Thursday, October 31, 2013

Over the Counter #186

What book caught my eye this week as it passed over the library counter and under my scanner?

Well, it might be too late for this year's Hallowe'en costume, but 1000 Incredible Costume & Cosplay Ideas by Yaya Han, Allison Deblasio and Joey Marsocci has some fantastic ideas to keep in mind for next year!

From Quarry Books:

"1000 Incredible Costume and Cosplay Ideas provides a broad and detailed glimpse into the ingenious artistry and attention to detail behind some of the most fabulous costumes you can find. Featuring costumes from popular convention-goers to professional craftsman, this stunning, photo-filled book by Joey Marsocci and Allison DeBlasio of Dr. Grymm Laboratories walks you through scads of your favorite characters as imagined and created by fans."

(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!)

Suburban Legends - Sam Stall

Do you remember all those scary tales that circulated and were absolutely positively true? You know - the young couple out necking in the woods in their car, hear someone trying the door and race off only to find a hook hanging from the handle after their escape. There's tons more like that. Sam Stall has actually gathered together a collection of tales in Suburban Legends. The difference being that these are " True Tales of Murder, Mayhem, and Minivans".

It's one of those books that you pick up, read a few pages and put down. Pick and choose entries from Inhumanly Bad Houseguest, The Ghoul Next Door, Hellish Commutes, Backyard Beasts, Really Desperate Housewives, Lawn of the Dead, Sundry Cul-de-Sacrileges. Some stories you'll recognize from news stories, others have been pulled from old files. Some deal with the paranormal and some are really bad people. Stall puts his own stamp on the retelling of them. They'll leave you either shaking your head or shaking in your boots. Happy Hallowe'en!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Cut to the Bone - Jefferson Bass

When Jefferson Bass put out their first Body Farm novel, I was a big fan. But as the series progressed, I found myself becoming disillusioned. With the last book - the plot was a stretch and forensic anthropologist Dr. Bill Brockton was mooning (drooling) too much over his younger assistant.

The latest book Cut to the Bone (#8) is a prequel. I thought I would give Dr. Bill one more chance and see what the early days of The Body Farm were like.

It's 1992, Bill is married and his son still lives at home and the idea of the body farm is still in the genesis stage. Brockton is called out to a number of crime scenes involving women who have been murdered in horrific ways. As the number of bodies pile up, Bill realizes that the killer is staging his scenes to match past cases from Bill's past. What does he have planned for Dr. Bill?

Well......I still think ole Dr. Bill is a bit of an a**. It's just in the comments he makes - 'joking' with his grad student that he's not a 'real' athlete because he does yoga. And again a second time. He just seems full of himself. All the time. His opinions and attitudes seem dated - this may be down to one of the author's ages - 85. His 'folksy' tone began to grate after awhile.

There are a number of chapters that just seem to be filler. A long narrative dedicated to a grad student's memories of a family trip seemed so out of place - and boring.

Bass seems determined to shock readers with the killer's grisly chapters. The killer's mindset and methods are described in much detail. I was reminded of James Patterson's style - short, titillating chapters. If you like that style, you'll probably like this author. Read an excerpt of Cut to the Bone.

What was good were the forensic details dealing with the origins of The Body Farm. Dr. Bill Bass is one half of this writing duo and was the actual founder.

I chose to listen to Cut to the Bone.  Tom Stechschulte was the reader. He has a very expressive voice that has a lovely rich, raspy tone. However, I found that the killer's voice and Dr. Bill's voice were very similar. Ditto for the grad student Tyler. Listen to an excerpt of Cut to the Bone. 

You can find Jefferson Bass on Facebook.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Accused - Lisa Scottoline

It's been a while since I picked up a book by Lisa Scottoline. I was a big fan of her legal series featuring Bennie Rosato and her firm in the past, but hadn't picked up one of her titles lately.

Her latest book, Accused, (#12) releases today and brings back favourite characters. Mary DiNunzio is no longer an associate with the firm, instead she's just been made partner.

When the firm is approached by a client and asked to look into the murder of her sister, Mary is ready to take on the case. The rest of the team hesitates - the client is thirteen years old and the murderer is already behind bars. But Allegra swears he's innocent. Mary makes her first decision as a partner and takes the case.

Scottoline's characters are warm, funny and real. Mary comes from a vocal Italian family. Her parents and their friends - the three Tonys - are a large part of her life. Scottoline works them into many scenes and their dialogue is quite fun. Scottoline has been quoted as saying that "she need not look past her own family, “The Flying Scottolines” for inspiration." It is the personal story lines, sense of family and friends that make Scottoline's books feel so warm and personable. Mary takes the lead role in Accused both professionally and personally this time around, We don't see as much of the other three lawyers in the firm.

Scottoline is a lawyer herself and the legal details ring true. Scottoline has conceived an interesting plot line. It's not one that will overly challenge hard core whodunit fans, as the outcome is fairly predictable, but it is the delivery that is the draw. The crime is not gory and will appeal to gentle readers. I'd be tempted to label the series 'light legal'. See for yourself - read an excerpt of Accused. Or listen to an excerpt of Accused.

Lisa, a Philadelphia native, graduated magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania, earned a B.A. in English in just three years and received a Juris Doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania Law School cum laude. Lisa worked as a trial attorney until the birth of her daughter, Francesca Serritella. She left the firm to raise Francesca and began a part-time career writing legal fiction. Francesca is now an honors graduate of Harvard, author and columnist. Lisa, as a single parent, considers her greatest achievement raising Francesca and now they co-write the “Chick Wit” column for The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Through her writing, Lisa's contributions have been recognized by organizations throughout the country. Lisa is the recipient of the Fun Fearless Fiction Award by Cosmopolitan Magazine, was named a PW Innovator by Publisher's Weekly and was honored with AudioFile's Earphones Award.

Lisa has served as President of Mystery Writers of America and has taught a course she developed, "Justice and Fiction" at The University of Pennsylvania Law School, her alma mater for which she one an award for Best Adjunct Professor as voted on by the students. You can find Lisa Scottoline on Facebook and on Twitter

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Cuckoo's Calling - Robert Galbraith

I must admit, if the identity of Robert Galbraith had not been exposed, I probably would not have picked up The Cuckoo's Calling. And that would have been my loss, as it's a really good book. I was disappointed with J. K. Rowling's first book after Harry Potter - The Casual Vacancy, but was curious to try this latest.

