Saturday, August 31, 2013

Winner - Welcome Home Mama and Boris

And the lucky winner of a copy of
courtesy of Reader's Digest Books is:
Karen B!
Congratulations! I've contacted you by email for your mailing address. Please respond within 72 hours, after which a new winner will be chosen. Thanks to all who entered - check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways.

In Falling Snow - Mary-Rose MacColl - Guest Post AND Giveaway

Oh historical fiction fans have I got one for you! Mary-Rose MacColl is a best selling Australian author. Newly released, In Falling Snow, is her fouth novel and marks her U.S. debut.

From the publisher, Penguin Books:

"In Falling Snow is a World War I novel of love, loss, the strength of two women's spirits and is brimming with romance and mystery. As we approach the 100 year anniversary of the start of WWI, Mary-Rose MacColl movingly re-imagines the true story of the brave women who ran a war hospital at Royaumont Abbey in France.

In 1914, a twenty-one year old Iris makes the trans-continental journey from Australia to France with the hope of bringing home her fifteen-year-old enlisted brother. But in Paris, at the Gare du Nord, Iris runs into Miss Ivens, a powerfully charismatic woman who is starting a field hospital run entirely by women at the beautiful Royaumont Abbey, based on the real women's hospital at Royaumont during World War I. Abandoning her plans, Iris follows Miss Ivens. But it's not until she meets the worldly and welcoming Violet Heron that she decides to stay– a decision that Iris will look back on with regret and wonder for the rest of her life.

Interwoven with Iris's tale is the story of her granddaughter, Grace. A determined doctor with a family of her own in 1970s Brisbane, Grace struggles to balance the frustrations of her male-dominated workplace with her love for her family, her concerns for Iris, and her denial in the face of her young son's failing health.

Mary-Rose MacColl is an Australian writer whose first novel, No Safe Place, was a runner-up in
the Australian Vogel literary award and whose first non-fiction book, The Birth Wars, was a finalist in the Walkley Awards. She lives in Brisbane, Australia and Banff, Canada with her husband and young son.

"Ego In Falling Snow

I have a book out this month, and I’ve been indulging both sides of the writer’s ego. When it came out in Australia, In Falling Snow was the number one bestselling book... for fifteen minutes... in my hometown... in independent bookstores. But I puffed out like a puffer fish and plastered my Number One Bestseller status all over Facebook anyway. And I rang my mother. She rang almost everyone on the planet. You probably got a call.

Inevitably, I ended the week on the other side of ego, channeling failure like a shark channels fear, feeling more like a deflated puffer fish, which even a shark wouldn’t like the taste of. Few people have actually heard of my lovely story about the Scottish women doctors and the hospital they took to France in World War I. Perhaps they won’t find it as fascinating as I did. Perhaps they won’t find it fascinating at all. In Falling Snow may fade quickly, as most books nowadays do. It may have already faded. Where’s the wine?

I am not a psychologist, but I do know that my ego, muscled though it is, does not get books written. It does not get anything written. Ego is the opposite of where writing happens for me. Writing comes from a place I find when I walk in nature or swim or sit with a pen in my hand. It’s a quiet, still place. Neither end of ego – the inflated or deflated puffer fish – would have helped. Both hinder in their way.

Writers often feel their lives will be better when they are finally published, when they have that breakthrough book, or make that big deal, or have a second or third or fourth novel out. But when they get to that point, whatever it is, they find it’s not really better. They grasp for the next thing needed to fill them up. Maybe there’s a point at which you fill up. But I doubt it.

US writing teacher Gail Sher gives us Four Noble Truths About Writing, and while I can never remember the other three, the first noble truth is that writers write. Writers write. All you have to do to be a writer is push that pen across that page. Writers write. The only thing that separates writers from non-writers is that writers write. It’s not to do with being a bit player or a bestseller, it’s not even to do with writing a great book or writing a terrible book. Writers write. It’s so soothing, that notion, if you let it in, really let it in, because being a success or a failure just fades away, the getting published, the breakthrough book on the one hand, and the poor sales, few readers and bad reviews on the other. Writers write.

Annie Dillard says something similar, but not as kindly, in ‘Every morning you climb several flights of stairs, enter your study, open the French doors, and slide your desk and chair out into the middle of the air…’ You go and get your coffee and come back, Dillard says, and the view is lovely out there in the air, the birds fly under the desk. ‘Get to work!’ she says then, ‘…keep cranking the flywheel that turns the gears that spin the belt in the engine of belief that keeps you and your desk in midair.’ Get to work!"

Thank you Mary-Rose! And thanks to the generosity of Penguin Books, 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 Sept 21 when a random winner will be chosen.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Paradise City - Archer Mayor

Archer Mayor has long been a favourite of this reader.

Paradise City is the twenty third entry in Mayor's Joe Gunther series. Joe is a Lieutenant with the Vermont Bureau of Investigation.

Paradise City's opening scene lands us smack dab in the middle of a a robbery. A set of thieves who have targeted a wealthy older woman's home in Boston. But when the woman, Billie, confronts them, she is beaten and left for dead.  And the only thing the thieves take is her antique jewellery.

Meanwhile, in Vermont, the State Police are happy to pass on the investigation of an unusual robbery and arson case to Joe and his team.

When Boston and Vermont compare notes, it looks like they might be after the same criminals. Word on the street is the goods are headed to the same fence. Billie's niece Mina is not satisfied with the way the inquiry is progressing and starts her own investigation. We are also privy to the viewpoint of someone inside the operation.

As always the crime is inventive, believable, the plotting tight, the dialogue rings true and the investigation is detailed.  Archer Mayor himself is a death investigator for Vermont’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, a detective for the Windham County Sheriff’s Office, and also has 25 years experience as a volunteer firefighter/EMT. His books reflect that insider knowledge.

But what I enjoy most about this series are the recurring characters and their personal lives. Joe's life has had its up and downs lately, but he takes a backseat this time to Agent Willy Kunkle. Willy is a difficult man at the best of times, but he is finding things increasingly difficult. He's partnered up with Agent Samantha Martens both professionally and personally. The recent addition of a baby daughter to their lives has Willie more reckless and surly than normal. I've enjoyed following the personal lives of Gunther's characters over the years. When I open the latest book, it's like old familiar friends are waiting to tell me the latest news.

Now, this is the first time I've chosen to listen to one of Mayor's books. After having firmly established a mental image for the characters over time, I wondered how the narrator would interpret Mayor's work. William Dufris was the reader - and I needn't have worried. The voice for Joe is low pitched, even -paced, kind of gravelly with an almost folksy tone to it.  He just sounds wise, and ready to handle whatever is thrown at him. But not all even paced - the angry Joe voice was quite impressive! Dufris provided believable voices for the female characters as well. His narration is expressive and captures the tone of the scenes and action. Not surprising though - Dufris is a multi award winning reader. When looking at an audio book, I will sometimes choose a book solely based on the reader. I'll be adding William Dufris to my list of preferred narrators. Listen to an excerpt of Paradise City below.

