Monday, September 30, 2013

Never Go Back - Lee Child

Never Go Back is the 18th book featuring Lee Child's iconic recurring character Jack Reacher.

Reacher Creatures everywhere have been waiting to see if Jack will at last get to meet Susan, the voice on the other end of the phone line.

Jack is former Military Police. Now, he criss crosses the country, with no home, no luggage and nowhere to be. What Jack does seem to find is trouble - or I should say it finds him.

For the last few books, Jack has been making his way to Virginia to meet Susan, who now leads his old unit. In Never Go Back he finally makes it there. But Susan isn't behind the desk as Jack had imagined. Instead, she's been arrested and locked up for a serious crime. And the guy behind the desk now? Well, he hits Jack with a one/two punch. Jack's to be held as well, facing military charges from an event far in his past. He's been reinstated in the army at his former rank while awaiting his military trial. But rather than wait for that to play out, Jack instead decides to take matters into his own hands.......'Cause all he really wanted to do was ask Susan out to dinner......

Child has again come up with a plot that holds the reader's attention and lets Jack do his thing - government shenanigans, bad guys and lots of action. Memorable scenes are Jack fighting with his hands behind his back and quietly taking care of business - on an airplane.

Lee Child has created a character that appeals to all readers, men and women. He's the quintessential hard boiled hero. No backing down and tough as nails. He has a firm moral compass, carefully delineated lines on what's right and wrong, but has no problem using questionable methods to get to the bottom of things. He's big, strong, smart and....well.... kinda sexy too.

I liked the insight that Jack himself provides into his character in this book - being the lone wolf as it were....

"I think ninety-nine of us grow up to love the campfire, and one grows up to hate it. Ninety-nine of us grow up to fear the howling wolf and one grows up to envy it. And I'm that guy."

I've heard some other readers complain that they wish Jack's life would move on. I don't - I'm quite happy to pick up the latest Reacher book and know that Jack is gonna kick some butt - again. And then head on down the road. Child writes pure escapist novels - and this reader is happy to go along for the ride. Reacher is a white knight in rumpled clothes with his toothbrush in his back pocket and his thumb stuck out for a ride. Do yourself a favour - pick up Jack and settle in for a great read. Read an excerpt of Never Go Back.

You can find Lee Child on Facebook and on Twitter.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Winner - The Returned

And the lucky winner of a copy of The Returned by Jason Mott, courtesy of Harlequin/Mira is:


Congratulations! I've contacted you by email for your mailing address. Please respond within 72 hours. After that time, a new winner will be chosen. Thanks to all who entered. Check out the sidebar for other great giveaways!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Over the Counter #181

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

First the drinks. Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist by Tim Federele.

From the publisher, Running Press:

"A clever tribute to literature, Tequila Mockingbird is the cocktail book for the literary obsessed. Combining beloved classic novels with witty humor and delicious drink recipes, some of the charming recipes include Vermouth the Bell Tolls, Gin Eyre, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margarita, Bridget Jones’s Daiquiri, and more. Accompanying the 65 cocktail recipes are a list of tools and techniques, a spirits glossary, and a handful of drinking games and bar bites, making this cocktail book both fun and functional. With a special cover designed to look like a classic novel, whimsical illustrations, and a two-color design throughout, Tequila Mockingbird is a one-of-a-kind cocktail book."

How about something to eat with that drink? Anything That Moves: Renegade Chefs, Fearless Eaters, and the Making of a New American Food Culture by Dana Goodyear.

From the publisher Riverhead Books:

"New Yorker writer Dana Goodyear combines the style of Mary Roach with the on-the-ground food savvy of Anthony Bourdain in a rollicking narrative look at the shocking extremes of the contemporary American food world.

A new American cuisine is forming. Animals never before considered or long since forgotten are emerging as delicacies. Parts that used to be for scrap are centerpieces. Ash and hay are fashionable ingredients, and you pay handsomely to breathe flavored air. Going out to a nice dinner now often precipitates a confrontation with a fundamental question: Is that food?

Dana Goodyear’s anticipated debut, Anything That Moves, is simultaneously a humorous adventure, a behind-the-scenes look at, and an attempt to understand the implications of the way we eat. This is a universe populated by insect-eaters and blood drinkers, avant-garde chefs who make food out of roadside leaves and wood, and others who serve endangered species and Schedule I drugs—a cast of characters, in other words, who flirt with danger, taboo, and disgust in pursuit of the sublime. Behind them is an intricate network of scavengers, dealers, and pitchmen responsible for introducing the rare and exotic into the marketplace. This is the fringe of the modern American meal, but to judge from history, it will not be long before it reaches the family table. Anything That Moves is a highly entertaining, revelatory look into the raucous, strange, fascinatingly complex world of contemporary American food culture, and the places where the extreme is bleeding into the mainstream."

(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, September 25, 2013

The Small Hand and Dolly - Susan Hill

What's better than a ghost story? Two ghost stories! And that's what Susan Hill gives us in The Small Hand and Dolly. I love the cover -the doll's eye is unsettling and just set the tone for what awaits the reader.

I've fallen in love with Hill's Simon Serrailler detective series, but it was only on looking at the author's website that I realized she was the author of The Woman in Black - a classic ghost tale that has been made into a stage play (opened in 1989 and is still running) as well as a movie starring Daniel Radcliffe.

Hill writes the most delicious stories - atmospheric with slow building tension that increases with every page turned. And all accomplished without overt gore and violence. Just wonderfully wrought words.

In The Small Hand, a rare book seller is on a way to a client's home when he takes a wrong turn - and discovers an abandoned house. "I should have gone back then. I needed to be in London and I had already lost my way. Clearly the house was deserted and possibly derelict. I would not find anyone her to give me directions." But he explores a litter further and finds that the house once housed a spectacular garden. It is while standing in the ruins that "I felt a small hand creep into my right one, as if a child had come up beside me in the dimness and take hold of it."

That wrong turn haunts him in more ways than one - he now feels compelled to throw himself into water, knowing that he will drown. And this in turn drives him back to house....

"What would I find? I did not know and I tried not to give my imagination any rein. I would obey the insistent, silent voice that told me I must go back and once there I would see. I would see."

Delicious! Read an excerpt of The Small Hand.

In Dolly, Edward revisits the home of his now deceased aunt. He spent a summer there as a child, along with his cousin Leonora, a spoiled girl subject to fits of anger. In the forty years following that summer, he never returned. Until now. In present day, in the empty house, he hears a sound that brings back memories from that summer....memories of Leonora's wish for a dolly and her anger when it wasn't the right one.

"The cupboard. It was something about the cupboard, something in it or that had happened beside it? I shook myself, and was about to close the cupboard door when I heard it - a very soft rustling, as if someone were stirring their hand about in crisp tissue paper, perhaps as they unpacked a parcel."