Cormoran Strike (love the name) is a veteran who was wounded both physically and mentally in the service of his country. He's returned to London and is now working as a private investigator. However, he's behind in his bills, has just one client on the books and has broken up with his long time girlfriend. That's when John Bristow turns up.  John's sister, a famous model, has died. The death has been ruled a suicide, but John doesn't believe it and hires Strike to prove otherwise. The second person through the door that day is Robin - a personable young woman from the temp agency.

The plot in Cuckoo is good, with the final whodunit being not what (or who) I had expected. The journey to the solution was a great trip, with lots of legwork and connections to be followed. It's an intelligent, believable plot. Galbraith chooses an interesting setting - the world of celebrity and has fun exploring (and sometimes skewering) the world of the rich and famous.

Galbraith has created two wonderful characters that I can't wait to see more of. Strike is intelligent, proud and yet vulnerable. I quite enjoyed Robin, who harbours a secret desire to be a sleuth herself. Her careful handling of Strike and his demons is well written. Galbraith lays the foundation for future books with these characters (the sequel is underway).

I chose to listen to The Cuckoo's Calling in audio format. Robert Glenister was the reader and he quickly firmed up the mental image I had built for Strike. His voice is rough around the edges with a bit of a growl that suited the character. His voice for Robin was just as suitable and easily conveyed a female character. British accents suitable to all the classes/characters portrayed were spot on. Glenister's reading speed and tone were excellent and I often felt like I was in the room, listening to conversations. Listen to an excerpt of The Cuckoo's Calling. Or read an excerpt.

This reader will be watching for the next in this series!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Over the Counter #185

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Well two memoirs dealing with the same subject.....

First up was We'll Be The Last Ones To Let You Down by Rachel Hanel.

From the University of Minnesota Press:

"Rachael Hanel’s name was inscribed on a gravestone when she was eleven years old. Yet this wasn’t at all unusual in her world: her father was a gravedigger in the small Minnesota town of Waseca, and death was her family’s business. Her parents were forty-two years old and in good health when they erected their gravestone—Rachael’s name was simply a branch on the sprawling family tree etched on the back of the stone. As she puts it: I grew up in cemeteries.
And you don’t grow up in cemeteries—surrounded by headstones and stories, questions, curiosity—without becoming an adept and sensitive observer of death and loss as experienced by the people in this small town. For Rachael Hanel, wandering among tombstones, reading the names, and wondering about the townsfolk and their lives, death was, in many ways, beautiful and mysterious. Death and mourning: these she understood. But when Rachael’s father—Digger O’Dell—passes away suddenly when she is fifteen, she and her family are abruptly and harshly transformed from bystanders to participants. And for the first time, Rachael realizes that death and grief are very different.

At times heartbreaking and at others gently humorous and uplifting, We’ll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down presents the unique, moving perspective of a gravedigger’s daughter and her lifelong relationship with death and grief. But it is also a masterful meditation on the living elements of our cemeteries: our neighbors, friends, and families—the very histories of our towns and cities—and how these things come together in the eyes of a young girl whose childhood is suffused with both death and the wonder of the living."

Next up was Nine Years Under: Coming of Age in an Inner-City Funeral Home  by Sheri Booker.

From Gotham Books:

"Six Feet Under meets The Wire in a dazzling and darkly comic memoir about coming-of-age in a black funeral home in Baltimore

Sheri Booker was only fifteen years old when she started working at Wylie’s Funeral Home in West Baltimore. She had no idea that her summer job would become nine years of immersion into a hidden world.

With AIDS and gang violence threatening to wipe out a generation of black men, Wylie’s was never short on business. As families came together to bury one of their own, Booker was privy to their most intimate moments of grief and despair. But along with the sadness, Booker encountered moments of dark humor: brawls between mistresses and widows, and long-winded preachers who forgot the names of the deceased. While she never got over her terror of the embalming room, Booker learned to expect the unexpected and to never, ever cry.

This vibrant tour of a macabre world reveals an urban funeral culture where photo-screened memorial t-shirts often replace suits and ties and the dead are sent off with a joint or a fifth of cognac. And like Fun Home and the books of Thomas Lynch, Nine Years Under offers readers an unbelievable glimpse into an industry in the backdrop of all our lives."

(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, October 23, 2013

How To Be a Good Wife - Emma Chapman

I get all excited when I 'discover' an author and I can't wait to share my find with other readers. How To Be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman is one of those discoveries.

Marta Bjornstad has been married to her husband Hector for twenty five years. She lives a defined life, keeping house for her school teacher husband. She cleans, cooks and makes sure everything is 'just right' for Hector. Her mother-in-law Matilda thoughtfully gave her the book "How To Be a Good Wife" as a wedding gift. It's chock full of wonderful advice....

"Your husband belongs in the outside world. The house is your domain and your responsibility." "Let your husband take care of the correspondence and finances of the household. Make it your job to be pretty and gay."

Marta's son has moved away from home and she is even more lonely and isolated than before. She decides to stop taking the pink pills the doctor has prescribed. Is stopping the pills causing her to lose time? See things out of the corner of her eye? And are the memories that are intruding on her real or imagined?

Absolutely delicious! Chapman does a spectacular job of drawing us into Marta's confusion, uncertainty and fear as she questions all that she believes and everything that she knows. I had my suspicions as Chapman slowly dropped crumbs along the way. The tension builds as Marta inches closer and closer what?  I was compelled to keep turning one more page and another and another....I devoured How To Be a Good Wife in a day. What an excellent, excellent debut. I'll be watching for Chapman's next novel. Read an excerpt of How To Be a Good Wife.

Chapman found inspiration for some of her instructional book's quotes How to Be a Good Wife - "originally published in the 1930s for middle-class British couples, and filled with witty and charming aphorisms on how wives and husbands should treat each other."
  Fans of S. J. Watson's Before I Go To Sleep or Alice Laplante's Turn of Mind would enjoy this new author.

You can find Emma Chapman at her website, her blog, on Twitter and Facebook.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Alex - Pierre Lemaitre

I had seen a few mentions of Alex by Pierre Lemaitre around the blogosphere and thought it might be a good fit, given my penchant for crime thrillers.

Was it ever! I was hooked from the first chapter. (And more than a little annoyed at myself that I didn't start reading earlier in the night) Fair warning right from the start - Gentle readers this one's not for you - there is graphic violence and disturbing situations.) Back to that first chapter.....a beautiful young woman named Alex is snatched off the street, taken to an abandoned warehouse and forced into a small wooden crate which is then suspended from the ceiling. Her captor says nothing more to her other than he is going to watch her die. But Alex is resourceful....very resourceful...

