Monday, March 31, 2014

Black Chalk - Christopher J. Yates- Review AND Giveaway (International!)

Black Chalk is Christopher J. Yates's debut novel.

"It was only ever meant to be a game. A game of consequences, of silly forfeits, childish dares. A game to be played by six best friends in their first year at Oxford University. But then the game changed: the stakes grew higher and the dares more personal, more humiliating, finally evolving into a vicious struggle with unpredictable and tragic results."

Black Chalk opens in present day with an unnamed narrator remembering his first days at Oxford and the beginning of the game. The narrative flips between then and now....fourteen years later when we know something has gone horribly wrong. Our narrator is not mentally stable, rarely ventures outside, doesn't open his curtains and has an elaborate system to remind himself to eat and drink. He begins to write down his memories of that time - but are they reliable?

I was quite sure I knew which of the six was the narrator, then found I was mistaken - and that my assumptions about the path the book would take were all quite wrong. Yates drops little hints throughout via small offhand comments or bits of foreshadowing that had me constantly guessing as to who the survivor be.

Reading Black Chalk was like watching a frightening film - you know, that creepy feeling in the pit of your stomach when you know characters are making decisions that can't end well. And yet, you can't stop watching (reading) until you know how it ends.

And Black Chalk was frightening. Although Yates has penned a fictional work, I think the origins of it are based in truth. As I read, I thought of hazings gone wrong at schools, the desire to 'fit in', to be the 'winner'. But at what cost? And who decides to 'up the stakes'?

"And none of them seemed for even a moment to consider that, for the Game to end, they would have to subject one another to greater and greater humiliations. It couldn't remain light-hearted forever."

And it doesn't. Yates takes his characters and plot to some dark places. Black Chalk is a twisting labyrinth of a tale with something terrible waiting at the centre. My only quibble is the ending - I found it a bit unsatisfying. But I think it's just my desire for all threads to be neatly tied up and resolved. Read the first two chapters of Black Chalk.

"Christopher J. Yates studied law at Wadham College, Oxford from 1990-93 and initially pursued a career in law before he began working in puzzles, representing the UK at the World Puzzle Championships. Since then he has worked as a freelance journalist, sub-editor and puzzles editor/compiler. In 2007 he moved to New York City with his wife, and currently lives in the East Village." You can find Christopher J. Yates on Twitter and on Facebook."

I'm starting off the TLC book tour for Black Chalk today. See what other bloggers thought of Black Chalk. Full schedule can be found here.

I have a copy of Black Chalk to give away to one lucky reader. And it's international! Simply leave a comment to be entered! Ends April 19/14.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Winner - The Book Thief on Blu-ray

And the lucky winner of a copy of The Book Thief on Blu-ray, courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment 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.

Winner - The Doll

The lucky winner of a copy of The Doll by Taylor Stevens,
 courtesy of Random House 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, March 28, 2014

Over the Counter #205

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Well, history takes the stage this week.

First up was Vanished: The Sixty-Year Search for the Missing Men of World War II by Wil S. Hylton.

From the publisher, Riverhead Books:

"In the fall of 1944, a massive American bomber carrying eleven men vanished over the Pacific islands of Palau, leaving a trail of mysteries. According to mission reports from the Army Air Forces, the plane crashed in shallow water—but when investigators went to find it, the wreckage wasn't there. Witnesses saw the crew parachute to safety, yet the airmen were never seen again. Some of their relatives whispered that they had returned to the United States in secret and lived in hiding. But they never explained why.

For sixty years, the U.S. government, the children of the missing airmen, and a maverick team of scientists and scuba divers searched the islands for clues. They trolled the water with side-scan sonar, conducted grid searches on the seafloor, crawled through thickets of mangrove and poison trees, and flew over the islands in small planes to shoot infrared photography. With every clue they found, the mystery only deepened.