Dolly's tension builds as well, but in a different way. This time there's a more tangible scary thing - the inanimate doll. (I'm not a doll fan - they give me the creeps) You could even say this story dipped it's toe in the horror pool.  Lots of foreshadowing leads the way to the final chapter. I was slightly disappointed with the ending of this story - I thought one character did not deserve their ending.

But with both stories, I enjoyed the slow build, the weaving of possibilities and the gothic ghost flavour.

Of the two, I preferred The Small Hand. But, both are perfect one sitting with a cup of tea before you head to bed reading. Who knows what your dreams will conjure up? Or what that rustling under the bed might really be......

You can find Susan Hill on Facebook and on Twitter.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Mrs. Poe - Lynn Cullen

Lynn Cullen's combines history, romance and a dash of mystery in her latest release -  Mrs. Poe. The result? An excellent read.

1845 New York. Edgar Allan Poe's poem The Raven has just been published and it is a hit with both the literary set and the man on the street. Frances (Fanny) Osgood is also a poet, struggling to support her daughters after being abandoned by her philandering husband. She has found minor success with her children's poetry (Puss in Boots), flower and love poems. But an editor encourages to write something that he can sell - something shivery for the ladies.

"You'd like me to be a sort of Mrs. Poe? Ha! Yes.That's the ticket."

And somewhat prophetic. For Fanny does meet Poe - and there are immediate feelings of attraction between them.

"I knew that I should dislike the man, should fear him, should keep my distance at all costs. I knew that I would not." The real Mrs. Poe takes a liking to Fanny as well. Or is she simply keeping a rival close to hand?

Taking on actual historical figures as the main characters in a novel is a delicate dance. Of course, there has been much written about Poe. Cullen shows us a man who has achieved notoriety, but struggles with accepting and embracing it. His struggles with his personal life are no less challenging - alcohol, finances and of course the health of the real Mrs Poe. Poe married his thirteen year old first cousin, Virginia, when he was twenty three. Virginia's mother and Poe's aunt Mrs. Clemm, lives with them. I liked Fanny right from the first pages - she's ambitious, pragmatic, curious and intelligent. As the book progresses, we see her romantic side take the upper hand as she follows her heart, ignoring the whispers of society. Virginia Poe is bit of an enigma. Cullen chooses to reveal her through actions and dialogue. The supporting cast was wonderful as well, again incorporating many historical figures. I was particularly drawn to Eliza Bartlett and her warmth, as well as Sarah Fuller and her early women's rights activism.

Cullen's language and dialogue was wonderful, capturing the time period and social mores. The dancing within words was such fun to read - barbs couched in acceptable form, underlying meanings just below the surface and more. Her descriptions of the settings were vivid, bringing 1845 New York to life.

The literary references were fun - Clement Moore despairs that he will only be remembered for "his children's poem A Visit From St. Nicholas and not for his professorship in Oriental languages at the college that he founded." The discussions held at Anne Lynch's “conversaziones,” were fascinating. I learned so much from this novel - I stopped reading many times to head for the net, to follow up on a reference or character.

The romance between Poe and Fanny builds slowly but inexorably, leading down dangerous paths. The actual facts point to a true affection between these two historical figures. Poe's poem, A Valentine, was written for Frances Osgood. Cullen takes literary license and imagines an alternate journey and ending for Edgar, Frances......and let's not forget Virginia.

Cullen comes up with her own twist on things and surprised me in the last few chapters. Mrs. Poe is definitely recommended reading. Read an excerpt of Mrs. Poe. Book clubs - there is a reading group guide available. You can find Lynn Cullen on Facebook and on Twitter.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Giveaway - Confessions: The Private School Murders - James Patterson

I've got a great giveaway today, courtesy of the Little, Brown Book Group - a copy of Confessions: The Private School Murders by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro. This is the second book to feature teen sleuth Tandy Angel. AND a custom Confessions tee shirt as well!

From the publisher:

"Wealthy young women are being murdered, and the police aren't looking for answers in the right places. Enter Tandy Angel. Her first case was the mystery of her parents' deaths. Now she's working to exonerate her brother of his girlfriend's homicide. And danger just got closer.

One of the recent victims was a student at Tandy's own elite school. She has a hunch it may be the work of a serial killer... and Tandy perfectly fits the profile of the killer's targets. Can she untangle the mysteries in time? Or will she be the next victim?

James Patterson keeps the confessions coming as Tandy delves deeper into her own tumultuous
history and the skeletons in the Angel family closet." Read an excerpt of Confessions: The Private School Murders.

Catch up with Tandy in the first book in the series - Confessions of a Murder Suspect while you wait for The Private School Murders to release on October 7th.

"On the night Malcolm and Maud Angel are murdered, their daughter Tandy knows just three things: 1) She was one of the last people to see her parents alive. 2) The suspect list only includes Tandy and her three siblings. 3) She can't trust anyone--maybe not even herself.

As Tandy sets out to clear the family name, she begins to recall flashes of experiences long buried in her vulnerable psyche. These memories shed light on her family's dark secrets, and digging deeper into her powerful parents' affairs proves to be a disturbing and dangerous game. Who knows what any of the Angels are truly capable of?" Read an excerpt of Confessions of a Murder Suspect.

You can find the Confessions series on Facebook

To be entered into the giveaway for a copy of Confessions: The Private School Murders AND the tee shirt, simply leave a comment. Open to US only, no PO boxes please. Ends Oct 12/13.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Winner - In Falling Snow

And the randomly chosen lucky winner of a copy of In Falling Snow by Mary-Rose MacColl, courtesy of Penguin Books is:


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

Friday, September 20, 2013

Over the Counter #180

What books caught my eye as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? This week it's all about having your cake - and eating it too!

First up was Extreme Cakeovers by Rick Reichart and Sasha Reichart.

From the publisher Clarkson Potter:

"Wanted: Must love candy, cookies, frosting, and fun. No experience required!

Make over any purchased sheet cake or frozen pound cake into a stunning creation that looks like it came from a fancy bakery—no special skills or equipment necessary! Even if you’ve never tried to decorate a cake before, with a good supply of candies and other store-bought treats and the detailed instructions in Extreme Cakeovers, you’ll be able to accomplish forty unique designs. You can:

   • Fashion robot hands from chocolate-covered doughnuts
   • Make Fruit Roll-ups blossom into a bouquet of red roses
   • Roll Rice Krispies Treats and Swedish Fish into realistic sushi
   • String a pretty strand of gumball pearls
   • Create a train smokestack from an ice cream cone and marshmallow

Including tips and designs to please everyone from five to one hundred, Extreme Cakeovers is a whimsical guide to crafting cakes that will be the centerpiece of any occasion, from kids’ birthdays to Halloween, Father’s Day to Valentine’s Day, engagement parties to retirement gatherings."

