is the two children who stand out the most. Koontz has done a fantastic job with young Winny, brave beyond his years. I found myself rooting for him time and time again.

In the second half of the book Koontz also throws a spanner into what I had initially taken as a run of the mill horror book. He has presented an interesting background and reason for the happenings in the Pendleton that I didn't see coming.

My only complaint is some of the overly long (and a wee bit boring) rhetoric from some of the characters. More action, more thrills, more spookiness, less thought provoking diatribes on post humanism.

Publishers have mounted a pretty spectacular website for the book. You can enter The Pendleton and explore the various apartments. Or play it safe and read the first chapter of 77 Shadow Street.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Boxing Day post

A completely unrelated to books post today. It runs a close second, but I love to quilt as well, so I thought I'd share some pictures of the Christmas lap quilt I made for my daughter and son-in-law for this year. It was in a box and they took it out - Boxing Day post - ta da!

Anyone braving the malls today? Lots of deals in the flyers, but I think I'll avoid it and wait until later in the week.

Hope everyone is enjoying their time off!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays!!

I wish each and every one of you the happiest of holidays with family and friends!

Merry Christmas from A Bookworm's World!!


Friday, December 23, 2011

Micro - Michael Crichton and Richard Preston

Michael Chrichton passed away in 2008. He had begun work on Micro and was about 1/3 of the way done. Richard Preston was hired to finish the book based on Chrichton's notes and research. Chrichton himself has been quoted as saying that Micro would be "an adventure story like Jurassic Park."

No dinosaurs this time - instead Micro focuses on nanotechnology -science that is no longer in the future but is a reality.

Seven graduate students head to Hawaii, hoping to land an internship at Nanitech, a leader in this field. They get more than they bargained for when they are unwillingly - reduced - shall we say. They battle for their lives in an environment as much familiar as it is terrifying. Meanwhile the Oahu Police department is stymied by the deaths of three men from hundreds of tiny little cuts. Has the technology run amok? Or is someone testing it outside the lab?

I found the idea quite intriguing, but it is the descriptions of nature seen from the eyes of humans half an inch tall that make the book. An ant or a wasp take on horrifying proportions. The characters themselves are quite blatant caricatures - the bad guy is almost formulaic, the whiny kid is predictable in his actions etc. The character I was most drawn to and I identified as the protagonist is abruptly killed off. It seems the players are there to only move the story along.

I chose to listen to this book in audio format. The reader, John Bedford Lloyd, was quite good. At first his voice reminded me of a news anchor. Lots of expression and he did justice to the action in the book. Some of his interpretations were a bit annoying, but matched the character, such as the whiny student.

I have enjoyed Chrichton's books. Micro didn't quite live up to past works, but then again, it's not truly Chrichton novel is it? That being said, it's was an entertaining, quick read that won't tax your brain. I can see it being made into a movie - but the plot isn't really that unique.
Listen to an excerpt of Micro. Or read an excerpt.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Over the Counter #89

Got your holiday baking done yet? Well Wreck the Halls : Cake Wrecks Gets Festive by Jen Yates definitley caught my eyes as it passed over my library and under my scanner this week. It may or may not give you inspiration, but it will give you a laugh!

From the publisher Andrews McMeel:

"Award-winning blogger Jen Yates has focused on confectionery calamities at her popular Web site since May 2008, while her debut book, Cake Wrecks: When Professional Cakes Go Hilariously Wrong, quickly climbed the charts to become a New York Times best-seller within weeks of its release. Now, Yates is back with Wreck the Halls, a fresh mix of fan favorites and plenty of never-before-seen holiday wreckage.
From thankless Thanksgiving turkeys and confusing Christmas conundrums, to less-than-happy Hanukkah horrors and New Year's meltdowns, Wreck the Halls has an icing-smeared disaster for every occasion. With additional chapters on Black Friday, family communication, and navigating the murky waters of politically correct cake greetings ("Winter!"), Wreck the Halls combines Yates's signature blend of wit and sarcasm with the most hilarious frosting fails this side of winter solstice. Find sweet relief from the holiday madness (not to mention plenty of laughs) with Wreck the Halls."