Now, in a spellbinding narrative, Wil S. Hylton weaves together the true story of the missing men, their final mission, the families they left behind, and the real reason their disappearance remained shrouded in secrecy for so long. This is a story of love, loss, sacrifice, and faith - of the undying hope among the families of the missing, and the relentless determination of scientists, explorers, archaeologists, and deep-sea divers to solve one of the enduring mysteries of World War II."

Next up was Behind the Burly Q: The Story of Burlesque in America by Leslie Zemeckis.

From Skyhorse Publishing:

"Burlesque was one of America’s most popular forms of live entertainment in the first half of the 20th century. Gaudy, bawdy and spectacular, the shows entertained thousands of paying customers every night of the week. And yet the legacy of burlesque is often vilified and misunderstood, and left out of the history books. By telling the intimate and surprising stories from its golden age through the women (and men!) who lived it, Behind the Burly Q reveals the true story of burlesque, even as it experiences a new renaissance."

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

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Mind of Winter - Laura Kasischke

Do you ever decide to read a book solely based on the cover? The cover of Laura Kasischke's newest novel Mind of Winter seemed to promise a deliciously creepy read. And it was.

On a snowy Christmas morning Holly Judge awakes.... "and knew: Something had followed them home from Russia."

Well, I was hooked. What could this something be? A spirit? A ghost? A demon? Or something of this world - bad luck, misfortune, debts?

Kasischke gives Holly free rein as the narrator of Mind of Winter. The entire book is told in a stream of consciousness from Holly. From the opening pages I thought something was 'off' with Holly. Her whirlwind mind sucks the reader into her confusion. And then her Russian adopted daughter Tatiana is introduced and my suspicions shifted. And then shifted again. Holly is able to easily explain away all of her daughter's odd behavior. And we are again left wondering what is truly happening.

Interspersed amongst Holly's thoughts are memories. Memories of Holly and Eric's trip to Russia to pick up their adopted daughter. There are clues tucked away into those memories that gave credence to my suspicions.

The blizzard that isolates Holly and Tatiana is the perfect backdrop for what may be a descent into either madness or horror. I admit to feeling slightly underwhelmed with the resolution.

Still, Mind of Winter was an atmospheric, one sitting under a solitary lamp late at night read. Read an excerpt of Mind of Winter.

Laura Kasischke teaches in the MFA program at the University of Michigan. A winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry, she has published seven collections of poetry and nine novels, two of which have been made into films, including The Life Before Her Eyes. She lives in Chelsea, Michigan, with her husband and son.

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

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Four Friends - Robyn Carr

Every once in awhile, I need to step away from my usual murder and mayhem and read something different.

Robyn Carr's latest book, Four Friends, seemed like a good choice. (And I really liked the cover - I have some old chairs that may just receive a bright coat of chalk paint this spring.)

Carr quickly introduces us to four women living in the same fairly affluent neighbourhood.  They're all in their forties, with successful careers and enviable lives. Or so you would think, looking from the outside in.

But there are cracks in each....Gerri discovers that her husband has had an affair. And so has school principal Andy's husband. Sonja, who doggedly pursues every alternative health therapy going, overwhelms her husband, and he leaves.  Their newest neighbour, widow BJ, is quite private with her life, but is slowly drawn into the lives of the other three.

Carr candidly explores women's friendships as well as other relationships - maternal, familial and spousal. She does this through a variety of crises and solutions that touch on health concerns, drugs, drinking, sexuality, spousal abuse, mental health, infidelity and more. The lives of the four women's families are brought into this exploration with the children and partners begin given a voice as well.

At times I felt a bit overwhelmed with the sheer volume of crises that befall these four. But again, we never know what goes on behind closed doors do we?