Next up was Modern Art Desserts: Recipes for Cakes, Cookies, Confections, and Frozen Treats Based on Iconic Works of Art by Caitlin Freeman.

From the publisher Ten Speed Press:

"Taking cues from works by Andy Warhol, Frida Kahlo, and Matisse, pastry chef Caitlin Freeman, of Miette bakery and Blue Bottle Coffee fame, creates a collection of uniquely delicious dessert recipes (with step-by-step assembly guides) that give readers all they need to make their own edible masterpieces.

From a fudge pop based on an Ellsworth Kelly sculpture to a pristine segmented cake fashioned after Mondrian’s well-known composition, this collection of uniquely delicious recipes for cookies, parfait, gelées, ice pops, ice cream, cakes, and inventive drinks has everything you need to astound friends, family, and guests with your own edible masterpieces.

Taking cues from modern art’s most revered artists, these twenty-seven show stopping desserts exhibit the charm and sophistication of works by Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman, Henri Matisse, Jeff Koons, Roy Lichtenstein, Richard Avedon, Wayne  Thiebaud, and more. Featuring an image of the original artwork alongside a museum curator’s perspective on the original piece and detailed, easy-to-follow directions (with step-by-step assembly guides adapted for home bakers), Modern Art Desserts will inspire a kitchen gallery of stunning treats."

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

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Lineup - Liad Shoham

I'm a huge mystery fan - it's definitely my favourite genre.  I also enjoy discovering mystery authors from other countries - Scandinavia, Britain, Germany, France - but Liad Shoham is the first Israeli author for me. Shoham is considered to be "Israel’s leading crime writer." Lineup is the first of his books to be translated into English.

Adi Regev is walking home to her apartment in Tel Aviv one night when she brutally attacked and raped. When the police turn up no witnesses or leads, her father Yaron takes it upon himself to stake out her street, to both protect her and perhaps catch the criminal. When Ziv Nevo is caught skulking around the neighbourhood, he is sure he is the rapist. Yaron takes his findings to Inspector Eli Nachum. Nachum, under pressure to close the case, goes against his own better judgement and pushes the case through. But it's a costly error.....Ziv is not the rapist - he works for the mob. What was he doing in the street? Now the mob thinks Ziv is a rat, the rapist is still loose and Nachum, well Nachum has messed up big time.

"He'd been hoping his success with this case would finally prove to everyone that he knew what he was doing, that he wasn't ready to be put out to pasture."

Lineup is told from three points of view - that of Nachum, Ziv and an reporter named Amit. I was torn on Nachum - on the one hand I wanted to like him - he's older, worked hard to get where he is and seems to care about his work. But the choices he made and even his plan to rectify things didn't put me on his side. Surprisingly, the character I did like the most was Ziv, despite his criminal activity. Amit again was another difficult call. Intially I thought he was being taken advantage of, but  I ended up putting him in the same camp as Nachum.

Now having said all that, you don't to like the characters to to enjoy the story. Shoham's premise is a good one, inventive and different. I was quite curious as to how it would all play out. I did find that I  had figured out whodunit before the reveal though. There were some coincidences and omissions that make the path to the solution that much easier. Still, I found Lineup kept me engaged and turning pages until the end.

Lineup was an interesting read - I enjoyed the legal and procedural details. Shoham is an attorney himself and his insider knowledge gave the book that added ring of realism. I enjoyed a setting that was new to this reader and a look at Israeli life.

Lineup was translated from Hebrew by Sara Kitai. She did an excellent job - there were no wooden words or awkward phrasing. Read an excerpt of Lineup.

"Liad Shoham is Israel’s leading crime writer and a practicing attorney with degrees from Jerusalem’s Hebrew University and the London School of Economics. All his crime novels (five to date) have been critically acclaimed bestsellers. He lives in Tel Aviv and is married with two children. Find him on Facebook."

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

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

How the Light Gets In - Louise Penny

I (and a lot of other readers and listeners) have been eagerly awaiting Louise Penny's latest mystery - How the Light Gets In.

This is the ninth entry in this absolutely brilliant series featuring  Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec.

Gamache is an unfailingly polite, soft spoken, caring, thoughtful , principled man. He is also dedicated - to his family, his friends and solving his cases. But he is reviled by his boss. The reasons for this have been alluded to from the beginning, increasing in intensity through each book, culminating in a cliff-hanger in book eight - The Beautiful Mystery. Penny has masterfully built this tension and animosity through each book. In How the Light Gets In, Penny finally gives us answers in a stunning finale, that mirrors real life.

Three Pines is the fictional small Quebec town that features prominently in Penny's books. The inhabitants of the town are rich and varied and have become as near and dear to my heart as Gamache himself. Their personal lives are as much a draw as the mystery in each book.

The crime portion of this book also takes inspiration from real life. The last surviving member of the Ouellet quintuplets is found murdered in her home after failing to arrive for a scheduled visit to Three Pines. Canadians of course will recognize the story of the Dionne quintuplets.

Although Penny provides enough background so that each book could be read as a stand alone, I encourage you to pick up the first book - Still Life. You'll fall in love with Gamache and the village of Three Pines - and be very glad that there are eight more (so far!) books to go. I cannot wait to see what's in store for book number ten.

I've actually chosen to listen to the last few books. Ralph Cosham is the reader and he completely embodies the mental image I had created for this wonderful character. The low, somewhat gravelly tone of Cosham's voice and his well modulated pace just draws you further into the story.  His French accent and pronunciation is well done and believable. The voices he provides for other characters are just as well done. The cranky old poet Ruth is a favourite of mine. Actually, all the residents of Three Pines come alive with his interpretations, and make me wish I could visit to Three Pines and chat with them. At the end of the last disc, there was an unexpected bonus - an discussion between Cosham and Penny. It turns out that Ralph doesn't read the books before he narrates for the audio version. He prefers to discover the story as he reads. Can you imagine keeping all the voices straight and reading through without preparation? How the Light Gets In was an absolute joy to listen to. Highly, highly recommended.

Listen to or read an excerpt of How the Light Gets In. You can find Louise Penny on Facebook.
"There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." Leonard Cohen

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A House in the Sky - Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett

If you only read one memoir this year, make it A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett.

Amanda Lindhout is from Alberta, Canada. As a young child living in a turbulent household, she collected and cashed in bottles. And what did she spend her money on? Old National Geographic magazines. Amanda escaped into the pages,dreaming of one day visiting the exotic places pictured.

At nineteen she has saved enough money from waitressing to make those dreams a reality. Her first trip abroad is to Venezuela.

"I had seen this place in the magazine, and now we were here, lost in it. It was a small truth affirmed. And it was all I needed to keep going."