You can find Archer Mayor on Facebook and on Twitter. Running Time: 8hrs 58min from AudioGo.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Over the Counter #178

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner. Pick-ups this week......but not in the way you might be thinking....
First up is Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New York City by Robin Nagle.

From the publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux:

" In Picking Up, the anthropologist Robin Nagle introduces us to the men and women of New York City’s Department of Sanitation and makes clear why this small army of uniformed workers is the most important labor force on the streets. Seeking to understand every aspect of the Department’s mission, Nagle accompanied crews on their routes, questioned supervisors and commissioners, and listened to story after story about blizzards, hazardous wastes, and the insults of everyday New Yorkers. But the more time she spent with the DSNY, the more Nagle realized that observing wasn’t quite enough—so she joined the force herself. Driving the hulking trucks, she obtained an insider’s perspective on the complex kinships, arcane rules, and obscure lingo unique to the realm of sanitation workers.

Nagle chronicles New York City’s four-hundred-year struggle with trash, and traces the city’s waste-management efforts from a time when filth overwhelmed the streets to the far more rigorous practices of today, when the Big Apple is as clean as it’s ever been.

Throughout, Nagle reveals the many unexpected ways in which sanitation workers stand between our seemingly well-ordered lives and the sea of refuse that would otherwise overwhelm us. In the process, she changes the way we understand cities—and ourselves within them."

Next up was Hitchhiking with Larry David: An Accidental Tourist's Summer of Self-Discovery in Martha's Vineyard by Paul Samuel Dolman.

From the publisher Gotham Books:

"A memoir about a broken-hearted, middle-aged man who stumbles upon solace, meaning, and Larry David while hitchhiking his way around Martha’s Vineyard.

One summer day on Martha’s Vineyard Paul Samuel Dolman was hitchhiking, and none other than Larry David pulled over and asked, “You’re not a serial killer or something, are you?” The comedic writer and actor from Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm not only gave Dolman a ride, but helped him find his way during his summer of soul-searching and hitchhiking.

Dolman found himself on Martha’s Vineyard that summer having made the catastrophic mistake of visiting “The Parental Asylum” in the wake of a painful breakup. His mother is welcoming, albeit senile and neurotically rigid. But his dad “only has the social energy to be nice to humans for about 10 minutes a day.” Desperately seeking companionship, Dolman begins hitchhiking around the island and meets a wide array of characters: the super-rich and the homeless, movie stars and common folk, and, of course, Mr. David. Astonishingly, it is Dolman’s growing friendship with the famous comedian that becomes the lodestar of his spiritual quest. (Yes, Larry David gets deep!)

Written with disarming honest humor and perfectly capturing Larry David’s unique comic genius, Hitchhiking with Larry David will leave readers simultaneously laughing and crying as they ponder the mystery and spirituality of life."

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

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic - Emily Croy Barker - Review AND Giveaway

I haven't read a lot of fantasy in the past, but every once in a while, one catches my eye. Such was the case with Emily Croy Barker's debut novel, The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic. I quite liked the cover and the title intrigued me

Nora Fischer has been dumped by her boyfriend and warned by her advisor that they need to seriously talk about her dissertation. The last thing she wants to do is go to another friend's wedding. But, she does. To get away from everyone for a bit, she takes a walk through a forest.......and gets lost. (First fairy tale element!) She stumbles on to the grounds of an absolutely gorgeous estate. And the owner Illisa and her friends are so much fun. And Illisa's son Raclin is gorgeous. And they'd love for Nora to stay just a bit longer with them........

She does - until she realizes that the glamorous veneer of Illisa's world hides something much darker. And there's no way back to her own world.

I'm not going to go any further than that. Suffice to say there's magic, wizards, magicians, fairies, demons, creatures and oh, so much more.  Barker has created a richly detailed alternate world that I could easily picture.  

Nora is an interesting protagonist. She seems determined to not see what is in front of her numerous times - from the beginning chapters at Illisa's estate to her first days at the Magician Aruendiel's castle. I admit to not being completely taken with her in the beginning. However, she grows and grew on me as the book progressed. By the end, I quite liked her. She shares the protagonist role with the magician Aruendiel. Him, I liked right from the get go.

Barker has incorporated all the elements of an epic adventure into her book. Good and evil, friendship, honour, love, treachery, wars to be fought, damsels to be rescued, heroics, Royalty, peasants and more. (Yes, all the elements of a fairy tale!)

Although I enjoyed all the world building and especially the magic discussions, the book probably could have been trimmed by at least 75 -100 pages. (It weighs in at a lengthy 563 pages.) But Barker is a good writer - her prose did flow easily and her imagination is impressive.

There are many allusions to Pride and Prejudice throughout the book. Nora is an English major and this is the one 'foreign language book' she finds in the alternate world, but I grew tired of the references and comparisons. For this reader, they didn't add to the book.

Did I enjoy the book. Absolutely! It was good to step outside of my normal tastes of . Does the story end with "And They Lived Happily Ever After?' Well, the ending wasn't what I had hoped for, but I'm thinking Barker has plans for a second adventure for Nora. I'd like to see what happens next!

The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic is an enchanting tale for anyone who ever wished they could step into the pages of their favourite fairy tale.  Read an excerpt of The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic.  You can find Emily Croy Barker on Twitter and on Facebook.

And thanks to the generous folks at Pamela Dorman Books,  I have a copy to giveaway to one lucky reader. Simply leave a comment to be entered. Open to US only, no P.O. boxes please. Closes Sept 14/13 when a random winner will be chosen.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Out of the Black - John Rector

Yes, more crime! It's my favourite genre. John Rector is a crime author I'd not read before and Out of the Black is his latest novel.

Former Marine Matt Caine is struggling with the death of his wife and his daughter Anna's serious injuries from the same accident that killed her mother. With the hospital bills for Anna piling up and no steady job, Matt does what he knows he shouldn't - he goes to the local loan shark for help. With his in-laws threatening to seek custody of Anna and the loan shark demanding his money, Matt makes another fateful decision. He agrees to be the wheel man for a job his childhood friend Jay has cooked up - kidnapping a wealthy man's wife.

As Jays says ..."This is easy money. The plan is rock solid. We can't lose."

Uh huh. You can see it coming can't you? Yep, the job doesn't go quite as planned...

Rector does an excellent job with the 'regular guy put in a bad situation' scenario. The focus is on the action, twists and turns that Rector has woven into his plot. And there were quite a few and some that I hadn't seen coming. Although Matt has his soft spots and treasured memories of his wife, character development comes a distant second to the rapid fire plot. But that's okay, as the book would bog down with too much sentimentality. Instead, Out of the Black reads like a Bruce Willis action flick. Tough guy with a soft centre, ready and willing to do anything to defend his own.