Take charge Gerri was the lead character and I have to admit that I found her to be the most annoying. She's definitely someone I would avoid in real life. One of her lines in the first few pages had me laughing, rather than empathizing, (although it seemed to be written in all seriousness). ...."When Gerri had been brought to her knees by a killer hemorrhoidectomy, Sonja was there, drawing the sitz bath, making broth, administering pain meds and, of course, she was armed with the perfect, natural, gentle laxative. Gerri had learned you just don't give the right laxative enough credit until you find yourself in that position." The character I was actually drawn to the most was gentle Bob the carpenter and his dog Beau. His calm, measured way of dealing with things was quite appealing. His relationship with feisty Andy was my favourite 'situation' of Four Friends.

I applaud Carr for tackling so many current, topical and relevant issues. But for this reader, there were just a few too many. Some of the characters and situations seemed 'textbook' rather than engaging. Still, Four Friends was an easy read and a good diversion for an evening for me. And a reminder to appreciate your friends.

Established Carr fans will not be disappointed. See for yourself - read an excerpt of Four Friends.

You can keep up with Robyn Carr on Facebook and on Twitter.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Citadel - Kate Mosse

Welcome back resident guest blogger Julia! Today, Julia shares her thoughts on Kate Mosse's latest book - Citadel.

"Citadel is the third novel in a trilogy of historical adventures.  The story takes place in 1942 - 1944, during the German occupation of France.  Ms. Mosse brings to life the beautiful landscape of southern France, contrasted with the horrors of the Nazi occupation.  The heroine of the book, Sandrine Vidal, is a young woman working for the resistance with a secret group of women, including her older sister.  
There is also another story within the book.  A young monk in the 4th century travels across France to place a document in a safe place.  Ms. Mosse takes the reader back to the 4th century for small glimpses into the monk’s travels throughout the novel. 
As the story unfolds, the reader learns there are several people trying to find the Codex, the hidden document.  They believe the Codex will reveal a secret so powerful it will change the course of the war.  There is an element of fantasy and magic surrounding the Codex, which is contrasted with the very real horrors of this time.  
The best parts of the novel are the glimpses provided into what it was like to live in German-occupied France.  Ms. Mosses brings the reader right into the warm and beautiful landscape, contrasted with the fear and brutality of the Nazi occupiers.   She brings to life the daily struggles of the citizens - neighbours informing on neighbours, multiple check points to travel within the town, endless paperwork, and constant fear. 
There are a lot of characters in the story, and I sometimes found it hard to keep straight.  It was, however, refreshing to read about the women who worked in the resistance movement and the risks they took to save their country.  The pictures painted of their lives are very vivid, real, and sometimes frightening.  
This book is rich in characters, stories, and action.   This review is but a glimpse into the complexity of the novel.  
I have not read the previous two books in this series, Labyrinth and Sepulchre, but this book certainly can stand on its own.  However, I now plan on reading the first two books! "
As always, thanks Julia for your thoughtful review!
You can keep up with Kate Mosse on Twitter.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Accident - Chris Pavone - Review AND Giveaway

I read Chris Pavone's debut novel, an Edgar award winner, The Ex-Pats, last year. (my review)

The Accident is the title of Pavone's new book.....and it's also the title of the book within the book. Huh?

An unnamed author opens the pages of Pavone's book with the last page of his book..."Because if what you are reading is a finished book, printed and bound and distributed into the world, I am, almost certainly, dead."

This manuscript has the power to ruin  - and everyone wants their hands on it - for very different reasons. From the literary agent who receives the original copy, to other agents, publishers, politicians, journalists and more, including a CIA operative. The Accident reveals more than one crime committed by powerhouse media mogul Charlie Wolfe.  The race is on between those determined to bring the book to light - and those just as determined to destroy it.

Chris Pavone is a clever, clever writer. He worked for many years as an editor and it shows in his writing. His prose are tight and concise and his story draws the reader in from the first pages and slowly but surely reels them in as another piece of the puzzle is added. The Accident explores the world of publishing and seems to have an added sense of the inside track woven in.

I found the opening pages intriguing, but it took me a few chapters to get a handle on all the characters and their motivations. But once I did, I was caught up in the machinations, plotting and intrigue of those determined to have the manuscript. And bit by bit we learn what secret will be revealed if the book is published. Pavone has one last twist up his sleeve before the final pages - one I could not have predicted.