Lindhout repeats the cycle, earning, then travelling. She visits most of Latin America, India, Burma, Ethiopia, Syria, Pakistan, Sudan and dozens more. Her joy in exploring and experiencing new places and people is tangible. But, each trip she takes is a little further off the beaten path. And finally, she's travelling to some of the most war torn countries in the world.

In Kabul, Afghanistan she begins a career as a fledgling freelance /journalist/photojournalist - with no formal training, associations or contacts. With some success under her belt, she heads next to Baghdad, Iraq to work as a reporter for Iran's Press TV. Moving on from there she decides to head to Mogadishu, Somalia in 2008 - bigger stories might help her career take off faster. She wonders if an old flame, Nigel Brennan, an Aussie photographer wants to join her. He does.......and four days after their arrival in Somalia, they are kidnapped by insurgents from an Islamic fundamentalist group. And, they are held.... for 460 days.

"It was here, finally, that I started to believe this story would be one I'd never get to tell, that I would become an erasure, an eddy in a river pulled suddenly flat. I began to feel certain that, hidden inside Somalia, inside this unknowable and stricken place, we would never be found."

A House in the Sky is Amanda's recounting of those 460 days. She is beaten, starved, chained up, kept in the dark, raped and tortured. These are the facts.

“There are parts of my story that I may one day be able to recover and heal from, and, to whatever degree possible, forget about them and move on. But there are parts of my story that are so horrific that once they are shared, other people’s minds will keep them alive.”

How she survives is a story that had me tearing up, putting the book down and walking away from it so many times. It's a difficult read, but is such a testament to the human spirit and will.

Amanda names each of the houses they are held in - Bomb-Making House, Electric House, Tacky House and more. But it is the House in the Sky that had me freely sobbing - at the worst of times she builds a house in her mind, filled with the people she loves and the memories she treasures, the future she dreams of.

"I was safe and protected. It was where all the voices that normally tore through my head expressing fear and wishing for death went silent, until there was only one left speaking . It was a calmer, stronger voice, one that to me felt divine. It said, 'See? You are okay, Amanda. It's only your body that's suffering, and you are not your body. The rest of you is fine.' "

The journey to their release is gut-wrenching, incredibly powerful and impossible to put down.  I stopped many times to look at the smiling author picture of Amanda on the back, wondering how in the world she survived. Survived and forgave. And as I turned the last page, I just sat. Sat and thought. This is a book that will stay with you, long after that last page. Read an excerpt of A House in the Sky.

Amanda Lindhout is the founder of the Global Enrichment Foundation - "a non -profit organization that supports development, aid and education initiatives in Somalia and Kenya. You can also find Amanda Lindhout on Facebook and on Twitter.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Bait - J. Kent Messum - Review AND Giveaway

Bait is the debut novel of J. Kent Messum.

Messum had me 'hooked' from the opening prologue - a desperate attempt by a man in the water to out swim the natural predators of the ocean.....

But the sharks aren't the most dangerous animals out there. Instead, it is the men on the boat, making bets, drinking beer and filming the carnage that are truly more dangerous.

Six people from the down and out neighbourhoods of Miami wake up on a deserted island deep in the Florida Keys. Strangers to each other, they eventually find common ground - they're all junkies. And each is starting to jones. The men on the boat have left them an envelope with instructions, along with a few sandwiches. What they crave is on the next island - all they have to do is make it there.

Sound like the TV show Survivor? Absolutely - Survivor combined with Jaws - on heroin.

Messum spins his story in past and present chapters, allowing us to know the lives of each of the six in the days leading up to the island. Although each of the six has a set of hard luck circumstances that led to them being 'chosen', it's hard to be empathetic. They aren't likable characters. Messum doesn't spend a lot of time developing their personalities though. Bait is completely plot and action driven.

And Messum has done an excellent job with that. We just know that someone's going to bite it. Or get bit as the case may be. The question is, who? Will someone make it to the end? How will they do it - working together or sacrificing each other? Who are these guys on the boat?

Messum uses worm metaphors to describe the lure of and the junkies' love of dope that made me squirm more than once. "The worms in their heads grew fat and satisfied, rolling cool and wet through their disjointed thoughts."

I did find the motivation of those on the boat to be a bit clichéd and predictable. These characters seemed more like caricatures. But they work if you look at it with an action flick eye. Bait has thriller movie written all over it. Messum provides a nice little twist near the end.

Bait was a quick down and dirty one sitting read at 288 pages - addictive and adrenaline reading for sure. Read an excerpt of Bait. (Gentle readers be warned - blood, gore and violence) A strong debut - I'll be sure to 'catch' Messum's next book.

"J. Kent Messum has worked as a session musician, freelance writer, producer, internet radio station disc jockey, bartender, office gopher, music teacher, movie grip, labourer, contractor, and a few other things he’d rather not admit. A glutton for punishment, Messum has been heavily involved in both the music and film businesses for well over a decade. He writes incessantly, putting on paper as many stories and ideas as his time will allow. The literary business is a welcome change, since he writes as if his life depended on it anyway. Bait is his first novel. He lives in Toronto." You can find J. Kent Messum on Twitter and on Facebook.

See what others on the TLC Book Tour thought. Full schedule can be found here. Thanks to the generosity of Plume, an imprint of Penguin Books, I have three - yes three! copies to giveaway. Open to US and Canada, simply leave a comment to be entered. Closes Oct 5/13 when a random winner will be chosen.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Winner - The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic

And the randomly chosen lucky winner of a copy of The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker, courtesy of Pamela Dorman Books is:


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

Friday, September 13, 2013

Film on Friday #4 - Three Worlds

The fourth entry in the Film on Friday series is from Catherine Corsini, a French director . Three Worlds was an 2012 official selection for both the Cannes and Toronto International Film Festival, as well as others.

A night carousing with two friends in the days leading up to his wedding irrevocably changes Al's life and that of two other women. While speeding through the streets with his attention on his cellphone, Al doesn't see the pedestrian - until he hits him. Stunned, he gets out of the car to see what has happened, but at the urging of his two friends they leave the scene. Unbeknownst to him, Juliette, who lives in apartment above, has witnessed the accident. Shaken, she cannot identify the car or the man to the police. She is unable to let it go and tracks down the victim's wife, Vera. Vera and her husband are illegal immigrants from Moldavia. Al, feeling guilty, sneaks into the hospital and is spotted by Juliette. She realizes he's the one...

Corsini gives us three distinct views of the outcome of Al's actions. Al has everything to lose, does not want to admit culpability, yet his guilt starts to eat away at him, eroding the carefully built life he has made. Raphael Personnaz plays his role well.  I didn't like Al at all - Personnaz's portrayal of the character's initial swaggering and the crumbling and unravelling that followed were believable.