A kidnapping is reported and the case is given to Commandant Camille Verhoeven - a man who lost his pregnant wife to a kidnapper - her body was found, but not the perpetrator and he has eschewed all kidnapping cases since.  Verhoeven's boss LeGuen assigns him to the case as he says there is no one else and so Verhoeven reluctantly takes on the case. LeGuen has brought Verhoeven's old team back together. Lemaitre has created a memorable group of investigators that I really enjoyed. But the most memorable is of course Verhoeven.

"People rarely get the measure of Camille on first meeting and rarely appreciate him. This might also be because he's not exactly cheerful. Camille doesn't like himself very much." Camille is also a victim of fetal hypotrophy and stands only 4'11'. "Camille is positively stunted. He sees the world from the viewpoint of a thirteen year old." In contrast, his superior and old friend LeGuen is quite large - the scale is somewhere near three hundred pounds. Armand and Louis fill out the team. Again opposites -  Louise is wealthy with no need to work and Armand is a notorious penny pincher. (His scavenging ways provided a light note in a heavy plot)

And what a plot! Lemaitre is fiendishly clever, leading the reader down one path initially and then veering off in a direction I didn't see coming. I really don't want to give much more away - I love being surprised and Lemaitre successfully caught me unawares. Loved it!

I have to also mention that Frank Wynne did a fantastic job with the translation - very smooth reading with no wooden clunky sentences or form.

Alex is an excellent thriller and a great introduction to a prickly character I want to see more of. Alex was the winner of the CWA International Dagger Award 2013. Read an excerpt of Alex.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Backlash - Lynda La Plante

Lynda La Plante's name was always one I recognized, but until last year I hadn't read any of her books. That quickly changed and I've added her to my list of favourite British mystery authors. La Plante writes a number of series and many have been adapted for television, such as Above Suspicion and Prime Suspect. (These are incredibly popular at the library.)

Bourbon Street Books latest La Plante release is Backlash, the eighth book in the series featuring Detective Chief Inspector Anna Travis.

A late night traffic stop on a van advertising clowns and kid's parties yields one surprise the uniformed officers didn't expect - the body of a woman hidden in back. The driver, Henry Oates, claims that she wasn't the first - and mentions two other young women who have been missing for years. One of the missing is a thirteen year old girl. Her case is one that Detective Chief Superintendent James Langton never solved and it haunts him. But then Oates recants.....Still recovering from surgery that has immobilized him, Langton is forced to let Anna and her team work the case without him.

I was eager to reconnect with Travis and the rest of the team. Anna has still never really dealt with the death of her fiancée and drives herself to keep her mind and body occupied. She's a character I really like - she's smart, tough and driven. My opinion of Langton is ever-changing - he's rude, brusque, opinionated, but just when I think he has no redeeming qualities, he surprises me. Travis is quickly catching up to her superior in leadership and deductive skills. Familiar supporting characters provided a comfortable home base.

"She was gaining a reputation as a very dedicated officer with her tough no -nonsense attitude and almost obsessive attention to detail."

As always, La Plante has crafted a wonderfully involved plot that was a treat to read. We have the guilty party right at the beginning, but it's up to the team to prove their case. And this is where La Plante shines. I really enjoy the pacing of British mysteries - the careful, methodical piecing together of information obtained through painstaking legwork. The case builds layer upon layer, but La Plante has more than one twist up her sleeve before the final reveal.

La Plante has a screenwriting background and some of the descriptions, action and dialogue read like a screenplay - short and to the point, at times pointedly directional. But, I stopped noticing this about fifty pages in and became engrossed in the case. Backlash kept me interested right 'til the last pages. Fans of police procedurals - this one's for you. Those that haven't read previous Travis books would be able to jump in and enjoy this book, but I always enjoy starting a series from book one. (Above Suspicion) Read an excerpt of Backlash. Definitely a recommended read.

"Lynda La Plante's novels, including the Prime Suspect novels, have all been international bestsellers. She is an honorary fellow of the British Film Institute and a member of the UK Crime Writers Awards Hall of Fame. She runs her own television production company, and lives in London and Easthampton, New York." You can find Linda La Plante on Facebook and on Twitter.

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

Friday, October 18, 2013

Film on Friday #5 - Aliyah

The fifth entry in the Film on Friday series is Aliyah, directed by Elie Wajeman. (His first full length film) Aliyah was an official selection for Cannes Director's Fortnight and an official selection of many other festivals.

Alex (Pio Marmai) is 27, and is living a life he seems to have happened upon. He deals drugs for a living, but his main occupation seems to be bailing his older brother out of jams - primarily by financial help, but also physically. Alex, despite his occupation is very likable, but he seems lonely and lost. His brother Isaac (Cedric Kahn) is a different story. Isaac is ignorant, demanding and self-centred and self serving. He is sure his brother will bail him out every time. And Alex does. Until he sees a glimpse of opportunity. His cousin is opening a restaurant in Tel Aviv. Alex envisions himself leaving Paris, escaping  his brother and starting a new life. Will he seize the opportunity or will Isaac stop him? How will he finance his trip? And can he make 'aliyah' - the declarations and knowledge necessary for Jews to immigrate or return to Israel. Perhaps he should stay - could Jeanne (Adele Haenel), a woman he meets at his cousin's party, be the basis of a fresh life in Paris?

Pio does a fantastic job with the character of Alex. His criminal activities are not what we see first - instead it is a young man on repeat cycle - tied to his older brother . Where do the ties of familial responsibility end? I found myself constantly talking to the screen as I watched Aliyah - telling Alex to walk away from his brother and claim his life.  Pio plays Alex with a studied blank face for much of the film. But when he smiles or laughs, you get a glimpse the person he keeps under control and the man he could become. As much as I disliked the character of Isaac, I have to say that Khan played him magnificently. I wasn't sure of Jeanne's motives at first; she seemed to enjoy toying with Alex. Their scene in the café was revealing, but still guarded, as both characters were only able to articulate their feelings through a third person view.

Wajeman plays with white back lighting in many of the scenes, giving the shot (and usually Alex) a stark, blinding moment. Music is used to great effect and I found myself humming along with the song Sugar Man by Rodrigues after the movie ended.

In Aliyah, Wajeman explores familial and cultural ties and obligations juxtaposed with an individual's need to find a sense of belonging on their own terms.

The ending caught me unawares and indeed, I did rewind to make sure I hadn't missed anything. At first I was disappointed and wanted a more clear cut resolution, but then thought about it again. And realized that yes, the ending was fitting. Another great film brought to North America by Film Movement.