Isabel was a wonderfully likable protagonist. Kate from The Expats makes a cameo appearance as well.

Pavone has crafted another smart, sharp thriller - one that will keep the reader on their toes, with another connection or revelation made with every chapter. Read an excerpt of The Accident.

"Chris Pavone is the author of the New York Times-bestselling The Expats, winner of the Edgar Award. He was a book editor for nearly two decades and lives in New York City with his family."
You can find Chris Pavone on Facebook.

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

And thanks to Crown Publishing, I have a copy to giveaway. Simply leave a comment to be entered. Open to US only, no PO Boxes please. Ends March 19/14.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Over the Counter #204

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner. It's all about my sweet tooth this week!

First up is The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook: More Than 100 Recipes From the Best Little Bakery in the South by Cheryl Day and Griffith Day.

(Seriously I'm thinking of buying this one - I didn't see anything I didn't want to make and/or eat. More eating than making)

From the publisher, Artisan Books:

"Nationally recognized and locally adored for its decadent homespun desserts and delicious rustic breads, Back in the Day Bakery is a Savannah landmark.

To celebrate the bakery's tenth anniversary, this duo has written a book filled with customers' favorite recipes. It's packed with Cheryl and Griff's baking know-how plus recipes for their famous Buttermilk Biscones, Old-Fashioned Cupcakes, Chocolate Bread, Cinnamon Sticky Buns, S'more Pie, Almond Crunchies, Drunk Blondies, Pinkies Chocolate Lunch-Box Treats, Rustic Cheddar Pecan Rounds, and much more. Irresistible full-color photographs of food and behind-the-scenes bakery shots will give readers a glimpse into the sweet daily life at the bakeshop. Celebrating family traditions, scratch baking, and quality ingredients, The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook is like a down-home bake sale in a book."

Next up was Bake It, Don't Fake It: A Pastry Chef Shares Her Secrets for Impressive (and Easy) From-Scratch Desserts by Heather Bertinetti.

From the publisher, Atria Books:

"Looking to impress your friends and family with decadent desserts but afraid you lack the skills to pull it off? Are you reaching for that packaged cake mix and can of frosting instead of whipping something up from scratch? Fear no longer— we’ve got the fix for you. Heather Bertinetti, a talented pastry chef with years of experience in Manhattan’s top eateries, is sharing her insider tips for how to make restaurant-worthy desserts right in your very own kitchen.

Bake It, Don't Fake It! is filled with recipes perfect for the home cook, such as Bourbon- Chocolate Pecan Pie, Strawberry Daiquiri Truffles, Red Velvet Macarons, and PB&J Whoopie Pies. Once you learn the whys and why nots of baking, you’ll be able to get creative and give all of your favorite treats a special touch. As an added bonus, you’ll find Heather’s “Chef It Up!” tips throughout the book, where Heather reveals her tricks for giving homemade desserts the wow presentation factor. All of the equipment you’ll need is probably already in your kitchen and all of the ingredients are readily available in your local supermarket, so it’s time to get baking!"

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

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Deepest Secret - Carla Buckley - Review AND Giveaway

Carla Buckley is a new to me author. The Deepest Secret is her third novel.

A rainy night...a deserted road....a quick flash of something in the headlights....a distracted driver....and lives are changed forever.

From the beginning we know that Eve has struck her best friend's daughter Amy - and that she chooses to not report it. Why? Her son. Tyler has a rare disease called Xeroderma Pigmentosum. His life is a tightly controlled orchestration of avoiding UV rays from not just the sun, but from headlights, light bulbs and more. And Eve is the conductor. "What will happen to Tyler?" And so, she makes the fateful decision to drive away.

Buckley has come up with an excellent premise. How far would you go to protect the ones you love? At what cost? Could you live with yourself?