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

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Real - Shelley Malcolm and Terilee Dawn Ouimette

I just knew when I saw the cover of Real by Shelley Malcolm and Terilee Dawn Ouimette that I wanted to read it. The photo made me immediately just stop. I thought of my ninety six year old grandmother's hands - holding them and feeling the paper thin skin and the delicate bones. But also the strength, the love and the life that those hands had experienced and the caring she imparted to those whose lives she touched.

I often find myself at work in the library looking at patron's hands as they pass their books across the counter to me to be checked out. I'm sure they hold the key to a world of stories.

Shelley Malcolm had the idea that " a deep beauty exists in the honest stories our hands have to tell. "Whatever their weathering, in their tenderness, their task, their injury or age, there is a beauty." When she approached Terilee about taking the photos for the project, Terilee was excited - "I wanted my images to inspire people to love, live, feel and appreciate the unique that is often mistaken for the ordinary. For me, hands have always told the story of how amazingly different our lives are."

Each picture of hands is accompanied by a story written by Shelley letting us know a bit more about the subjects' lives, hopes, dreams and anything else they cared to share.

I found myself reading Real in small bits. First I would look at each photograph and absorb the unspoken story, then read the accompanying words. There are various 'chapters' - courage , hope, work, dreams etc, but each and every one of the sixty stories had a message. I found the stories of hope and perserverance the most moving for me. People from every walk and stage of life are represented. I found myself wishing I could meet with some of them to carry on the conversations.

Real is a unique project and a truly moving, inspirational and poignant book. Take a look at your own hands - what story would they tell?

Proceeds from the sale of Real go to various charities. Find out what others on the tour thought.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Giveaway - One Moment, One Morning - Sarah Rayner

Sarah Rayner's novel One Moment, One Morning releases today in the US and you, dear readers, have a chance to win one of three copies I'm giving away, courtesy of St. Martin's Griffin.

From the publisher:

"The Brighton to London line. The 7:44 am train. Cars packed with commuters. One woman occupies her time observing the people around her. Opposite, a girl puts on her make-up. Across the aisle, a husband strokes his wife’s hand. Further along, another woman flicks through a glossy magazine. Then, abruptly, everything changes: a man collapses, the train is stopped, and an ambulance is called.

For at least three passengers on the 7:44 on that particular morning, life will never be the same again. There’s Lou, in an adjacent seat, who witnesses events first hand. Anna, who’s sitting further up the train, impatient to get to work. And Karen, the man’s wife.

Telling the story of the week following that fateful train journey, One Moment, One Morning is a stunning novel about love and loss, about family and – above all– friendship. A stark reminder that, sometimes, one moment is all it takes to shatter everything. Yet it also reminds us that somehow, despite it all, life can and does go on."

Get a head start - read an excerpt of One Moment, One Morning. You can find Sarah on Facebook and on Goodreads.

Sound like something you'd like to read? Simply leave a comment to be entered. Open to US and Canada. Ends Jan. 14/12.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Bungalow - Sarah Jio

I read Sarah Jio's debut novel The Violets of March last year - and loved it. (my review) I had no doubt that I would enjoy her latest book, The Bungalow, as much. But I was wrong - I actually enjoyed it more!

Anne Calloway is ninety when her granddaughter Jennifer brings her a letter - one that asks questions about a murder in 1943 and so Anne begins to finally tell her story...

Anne has already gone against her well to do family's expectations for her. She and her friend Kitty both added nursing qualifications to their college degrees. "What we'd do with these credentials was of great concern to our parents. Heaven forbid we actually use them."

Anne's future is already planned for her - marriage to Gerard Godfrey, the local banker's son. "Mother and Mrs. Godfrey had planned the union since I was in infancy, of course. Calloways would marry Godfreys. It was as natural as coffee and cream."

But, it is 1942 and the War is on. When Kitty announces that she has enlisted in the Army Nurse Corps and is shipping out for the South Pacific, Anne does the unimaginable - she follows her heart and signs up as well.