Vera and her family present the harsh reality of illegal immigrants. The hospital is after someone to pay the bills. Vera must go to work the day her husband is operated on. The scene in the hospital with the doctors is especially powerful. Vera is played by Arta Dobroshi. She captured the mercurial tone of Vera that vacillated between sadness and anger, hurt and strength, friendship and loathing. She is the character I empathized with the most.

And caught between the two in a predicament of her own making is Juliet, played by Clotilde Hesme who has made herself a friend to Vera and a confidante and more to Al. She puzzled me the most - her actions towards both are well meant, but with Al she strays into dangerous territory.

The supporting cast is somewhat predictable, with the heavy handed boss, the obnoxious friends, and the grasping, clinging girlfriend, but they all do an admirable job.

As viewers we can see the immediate effects of that single action. We can see things getting steadily worse as the principles compound and complicate the situation with yet another misstep. Where does our sympathy and empathy lie? Each of the three suffers a loss - physically and emotionally. Three Worlds is an excellent exploration of a moral dilemma. The camera action was good, the settings realistic and the sound track suited. Definitely recommended watching.

The bonus short film included - The Piano Tuner - was also excellent. A young man pretends to be blind. While on a job, he sees something he shouldn't have...

Three Worlds from Film Movement - 100 minutes. French and Moldovan with English subtitles. The Piano Tuner -13 minutes.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Returned - Review AND Giveaway

The Returned is Jason Mott's debut novel.

Mott came up with his original and thought-provoking premise after his mother passed away. Missing her, he dreamed of her one night. And the next day thought...what if....what if "she actually did come back, just for one night? And what if it wasn't just her? What if it happened to other people, too?"

And those are the Returned. Jacob William Hargrave died at eight years old in 1966. Almost fifty years later a Bureau Agent shows up in small town Arcadia, MO at Lucille and Harold's door with  - well - with eight year old Jacob. Lucille doesn't question the miracle, but Harold does.

As more and more Returned appear, the miracle loses its sheen. Arcadia is declared a holding area for The Returned. More and more are shipped in. The 'True Living' are feeling crowded out and wronged. Tempers flare and aggression grows. But all Lucille wants is to be a mother to her son again. And Harold, he would do anything to keep Lucille happy. Anything.

"Just because a person don't quite understand the purpose and meaning of a blessing, that doesn't make it any less of a blessing....does it?

Mott captured me. I truly had no idea where he was going to go with this story. Are The Returned a blessing or a curse? We hear some of The Returned's own stories in short insert chapters. We follow along as Lucille and Harold try to deal with the unexpected hand that has been dealt to them. And when the Bureau takes control, the struggle to follow their hearts - at heavy costs.

The Returned can be read on many levels - simply exploring the love we feel at the loss of a loved one - what would you do if you could have one more day again?  The Returned reminded me a bit of the movie District Nine - ignorant mistreatment of a race/culture/phenomenon that isn't understood or tolerated. There are some chilling chapters from the colonel in charge of the forced encampment. The 'True Living'  townsfolk have their own agenda as well. "There were just too many people in the world all of a sudden. Concessions for life had to be made." Religious questions also arise. The reason behind The Returned is never explained, rather the book deals with the aftermath and reactions to this happening.

The Bureau Agent, Martin Bellamy is just as much a lead character as Harold and Lucille. He's complex, keeping his thoughts and feelings carefully hidden behind a company demeanour, but adding a nice twist to things as the book progresses.

But what touched me the most was the relationship between Lucille and Harold. Without revealing any more of the plot, I have to admit that I found my eyes watering by the end of the book. Mott does a fantastic job bringing these characters to life - their love and their relationship was tangible, real and touching.

What if?  Definitely recommended. Read an excerpt of The Returned.

Jason Mott lives in southeastern North Carolina. He has a BFA in Fiction and an MFA in Poetry, both from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. His poetry and fiction has appeared in various journals such as Prick of the Spindle, The Thomas Wolfe Review, The Kakalak Anthology of Carolina Poets, Measure and Chautauqua. He was nominated for a 2009 Pushcart Prize award.
He is the author of two poetry collections: We Call This Thing Between Us Love and "…hide behind me…" The Returned is his first novel. You can find Jason Mott on Facebook and on Twitter. 

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

And thanks to the generosity of Harlequin/Mira, I have a copy to giveaway! Simply leave a comment to be entered. Open to US and Canada, no PO boxes please.  Ends Sept. 28/13, when a winner will be randomly chosen.

The Returned has hit the New York Times Bestseller List and has also been optioned by Brad Pitt's production company, Plan B. It will air on ABC this fall under the title 'Resurrection.'

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Shoot the Dog - Brad Smith

Brad Smith returns with the third entry in his Virgil Cain series - Shoot the Dog.

Virgil is again just minding his own business, plowing the back forty with a pair of Percherons when some movie folks scouting for locations pull up and offer to rent the horses for their 'Frontier Woman' movie. Well, the taxes are coming due and the soybean crop failed last year, so yeah, Virgil could use the money. But those movie folks are quick to talk and slow to listen. They assume Virgil is the 'half-wit dullard hired hand' that works for Mr. Cain - and he lets them think it. Virgil on the other hand is slow to talk and quick to listen.

There's lots of set up before we even get to the crime, but oh can Smith spin a tale. His tongue in cheek take on the movie industry and celebrity is hilarious. The dialogue, conniving and back stabbing amongst the group is priceless. But when the leading lady ends up dead, Virgil can't help himself. He decides to be on set a little more - he's taken a shine to ten year old actor Georgia - and besides, she likes his horses.

"'So do you follow it, or does it follow you?' Buddy asked.
Virgil smiled and finished the beer."

Virgil is such a great character, from his droll dialogue, the way he thinks, his unerring sense of right and wrong and his decision to act on his principles. A white knight with manure on his workboots.

I love the laid back interactions between Virgil and his lover Detective Claire Marchand. (And I have to admit I'm a little jealous of Claire - Virgil is that laid back, quiet type that is oh appealing.) Claire on her own is just as great a character as Virgil - she's got a great mind and a sharp tongue - her dialogue with suspects cuts like a knife. These characters will appeal to readers of both sexes.

The goal of course it to solve who killed that leading lady, but the whodunnit in Shoot the Dog takes a backseat to the characters. And I wouldn't want it any other way.

Shoot the Dog is another entertaining romp of a read from Brad Smith. Smith has a sly, wry sense of humour that I truly enjoy. Do yourself a favour, pull up a chair on the porch, grab a beer and start from the first book - Red Means Run. You'll be hooked - on Brad Smith, not the beer. You can find Brad Smith on Facebook.