Film Movement always includes a short film with their features. On the Road to Tel-Aviv is a fifteen minute short based on actual events. An Arab woman boards a bus. In the wake of recent events, the rest of the passengers disembark and demand that the driver 'do something'. The situation escalates as the driver tries to cope....

  • Aliyah - 2012 /French with English subtitles, 90 minutes.

  • Thursday, October 17, 2013

    Over the Counter # 184

    What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Food and drink this week - it was close to lunch time! ;)

    First up was Noodlemania! 50 Playful Pasta Recipes by Melissa Barlow.

    From the publisher Quirk Books:

    "Kids love pasta! It’s fun, easy to make, and good to eat. Noodlemania! serves up 50 great recipes to play with in the kitchen, from crazy-cute Super Stuffed Slugs and Ladybug Salad to savory Totally Tortellini Kabobs and Big Fat Cheesy Shells. It even has recipes for sweet desserts and snacks, like Sweet Ramen Trail Mix and Crunchy Cinnamon Noodle Ice Cream Sundaes.
    Noodlemania! also teaches basic math skills and includes fun pasta trivia. How many thousands of years ago was the word noodle first used? What is the world record for the largest meatball ever? Let your kids have fun in the kitchen while sharpening their cooking skills with Noodlemania!"

    And something for adults - Poptails by Erin Nichols.

    From the publisher Ulyssess Books:

    "Ice pops — those colorful, on-a-stick, frozen delights — are making a huge comeback. But this time it’s as gourmet creations with specially inspired ingredients. As one sees in this gorgeous full-color cookbook, you can take them to an even higher level of originality by giving them a taste of alcohol for a grown-up kick. Poptails serves up 60 playful, party-friendly recipes that will put the happy in happy hour. With step-by-step instructions and helpful photos, Poptails shows how easy it is to transform favorite flavors like pineapple into boozy frozen desserts like piña colada. You will be amazed at the wide selection of delicious, from lemon verbena vodka and peach prosecco to rum daiquiri and watermelon margarita. The ultimate addition to the hip host’s library of tricks, these cocktail-inspired creations are just the thing to surprise and impress partygoers who appreciate a frosty cold treat with a flavorful zing of booze."

    (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, October 16, 2013

    Songs of Willow Frost -Jamie Ford - Review AND Giveaway

    Jamie Ford's debut novel, The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, was a phenomenal success, topping bestseller list everywhere. (It has been translated into 34 languages!) Ford again revisits history in his second novel, Songs of Willow Frost

    1934 Seattle - The Sacred Heart Orphanage. William Eng is twelve years old. The orphanage celebrates all of the boy's birthdays on the same day. As a special treat, they are allowed to go to a movie. It is there, on the screen, that William sees a beautiful Chinese singer on screen named Willow Frost. He is sure it is his mother. Determined to see if it is the woman of his limited memories, he and his best friend, a young blind girl named Charlotte, run away and wait outside of the theatre where Willow Frost is scheduled to give a live performance.

    Ford explores a fascinating time period in Seattle's history - the fledgling movie industry. I went online many times to follow up with settings, references and incidents mentioned throughout the story. But there is an ugly side to this time period as well - the treatment of minorities, by both Chinese and whites. The Roaring Twenties The Depression are also painted vividly. For although many of us are aware of this time period and the troubles, Ford gives us another look - through a different set of eyes.

    The stories of both Willow Frost and William are poignant. Willow's tale, the choices she was made and that were made for her were distressing and heartbreaking. As were William's. The details of his life in the orphanage are unsettling. The love the two share for each other is wonderfully depicted. But, I did feel that the negative influences in the book, such as social worker and Uncle Leo were caricatures rather than characters. They served their purpose of being the 'bad guys', but were very one dimensional.

     Songs of Willow Frost is a wonderful narrative that explores, love, loss, duty, tradition, hope, redemption and more. Book clubs will find much to discuss with this book.  Read an excerpt of Songs of Willow Frost.

    Jamie Ford's own description of his writing style says it best...
    "My writing career began when I wrote my parent's eulogies. Because of the way my writing career began, I realized that beautiful melancholy will always be my writing partner, and that I will make a living by breaking my own heart on a regular basis." And ours as well.

    "Jamie Ford is the great-grandson of Nevada mining pioneer Min Chung, who emigrated from Kaiping, China, to San Francisco in 1865, where he adopted the Western name “Ford,” thus confusing countless generations. Ford is an award-winning short-story writer, an alumnus of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, and a survivor of Orson Scott Card’s Literary Boot Camp. Having grown up near Seattle’s Chinatown, he now lives in Montana with his wife and children." You can find Jamie Ford on Facebook, on Twitter and on Pinterest.

    See what other book bloggers on the TLC book tour thought. Full schedule can be found here. And thanks to the generosity of Ballantine Books, I have a copy of Songs of Willow Frost to giveaway to one lucky reader. Simply leave a comment to be entered. Open to US on.y, no PO boxes please. Ends Nov. 3/13

    Tuesday, October 15, 2013

    Police - Jo Nesbo

    Jo Nesbo left us wondering at the end of the ninth book (Phantom) in his Detective Harry Hole series if there would be a tenth book. There is indeed - Police. I think it's the best one yet.

    Quite frankly, it's one of the best detective stories I've read in a long time. Nesbo's plotting is spectacular. I really had no idea where the book was going to go. Suspects abound and deceit, lies and corruption are the order of the day from everyone - criminals and cops.

    A mysterious unnamed man in a coma being guarded around the clock in the hospital. Who is he? Why is he so important?  Police officers are being killed on the scenes of old unsolved crimes - ones that they were involved in. necessarily solved. How is someone getting the drop on a police officer? And Harry's old unit? Disbanded. Where is Harry?

    Oh, Nesbo is so clever with his storytelling! I was hooked from the first page to the very last (and very happy that there were 500 delicious pages to enjoy!)  The plot is serpentine with another and then another twist slowly added, entangling the reader.

    Harry Hole is one of the most tortured, conflicted, complicated protagonists in crime fiction. Police finds him in a different place, both physically and mentally. But is it a better place? Hole continues to fight demons both within and without, walking a fine line between chasing criminals and becoming one.

    Police is a brilliantly dark read.  And just when  the story is winding down and you thought you could take a deep breath -  Nesbo snatches it away again in the final pages with another gut wrenching ending that will have fans counting down the days 'til the next entry in this fantastic series. Read an excerpt of Police.