Kitty and Anne land in Bora Bora. Kitty sees it all as a grand adventure, while Anne is more reserved. But Anne is inextricably drawn to Westry, one of the soldiers on base. Together they discover an abandoned beach hut and it is here that they fall in love - and plan for a life together when the war ends. But the locals say the hut is cursed. And it may well be - a horrific event puts an end to their sanctuary  -  and their plans for the future.

Jio has again woven the past and present together to create an absolutely addicting story. But it is the past that captured me the most. I loved the character of Anne, her decisions to follow her heart, her kindness and her innocence. Jio has captured the naivete of a young woman discovering herself in a turbulent time period. I initially enjoyed the character of Kitty as well, drawn to her sense of adventure. However, by the end of the book I quite disliked her. The setting itself is a character in the book as well. I was able to picture clear blue water, white sands, palm tree, island breezes and of course, the little bungalow.

Jio's writing flows easily and effortlessly. I was caught up in the story from first page to last. It's hard to pigeonhole The Bungalow into one genre slot. It's historical, but there's a (not too hard to solve) mystery as well, but the romantic thread is the most compelling. Yes, there are coincidences that tie things up quite neatly in the end, but you know what? - It works. For a feel good read to warm you up on a cold winter night, pick up The Bungalow. Releases Dec. 27/11.

Read an excerpt of The Bungalow. Book clubs would enjoy this story - a reading group guide is available as well. I'll be watching for Jio's third book - Blackberry Winter, due out in Fall 2012. You can find Sarah on Facebook  and on Twitter.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Giveaway winner- The Personal History of Rachel DuPree

And the lucky winner of a copy of The Personal History of Rachel DuPree by Ann Weisgarber, courtesy of Penguin Books is:

Gwendolyn B!

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

Friday, December 16, 2011

Legacy - Cayla Kluver

Ella is back with her latest YA review - Legacy, by Cayla Kluver.

"I'll be honest, I picked up this book cause it has a cool cover. It also appealed because princesses in medieval-style realms were some of my first forays into the fantasy genre as a kid. I got hooked pretty quickly, though. It was clearly a first novel (the whole thing is written in quasi-almost-Hollywood-medieval speech, full of obnoxious thou's,  shant's and twas's,  but you only really pick up on it at first, while the author is hitting her stride) but it was still pretty captivating. The story is told by Alera, a princess who will be married on her next birthday. Whoever marries her will be king, and her father has pretty good idea who he wants. Of course, Alera loathes him (stay with me, it was a decent book). Where it gets interesting is that Alera's kingdom has an ancient enemy that they just finished a war with. 49 baby boys were kidnapped, and only 48 bodies where left to be found. Smack in the middle of Alera's marriage drama, baby 49 comes home, all grown up, raised by the enemy. Why did they take him? Why is he back? Why is he so cute? All questions Alera struggles with. Casual read, not earth-shattering, but definitely a sign to check in with Kluver as she gets more sophisticated as an author. I liked it!" Read an excerpt of Legacy.

You can find Kluver on Facebook and on Twitter.

As always Ella, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I'm so glad to have you on board as the resident teen blogger and can't wait to hear about your reads in 2012!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Over the Counter #88

Well, the latest book to catch my eye this week as it passed over my library counter and under my scanner was Have Yourself  A Very Vintage Christmas by Susan Waggoner. Subtitled: Crafts, Decorating Tips, and Recipes, 1920s-1960s.

From the publisher - Stewart, Tabori and Chang:

"In her newest volume, Susan Waggoner recaptures the magic of Christmases past with the vintage crafts projects readers have been craving. Inspired by the most sought-after treasures from the 1920s through the 1960s, Waggoner recreates a tempting array of decorations and provides step-by-step instructions that allow anyone to deck their halls with cellophane wreaths, glittered glass ornament balls, beaded bell garlands, and whimsical, tinsel-bedecked treat cups. Those pressed for time will also find quick crafts for every decade, along with style notes and decorating tips to pull it all together. Nostalgic bonus art throughout provides a host of images to use in greeting cards and photo holders. And to keep spirits merry and energy flowing, Waggoner includes a sampler of easy-to-make candy recipes, from Mackinac Island Fudge to old-fashioned soft caramels."