The mystery takes a backseat to Buckley's deft exploration of family dynamics and relationships of all types. Three main characters are given a voice and a narrative. There are many secrets - both within Eve's family and in every house on their quiet cul-de-sac. Each character is somewhat flawed - or perhaps I should say they are just realistically portrayed. The one character I was drawn to was Tyler. He too makes errors in judgment, but a lot of that comes down to Eve. I was torn on how I felt about her, but ultimately landed on the other side of the fence. I applauded her love for her son, but deplored her actions, duplicity and machinations.

The neighbours' secrets begin to be exposed through Tyler's nighttime ramblings with his camera. Some of them seem a bit contrived and only there to help muddy the waters. The small glimpses of their lives are never really fully explored. And I wanted to know more. There is one scene where the entire street starts slinging insults that I thought was well done. I felt slightly cheated by the resolution of The Deepest Secret - it seemed to wrap up quickly after 400 pages getting there. The neighbourhood's loose ends are also tied up in quick fashion.

The Deepest Secret would be a good choice for book clubs - there's lots of discussion material within the story. The publisher has suggested that fans of Jodi Picoult would enjoy this latest book by Carla Buckley. I think that's a good recommendation. See for yourself - read an excerpt of The Deepest Secret.
Carla Buckley was born in Washington, D.C. She has worked as an assistant press secretary for a U.S. senator, an analyst with the Smithsonian Institution, and a technical writer for a defense contractor. She lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with her husband, an environmental scientist, and their three children. She is the author of The Deepest Secret, Invisible, and The Things That Keep Us Here, which was nominated for a Thriller Award as a Best First novel and the Ohioana Book Award for fiction. She is currently at work on her next novel. You can find Carla Buckley on Facebook and on Twitter.

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

And I have a copy to giveaway to one lucky reader. Simply leave a comment to be entered. Open to US only, ends April 19/14.  

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Happy Blogiversary Giveaway!

I can hardly believe it's been six years since I wrote my first post here at A Bookworm's World!
Many posts later (1769 to be exact) I'm still enjoying sharing my thoughts on what I'm reading.
And hopefully you're still enjoying reading them!

I want to say thank you to all of you who have stopped by or follow A Bookworm's World -
be it by:
 email, a reader, bloglovin' Twitter, Goodreads, LibraryThing or across the library counter!
So, it's the annual Happy Blogiversary Book giveaway!
This giveaway is international! To be entered, simply leave a comment letting me know how you follow A Bookworm's World. Ends April 13/14. One randomly chosen reader will receive a mystery book (or two or three) in the mail!
Here's to another year! Cheers!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Coming Clean - Kimberly Rae Miller

Thanks to the popularity of reality television, there are few people these days who are unaware of the term 'hoarding' or 'hoarder'. But when Kimberly Rae Miller was growing up, the term was not as well known.

Kimberly is the child of hoarders. And she's sharing her story in her memoir Coming Clean.

I chose to listen to Coming Clean. The author herself read the book and this only served to intensify her story.

Kimberly's father saved information - papers of all sorts, unable to throw anything out. Over the years, the paper (and more) overtakes their home, the pipes burst, the front door won't fully open, they're living with rats, bugs, filth, feces -  and only discovered after they move, a stranger in the attic. Her mother became a compulsive shopper, only adding to the mix and the mess.

Miller has fond memories of her childhood - she is a much loved child. But as a child Kim had no idea that their family was 'different'. Slowly she comes to the realization - and knows that she has to keep her home life a secret. As time passes, the hoarding takes a toll, both mentally and physically, on Kim and her parents. Still, they are unable to stop collecting.

Miller expresses  her story with honesty and candor, sharing her hopes, fears, and attempts to forge her own life, while still caring for her parents.

"We see people with a mental illness living their worst nightmare on TV because they’re desperate for help and will put themselves in that situation. Of course it’s a spectacle. But as a child of a hoarder, I can show this through eyes of love. I love my parents."

Coming clean was an eye opening account and an excellent listen. Frightening, heart-breaking and real. Listen to an excerpt of Coming Clean.