Readers who enjoy Carl Hiaasen and Tim Dorsey's tongue in cheek mysteries will enjoy Brad Smith.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman

I listen to audio books back and forth in the car on the way to and from work. Usually I leave the discs in the car to be continued the next day. Not this time.

Neil Gaiman himself is the reader on the audio version of his latest book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. There is something magical about hearing an author perform their own work. And in this case - it truly was magical.

Our unnamed narrator returns to his childhood home for a funeral. He vaguely remembers a house at the end the lane and drives down to see if it is still there. When he arrives, he begins to remember bits and pieces.....especially eleven year old Lettie Hempstock, who befriended the then seven year old narrator. Lettie live with her mother and grandmother. Out back of the farmhouse is a pond - one Lettie used to call the ocean. And as our narrator wanders back to it, he remembers more....something dark was set loose that summer.

How to describe my thoughts? The book encompasses good and evil, friendship, love, loyalty, faith, fear, innocence lost, magic, adventures and of course monsters.....It's scary, sad, nostalgic, heartwarming, thoughtful....

Cautionary advice - this isn't a tale for children, even though it is written from a seven year old's viewpoint - there are adult scenes and themes. You could read/listen to The Ocean at the End of the Lane and get something different from it each time. A fantastical tale, a tale of childhood and our fears that most could relate to or perhaps a glimpse into Gaiman's own childhood.

What a treat to hear Gaiman read his own tale - the inflections given, the pauses taken, the emotions imparted - all from hearing them spoken out loud.

And at the end of the last disk, I felt like a child whose parent closed the book and turned off the light with a 'it's time to go to sleep now." And I never did - I always relived the story and wondered what else might happen. The Ocean at the End of the Lane left me with exactly that feeling - and that's a good thing.

Listen to Neil Gamain read an excerpt of The Ocean at the End of the Lane below. You can find Neil Gaiman on Facebook and on Twitter.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Bones of the Lost - Kathy Reichs

There was a time in my reading life where I devoured every 'forensic' novel I could get my hands on - this seemed to coincide with my love of certain television shows of the same ilk. Well, my interest in the TV shows waned and a few of the forensic authors also fell by the wayside. Okay, one of them fell in the ditch.

But not Kathy Reichs. Although I haven't read the last few books, I looked forward to picking up her latest book (#16) to feature forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan - Bones of the Lost. (Yes, she's the basis of the 'Bones' TV show. As is Reichs, who is a forensic anthropologist herself. Which adds a lot to her books!)

Tempe has a set of what may be ancient Peruvian dog bones at the lab waiting to be looked at. They've been confiscated by US Customs from a US war vet who now specializes in the 'import' business.

But, when a young girl, killed by an apparent hit and run, is brought in, she takes precedence. What was she doing in the seedy part of town she was found in? Why did she have a piece of ID from a dead man in her purse? And no ID of her own?

And finally, her ex-husband Pete begs a favour of her - will she go to Afghanistan to look at a set of bones and testify at a military trial. The incentive? It's at the same camp where their daughter Katy is stationed.

Three seemingly disparate cases that Reichs manages to weave together by the final pages.

What keeps me reading this series is the main character. I like her. I don't always agree with everything she says or does, but she's real and believable.  Her co-protagonist Detective 'Skinny' Slidell is not warm and fuzzy, but is a great addition to the series. The two of them are opposites but play off each other well. And Slidell's one-liners were great. Tempe's personal life continues to be in upheaval and gives the character more depth. But love interest Ryan doesn't make an appearance until the final pages. And he arrives with bad news - which may indeed be a set up for the next book.

Reichs has again written a solid mystery, using current topics and headlines to make it time relevant. Solid, but not really new. It seems like I have read this plot line in one form or another already. And maybe that's why it's only a 3.5/5 for me. Because it's solid and somewhat predictable in that we know Tempe is going to solve it all by the end. And this was a bit of a sticky point for me - Tempe seems he** bent on solving everything on her own, damn the torpedoes. She seems to be stepping on detective toes more than using her forensic skills. But hey, it made for good action scenes!

But, that's not to say I didn't enjoy it - I did. Bones of the Lost could be read as a stand alone, but I'd recommend starting at the beginning of the series and getting to know the character right from the start.  Read an excerpt of Bones of the Lost. You can find Kathy Reichs on Twitter and on Facebook.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Sihpromatum - I Grew My Boobs in China - Savannah Grace

Sihpromatum: A blessing that initially appears to be a curse.

Vancouver, Canada: Fourteen year old Savannah thought it was the end of the world when her newly divorced mother (Maggie 45 yrs.) decided that she would pull her two daughters (Breanna 17 yrs.) out of school and travel for a year. Accompanying them would be already seasoned traveller - older brother Ammon, 25 yrs.

"We were going to pack up everything, we were going to travel around the world, and we were going to live out of backpacks - for a whole year!"

May 05/05. The Watkins load up their backpacks and head to Hong Kong, China and on to Mongolia. (That's just the first three months covered in this first book.)

Sihpromatum is told from 14 year old Savannah Grace's viewpoint. The first chapters deal with typical teenage angst - leaving at a time when cliques, boys, parties and mall shopping take priority in an adolescent's life. And I had to stop and remind myself of that when I read of her reluctance to go on this adventure. I was reading with older eyes and could only see this as an amazing opportunity and adventure.

There is a chapter in the beginning written from Maggie's view, which led me to think we might hear from the rest of the family throughout the book, but that was not the case. Although you can read  entries written by all the family members on their blog - Escape the Good Life.

What we do get is a realistic recounting from a young pair of eyes, seeing the world - literally
- for the first time. New food, uncomfortable toileting situations, cultural shock, travel conditions that aren't cushy and more. But slowly but surely, cracks start appearing in her self absorption...."In my half-asleep state, something within me awakened, and I felt the most calming form of peace imaginable. For just an instant, I let go and peered curiously though that doorway of exciting possibilities, but it was one I was not yet ready to step through."

But she does step through and starts embracing the potential and opportunities that this adventure offers. Descriptions of the sights seen are intriguing, but it is the experiences with the people they met that proved to be the most interesting for me. Family dynamics and interactions also play a large part in this travel/coming of age memoir.

By the time the family hits Mongolia (and the Gobi Desert!) Savannah ..."finally pushed through that barrier of stubbornness I'd always carried to see a new reality, one where I was unbelievably blessed by all the wonderful, positive things in my life. I knew that despite my age, my inexperience, and the minimal impact I had made on the world thus far, I would no longer be able to resist or ignore this new comprehension of my place in it." And the title and cover blurb "How an unwanted journey forced me to see the world with open eyes" fall into place.

You can view a fantastic slide show here  of this leg of their journey. It really brings home what  an absolutely amazing odyssey this family  undertook, both as individuals and as a unit. Not just physically, but emotionally as well. I'm in awe - and of Maggie especially. Read an excerpt of Sihpromatum - I Grew My Boobs in China.