Next up was Under the Tree: The Toys and Treats That Made Christmas Special, 1930-1970 also by Susan Waggoner and also from Stwart, Tabori and Chang.

"Filled with more than 100 illustrations—nostalgic art, vintage photographs, and evocative advertisements

When? Can’t I open just one? Please? The minutes, the hours, the eons of waiting—and wondering. What’s underneath the shiny silver paper? Behind the enormous red bow? Under the tree?

Who doesn’t remember what it was like to be a kid at Christmas? And who hasn’t yearned to go back in time to recapture that special feeling? Well, we can’t turn back the clock, but we can do the next best thing. We can bring a bit of the past into the present. In Under the Tree, Susan Waggoner, author of Stewart, Tabori and Chang’s It’s a Wonderful Christmas, takes a loving, nostalgic look at the toys and gifts that made the postwar American Christmas the big deal it was.

Under the Tree revisits gifts both large and small, from Mr. Machine and the Kenner Easy-Bake Oven to Moon Rocks, Silly Putty, Sea Monkeys, and other delights that stuffed our stockings. In addition to the fascinating stories behind each toy, the book is bursting with cultural history, quotes, and lore—all wrapped up with more than 100 full-color vintage illustrations. For anyone who’s ever been a kid at Christmas, Under the Tree will be as irresistible as a kiss under the mistletoe."

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

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Need You Now - James Grippando

James Grippando is back with his latest book Need You Now, releasing January 3, 2012.

Need You Now seems to take inspiration from recent headlines - the Bernie Madoff ponzi scheme in particular.

Patrick Lloyd is a young advisor at a Wall Street firm. He has returned to the US from the Singapore office after breaking up with his girlfriend Lilly, who also worked for the firm. An unnamed group thinks that Lloyd might now where their missing two billion dollars are as Lilly was the one who processed the transactions. With their lives being threatened, they race to try and find answers. But it's not as straight forward as that. Both Patrick and Lilly have secrets - nothing is quite as it seems.

The plot becomes quite convoluted as Grippando adds twists and turns galore. I don't want to print spoilers, so I won't go into detail. But, perhaps there are a few too many twists - it seemed too busy and a bit over the top. I found myself losing track at times of who, what ,where. I never really connected with the two main protagonists or became emotionally invested in their predicament. They simply moved the story along.

Need You Now  is an entertaining financial thriller, but not a stand out for this reader. Read an excerpt of Need You Now. You can find Grippando on Facebook.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

1222 - Anne Holt

I had never heard of Anne Holt before - she's described as Norway's #1 bestselling crime writer. After finishing her latest book 1222, I can see why - and I will be hunting down her backlist.

1222 features one of Holt's recurring characters - Hanne Wilhelmsen. Hanne is not a stereotypical protagonist. She's wheelchair bound, having been paralyzed from the waist down in a police shoot out four years ago. She's a lesbian, a loner and astute. Oh, and she really doesn't like people at all, even more so since her accident.

'It's having people close to me that I find difficult. I am interested in people, but I don't want people to be interested in me. A very taxing situation. At least it is if you surround yourself with friends and colleagues, and if you have to work in a team - as you do in the police. When I got shot and almost died, I ran out of strength. I was perfectly happy sitting there, all by myself."

Hanne is on a train to see a specialist about her paralysis. When the train derails in a snowstorm high above any settlement, the passengers are forced to take refuge in a hotel at the top of the mountain. Communication is cut off as the storm rages on. And someone else is full of rage as well - a clergy man is found shot. Hanne is recognized and reluctantly conscripted to the team that seems to be taking charge - a lawyer, a doctor, and the hotel manager. The storm is increasing in ferocity - and there's a murderer among them. And what about that extra car on the train - the one with armed guards?

I loved this book so much! The character of Hanne was different, not a by the numbers detective. She somewhat reminded me of Inger Ash Wolfe's Hazel Micallef character. Stubborn, sardonic, irascible and highly observant.

"Like other practised liars, he had stuck close to the truth. As a rule, it's the sensible thing to do, but Adrian had given me a piece of a jigsaw puzzle without realizing that I only needed a fragment of sky to sense the outline of the entire finished picture."