You can find Kimberly Rae Miller on Facebook, on Twitter and at her blog.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Watching You - Michael Robotham

It's no secret that I love mystery and thriller novels. When asked for recommendations at the library, Michael Robotham is an author I often suggest. This Aussie author is one you definitely want to put on your must read list. His latest North American release is Watching You - and it'll have you sitting up late reading just one more chapter - and drawing the curtains. This is the seventh book featuring recurring character Joe O'Loughlin - a clinical psychologist.

Marnie Logan is struggling - her husband has disappeared, she has inherited his massive gambling debts and has two children to look after. She's at her wit's end, but things are about to get even worse.

"I am the most important figure in Marnie's life, but she doesn't know it yet. I am the half-figure at the edge of her photographs and the shadow in the corner of her eye that vanishes each time she turns her head. I am the ghost that dances behind her closed lids and the darkness that blinks when she blinks. I am her nameless champion, her unheralded hero, and the conductor of her symphony. I am the one who watches."

Creepy, creepy, creepy.

I started out feeling sorry for Marnie, then frightened for her, then...... well, Robotham is a master manipulator. Just when I thought I had the story figured out, he surprised me. In the acknowledgments at the end of the book he says..."Each time I finish a novel I think, that's it - I'm all out of ideas, characters, plot twists and one-liners." Sometimes I think along the same lines - that I've read so many thrillers, that I'll be able to figure things out long before the last page. Definitely, not the case with Watching You. The plotting was deliciously clever, was completely unpredictable and turned ever assumption I had made upside down. The ending is a nice little gotcha too.

Robotham also brings back retired police Detective Vincent Ruiz. He and O'Louglin are a favourite duo, each bringing a different outlook on the crimes and criminals they pursue.

The story is told from many narratives, each giving a different look at what is going on. But the most chilling is that of the watcher. What could be more frightening than someone watching you - and you're unaware of it? Robotham takes this frightening premise to a whole new level. And kinda makes you wonder who's watching you - that person on the bus, the car at the stoplight....?

Watching You is a five star absolutely recommended read for thriller fans. If you read Linwood Barclay and Harlan Coben, you'll like Robotham. Read an excerpt of Watching You.

You can find Michael Robotham on Facebook and on Twitter.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Winner - Evening Stars

And the randomly chosen lucky winner of a copy of Evening Stars by Susan Mallery, courtesy of Harlequin Mira Books is:


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, March 14, 2014

Make Your March Break Great with DK Canada!

Looking for fun stuff  for you and the kids to do over March Break and beyond?
Look no further than DK Canada!
They've got a selection of great books with lots of ideas for doing and creating - all at special prices  until April 1/14.  Check out the selections here.
I must admit, I love crafting. I don't have a little one at home to craft with right now, but I'm always on the lookout for ideas for the children's craft table at my library.
There's lots to choose from in DK's Make Your Own Gifts: 52 Year Round Presents All Wrapped Up. (52?! You could do one a week!)

What caught my eye? There were quite a few amongst the five categories. (Paper Craft Projects, Stitched and Beaded Goodies, Molded and Sculpted Treasures, Make, Bake and Create Treats and Beautifully Wrapped Projects.)

Now, I myself think paper maché is loads fun, but maybe not so much for the library. (But the idea to use a screw top jar as the basis for a piggy bank was a good one) Instead I found some neat no mess paper crafts that would work. For Mother's Day the folded paper flowers look beautiful. A pad of scrapbooking papers would give lots of variety for a bouquet. We've got loads of scrap paper at work. Quilling a card would be a good choice for the slightly older crowd. Decorating a glass jar with decoupaged flowers would be a nice anytime gift for kids to give - just add a special note inside.  More uses for those clean glass jars - the dry ingredients for a brownie mix and recipe. I loved some of the wrapping and tagging ideas and have these bookmarked for future use as well - making a sturdy gift bag out of a recycled cereal box (painted or covered with paper), stamping paper to make your own envelopes, tags and gift wrap. There are many more projects, with patterns included. As always, the layout of the book is fun, easy to read, colourful and filled with pictures!