Rector writes in a pared down style - there are no unnecessary scenes or dialogue and the novel moves forward at a rapid pace. This was a good, quick page turner perfect for a lazy summer evening. Read an excerpt of Out of the Black. You can find John Rector on Twitter

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Fire Witness - Lars Kepler

I discovered the Swedish husband and wife writing team of Lars Kepler with the first book in their Inspector Joona Linna series - The Hypnotist. (my review) I loved it and it only got better with the second book - The Nightmare. (my review) I've been eagerly awaiting the North American release of the third book - The Fire Witness. And up front, I have to tell you it was a five star read for me.

Inspector Joona Linna is on suspension, pending the outcome of an internal affairs investigation. Linna doesn't play by the rules, he goes for results by whatever means he sees fit.

"It is a serious charge, but this is not the first time Joona has run up against the authorities. It seems to be his nature....But what they can't ignore is that in the almost fifteen years Joona's been on the job, he's solved more challenging cases than any other Scandinavian officer."

And the cases Kepler come up with for Linna are challenging - not just for him but for the reader as well. I read a lot of crime fiction and this series keeps me guessing right 'til the end.

In the Fire Witness, Linna is called to 'observe' a particularly nasty case. A young girl has been found brutally murdered in her group home. Her body has been arranged with her hands covering her eyes. None of the other girls saw anyone or anything. Or did they? These are girls with a myriad of problems and getting a straight answer out of them seems impossible. And of course Joona can't stand by and just be an observer - he sees much more at crime scenes than his colleagues - clues and connections that others don't. The case begins there and Kepler builds layer upon layer into the case, including a would be psychic who may actually be the real thing. (Gentle readers be warned - Kepler pulls no punches with descriptions)

I've used the word creepy before to describe Kepler's books and I would use it to again to describe The Fire Witness. The settings, the plot, the characters and their actions are all unsettling, keeping readers on their toes.

The secondary plot line deals with Joona Linna's past. It has been alluded to in the past two books and at last we get to know what has happened to him. Not what I expected or imagined at all. (again, I love that I can't predict where Kepler is going to go next) The ending - oh, what an ending. I will be waiting on the edge of my seat for the North American release of the fourth book - The Sandman.

Definitely recommended. Kepler just gets better and better. Fans of Jo Nesbo and Jussi Adler-Olsen would enjoy this series.  Read an excerpt of The Fire Witness. You can find Lars Kepler on Facebook.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Back to School with DK Canada!

I cannot believe that summer is almost over. When I was young, summer seemed to last a long time. The older I get though, the faster time flies. But the timing of back to school doesn't change - Labour Day heralds the end of summer for kids.
DK Canada has come up with some great titles (at some great prices) that any kid would find helpful at homework time in their Back to School Boutique. There's a wide variety of Math, English and Science reference books for various ages to choose from.  
And really - the titles aren't just for kids.
I started flipping through
Ideas That Changed the World: Incredible Inventions and the Stories Behind Them,
put it down to start supper and found my twenty something son just as engrossed as I was.
There are six categories with fifteen to twenty entries in each - Genius, Great Gizmos, Handy Gadgets, On the Move, Explore and Culture.
I love books like this - I always pick up new random facts. Did you know LEGO was invented in 1932 by a carpenter in Denmark? And that the name comes from the Danish words for 'play well'?
The history of charge or credit cards is pretty neat. Although 'storecards' were offered by businesses to their customers in the early 1900's, the first 'charge plate' - a metal plate with the customer's name and address was introduced in 1929.The first credit card was unveiled by Diner's Club in the 1950's. And of course we now have cards with our personal information embedded in them.
But the one I really enjoyed was finding out about the origins of barcodes. (Faithful readers will know that I work in a library and scan barcodes for a good part of my day!) The patent for barcodes was filed in 1949 when two American students stumbled upon the idea of using bars and spaces to identify food products for a customer. After much development, the first barcodes and scanners were used in a supermarket in 1974. Virtually every product that we see in a store now carries a UPC (Universal Product Code) Next on the horizon is RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) which is being used in some stores (and libraries!) already. 
As always, the layout of DK books is fantastic. Each up to date entry includes the past, present and future of the topic in a clear, well laid out set of pages, accompanied by DK's trademark colour photographs, all on thick, glossy stock.
 Any of their titles would be an excellent addition to a home library!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Film on Friday #2 - La Sirga

The second installment in the Film on Friday feature is La Sirga, the feature directorial debut of William Vega. The film was an Official Selection at Cannes as well at Toronto's International Film Festival and more

La Sirga is set in Columbia. The time frame is not specified, but it could be anytime from the end of the last century to present day. Alicia has fled from her village - her parents have been killed and the village razed by the armed conflict. She has made her way on foot to the home of her paternal uncle Oscar, who lives alone in a run down hostel, named La Sirga.

The film was shot on the shores of La Cocha, a site considered sacred by the indigenous people of the area. The setting was absolutely stunning - haunting and harsh, yet beautiful in its bleakness and isolation. The setting itself becomes just as much a character in the film as the actors.

La Sirga is subtitled in Spanish, but there is very little dialogue. It is what is not said that speaks the loudest. What is at first interpreted as silence is not. Vega uses sounds such as rain, waves, the rustling of reeds, a flapping metal roof, the crackling of the fire and more to great affect. The loudest part of the movie is the impromptu musical gathering at the hostel. The music is toe tapping and joyful, in contrast to the hardscrabble life at the hostel.

I enjoyed the different camera angles employed by Vega - following Alicia on foot was extremely effective as was using the windows of the hostel to frame scenes.

Undercurrents of what might or could happen are just under the surface throughout the film. The threats are not overt but dangerous possibilities are there. Again, no dialogue is needed to transfer this feeling - it is there in the hanging scarecrow, the bullet hole in the window of the watchtower, the actions of the young boatman and the return of Oscar's son. Much of the film is not explained or voiced - it is up to the viewer to watch, catch and piece together what is and what does happen.

Much of the film is metaphorical, with the patching and painting of the hostel mirroring Alicia's rebuilding of herself. Alicia's sleepwalking and burying of candles speak of her losing the light in her life. The acting was brilliantly subtle, with glances and nuances again speaking volumes.

La Sirga was a powerful film that conveyed much by using little. Excellent.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Over the Counter #177

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Travellers - one running, one walking....

First up was The Ghost Runner: The Epic Journey of the Man They Couldn't Stop by Bill Jones.

"The mystery man threw off his disguise and started to run. Furious stewards gave chase. The crowd roared.