1222 has been likened to Agatha Christie's 'locked room' mysteries. The comparison is quite apt. Hanne herself notes "I thought about Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. I immediately tried to dismiss the thought. And Then There were None is a story that doesn't exactly have a happy ending."

Each chapter has a clever title page listing the Beaufort Scale, a wind rating that starts at one and rises to 12, ratcheting up as the tension increases in the hotel.

I truly had no idea who the murderer was until the very end. The hotel is populated with many possibilities. Indeed, the various characters are half the fun of this read. Hanne's unveiling of the perpetrator at the end and her reasoning were right there before me the whole time, but I hadn't seen it.

This was a five star read for me - and a perfect read for a blustery winter day. Get a head start - read chapter one of 1222 now. Releases on December 27, 2011.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Skin Map - Stephen R. Lawhead

Stephen Lawhead is an author whose name I was familiar with, but hadn't yet sampled. When I received an offer to listen to his book The Skin Map (A Bright Empires novel) it was the tag line that convinced me to say yes.

"It is the ultimate quest for the ultimate treasure. Chasing a map tattooed on human skin. Across an omniverse of intersecting realities. To unravel the future of the future."

Kit Livingstone is on his way to visit his girlfriend Wilhemina. Somewhere along the way, he takes a shortcut through an unfamiliar alley in London, England and ends up.... Well, he's not quite sure where he ends up. But the man who greets him by name says he is his great grandfather Cosimo and he's been hoping Kit would show up. Cosimo spins a fantastic tale of ley lines, time travel and alternate worlds. Kit listens, but decides to head back to his own time. He finally gets to Wilhemina's apartment. She's quite angry at Kit for turning up almost 8 hours late and doesn't believe his reason, so Kit decides to show her instead. He find the alley again and makes the leap into the other world. But....Wilhemina loses her grip on Kit and doesn't make the jump. She is lost...somewhere. Kit rejoins Cosimo and his peers. They are seeking to keep The Skin Map - a tattooed version of the ley lines and their entry points safe. Kit just wants to find Mina.

I thought this was a great premise. Although I don't read a lot of sci-fi, the concept of ley lines is indeed fact based and the cause of much speculation in history.

The reader, Simon Bubb, was fantastic. He conveyed many different characters, conjuring up separate personalities with his voice. His reading style is even and measured. Bubb is British, but I had no problem understanding his accent. A five for the reader.

Although Kit is the main character, I found myself more drawn to Mina. She lands in 17th century Prague. She seems to assimilate much easier than Kit and embraces her new life. I found myself really looking forward to 'her' chapters.Kit seems more unsure of himself and content to follow.

I found the book very slow in the beginning. While I appreciated the historic detail Lawhead has infused his story with, it dragged for me after awhile. While I didn't fast forward, I would have been flipping forward if I had a book in hand. Again, the concept is great and I was looking forward to what would be found in these alternate universes. I kept waiting for things to happen - some action. I did get my wish close to the end of the book, but it wasn't a satisfying finish for me.  I had the feeling that this first book was simply setting things up for future books in this planned five book series.

So, for me a solid listen. I'm curious as to what Lawhead has planned - the second book, The Bone House was released in September 2011, but it's not at the top of my must have list.

You can find Lawhead on Facebook

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Giveaway winner - The Puppy That Came for Christmas

And the lucky winner of a copy of The Puppy That Came For Christmas by Megan Rix is:

Susan Audrey

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

Winner - Running Away to Home -

And the lucky winner of a copy of Running Away to Home by Jennifer Wilson, courtesy of St. Martin's Press is:

Freda Mans

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

Friday, December 9, 2011

Carrie Goes Off The Map - Phillipa Ashley - Guest Post!

Carrie and Huw have been together for ten years. They're making a go of Huw's family farm in Oxfordshire, England and a wedding has been planned. That is...until Huw backs out two weeks before the date.  Carrie is absolutely stunned and doesn't know what to do with herself. Her best friend Rowena has the answer - they'll go on a girls only holiday in a camper van. That is...until Rowena is offered the job of a lifetime and has to cancel. But she substitutes sexy Matt Landor as Carrie's travelling companion.