I crocheted many a granny square in my younger days, but have not picked up a hook in a long time. And quite frankly I could not remember the basics, let alone the advanced stitches, at all. So  DK's Get Started: Crochet  by Susie Johns appealed to me.

The book is nicely laid out into three sections- Start Simple, Build on It and Take It Further.

The basics are always the place to start - the types and size of hooks, yarn selection, colour choices, gauge, and a handy chart to make sure your match the needs of your project.

First up - a very simple project that re-taught me the basics - a cotton washcloth/dishcloth. It took me a bit to catch on again, but with the clear stitch directions, I caught on again fairly quickly. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed crocheting! I've peeked ahead at the rest of the book. The stitch dictionary is built on, with more photos and directions. The second part of the book utilizes more that the back and forth of my washcloth! Afghans, baby blankets, coaster, pillows, bookmarks (!) and yes - Granny Squares! Get Started :Crochet is just one book in DK's Get Started series.

Again, what I love about DK books are the photographs. I am a visual learner and appreciate seeing the 'real' thing, not a drawn picture. Well laid out and easy to follow. I'm not sure why, but crocheting is just much easier for me than knitting. Especially since I've relearned it! Thanks DK!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Giveaway - The Book Thief on Blu-ray!

The Book Thief. You loved Marcus Zusak's what about the movie? Will it do justice to this New York Times bestseller? The Book Thief on Blu-ray is newly released. Well, here's your chance to find out!

Yes, I have a Blu-ray copy to giveaway to one randomly chosen reader!!

THE BOOK THIEF.Based on the beloved best-selling book comes an “extremely moving” (Leonard Maltin, Indiewire) story of a girl who transforms the lives of those around her during World War II, Germany. When her mother can no longer care for her, Liesel (Sophie Nélisse) is adopted by a German couple (OSCAR® Winner Geoffrey Rush* and OSCAR® Nominee Emily Watson**). Although she arrives illiterate, Liesel is encouraged to learn to read by her adoptive father. When the couple then takes in Max (Ben Schnetzer), a Jew hiding from Hitler’s army, Liesel befriends him. Ultimately, words and imagination provide the friends with an escape from the events unfolding around them in this extraordinary, acclaimed film directed by Brian Percival (Downton Abbey). *Actor, Shine, 1996 **Actress, Hilary and Jackie, 1998; Breaking the Waves, 1996)"

Blu-Ray Special Features:
• Deleted Scenes • A Hidden Truth: Bringing The Book Thief To Life • Theatrical Trailer
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish 131 Minutes U.S. Rating:PG 13 Closed Captioned:Yes

Did your book club read The Book Thief? Why not watch the movie as a group? Here's a great discussion guide to get you started.

How to enter?
Simply leave a comment.
Ends March 29/14. 
A winner will be randomly chosen and notified by email. Open to US and Canada.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Doll - Taylor Stevens - Review AND Giveaway

Doesn't the cover of The Doll just promise an 'edge of your seat' read? And Taylor Stevens delivers one....again.

I've devoured the first two books featuring Vanessa Michael Munroe - The Informationist and The Innocent - and was eager to read the third novel to feature this kick*** character.

Vanessa Michael Munroe is....well, she's deadly, with incredible physical skills and she's brilliant - she speaks many languages and easily assimilates into the situation or culture she finds herself in. She can read people and situations and think three moves ahead. She's also a bit of an enigma - her past is murky and has shaped her into the woman she is today. For a living, she hunts.... people. She's the shadowy figure people call on to do the impossible. Her weak spot? Innocents.