    I have Jo Nesbo and Harry Hole on my must read list. Nesbo combines fantastic characters, great plotting, lots of action and suspense and yes, social commentary into addictive reads. Although you could pick up Police and dive into the series, I think new readers of this series need to start with an earlier book to fully appreciate Harry. You can find Jo Nesbo on Facebook.

    Monday, October 14, 2013

    The Stranger You Know - Andrea Kane - Review AND Giveaway

    Andrea Kane is an author whose name I recognized, but hadn't yet sampled their writing. Kane is a fairly prolific writer, with a number of series to her credit.

    The Stranger You Know is the third entry in her Forensic Instincts series. FI is a group of experts with specialized skill sets and deep pockets, able to go and do what formal agencies can't. In this book, they have been asked to assist by local law enforcement.

    The founder of FI, Casey Woods, was the bait for a serial killer in the past. He's still behind bars, but it seems his reach extends beyond the prison yard. Someone else is either doing his bidding or is carrying on where he left off. And it's personal. The victims? All redheads - just like Casey. A series of taunting phone calls lets her know that her turn is coming...

    Kane has populated the FI crew with an interesting group of support players - a computer expert who has wired their headquarters with an electronic presence known as Yoda, an ex Navy SEAL tough guy, an FBI boyfriend, Hero, the bloodhound and most interesting - a clairvoyant. Claire the clairvoyant plays a large role in this latest entry. All members of the FI team are dedicated - and attractive.

    Kane's writing is easy and flows well. However, the whodunit is easily discerned and I wondered about some methods. But Kane's book is more about the delivery. Her first novels were firmly in the romantic fiction category. She has expanded into the romantic suspense field with her latest series. And quite successfully. The dynamics of the FI team includes a strong shot of romantic interest and tension between two pairs of players. The crime is designed to shock the reader - and Kane does that. The reader is privy to the killer's thoughts and actions. Gentle readers - the violence described is graphic and there are sexual scenes. Action is the order of the day in The Stranger You Know, with the body count increasing at a rapid pace as the killer makes his way to Casey. I did find the final scene a bit rushed.

    While not my usual style of mystery, this is an excellent entry in this genre. It would be a great series to recommend to readers who enjoy Iris Johansen, Allison Brennan and fans of the Monkeewrench series. It's a quick read, one you can easily tuck in your purse, pick up and put down. Read an excerpt of The Stranger You Know.

    "Andrea Kane's psychological thriller The Girl Who Disappeared Twice became an instant New York Times bestseller, the latest in a long string of smash hits. It introduced Forensic Instincts, an eclectic team of maverick investigators, each with different personalities and talents, all with one common bond: a blatant disregard for authority. The Man Without a Face is the next exhilarating installment in the Forensic Instincts series.

    With a worldwide following and novels published in more than twenty languages, Kane is also the author of eight romantic thrillers and fourteen historical romances. She lives in New Jersey with her family, where she is plotting new ways for Forensic Instincts to challenge the status quo." You can find Andrea Kane on Twitter and on Facebook.

    See what other bloggers on the TLC book tour thought. Full schedule can be found here. And thanks to the generosity of Harlequin/Mira, I have a copy of The Stranger You Know to give away to one lucky reader. Simply leave a comment to be entered. Open to US and Canada, no po boxes please. Ends Nov 1/13.

    Sunday, October 13, 2013

    Winner - Confessions: The Private School Murders

    And the lucky winner of a copy of Confessions: The Private School Murders by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro, courtesy of the Little, Brown Book Group is:


    Congratulations! I've sent you an email. 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, October 11, 2013

    Hush Little Baby - Suzanne Redfearn

    Hush Little Baby is Suzanne Redfearn's debut novel.

    You never really know what goes on behind closed doors - sometimes until it's too late. Jillian Kane has what looks to a perfect life - a great job, the millionaire family - a boy and girl, and her husband Gordon, who's a cop and dotes on his children. Sounds like a perfect marriage....except it's not. Gordon is a controlling, cruel man who is mentally and physically abusive to Jillian. And after nine years of hiding it from the world, Jillian is fast reaching her breaking point - except no one believes her - she's done such a great job of hiding everything.

    "How easy it is to sabotage a life. For a year, he’s used my vanity and pride to my own demise. While I’ve covered up his abuse, his deceit, his lies, he took every opportunity to flaunt, exaggerate, and advertise every mistake of mine. Like a magic trick, the illusion is seamless and unchallenged, and without another explanation, it’s believed."

    Readfearn tackles the abuse issue realistically, with questions anyone would ask. Why would Jill cover it up? Why would she stay? That final catalyst is her children - but again, Redfearn raises questions - would Jill be better off to leave them with Gordon?

    Jill does decide to run. Without spoiling the storyline, I am quite glad Redfearn chose to not have this turn into a seamless getaway. And to not portray Jill as a perfect mother. Redfearn slows down the story down midway to provide a 'healing' time for Jill and her kids. Her location and the characters at this juncture, although idyllic, seemed a bit far-fetched to me. But the premise introduces and reinforces what is important in life and what will sustain us at the worst of times.

    The suspense is excellent, with Gordon seemingly one step ahead of Jill all the time. I was invested in her attempts to best her husband at his own game and quickly kept turning pages to see if she could. This isn't a new story, but Redfearn puts her own stamp on it and does it justice.

    Redfearn captures the angst and terror of her main character well.  Redfearn's character is an architect, borrowing from her own life. (Although she is quick to point out in the author's notes, the similarities end there - here husband is "to a wonderful, kind, not-abusive-in-any-way man".)

    Redfearn has blended a sensitive and always timely issue with suspenseful storyline to create a very strong debut. I quite enjoyed Hush Little Baby. Fans of Joy Fielding and Jodi Piccoult would enjoy this new author. Read an excerpt of Hush Little Baby. Suzanne has prepared reading group questions as well.

    Suzanne Redfearn is a summa cum laude graduate from California Polytechnic University and, like her protagonist, is an architect. She is an avid surfer, golfer, skier, and Angels fan. She lives with her husband and children in California.

    Congrats to Suzanne for being chosen as one of Target's Emerging Authors for their November '13 promotion. You can find  Suzanne Redfearn on Facebook and on Twitter.

    Thursday, October 10, 2013

    Over the Counter # 183

    What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Well this week it's goin' to the dogs....with pictures....

    First up was Porch Dogs by Nell Dickerson with a forward by Robert Hicks. I ended up checking this one and taking it home....