Of course, you can see where this is going. Broken hearted girl, sexy guy, crossed signals, personality clash at first, but then...

Phillipa Ashley has crafted a wonderfully entertaining escapist read in Carrie Goes Off the Map that any chick lit fan will enjoy. Everyone enjoys a happy-ever-after ending and Ashley has made the journey there lots of fun. I especially enjoyed the descriptions of the places that Matt and Carrie visit. Phillipa was kind enough to stop by and share a behind the scenes look at the settings.

You've been a travel writer - fave places, how much of your past travels make it into the books, where do you still want to visit, recommended places to visit etc.

"Thank you for inviting me onto your blog, Luanne and letting me indulge my twin passions for travel and writing. Even as a little girl, I loved writing about places I’d visited. I used to make tiny magazines about my seaside holidays, complete with illustrations so perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised that inspiring places play a big role in my work.

My first book, Dating Mr December, was set in the English Lake District. I love this place so much that we bought an apartment there overlooking Lake Windermere. The landscape of hills and lakes is like a miniature painting, and has also been the inspiration for great writers such as Beatrix Potter and William Wordsworth. Both of their former homes are within a few miles of our apartment, and you can actually walk to Dove Cottage.

One of my favourite European destinations is Corsica, a French island in the Mediterranean that was the birthplace of Napoleon. It has everything; mountains, sugar soft beaches, perched villages and a turbulent history. I used the island as the setting for my recent Sourcebooks release, Wish You Were Here. The hero and heroine are adventure travel specialists and I did a lot of research into their jobs with a friend who was working for a worldwide adventure travel company.

It’s back to the UK for my next two Sourcebooks novels, including my new release Carrie Goes off the Map. As research for the book, I took my husband on a road trip around the south west of England in a vintage VW campervan! The van (called Bill after Bill Clinton!) was cramped and tricky to drive but also enormous fun. It was also the perfect way of forcing my hero, Matt, and heroine, Carrie, to get up close and personal. I chose the locations carefully to reflect Carrie’s emotional journey from losing everything, to finding a new direction in life and a new love.

So what are my recommendations for a visit to the UK? There’s so much so see, beyond the popular sights of London, Stratford and Edinburgh, so I’m going to stick with the places you might not have heard of - the places that Carrie visits on her road trip.

1. Carrie’s journey begins in Oxford where I went to university. With its magnificent buildings dating back almost 1000 years, Oxford is a must see and it has the bonus of amazing bookshops. I used a medieval inn called the Turf Tavern for one of the key scenes. This famous old pub is hidden in the middle of a college; just ask any student for directions!

2. North Devon is the first stop on the road trip. It’s famous for its surfing beaches and Exmoor, the setting for RD Blackmore’s 19th century romantic adventure, Lorna Doone. You’ll see thatched cottages, glorious coastal scenery and hidden wooded valleys – and yes, there really is a Doone valley.

3. As Carrie, the heroine is an actress and bit of a drama queen, the amazing Minack Theatre was the perfect place for her to share some dramatic revelations with the gorgeous Matt. This theatre was voted one of the world's top 10 best open-air events by Lonely Planet guides. Hewn from solid rock, it clings to the side of a cliff near Lands End and was the life’s work of a remarkable woman called Rowena Cade.

4. Carrie and Matt then move onto St Ives in Cornwall which was recently voted number one seaside resort in Britain by Trip Advisor. This fishing village has five creamy beaches, one of which, Porthmeor, offers exhilarating surfing. Tiny fisherman’s cottages huddle around the old harbour and the village is a magnet for artists, boasting many galleries and studios including the Tate St Ives. You’ll also find trendy bars, restaurants and quirky shops. In short, it’s just about perfect!

I hope I’ve whetted your appetite for a trip to Britain. As for me, I’d love to see the Grand Canyon and The Great Barrier Reef, but first we’re planning a trip to Vancouver for a special anniversary next year. It’s our dream to see a grizzly bear in the wild, but not too close."

Thanks so much for stopping by Phillipa and sharing your travel stories. I would love to visit England some day. I hope you enjoy your vacation to Canada!