Last we see them, they're on a train headed to Russia. This is just book one - the family's one year adventure stretched to four years. At the writing of this review, Savannah has visited 99 countries on 5 continents.... You can keep up with Savannah on Twitter.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Film on Friday #3 - Blandings Series 1

P.G. Wodehouse is a beloved icon in humourous fiction writing. The Blandings tales span the years, first appearing in 1915, with the last left unfinished with Wodehouse's death in 1975. I was absolutely delighted to learn that the BBC has filmed six episodes and Acorn Media has just released the series based on the inhabitants of Blandings Castle in North America. But, would these beloved characters make the leap to film?

For those who haven't read the books, Blandings Castle is home to Lord Emsworth, his sister Constance, his butler Beach, his son Freddie and an ever changing rota of relatives, visitors and servants. The DVD series is set in the 1920's.

Timothy Spall (Churchill in The King's Speech) was perfectly cast as the 'lord of the manor' whose preoccupation with his prize pig, The Empress, tops anything else. All he wants is to be left alone to potter in his study or garden. He's quite forgetful and muddles through with the help of Beach. Although, he does wield his lordly influence when necessary. Mark Williams played an admirable butler, with a enigmatic demeanor presented up front, and a tipple in the pantry to help the day along. Lord Emsworth's widowed sister Constance - brilliantly played by Jennifer Saunders (Ab Fab) - is determined to bring improvements to both the castle and her brother's life. Her severe pronouncements and scathing facial expressions are enough to scare anyone into submission. Jack Farthing as Freddie stole the show for me though. Freddie is the younger son - a charming womanizer who is always in debt, a little slow on the uptake and who runs home when his finances run low. Farthing excelled in bring Freddie to life. His delivery of Wodehouse's words was spot on and his facial expressions were comical. I quite enjoyed seeing what rakish outfit he would wear next as well.

The physical acting is as much a part of the comedy as the words - exaggerated eye rolls, gestures, pratfalls and more. I found myself watching for Freddie to run into the same tree with the opening of each episode.

I admit to being enthralled with British authors and British television. Blandings combined the best of both for me. This is comedy that is timeless and truly funny. Blandings reminded me so much of the innocent comedies I watched as a youngster. No laugh track (thank goodness!) but occasional background music adds to the episode. I found myself laughing out loud so many times. Blandings was a half hour of farcical fun that was the perfect way to leave the day's stresses behind.  I'll be watching for Season 2. And re-watching Season 1!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Over the Counter #179

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner. Well, this week it's judging a book by it's cover - or not.....

First up was Judging a Book by Its Lover: A Field Guide to the Hearts and Minds of Readers Everywhere by Lauren Leto.

From the publisher Harper Perennial:

Lauren Leto, humor blogger and co-author of Texts from Last Night, now offers a fascinating field guide to the hearts and minds of readers everywhere. Judging a Book by Its Lover is like a literary Sh*t My Dad Says—an unrelentingly witty and delightfully irreverent guide to the intricate world of passionate literary debate, at once skewering and celebrating great writers, from Dostoevsky to Ayn Rand to Jonathan Franzen, and all the people who read them. This provocative, smart, and addictively funny tome arose out of Leto’s popular “book porn” blog posts, and it will delight and outrage literature fans, readers of  Stuff White People Like and I Judge You When You Use Poor Grammar—people obsessed with literary culture and people fed up with literary culture—in equal measure.

For all those overwhelmed readers who need to get a firm grip on the relentless onslaught of must-read books to stay on top of the inevitable conversations that swirl around them, Lauren Leto’s Judging a Book by Its Lover is manna from literary heaven! A hilarious send-up of—and inspired homage to—the passionate and peculiar world of book culture, this guide to literary debate leaves no reader or author unscathed, at once adoring and skewering everyone from Jonathan Franzen to Ayn Rand to Dostoevsky and the people who read them."

Next up was 236 Pounds of Class Vice President: A Memoir of Teenage Insecurity, Obesity and Virginity by Jason Mulgrew.

From the publisher Harper Perennial:

"Jason Mulgrew, popular blogger and author of Everything Is Wrong with Me, continues his depreciating yet hilarious self-reflection with 236 Pounds of Class Vice President. 

Set in Mulgrew’s high school years, this genuine and honest memoir revisits his teenage antics and escapades as he, while navigating the indignity of puberty, attempts to run for vice president of the student body, displays a penchant for long fur capes, and (naturally) wonders about sex. 
Mulgrew’s blog, Everything Is Wrong with me, has received more than 200 million hits since its inception in 2004. Complete with awkward, “what was he thinking?” photos—unmitigated proof of Mulgrew’s ungainly adolescence—236 Pounds of Class Vice President is an no-holds-barred yet tender look at the years some of us would rather forget.

 When Jason Mulgrew enrolls in a private high school in an exciting new neighborhood (North Philly, murder center of the city), he finds himself displaced into a world of privilege and strict standards. His classmates, whose parents are lawyers and bankers, live in houses with yards and pools. Mulgrew, whose longshoreman father bought him a motorcycle upon completion of his driver's test, struggles to relate in this wider world, fighting his way through the gauntlet of high school as an awkward, sexless giant.
Mulgrew tackles the glorious complications, misapprehensions, and obsessions of the teenage mind. He revisits his unhealthy fixations on dogs, his "bird," the Prep, friends who are girls, Kahlúa & Cream, and a certain position in student body government to craft yet another raunchy, honest, and relentlessly funny memoir.

(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, September 4, 2013

The Never List - Koethi Zan

The Never List is Koethi Zan's debut novel. Zan hits us hard right from the first page....

"There were four of us down there for the first thirty-two months and eleven days of our captivity. And then very suddenly and without warning, there were three. Even though the fourth person hadn't made any noise at all in several months, the room got quiet when she was gone. For a long time after that, we sat in silence, in the dark, wondering which of us would be next in the box."

Sarah and Jennifer have been friends since childhood. They've lived by a set of 'never' rules. You know - never leave your drink unattended, never let the gas go below a quarter tank etc. But in their first semester of university, they make a mistake. A costly one. They are kidnapped and held captive by a psychopath named Jack. Some of the girls eventually manage to escape, but of course, their lives are never the same.

Sarah has spent the last ten years hiding in her high-rise apartment. Jack has sent her letters the entire time he's been in prison. When the FBI agent associated with her case brings the news that Jack is up for parole, he asks her to attend the hearing to present her statement against parole. (After only ten years?!) Sarah at first says no, but decides to finally face her past - and reclaim her life. But what she and the other survivors encounter is no less horrifying that their time in the cellar. Some details from the past are slowly revealed as the women try to crack the clues Jack has left for them in an attempt to find evidence to keep Jack in prison longer. Is someone still carrying on his bidding outside of the prison?