A legend was born. Soon the world would know him as 'the ghost runner'. John Tarrant. The extraordinary man whom nobody could stop. As a hapless teenage boxer in the 1950s, he'd been paid 17 British pounds for expenses. When he wanted to run, he was banned for life. His amateur status had been compromised. Forever. Now he was fighting back, gatecrashing races all over Britain. No number on his shirt. No friends in high places. Soon he would be a record-breaker, one of the greatest long-distance runners the world has ever seen. This is his true story: The Ghost Runner."

Next up was The Turk Who Loved Apples and Other Tales of Losing My Way Around the World by Matt Gross. (Former "Frugal Traveler" for the New York Times.)

From the publisher, Da Capo Press:

"While writing his celebrated Frugal Traveler column for the New York Times, Matt Gross began to feel hemmed in by its focus on what he thought of as “traveling on the cheap at all costs.” When his editor offered him the opportunity to do something less structured, the Getting Lost series was born, and Gross began a more immersive form of travel that allowed him to “lose his way all over the globe”—from developing-world megalopolises to venerable European capitals, from American sprawl to Asian archipelagos. And that’s what the never-before-published material in The Turk Who Loved Apples is all about: breaking free of the constraints of modern travel and letting the place itself guide you. It’s a variety of travel you’ll love to experience vicariously through Matt Gross—and maybe even be inspired to try for yourself."

 (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, August 21, 2013

The Kill Room - Jeffery Deaver

Jeffery Deaver's latest book is The Kill Room, the tenth entry in The Lincoln Rhyme series.

Retired NYPD investigator Lincoln Rhyme and his partner Amelia Sachs are approached by Assistant District Attorney Nance Laurel to pursue an unusual case - that of a U.S. citizen killed by a sniper in the Bahamas. The catch? It's a U.S. alphabet agency who ordered the hit. But was the assassination ordered on faulty information? Is there a clandestine group operating on their own within the agency?

Deaver takes Rhyme out in the field in The Kill Room, with quadriplegic Lincoln heading to the kill site in the Bahamas. It was refreshing to see him operate outside of the normal townhouse setting. Sachs continues to work the case in New York.

The personal relationship between Sachs and Rhyme continues to grow and I enjoy their interaction.  Favourite supporting cast members such as Thom,  Lon Selitto and  Ron Pulaski return.

The killer is especially nasty this time out and has a cooking fetish -and a sharp knife to go along with it. (Deaver has helpfully provided full recipes of the killer's dishes.) And although I found his initial chapters quite chilling, they grew repetitive. The head of the agency was also a bit of a disappointment. Early attempts to sway us on this character definitely work - our thinking is steered in one direction, but the ending takes another tack and just didn't ring true for me.

Rhyme continues to employ his whiteboard technique to list the clues and connections when on a case. I enjoy them the first couple of times as they help to cement the clues in my mind. But subsequent entries repeat and add to the tune of 10+ pages and I found myself skipping those pages. The forensic leaps and connections made by Rhyme are always fun, with a Holmes-like feel to them.

The plotting is ambitious and original. We are aware of who the killer is and are privy to his thoughts. We are kept guessing as to who his handlers might be. Deaver inserts some timely social commentary into this latest offering. He presents many viewpoints, letting readers make their own judgement on what is ethically right or wrong.

 I've enjoyed Lincoln matching wits with killers in previous book, but found I didn't enjoy this one quite as much - perhaps too much political comment for me. I prefer a good, old serial killer. The Kill Room was a solid read, but not a stand out for this reader. Read an excerpt of The Kill Room.

However, I am looking forward to Deaver's next book, a stand alone - The October List, coming in - yes - October 2013.

You can find Jeffery Deaver on Twitter and on Facebook.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Black Country - Alex Grecian

When I read Alex Grecian's debut novel, The Yard, last year (my review) I immediately added him to my 'must read' list.

His second book The Black Country brings back the investigators from Scotland Yard's Murder Squad.

Grecian starts off the book with a quick little 'gotcha' scene. A little girl climbing a tree finds something of great interest in a bird's nest - what she thinks is a lovely little blue egg - but it's an blue eye....

1899.  Detective Day and Sergeant Hammersmith  are sent to the small mining town of Blackhampton in the British Midlands. Two of the town's residents and their young son have vanished and the local constable is in over his head.

But what Day and Hammersmith find is not a town overly worried about the loss of three of their residents, but an insular mining town full of superstitions, suspicions and secrets. No one is willing to talk to the detectives, instead they seem bent on stopping the investigation in its tracks. A stranger who's only been in town for two weeks with his own agenda is more welcomed than Day and Hammersmith.

The Black Country is a busy book - the town is falling into the tunnels beneath, the townsfolk are falling sick from a mysterious malady, the children of the town are afraid of  a boogeyman they've named "Raw Head, Bloody Bones",  the weather is just as determined as the murderer to kill off a few more folks and the mysterious stranger has another mysterious stranger after him. A lot of plot? Oh, for sure -  but I loved it!

What drew me to the first book has again captured me in The Black Country. I love the time period, but I especially enjoy these characters. Day's quiet, calm intelligence shines through, Hammersmith's stubborn indefatigability, the clear and gentle soul of the giant Henry and the early forensic and medical pronouncements of Dr. Kingsley.

Grecian again employs his 'interlude' technique, telling the story of the mysterious stranger in bits and pieces and slowly tying him to the mystery in Blackhampton. As with the first book, the identity of the killer is known before the end of the book. But, for this reader, it didn't detract from my enjoyment at all.

Grecian continues to flesh out his character's personal lives - I know there's more to come and will be eagerly awaiting the third in this series. Read an excerpt of The Black Country.

I had a quick listen to who narrated the audio version of this book and may actually choose to listen to the next installment. Toby Leonard Moore has an amazingly rich, resonant voice with a wonderful set of accents. His pacing was slow and deliberate, catching the mores and manners of the time period. Listen to an excerpt.

You can find Alex Grecian on Facebook and on Twitter.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Drift - Jon McGoran

When the farmers in my area are spraying their fields in the spring and fall, I always close the windows and don't bother hanging laundry out those days. Because, really you have no idea what they're spraying, although I'm pretty sure it's meant to kill bugs or weeds or something. So, needless to say,  it probably isn't good for people either.

Jon McGoran is a mystery writer who also happens to have a strong interest in food and sustainability. He's successfully combined those two interests into a entertaining, thought provoking new 'eco-thriller' with the release of Drift.

Doyle Carrick is a Philly detective on suspension from the force. With the death of his parents, he heads to their small town to wrap up their affairs and wait out his twenty day sentence. But what he finds isn't the idyllic little town he expected. While driving around he spots known drug dealers, his beautiful new neighbour Nola is receiving threats to sell her land to a developer and his own backyard backs on to a heavily fenced property. Nola is an organic farmer and it's taken her years to get her land and crops certified. But when her crop of corn develops an unknown fungus, and folks from the other side of the fence start shooting at Doyle, he is thrown headfirst into a deadly plot no one could have imagined.