You can find Phillipa on Facebook and on Twitter and on her blog!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Over the Counter #87

Well, of course the Ugly Christmas Sweater Party Book by Brian Miller, Adam Paulson, and Kevin Wool caught my eye as it passed over the library counter and under my scanner this week! I have a Christmas sweater I pull out once a year as well - do you? Anyone ever attended a Christmas party where an ugly sweater was de rigueur?

From the publisher Abrams:

"Definitive in every way, Ugly Christmas Sweater Party Book includes the history of the event, how to throw the perfect party, what to wear, and how to judge the all-important ugly Christmas sweater contest. But most important, Ugly Christmas Sweater Party Book is packed with more than 100 hilarious, full-color photos of outrageously ugly Christmas sweaters, including Scarf Face, Wreath Witherspoon, and Ryan Treecrest. It’s a must-have for the millions who plan to throw or attend an ugly Christmas sweater party, and a sidesplitting look at the funniest, craziest, most unbelievable holiday sweaters you can imagine—authorized by Team Ugly, the recognized experts on ugly Christmas sweater parties."

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

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Black Thunder - Aimée and David Thurlo

Aimée and David Thurlo are prolific authors, having penned over 50 books together during their 40 year marriage. Black Thunder was ther first book I'd read by this pair.

Black Thunder is the 17th book to feature Ella Clah - a Tribal Investigator for the Navajo Police. A local construction crew working on the rez uncovers a body. Cause of death - 2 bullets to the back of the head. But when more bodies are found and county lines crossed, other law enforcement groups are brought in. Ella has to deal with rival agencies, warring personalities and honouring Navajo beliefs while trying to find what looks to be a serial killer.

The Thurlos have lived in the New Mexico area for many years and David grew up on the Navajo reservation. This intimate knowledge of their settings shows in their work. Descriptions are detailed and accurate. More fascinating though is the exploration of Navajo customs and life - Traditionalists vs Modernists, not using someone's name and much more. I learned quite a bit via Ella Clah.

"Ella took a deep breath. Death and police work went hand in hand. Yet deep inside her, the little Navajo girl who'd been taught never to wish anyone dead out loud because that could have the power to kill, and not to put her shoes on the wrong feet because it could call death, still respected the old beliefs. They whispered a different set of truths, but ones that were as much a part of her as the badge she wore.  For years she'd fought against that duality, but she was a product of two cultures and both deserved respect."

A subplot involves Ella's personal life - her teenage daughter, her mother and a boyfriend. This adds a personal note and makes Ella even more likable. Aimée Thurlo also writes romance under the Harlequin Intrigue imprint. At times I found Black Thunder to have undertones of the romantic mystery genre. The plot is good, but it really wasn't difficult to suss out who the killer was. Sometimes the coincidences that lead to the next step or clue were a bit too pat. I do prefer my murder mysteries a bit more complicated.

This is a solid series featuring an appealing lead character, a great setting and believable situations. Fans of Tony Hillerman would enjoy this series. Read an excerpt of Black Thunder.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Martha Stewart's Handmade Holiday Crafts - Editors of Martha Stewart Living

Oh, I fully admit it - I love crafting and making stuff. When I get my hands on a book like Martha Stewarts' Handmade Hoiday Crafts, I wait for just the right time to read it. I then flip through randomly stopping at ideas that catch my eye first time through. When I pick it up the second time (again at the right time) I read it from cover to cover.

And there are some fantastic ideas in this latest Martha offering. The book is geared towards crafts for all the major holidays - Valentine's Day, Mother and Father's Days, Fourth of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving, hanukkah, New year's, Easter and yes the one that is fast approaching - Christmas.

And not every one is geared towards adults. There are lots of child friendly crafts that you can do with a small person in your life. There were some excellent ideas that I can see being used at the library - a doily as a stencil, thumb print hearts, heart and lollipop flowers and more. Ideas for colouring eggs? Oh boy, there were soooo many! I think I'll try decopaging some this coming year. Cards for every occassion with patterns for the pop ups featured. I'm not sure I could duplicate some of the elaborate pumpkin carving designs, but they're fun to look at. I have a bunch of buttons just begging to be used - the Mother's Day card is perfect.