Zan's book released before the news of Amanda Berry's release, but the cases are eerily similar.

The book started out quite promising, but the second half just didn't live up to the promise. It seemed like Zan flipped a switch and said 'action! All the right elements are in place for a thriller, but I found some actions stretched credibility for me. Sarah is an agoraphobic suffering but PTSD, but is suddenly able to fly, drive alone, go to places that hold horrific memories and play Nancy Drew. Yes, her coping is discussed but I just found it too much of a stretch. As were some characters. The FBI agent has to be the most ineffectual lawman I've seen in a book in a long time. Connections and coincidences were too neat and ready. The 'twist' ending, while good, was telegraphed long before the final pages.

Zan has worked as an entertainment lawyer for many years and the book seems to draw on that background. Sensationalistic, plotlines that were implausible and too much action. Yes, too much to be believable. Kidnapped twice in one day?!

The book has several cover blurbs from many suspense/thriller authors that I read, which was prompted me to pick up the book in the first place. But for this reader it didn't live up to those blurbs. It wasn't in the same class as Gillian Flynn and Karin Slaughter - comparisons made by the publisher. It was a good, solid debut, but not a stand out for me. That being said, I think Zan has promise and will mature with future books. (Gentle readers be warned - violence and graphic descriptions.) Read an excerpt of The Never List.

You can find Koethi Zan on Facebook and on Twitter.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Human Remains - Elizabeth Haynes

I discovered Elizabeth Haynes last year when I devoured her debut thriller Into the Darkest Corner. (my review)  Her latest book, Human Remains, is even better.

"I should have turned away from the door. I should have gone back into my own house, and locked my door, and thought no more about it....I thought about going back to my kitchen and phoning the police. Looking back, that was exactly what I should have done."

Two sentences from the opening chapter guaranteed to hook you right from the beginning. Human Remains is told in alternating chapters from the viewpoint of Annabel and Colin.

Annabel works as a civilian police analyst for the Briarstone (England) Police Department, tracking patterns in criminal behaviour. When she discovers a badly decomposed body in her own neighbourhood with no sign of foul play she's curious and runs a report looking for other people who have died with no one noticing. And what she discovers makes her take notice - the current year has four times as many as the past years. And those are the reported ones.

Colin, well, Colin is the one they're after. For those decomposing bodies hold a fascination for Colin. As his studies have progressed, Colin has begun helping things along. Oh boy, Colin is a seriously creepy and disturbed individual. His inner dialogue is downright frightening. Haynes has done a bang-up job creating her 'villain' this time around.

I love the back and forth style. Although we know who the 'criminal' is, the tension ratchets up as his behaviour escalates. (But why did I italicize criminal you ask? The question arises - is Colin doing anything that he can be charged with? I know, but you have to read the book to see what a diabolical plot Haynes has come up with. Annabel's chapters are just as suspenseful. Will the higher ups in the department listen to her? And when Colin and Annabel's paths cross......

There is a third set of narratives - that of the deceased. I found these to be the pages I stopped at to think. Haynes gives a voice to her deceased and the questions that the living ask when such a discovery is made. How does a body go undiscovered for years? Why did no one notice?

"You never realize what loneliness is until it creeps up on you - like a disease it is, something that happens to you gradually. I realized it had been years and years since anyone made eye contact with me. If people stop looking at you, do you cease to exist? Does it mean you're not a person anymore? Does it mean you're already dead?"

Their stories just really made me think. The library I work at does serve some marginalized patrons. I've often thought that for some, we may be the only point of contact some days.  In real life, there are many deaths that go unnoticed. One of the most reported 'undiscovered body stories' is that of Joyce Vincent in England.

This is an excellent thriller - dark and disturbing. (Fair warning to gentle readers it's probably not for you). It was a five star page turner for me - devoured in one lazy vacation day. Read an excerpt of Human Remains. (And hey - say hi to your neighbour today...)

"Elizabeth Haynes is a police intelligence analyst, a civilian role that involves determining patterns in offending and criminal behavior. Dark Tide is her second novel; rights to her first, Into the Darkest Corner, have been sold in twenty-five territories. Haynes lives in England in a village near Maidstone, Kent, with her husband and son." You can find Elizabeth Haynes on Twitter and on Facebook.

 See what others on the TLC book tour thought - full schedule can be found here. Haynes is at work on her fourth book - Under a Silent Moon - another crime thriller set in Briarstone. It's on my 'must read' list.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Heist - Janet Evanovich with Lee Goldberg

I've read all Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum novels - most recently Notorious Nineteen last year. (FYI - Takedown Twenty is due out in November) When I needed something light and fluffy at the end of a long day. I do remember thinking at the end of Nineteen that the books were becoming carbon copies, with a few names changed every time.

Well, Evanovich has teamed up with Lee Goldberg, (writer and producer for the TV series Monk among others) and penned the first book in a new series. The Heist was a nice surprise - a fresh, funny, light hearted little read that I quite enjoyed.

FBI Agent Kate O'Hare is good at her job - hunting down criminals. But the one that has continually eluded her for the past five years is Nicolas Fox - the ultimate con man. She finally captures him, only to have the tables turned. Fox is free on condition - that he team up with the FBI to catch a corrupt banker hiding on a private island. Traditional methods won't work; Nick's special skill set is needed. Kate now has to work with the man she's spent five years chasing. And together they'll have to pull the ultimate con job.

Kate is a great new character. She's tough, determined and feisty with a soft centre. And of course in trademark Evanovich style, she has an eclectic family backing her up. (Her dad is a personal favourite. Did you know there are sixteen ways to kill with a set of eyebrow tweezers?) Nick is an ingenious schemer who can smooth talk his way in and out of any situation. And of course, the other requisite element is that will they, won't they sense of romantic attraction.

The plot was lots of fun - I've always enjoyed the planning of crime capers. The back up crew was eclectic. I wonder if some of them will be brought back in future books? I liked Willie - a woman with attitude who can drive anything. You can see Goldberg's hand in the book - much of it felt like a light hearted television detective series, somewhat like Castle. That's a good thing.

Those looking for an entertaining light hearted read will find it here.  Read an excerpt of The Heist.

I did notice that the reader for the audio version of The Heist is my all time favourite narrator - Scott Brick. I had a quick listen to it and his inflection and interpretation would make The Heist even more enjoyable. I think I'll listen to the next in this series - The Chase- due out in February 2014. Listen to an excerpt of The Heist.

Evanovich and Goldberg had fun naming their characters  -  O'Hare and Fox is a sly nod to Aesop's fable of the same name. You can find Janet Evanovich on Facebook.