I quite liked the character of Doyle. He's real, engaging and appealing. I'd like to see  Doyle being reprised in future novels/cases. Some of the characters were a wee bit stereotypical, such as the small town police chief who takes an immediate dislike to Doyle. But, there's never a question of who's on which side of right and wrong.

McGoran takes the time to provide a secondary storyline with Doyle, his interest in Nola and his relationship with his parents that give the character added depth and personality.

But it is the timely and frightening plot involving GMO's (genetically modified organisms) that really had me turning pages. Completely plausible and absolutely current. I did find that some of the clues were somewhat obvious, although our protagonist seemed to miss some of them. (Which I did find a little annoying and not quite believable as Doyle is a trained detective.)

In Drift, McGoran successfully combines mystery with reality, crafting an entertaining, action packed read. Drift will have you thinking twice about the food you eat as well.......Read an excerpt of Drift.

"Jon McGoran has written about food and sustainability for twenty years, as communication director at Weavers Way Co-op in Philadelphia, and now as editor at Grid magazine. During that time he has also been an advocate for urban agriculture, cooperative development and labeling of genetically engineered foods. He is a member of the Mystery Writers Association, the International Association of Crime Writers, and the International Thriller Writers. He is a founding member of the Philadelphia Liars Club, a group of published authors dedicated to promotion, networking, and service work. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife and son." You can find him on Facebook and on Twitter.

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

Friday, August 16, 2013

Bad Blood - Arne Dahl

It's no secret to faithful readers that I'm a crime fiction fan. I always enjoy discovering new authors in this genre.

Arne Dahl's latest North American release is Bad Blood. This is the second book featuring his recurring characters, the members of the A-Unit of the Swedish Intercrime Team.

The team is notified by the FBI that an American serial killer has eluded authorities and is on a flight to Sweden. Once the plane lands, the killer manages to again escape and the inevitable wait begins.....for him to kill again.

I felt a little behind as I got up to speed with who was who in the team. There are many players, each with their own strengths, foibles and backgrounds. There's a rich cast with enough personalities that every reader will come away with a favourite. (I'm partial to the old man of the team - Viggo)  Dahl makes references to the first crime this team solved - in the book Misterioso. The allusions to the crime made it sound like a book I would also enjoy, but Bad Blood can definitely be read as a stand alone.

American crime novels are often direct and to the point. I find that foreign crime novels often take a different approach, with more conversation between the characters, more speculation and more discussion. This was the case with the first half of Bad Blood. But, the second half of the book really picks up the pace once the bodies (yes, plural) start piling up.

Dahl has created a serial killer with a really nasty way of doing away with his victims. (Fair warning to gentle readers) The plotting took off in directions I would not have imagined. A little bit of a stretch in places, but definitely original. Dahl manages to sneak in social commentary along side of his crime.

Rachel Willson-Broyles was the translator. There were a few wooden bits with some of the humour, but overall it was a smooth read.  The book was originally published in 1998, so some of the references are dated. But,  I would definitely read the next North American release from Dahl, as I really enjoyed the characters. There are currently eleven books in the series. Read an excerpt of Bad Blood.

You can find Arne Dahl on Twitter and on Facebook. The BBC has made the books into a television series.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Over the Counter #176

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Missing girls this week....

First up was The Girl With No Name by Marina Chapman with Lynne Barrett-Lee.

"The riveting account of a girl who was abandoned in the jungle and lived among monkeys. In the early 1950s, in a remote mountain village in South America, as a small girl Marina Chapman was abducted while picking pea pods near her home. Her kidnappers then abandoned her deep in the Colombia jungle, and for approximately the next five years she lived with a troop of capuchin monkeys, eating what they ate, copying what they did, and gradually becoming feral. Eventually, she was taken from the jungle by a pair of hunters and sold as a slave to a couple in the town of Cucuta who beat and tortured her. After she managed to escape, she spent several years as a street child before being taken in by a family of criminals. Finally, a sympathetic neighbour arranged for her to go live with her daughter in safety in Bogota. Wild Child tells this spellbinding story in vivid detail; from the enchantment of the shady garden where Marina was kidnapped to the dappled darkness of her jungle home to the hunger, poverty, and pain of her existence in Cucuta. The book also offers a rare and fascinating glimpse into the world of capuchin monkeys. This is a unique and inspiring story of abandonment, despair, and eventual happiness."

Next up was Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker.

From the publisher, Harper Collins:

"Award-winning investigative reporter Robert Kolker delivers a haunting and humanizing account of the true-life search for a serial killer still at large on Long Island, in a compelling tale of unsolved murder and Internet prostitution.

One late spring evening in 2010, Shannan Gilbert, after running through the oceanfront community of Oak Beach screaming for her life, went missing. No one who had heard of her disappearance thought much about what had happened to the twenty-four-year-old: she was a Craigslist prostitute who had been fleeing a scene—of what, no one could be sure. The Suffolk County Police, too, seemed to have paid little attention—until seven months later, when an unexpected discovery in a bramble alongside a nearby highway turned up four bodies, all evenly spaced, all wrapped in burlap. But none of them Shannan's.

There was Maureen Brainard-Barnes, last seen at Penn Station in Manhattan three years earlier, and Melissa Barthelemy, last seen in the Bronx in 2009. There was Megan Waterman, last seen leaving a hotel in Hauppage, Long Island, just a month after Shannan's disappearance in 2010, and Amber Lynn Costello, last seen leaving a house in West Babylon a few months later that same year. Like Shannan, all four women were petite and in their twenties, they all came from out of town to work as escorts, and they all advertised on Craigslist and its competitor, Backpage.

In a triumph of reporting—and in a riveting narrative—Robert Kolker presents the first detailed look at the shadow world of escorts in the Internet age, where making a living is easier than ever and the dangers remain all too real. He has talked exhaustively with the friends and family of each woman to reveal the three-dimensional truths about their lives, the struggling towns they came from, and the dreams they chased. And he has gained unique access to the Oak Beach neighborhood that has found itself the focus of national media scrutiny—where the police have flailed, the body count has risen, and the neighbors have begun pointing fingers at one another. There, in a remote community, out of sight of the beaches and marinas scattered along the South Shore barrier islands, the women's stories come together in death and dark mystery. Lost Girls is a portrait not just of five women, but of unsolved murder in an idyllic part of America, of the underside of the Internet, and of the secrets we keep without admitting to ourselves that we keep them."

(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, August 14, 2013

Giveaway - Welcome Home Mama & Boris

Here's a giveaway sure to tug at your heart strings.....