And lots of suggestions for Christmas and New Year's. There were some easy ideas for gift wrapping, cards and tags. And a really cute idea using wide ribbon as a gift bag for a gift certificate.

I tried one of the gift tag ideas, using shipping tags, painting them and sticking on a piece of greenery. (The one on the left really needs a gold star on top)And I picked up some cookie cutters from the dollar store too. You could put some pretty Christmas paper behind to make ornaments. Or a photo, as I did - to remind a certain 20 something son of his time as one of Santa's elves! A great reference book to have on the shelf year round.Peek inside the book.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Tin Ticket - Deborah J. Swiss

Deborah J. Swiss's new book The Tin Ticket will appeal to lovers of history and historical fiction.

Although I knew that Australia had been populated by convicts during it's early settlement, I really didn't know the full story.

"For nearly one hundred years, England had routinely disposed of its convict population in the American colonies, and built its rich empire on the backs of convict and slave labor. However, the American Revolution, followed by the abolition of slavery, eliminated this option. Great Britain could not persuade its "proper" citizenry to homestead its new colonies in Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) and in New South Wales (Australia). Under the Transportation Act of 1718, 162,000 women, men and children were exiled to Australia from 1788 to 1868."

Swiss's research unearthed the story of quite a few women, but follows the journey of four of them in detail, from trying to survive day to day in Great Britain through to meeting the descendants of these women in present day Oz.  But Swiss's telling of their stories reads almost like fiction. She has given these unsung settlers a human face and vividly brings their stories to life. I truly was amazed at the fortitude of these women, surviving inhumane treatment and conditions. I think I enjoyed the story of Agnes McMillan the most. She was abandoned at 12 in Glasgow and finished her life, surrounded by her family in a lovely valley in her own home. Her journey is truly remarkable.

Swiss's book is full of information on a time period in history that I wager few of us really know much about. What makes this book stand out are the personal stories and just how strong women really are. This would be a great discussion book for clubs. Recommended. Peek inside.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Over the Counter #86

Oh, I wish I could have my cake and eat it too! I was amazed by the decorating ideas and techniques while glancing through these cake decorating books as they passed over my library counter and under my scanner. ( And a little bit hungry too...)

First up was Fondant Modeling for Cake Decorators by Helen Penman.

From Firefly Books:

"Ever more popular, fondant cakes have been featured everywhere, from Martha Stewart Living to TLC's Cake Boss and the Food Network's Ace of Cakes. Fondant cakes are appearing at children's parties and are the standard for weddings. Home bakers are now learning how to save money by making and decorating their own fondant cakes. Suitable for all skills levels, Fondant Modeling for Cake Decorators is a practical reference to creating too-good-to-eat fondant models for cakes for all occasions.

The book describes essential techniques and materials, and it features recipes for all the essential elements of a fondant cake, such as cake layers, icings and fondant pastes. The 180-page model directory includes step-by-step instructions and unique "exploded" photographs that show individual components and how they fit together.

More than 600 photographs are complemented by thorough explanations of every technique, ensuring exceptional results every time. For the home baker who wants to create spectacular cakes and the experienced decorator looking for new inspiration, Fondant Modeling for Cake Decorators is a must-have resource. Helen Penman has been making fondant cakes for more than 15 years. She designs cakes for Cakes and Sugarcraft magazine and runs her own cake-decorating business, Too Nice to Slice."

Next up was Cake Decorating Skills by Tracey Mann.

From Firefly Books:

"An illustrated guide to turning baked treats into professional-looking culinary masterpieces. Cake Decorating Skills reveals professional cake-decorating secrets that can be easily mastered by even a novice baker. Step-by-step photography and clear instructions teach readers how to make quick and easy flowers, pretty piped patterns, perfect frosting and mouthwatering chocolate flourishes.
The book covers techniques and recipes for every kind of cake, filling, frosting, covering and decoration. Baking fancy cakes at home is a popular hobby, and enthusiasts are always looking for new inspiration and ways to improve their skills. Cake Decorating Skills is an essential addition to any baker's reference shelf."

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