    From John F. Blair Publishing:

    "Porch Dogs combines fine-art portraits of man’s best friend with beautiful architectural documentation of the Southern porch.
    Nell Dickerson fondly recalls childhood nights on the sleeping porch of her grandparents’ Mississippi Delta home—the sounds of katydids, cicadas, and tree frogs, the merciful breeze from the overhead fan. But during the heat of the day, the family sought refuge indoors, leaving the dog to his lonely vigil. “I felt like he understood that the porch was the gateway between inside and outside and that it was his duty to keep sentry there in case someone wanted to pass,” she recalls.

    Years later, Dickerson noticed that few new homes had porches, their residents increasingly dependent on air conditioning. “We Southerners used to be social,” she notes. “Now, we risk losing what makes us Southern: porch sitting. But there is hope. Our dogs maintain the tradition.”

    Dickerson weaves her passion for historic preservation—first detailed in her 2011 book, Gone: A Photographic Plea for Preservation—into a fun, uplifting photographic collection that perfectly captures a Southern tradition. Dickerson’s incomparable photographs introduce an unforgettable variety of “house dogs,” “yard dogs,” “shop dogs,” “swing dogs,” “bench dogs,” “top dogs,” “under dogs,” and “dock dogs.”  
    Whether they’re fans of photography or preservation, high art or humble canines, readers won’t be able to keep from smiling at the array of delightful portraits that reflect a former cultural pastime."

    And seriously, who could resist Newborn Puppies: Dogs in Their First Three Weeks by Traer Scott.

    From Chronicle Books:

    "Dog lovers who haven’t raised puppies from birth have missed out on one of the most remarkable and adorable times in a dog’s life. From one to twenty-one days old, puppies undergo great changes, from needing their mothers’ complete care to opening their eyes and ears to the outside world, growing, stretching their legs, and learning to become the dogs that they are. Author/photographer (and new mother) Traer Scott’s love of dogs shines through these intimate images of a range of breeds and types, from champion pups to shelter strays, all of them irresistible. Including an introduction on puppies’ development and the importance of their welfare, this delightful book reveals young dogs as they embark on the adventures of growing up.
    Traer Scott is an award winning photographer and the author of several books on dogs. Her photographs have been featured in National Geographic, Life, People, O, and many other publications. She lives in Rhode Island with her husband, daughter and adopted dog."

    (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, October 9, 2013

    The Wedding Gift - Marlen Suyapa Bodden

    The Wedding Gift is Marlen Suyapa Bodden's debut novel.

    Alabama. The Allen Plantation. 1840's. Sarah is born to her slave mother Emmeline. Three months later the plantation owner's wife gives birth to her daughter Clarissa. They have the same father. The two girls grow up on the same land, but live very different lives.

    What I quite enjoyed was the two viewpoints Bodden used to tell her story - that of the slave Sarah and that of Theodora, the owner's wife. It was an interesting and thought provoking look at enslavement - from two perspectives. While Sarah is property according to the law, is Theodora any different? Her husband treats her badly, but society, obligations and other ties prohibit her escape. Neither woman is in control of their life.

    Bodden has done her research - many historical facts are woven into her narrative. At times though, I felt like getting that information across overshadowed the story at the cost of character development. I did not find myself as drawn to Sarah as I thought I would. Instead it was her mother Emmeline who was my favourite.

    But I did find myself caught up in Sarah and Theodora's stories. Would Sarah run? Or stay with Clarissa? Would Clarissa marry for love or to add to her father's wealth? There are many supporting characters whose stories I found myself wanting more - especially the midwife Miss Mary.

    However, I was disappointed with the ending  - it was abrupt, jarring and just didn't fit for this reader. While it was an admirable twist, I just didn't feel like it belonged with the story I'd just immersed myself in. The second reveal at the end was telegraphed long before it was finally spelled out. I found it somewhat annoying that Bodden held this back - I found myself backtracking and rereading to see if I had missed something.

    I also admit to being spoiled - two of my favourite books are slave narratives - Allende's Island Beneath the Sea and Hill's Book of Negroes. It was hard not to compare Bodden's work with these two stellar novels. For a first novel, I think Bodden did a good job and will continue to grow as a writer.  Her passion for her chosen subject did shine through - she is a human rights lawyer and a descendant of slaves herself) Read an excerpt of The Wedding Gift.

    Marlen Suyapa Bodden is a lawyer at The Legal Aid Society in New York City, the nation’s oldest and largest law firm for the poor. She drew on her knowledge of modern and historical slavery, human trafficking, and human rights abuses to write The Wedding Gift, her first novel. Marlen is a graduate of New York University School of Law and Tufts University. In 2012, the University of Rhode Island awarded Marlen an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.

    You can find Marlen Suyapa Bodden on Facebook and on Twitter.

    Tuesday, October 8, 2013

    A Question of Honor - Charles Todd

    A Question of Honor is the fifth book in Charles Todd's wonderful Bess Crawford mystery series.

    1918. Bess is a nursing sister in England, doing her part in the First World War. Bess's first duty is to the wounded and her profession, but she can't help but become involved in murder and mystery that cross her path.

    In a A Question of Honor, we get travel back to Bess's childhood in India with her father, a regimental leader and mother as well. Many of the children  of officers in the Colonel Sahib's regiment were sent back to England for eduction. One of those officers, Wade,  was marked a murderer, following the deaths of five people in England after one of his visits back home. He escaped into the wilderness of Afghanistan, but was presumed dead. But while working in a hospital, Bess hears that Wade is still alive - and still serving his country under another name - that of the family he killed. Bess decides she must investigate further......

    I love this period series. Todd masterfully brings the settings and time period to life with wonderfully descriptive passages. The sense of honor, duty, loyalty, social mores, skills and conversation all combine to richly recreate this bygone era.

    Bess is a wonderful protagonist - intelligent, inquisitive and brave. We get to see more of Bess's parents in this latest book as they too become involved in the search for a murderer. Bess's friend Simon has healed from injuries sustained in a previous book and is also very involved. I'd like to see Todd take their relationship to a different level - beau - instead of friend.

    Todd's mysteries are always intelligent with no gore and are presented in a fashion that suits the era represented. It is fun to watch the solution being pieced together without modern methods or tools. Rudyard Kipling makes an appearance and adds to the solving of the mystery as well.

    I've chosen to listen to the last few books as I really enjoy the reader - Rosalyn Landor. She has a wonderful British accent and her voice completes the mental image I've conjured up for Bess. She portrays male characters just as well and the listener is easily able to discern who is speaking. Her tone are rich and 'plummy'. She easily captures the and conveys  the time periods and social niceties of the tie. For me, this is one of the series I prefer to listen to, but it's just as good in print! Fans of Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series would enjoy Bess. Definitely recommended.