Subtitled: How a Sister's Love Saved a Fallen Soldier's Beloved Dogs

"Growing up in the well-heeled Detroit suburb of Grosse Pointe, Michigan, Carey Neesley always thought she and her younger brother, Peter, would never be separated. The children of divorced parents and outcasts in their neighborhood, Carey and Peter supported, loved, and encouraged each other when it seemed no one else cared.

It was a bond that grew through the years, and one that made Peter's eventual decision to enlist in the Army all the more difficult for Carey. With Peter having stepped up to help her raise her young son, Carey was closer than ever to her brother, and the thought of him serving far from home was painful.
While stationed in Iraq, Peter befriended a stray dog and her four puppies, only to watch three of the young pups die in the warzone. With only two surviving dogs-Mama and Boris-Peter became determined to save the strays. Carey helped her brother with his mission, but everything changed on Christmas Day in 2007 when word arrived at the Neesley household that Peter had been killed.
Amidst the grief of coming to terms with her brother's death and the turmoil of trying to plan his funeral, Carey devoted herself to bringing Peter's dogs home to the U.S. It was the final honor she could pay to her brother and a way of keeping a piece of him with her. With the help of an unlikely network of heroes, including an animal rescue organization in Utah, a civilian airline, an Iraqi family, and a private security contractor with military connections, Mama and Boris mad the journey form the streets of Baghdad to Carey's suburban house.
Carey's mission garnered widespread attention and requests from other soldiers for help in bringing home dogs they had become attached to on deployment, and she continues to work with organizations dedicated to bringing home wartime strays."

Thanks to the generosity of  Reader's Digest Books, I have one copy to giveaway. Open to US and Canada. Closes August 31. Simply leave a comment to be entered.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Silver Star - Jeannette Walls

Oh, I have to say right up front that I loved Jeanette Walls's latest book The Silver Star. Walls is a consummate raconteur, as evidenced by her best selling memoirs The Glass Castle and Half Broke Horses.

Although The Silver Star is fiction, I could see pieces that may have been gleaned from Walls' past as well.

1970. California. Twelve year old Bean Holladay and her fifteen year old sister Liz are used to their mother Charlotte leaving them on them on their own for a few days. She always stocks up on chicken pot pies - enough to last them 'til she returns. But this time is different - she leaves them with money to last a month - or two if they're careful. When the money runs out and she still hasn't returned, the girls decide to make their way to their mother's hometown - to a place they don't know and to relatives they've never met.

I fell in love with Bean right from the get go. Her curiosity, her forthrightness, her loyalty to those she loves, her devotion to her sister Liz and her resilience  all endeared her to me. To Kill a Mockingbird is referenced in the book and Scout was brought to mind when I thought of Bean. Liz is just as well drawn, but on a quieter scale. She's the one who ensures they go to school, that they have meals together, that protects Bean from realizing their plight is more desperate than she lets on.

I had been racing through the book, I was so caught up in the girls' story. But, their arrival in Virginia had me putting the book down and stepping away. I just knew 'something' was going to happen and I wasn't sure if I wanted to know what that was yet, although I had a pretty good idea.

I waited a few days and picked up the book again, when I knew I had time to read right through to the end. (Although I must admit - I had to sneak a peek a few chapters ahead, then go back) And yes, something does happen and it shapes and redefines Liz and Bean's lives as well as those of their new found family. Childhood is left behind in this coming of age story. But much is gained as well....

There isn't a problem distinguishing who is 'bad' and who is 'good' in this book. The extended family that Liz and Bean find are wonderfully warm and eccentric. While I was thinking good and bad, I sat and thought about Charlotte. I'm not sure she can be defined as one or the other. My opinion on her sits firmly in the middle. I'm curious as to what others thought about her.

Walls touches on many familiar issues and themes in The Silver Star - mental illness, dysfunctional relationships, racial integration, bullying, poverty and so much more. And has woven them into yet another riveting read.

Read an excerpt of The Silver Star. A reading group guide is also available for book clubs.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Big Girl Panties - Stephanie Evanovich

Stephanie Evanovich? Is she...? Yes, let's get that out in the open right away - they are indeed related - Janet Evanovich is Stephanie's aunt.

Big Girl Panties marks Stephanie's debut.

Holly Brennan is a young widow who has fed her sorrow with food through the years of her husband's illness and death. While returning home from finalizing some of his accounts, she is bumped from a first class plane ticket to coach. She knows the seats are smaller and of course hers is beside the most gorgeous man.....Who turns out to be personal trainer Logan Montgomery. Who on a whim, offers to takes Holly on as a client. And Holly, surprising herself, accepts.

It turns out that Holly is a natural in the gym. And she starts to see results. And Logan starts to see Holly in a different light.....

Holly is a very likable character - of the four main players, she is the one I enjoyed the most. Evanovich's basic premise isn't new, but I'm not sure how I feel about a character's self worth being based on their physical appearance. Scratch that - I am sure - I didn't like it.  Holly does rediscover, remake and redefine herself. Some of it is emotional, but most of it is based on and from her physical changes. Although she and Logan start off with friendship, Logan's interest turns physical when he realizes she is quite attractive - and other men are noticing. Again, this jaded old reader didn't find him to be of a catch...yes, he's physically attractive and apparently has a voracious sexual appetite, but his being ashamed to be seen with Holly (when she's down to only 20 pounds overweight) was enough to cement my opinion. Further efforts to redeem himself didn't wash with me.

And maybe I'm just reading way too much into what is meant to be a fun, light-hearted read. We start off with what looks to be exactly that, but it quickly moves into mommy porn territory. We're introduced to Logan's best friend Chase and his wife Amanda, who enjoy a spanking good time together - literally.Evanovich does attempt to explain this sexual choice, but I truly grew tired of it by the end of the book. I'm one of the few people on the planet who did not read Fifty Shades - it's a genre that really doesn't grab or hold my interest. Holly's sexual reawakening is generously covered by Evanovich in Big Girl Panties with much description. Fans of this genre will most certainly enjoy it. Me - I choked on my tea at some of the descriptive passages....'willing wet cavern' was a memorable one.

Evonovich does include several solid pieces of advice regarding weight loss, reasons for overeating and some strategies as well. See the clip at the of Evanovich discussing the inspiration behind Fat Girl Panties.

An interesting debut - but a planned second book - "... the backstory to the secondary characters in Big Girl Panties. I think they're deliciously fun and was thrilled when my editor agreed. Think Prince Charming with a kink finding his princess", won't be on this reader's TBR list. But here's an excerpt of Big Girl Panties for you to peruse.

"Stephanie Evanovich is a full-fledged Jersey  girl from Asbury Park who began writing fiction while waiting for her cues during countless community
theater projects. She attended New York Conservatory for the Dramatic Arts, performed with several improvisational troupes, and acted in a few small-budget movies, all in preparation for the greatest job she ever had: raising her two sons. Now a full-time writer, she's an avid sports fan who holds a black belt in tae kwon do." 

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

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Hit - David Baldacci

David Baldacci is a master in the genre he's chosen -action packed adventure with a healthy side of flag waving.

His latest - The Hit - is the second in the Will Robie series. Will is an assassin for the US government....

"A highly skilled assassin, Robie is the man the U.S. government calls on to eliminate the worst of the worst-enemies of the state, monsters committed to harming untold numbers of innocent victims."

This time, Robie's next target is closer to home. He's been tasked with finding and killing Jessica Reel. Reel is an assassin like Robie - and just as good. But it looks like she's gone rogue - she's killed two high ranking military officers. Or has she? As Robie and Reel play cat and mouse, new facts emerge, leading Robie to question his orders - and his superiors.

I don't think I've read a Baldacci book in a long time. Instead I choose to listen to them, as Hachette Audio has put together a fantastic team that has narrated most of his books. Ron McLarty has one of the best voices I've ever listened to. It's deep, gravelly, expressive and oh so resonant. He absolutely captures the tone and characters of Baldacci's work. Orlagh Cassidy plays the female characters in the audio versions of Baldacci's novels. She's the perfect companion for McLarty, with just as expressive a voice. Together they provide a rich listening experience. Hachette Audio has enhanced this by adding sound effects and music to this production.

As I said, Baldacci has found a formula that works for him and he's good at it. So, the tone is similar to past novels, but I've found them to be entertaining listens for the drive back and forth to work.

Those who enjoy espionage thrillers would enjoy any of Baldacci's titles. You can find David Baldacci on Facebook and on Twitter.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Over the Counter #175

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner. Everything OZ this week. 2013 marks the 75th anniversary!

First up was Everything OZ by Christine Leech and Hannah Read-Baldrey. Make Munchkin Placecards, Over the Rainbow Cake, I'm Melting Witch Candles and Much More.

From Chicago Press Review:

" A lavish and whimsical craft book of projects inspired by The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

L. Frank Baum’s classic tale The Wonderful Wizard of Oz provides the inspiration for this creative collection of more than 50 projects to make and bake, ranging from a dress-up Dorothy doll and Toto’s dog coat to the Tin Woodman’s heart garland, the Cowardly Lion’s glove puppet, and squashed Wicked Witch cupcakes. Filled with original and playful ideas for the eclectic craft lover, this enchanting book perfectly captures the magical essence of this faraway land. Everything Oz is brimming with new and innovative projects to eat, drink, wear, and display, inviting readers to bring the Emerald City and other Oz whimsies to their own homes and events."

And this one came from the children's department, but I love these Scanimation books!

The Wizard of Oz - A Scanimation Book by Rufus Butler-Seder.

From Workman Publishing:

"We’re off to see the wizard! The magic of Scanimation meets the wonderful Wizard of Oz, bringing to life 10 memorable scenes from the movie that’s enchanted generations of viewers.  It’s the gift book of the fall, and includes:

• Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, and Toto dancing down the Yellow Brick Road
• Dorothy’s farmhouse flying upward in a twister
• Miss Gulch, on her bicycle in the tornado, transforming into a witch on a broomstick
• The Lollipop Kids strutting from side to side
• The Scarecrow doing a wacky dance
• The Tin Man swaying from side to side; Dorothy and the Scarecrow flanking him as if to catch him
• The Wicked Witch of the West waving on a sky full of flying monkeys
• The Wicked Witch of the West melting
• The Great and Powerful Oz—and the man behind the curtain frantically pulling levers
• A close-up of Dorothy clicking her ruby slippers

A glittering, ruby-red cover is the final, delectable touch."

 (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, August 7, 2013

The Butterfly Sister - Amy Gail Hansen

The Butterfly Sister is Amy Gail Hansen's debut novel.

Ruby Rousseau left Tarble College one credit short of her degree. A failed affair with one of her professors led to a suicide attempt and her decision to not return.

But when a suitcase she had borrowed from Beth, one of the women on her dorm floor, is mistakenly returned to her at her mother's home, the past won't stay buried. For Beth is missing and notes scribbled in the margins of a book found in the suitcase lead Ruby to believe that Beth was also having an affair with the same professor.

Ruby makes the decision to return to Tarble - to help look for her friend, to confront the past and reclaim her life. I was intrigued by Hansen's premise.

The Butterfly Sister is written from a Ruby's point of view - both past and present and the narrative is switched between the two time periods. We are witness to the beginning and end of the affair as the search continues in the present for Beth.  Such affairs are nothing new, but I had a hard time buying how much in love Ruby was with the professor Mark. He just came off as unctuous to me, not really a romantic catch. But this old, jaded reader can see how a young woman might be swayed.

Hansen does an excellent job weaving together and exploring Ruby's literary studies and her fascination with works by authors who struggled with mental illness, such as Plath and Woolf, who ultimately committed suicide. I thought her thesis topic was especially interesting and really had me thinking. Hansen also did a great job  handling the subject of depression, Ruby's emotions and feelings. The first half of the book is introspective with a somewhat Gothic feel.

But, the second half of the book caught me unawares - I almost felt like I was reading another author's writing. From an intelligent, literary feel we are plunged into a watered down mystery full of convoluted solutions that I just had a hard time buying. One or two of them maybe, but Hansen just kept adding another and another. The ending was contrived and the epilogue unnecessarily  'they lived happy ever after'.  This was a disappointment to me after such a promising first half. Ultimately this bumped the book down to a 3/5 for me.  Read an excerpt of The Butterfly Sister.

I may be in  the minority on this one - it's an Indie pick for August 2013. See what other bloggers on the TLC book tour thought. Full schedule can be found here. 

A former English teacher, Amy Gail Hansen is a freelance writer and journalist living in suburban Chicago. This is her first novel. You can find Amy Gail Hansen on Facebook.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A Tap on the Window - Linwood Barclay

Here's the latest summer thriller to get your hands on. Linwood Barclay follows up last summer's hit, Trust Your Eyes, with his new novel A Tap on the Window.

Private Investigator Cal Weaver and his wife are still grieving over the death of their son Scott, who died in a fall.  Scott's autopsy revealed levels of drugs that most likely contributed to his death. Cal is determined to find who in their town of Griffon, New York might have sold Scott the drugs.

On a rainy night, when a young woman taps on his window asking for a ride, Cal hesitates. But when she recognizes him as Scott's dad, he sees a chance to gain more information about who Scott's dealer might have been.

"A middle-aged guy would have to be a total fool to pick up a teenage girl standing outside a bar with her thumb sticking out. Not that bright on her part, either, when you think about it. But right now, we're talking about my stupidity, not hers." 

When Claire the hitchhiker asks Cal to stop to let her use the washroom of a local restaurant, he again hesitates, but complies with her request. But the girl who gets back into the car isn't the same girl who got out. They look the same, but this girl's clothes are dry - the other girl was soaked. And then this girl bolts from the car as well. What's going on? A prank? Or are they in trouble?