     Listen to an excerpt of A Question of Honor. Or read an excerpt of A Question of Honor.

    Monday, October 7, 2013

    Mother, Mother - Koren Zailckas

    Koren Zailckas? Yes, you may recognize the name - Zailckas penned the New York Times best selling memoir Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood.

    Zailckas turns her hand to fiction with her debut novel Mother, Mother.

    Oh man, where to start.....

    Josephine Hurst likes things her way - perfect. Her perfect. And she lovingly imposes her will on her family - husband Douglas, daughter Violet and son Will. Her other daughter Rose has run away from home.

    Zailckas lets us know right from the first pages that Josephine isn't like other mothers, as much as she tries to portrays that image. "Thou shalt feign perfection and thou shalt not air the family laundry. "The whole family lives in a state of permanent watchfulness....just waiting....Douglas chooses to self medicate with alcohol and leaves his children to fend for themselves. Violet has chosen drugs. Rose escaped. And William has been diagnosed as epileptic and autistic. (But it took Josie a bit to find a doctor who agreed with her diagnosis)

    Mother, Mother is told from two viewpoints  - that of Violet and William. Both narratives are wildly different - Violet know her life isn't normal and wants to escape like Rose, while William is determined to defend his mother. The same events are seen through different sets of eyes. But as a reader, both accounts only serve to underscore how twisted, manipulative and insidious Josephine is. And I mean really, really terrifying....

    There is no gray territory, no sitting on the fence, no reserving judgement in Zailckas's novel. You'll be rooting for Violet, hoping she can find the strength she needs, wanting to reach into the pages and shake Douglas and wake him up to wake him up to what is happening around him. William needs to be deprogrammed as quickly as possible. Where is Rose? And Josephine...what's frightening is that there are people like this in the world.

    "Her mother's eyes had held Violet with a looks-could-kill glare. It was a face that carried a vindictive warning. A face that told Violet, Just you wait..."

    Mother, Mother is a thriller in the highest sense - we know there's a monster in the closet, even if others don't see it. The question is - what happens when the lights go off?

    You won't be turning the lights off until you're done this book - I raced through most of it one late night and got up early to see it through to the end. Many books have been touted as appealing to fans of Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl.  Few, if any, have lived up to that recommendation. Mother, Mother does. Think Mommie Dearest meets Psycho meets Girl Interrupted. See what I mean - read an excerpt of Mother, Mother. Whatever Zailckas writes next - I'm reading.

    You can find Koren Zailckas on Twitter.

    Sunday, October 6, 2013

    Winners - Bait - J. Kent Messum

    And the three lucky winners of a copy of Bait by J. Kent Messum, courtesy of Plume Books are:

    1. Anita Yancey
    2. Christa
    3. Charlotte

    Congratulations! I've contacted you by email for your mailing addresses. 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.

    Saturday, October 5, 2013

    Star Wars Reads Day II with DK Canada

    Today is Star War Reads Day II!! Huh?
    "Star Wars Reads is an international day-long celebration of literacy and all things Star Wars."
    Fans of reading and a certain galaxy far, far away have reason to rejoice: Star Wars Reads Day II is coming to Canada October 5, 2013. And we're celebrating with DK Canada today!
    And to help me celebrate  - I have a very special guest blogger today!
     Five year old Max is the reviewer today! (With a little help from his Mom!)
    Check out what he had to say about some of Dorling Kindersley's great Star Wars Leveled readers.
    Star Wars - The Clone Wars: Don’t Wake Up the Zillo Beast (Pre - Level 1) By Jon Richards

    "My name is Max and I like this book.

    It talks about the creatures in Ztar Wars. My favourite is the Zillo Beast because it is really big and I like big stuff. Mom likes this book because it gives us clues on how to say the words.

    We both like the pictures. I think my friends would like this book."

    Star Wars - The Clone Wars: Chewbacca and the Wookie Warriors (Level 2) By Simon Beercroft

    This book is about Wookies, but mostly Chewbacca. It teaches people about the ways of the Wookie. They are big but only scary if you are fighting them. My mom says Chewie is bigger than my dad. He is very old, 200 years old, but they can be older than 600 years. He helps Ahsoka get away from his enemy, the Trandoshans. I would like it more if it talked about other Wookies.

    I needed only a little help from my mom with the big words. I think people who like furry things would like this book because Wookies are very furry. It was fun to do the quiz."

    Star Wars The Clone Wars: Bounty Hunters for Hire (Level 2)
    By Catherine Saunders

    "This book is about Bounty Hunters. I can read this book with help from my mom. My favourite bounty hunter is 4-LOM because he’s a robot and a bounty hunter at the same time. He teams up with Zuckuss to help sometimes. There are lots of bounty hunters and they work for bad guys like Jabba the Hutt.

    I like that there is a quiz at the end of the book; it is fun to look for the answers. I think that someone who likes Star Wars and want to learn about bounty hunters should read this book

     Thank you Max for helping us to celebrate reading! Your reviews are wonderful!
    Check out the Star Wars Reads Facebook Page. May the force be with you!

    Friday, October 4, 2013

    Getting crafty with DK Canada

    My favourite leisure activity is reading - no surprise eh? But running a close second is creating. I love trying new crafts at least once and my craft room (yes I am lucky enough to have a whole room to myself) reflects that!
    I always enjoy giving a gift that's hand crafted - it's personal and unique. To help you find ideas, DKCanada has a great selection of craft books on a 30% off until Oct. 15/13. The one that caught my eye was Handmade Gifts. There are so many ideas and choices within - all categorized under recipient categories: For the Home, Jewellery, Pampering, Accessories, Pet Lovers, Edible Gifts and Gift Wrap. Within those categories are a wealth of ideas and techniques. Some crafts were not new to me, but the ideas were.
    There's a great idea for handmade journals using personalized covers, such as old maps that I think would translate well into a craft for the teens at my library. The same method could be used to produce photo albums. Another great (inexpensive too!) idea was using found or dollar store vases and customizing them with a homemade stencil and permanent marker. Easy and cute.
    Soap making is a little more involved. When I worked as a historical interpreter, I made lye soap regularly as a demonstration. The luxury soaps in Handmade Gifts might be a little easier on the skin! Here's a look at the instructions for lemon soap. (Soap variations link here) This sneak peek also gives you an idea of why I love Dorling Kindersely books - there are always full colour, clear pictures to accompany instructions or descriptions. Instructions are concise and easily understood. The layout of DK books is attractive and geared towards the reader.
    With Christmas coming up, home baked cookies and truffles are perfect hostess gifts. (The macarons look delicious!) Recipes included along with some great ways to 'wrap' food items. How to wrap or present those other gifts? How about a hand stenciled bag that can be re-used. Your imagination is the limit on designs. Hand stamp some Kraft paper with the little ones. (another idea for a craft for the smaller folk at my library)There are templates for creating your own gift bags with ribbon handles as well as folding boxes.

    Indulge your creative side! And if you start'll be ready for Christmas. :)

    Thursday, October 3, 2013

    Over the Counter #182

    What book caught my eye this week as it passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Well, this week it was The Star Trek Craft Book - Make it So by Angie Pedersen

    It caught my eye as this Saturday, Oct 5th is Star Wars Reads Day to promote literacy. A Bookworm's World will be having a special  guest blogger that day to help celebrate - make sure you stop in!

    From the publisher, Simon and Schuster:

    "Create 25 unique Star Trek–inspired crafts with The Star Trek Craft Book! Whether you’re a “Trekker in Training” or a seasoned craft whiz, you’ll find a project in these pages to pique your interest.These fun, quirky, and even practical crafts range from accessories to décor to toys. Boldly experiment with a variety of crafting projects, including crochet, sewing, embroidery, felting, and much more. Each project is ranked according to complexity and skill level—from Ensign to Admiral—and accompanied by easy to follow instructions and photos. Full of Star Trek facts and imagery, crafty tips, and fun, The Star Trek Craft Book is perfect for Star Trek fans and enterprising crafters alike."

    (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, October 2, 2013

    Children of the Revolution - Peter Robinson

    I don't even bother looking at the flyleaf on Peter Robinson's books. I just know I'm in for a good read with whatever case he's cooked up for Inspector Alan Banks. Children of the Revolution is the latest (21st) entry in this favourite series.

    Was it an accident? When the body of a recluse, once a professor at local Eastvale College, is found at the bottom of a ravine in an area difficult to access, it looks like it may be. Perhaps a sucicide.It is only when they the local constable finds an envelope containing a significant amount of cash on the body, that Banks and his team are called in. Maybe it was murder. But why wasn't the cash taken? Where did this destitute man come up with such a sum?

    As Banks and his team dig into his background, surprising revelations are revealed. Professor Miller was accused of sexual misconduct at the school, summarily dismissed and that began his descent to the marginalized life he was leading. Further investigation leads them to a connection with Lady Veronica Chalmers. The higher ups warn Banks away from this line of investigation, but of course he can't leave it be.

    The victim in this case is close to Banks' age. Robinson has moved his character steadily forward, both chronologically and in his personal life. This man's death has Alan taking a second look at his own life. This is one of the things that have made this series one of my favourites - the personal lives of the characters. I often feel like one of the locals in the pub, catching up on the latest. Banks' music selections are a big part of the books as well -  I've often followed up on these and have discovered many new artists.

    Recurring characters such as Winsome and Annie are also back. Winsome and her calm ways are a perennial favourite. Annie is a character I used to enjoy, but her personality has changed since her accident a year ago. She is more difficult now, with rougher edges and less patience. She too, is aware of the changes in herself. Robinson adds another female character to his team in this latest book. Gerry Masterson is young and green, but brilliant at research. Will she fit in with the team? I quite liked her and hope she continues to be a part of the series going forward.

    Robinson's mysteries are always intelligent, well thought out and a pleasure to read. In Children of the Revolution, we are taken back forty years to the early 1970's, Communism, Marxism, political activism and more. Specific references had me off to the computer to follow up. (Yes, Robinson's book is based on facts) Robinson presents many options, alternatives and paths to explore alongside of Banks and his team. Attention to detail will lead careful readers to the whodunit before the final pages, but this won't lessen anyone's enjoyment of this latest entry in an excellent series. Robinson still managed to surprise me with the ending.

    Read an excerpt of Children of the Revolution. You can find Peter Robinson on Facebook.

    Tuesday, October 1, 2013

    Help for the Haunted - John Searles

    John Searles is an author I hadn't read before. Help for the Haunted is his third novel.

    The back cover blurb was more than enough to have me interested in the book.

    "... a most unusual family their deep secrets, their harrowing tragedy, and, ultimately, a daughter's discovery of a dark and unexpected mystery."

    Searles has achieved something that is getting harder and harder to do with this reader - he surprised me, he kept me on my toes and kept me guessing. His premise is unusual and his delivery of his tale kept me riveted.

    Rose and Sylvester Mason have an unusual profession - they help those who need help ridding themselves, their family or their dwellings of haunted, possessed or dispossessed souls. Their children Sylvie and her older sister, also named Rose, are aware of but not really part of the work. Until the night Rose and Sylvester are killed - by someone their parents had tried to help.

    A year later, Sylvie lives with her sister Rose as her guardian in the family home. Sylvie begins to question the case against her parents. Did she really see the killer? Searles moves the story from past to present, letting us be a silent witness to Sylvie's attempt to make sense of her life - and find the truth.

    Sylvie is such an engaging narrator. The reader just wants to protect her, to warn her, to shield her from the inevitable results her searching will bring. The other characters made me wary - everyone else seemed to have their own agendas and secrets - from sister Rose, to the neighbour, the local priest, the reporter and more....

    The search kept me off kilter. I suspected everyone - and everything. For Searles spins his story so that we are never quite sure of what is real and what is otherworldly. What is in the basement? "I saw it: the yellowy glow from the basement window. After all those months of darkness, whatever it was down there had turned on the light once more." Who is the strange girl who lived with them for a summer? What is Rose trying to hide from Sylvie? Who keeps dropping off food on their front stoop? Searles slowly but surely drops hints and unexplained clues, ensuring I read 'just one more chapter' until far too late one night. The reader has to notice those bread crumbs and follow them through to the unexpected and original finale.

    Help for the Haunted was a completely different read for me - one I really enjoyed. Read an excerpt of Help for the Haunted. A reading group guide is also available.

    John Searles is the author of the national bestsellers Boy Still Missing and
    Strange but True. He frequently appears as a book critic on NBC's Today show and CBS's The Early Show. He is the Editor-at-Large of Cosmopolitan. His essays have been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other national newspapers and magazines. He lives in New York City and can be found on Facebook and also on Twitter.

    See what others on the TLC Book Tour thought. Full schedule can be found here. Fans of Jodi Picoult will want to pick this one up - she's the front cover blurb.