Barclay is a master of the domestic suspense genre. He does it again in A Tap on the Window - takes a grieving parent and dumps him into an unthinkable situation. Cal feels responsible for finding out what happened to that first girl and starts his own investigation. But the local cops' suspicion is turned on Cal when the girl can't be found.

Hounded and harassed by the cops, Cal keeps digging. But there's more than the missing girl - something is wrong in the town of Griffon. And the police department seems to be at the centre of everything.

The story is told in first person narrative by Cal, so we are along for the ride as he slowly uncovers and pieces together the hidden story of Griffon. There are italicized chapters written from an unknown point of view that hint at yet another secret. Barclay strings us along and keeps us guessing with many red herrings and possible suspects. It seems that everyone is guilty of something. About one hundred pages from the end, I made my final guess and had my suspicions confirmed in the last few chapters. Although the basic premise of A Tap on the Window is not new, Barclay puts his own spin on things and finishes up with a 'last didn't see that one coming twist' ending that surprised me.

I've read and enjoyed every book written by Barclay - he's a master at the suspense game. . A Tap on the Window is a fast-paced, addictive page turner that will land on the best seller lists very shortly! You can find Linwood Barclay on Facebook and on Twitter. Check out the book trailer!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Unseen - Karin Slaughter

Oh wow - Karin Slaughter has done it again! I've been waiting for her latest release and Unseen did not disappoint. It may be the best one yet, but I say that with each and every book she writes. This is the 7th book in the Will Trent series and ties in characters originally introduced in the Grant County series.

In the opening chapters of Unseen, Slaughter brings back Lena - a detective that I flip back and forth on - sometimes I feel sorry for her, other times I really dislike her. Also included in the action packed opening chapter with Lena is one of my favourite characters - Georgia Bureau of Investigation Agent Will Trent.

But, not the Will I expected to see - instead he is undercover this time, posing as an ex-con maintenance man at a local hospital, hoping to make the connections that will lead officials to a criminal king-pin known as Big Whitey.

I was hooked from that first chapter, but Slaughter is a devious author. A few chapters in, she backtracks to a week ago, with the events that led up to that blood soaked opening chapter......but leaves off at a key revelation. What was behind that wall? Well, there was no going back for this reader - I stayed up late, got up early and feverishly read on every break at work.

After fourteen books, I've become invested in these characters - they have substance and just feel 'real'. Dr. Sara Linton has been a constant in both series. Sara is forced to revisit the past in Unseen and the 'feud' between her and Lena finally comes to a head. A conclusion seems to be reached, but I don't know if I'm happy with it. Karin Slaughter is never predictable in handling her characters' lives. Strong, silent, enigmatic Will is such a great protagonist - a damaged knight with his own dark past. Other regulars - Will's partner Faith and his boss Amanda are also back. Slaughter continues to expand and explore her character's personal lives with every book.

Slaughter has come up with some really scary bad guys this time around. Really scary. I'm not going to detail the plot - but it's gripping, gritty and graphic. (Fair warning to gentle readers) I could see what was coming and was so tempted many times to flip ahead, just to see.....but I didn't. Slaughter kept me guessing to the very last pages - there was a gotcha I didn't see coming. And it takes a bit to surprise this crime fiction fan. Read an excerpt of Unseen.

Although there is enough of the past revealed to enjoy Unseen as a stand alone, you would be robbing yourself of an absolute fantastic series and the journey to this latest book. Do yourself a favour and start at the beginning of the Grant Series with Blindsighted. You can find Karin Slaughter on Facebook.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Winner - The Silent Wife

And the lucky winner of a copy of The Silent Wife by A. S. A Harrison, courtesy of Penguin Books is:

Reader of the Pack!

Congratulations! You're gonna love it! I've contacted you by email for your mailing address. Please respond within 72 hours.

Friday, August 2, 2013

She Loves Me Not - Wendy Corsi Staub

Wendy Corsi Staub is a new to me author, but definitely not a new author - she has close to eighty books to her credit!

She Loves Me Not has been recently released as an audio book.

Rose Larrabee is a widowed mother of two. She's working hard to keep things together, both financially, physically and emotionally. When someone leaves a heart shaped box of candy on her car seat, she figures she has a secret admirer. But when someone repeatedly calls in the middle of the night, she starts to get worried. And when the 'attention' escalates, she gets downright terrified.

I chose to listen to this book. The reader was Allyson Ryan. Her portrayal of Rose was good, capturing the innocent, bewildered woman in peril tone of the character very well. Rose has two small children and I thought she did a great job of coming up with a believable and distinct child's voice. (Although I must admit, I tired of hearing Leo after awhile) Accents for various characters were authentic and easily distinguished who was speaking. I did find the voice for the female neighbour we're not quite sure of, to be quite annoying though - it was whiny and somewhat petulant. But in all fairness, it suited the character.

I always find listening to a book much different than reading - I think I take away different experiences from the two formats. In She Loves Me Not, we are privy to much of the various player's inner thoughts - maybe a few too many.  Staub does mix in action in the last half of the book and populates her plot with plenty of suspects - enough to keep the reader guessing. Although, I have to admit to feeling cheated over the final whodunit.

Staub seems to have perfected the woman in peril with a touch of romance, mystery and suspense for good measure formula. And I would say she excels at it. Although this isn't my favourite type of read, it was an entertaining listen for the ride back and forth to work. This author would definitely appeal to fans of Mary Higgins Clark. Listen to an excerpt of She Loves Me Not.

You can find Wendy Corsi Staub on Facebook and on Twitter.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Over the Counter #174

What book caught my eye this week? Well, despite my best attempts to stay on top of the weeds in my front flower beds and vegetable garden, I have to say - the weeds seem to be winning....

But AHA! - here is the answer from Janit Calvo and her book - Gardening in Miniature. Even I could keep up with this size of garden! (And I really like that tiny Adirondack chair).

From Timber Press:

"Get ready to journey into the huge world of growing small!

The next garden trend combines the joy of gardening with the magic of miniatures. Gardening in Miniature is a complete guide to creating lush, living, small-scale gardens. It has everything you need to pick up this new hobby, including scaled down garden designs, techniques for creating tiny hardscapes, miniature garden care and maintenance, tips on choosing containers, how to buy the right plants, and where to find life-like accessories. Inspiring step-by-step projects feature basic skills that can be recreated in any number of designs, like a tiny patio, a trellis, a pond, and a secret garden.

Whether you want to build a miniature empire in your garden bed or design a private garden with a pebble patio for an indoor centerpiece, Gardening in Miniature is the primer for creating your own tiny, living world."

And Timber Press is running a contest to win a mini garden kit and the book. Enter here. (Ends Aug 2/13)

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