When the last book left off, Michael had allowed herself to let down her guard a bit and enjoy her relationship with Bradford - the owner of Capstone Security Consulting. In this latest book Michael herself is the one taken. A criminal kingpin called The Doll Maker has 'recruited' Michael to deliver a package - a living doll ordered by a wealthy client. To ensure her compliance, he has also taken hostage one of the few people Michael has let get close to her - Logan, the man she considers her brother.

The Doll is told in two narratives. First, from Bradford's point of view as he and his crew try to track down and rescue both Michael and Logan. Secondly from Michael's as she tries to figure out a way to save herself and her 'package'. And then destroy The Doll Maker. Each story line was equally addictive and kept me rapidly turning pages as the action escalated. And it truly is non stop.

What makes Steven's writing so good is her lead character. It's so much fun to have such a - as I mentioned earlier - kick*** female character. The action scenes are great, but there's a deeper level to this character as well. She is the walking wounded and Stevens does a fantastic job depicting Munroe's inner emotional turmoil and her physical struggle to control herself. Each book out, we learn a little bit more about Munroe and her background. She is a fascinating enigma. And a character I'm hooked on. Read an excerpt of The Doll. You'll be hooked too!

Here's what Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher books has to say...."Munroe is a sensational character and Stevens is a sensational writer, and together they put The Doll high on my books-of-the-year list ."

You could read The Doll as a stand alone, but I really do recommend starting with The Informationist to fully appreciate this series. (Film rights for The Informationist have been optioned to James Cameron.)

I raced through The Doll far too quickly.... I'll be eagerly waiting for book number four - The Catch - due out July 15/14. You can keep up with Taylor Stevens on Facebook and on Twitter.

Sound like your kind of read!? Well, thanks to the great folks at Random House, I have a copy to giveaway. Simply leave a comment leave a comment to be entered. Ends March 29/14. A randomly chosen winner will be notified by email. US only.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Traitor's Blade - Sebastien de Castell

Now, I must admit - Sebastien de Castell's debut novel Traitor's Blade is not my normal fare. But right up front, I want to say that I am so glad I picked it up! Why?

Well....let's see....

A trio of swashbuckling Greatcoats, led by Falcio val Mond. Once revered throughout the land they are now reduced to working for hire, as their King is dead. The mighty Greatcoats are disbanded, but our three are staying true to their sworn oath to uphold and defend the law of the land - and fulfill the King's last command....

"Either the King's Charoites were out there somewhere and we would find them, or we would end our days at the end of a noose."

Through a series of machinations, they find themselves guarding a caravan headed straight to the stronghold of a dastardly Duke determined to thwart our heroes and put his own evil plan into play. Throw in some magic, a mysterious crone with unnamed powers, a few beautiful damsels, a war horse to rival no other, action packed fight scenes (very detailed as de Castell works as a fight choreographer)and wonderfully fun (and humourous) dialogue....

"When you're fighting a crowd, its good to shout potentially threatening things like 'Crossbows!' or Fire! or 'Giant Flying Cat!' every once in a while.".....

...and you've got one heck of a rollicking romp of a read! De Castell has created a fantastical world where one can imagine heroes on horseback (or foot as the case may be) ready to defend the poor and downtrodden, defeat the bad guys, save the girl (and the kingdom) and make you want to be there with them - sharing in the adventure.

We never question who is good and who is evil. But maybe we should have - the plotting keeps the reader guessing, with more than one twist thrown in along the way.

Traitor's Blade was a delightfully entertaining debut  - and it looks like there will be further adventures of the Greatcoats in the future. I'll be picking up the next in the series. If you loved The Princess Bride (My name is Falcio val Mond) and The Three Musketeers, this is a book for you! Read an excerpt of Traitor's Blade.

"Sebastien de Castell started out as an archaeologist but left to pursue a career in music, interactive design, fight choreography, teaching, acting, and product strategy. He lives in Vancouver, where he is director of strategic program development at the Vancouver Film School." You can find de Castell on Twitter - @decastell.

I loved the dedication: "To my mother, MJ. who once took me aside as a young boy and said, "Well, we need to make money and the easiest way to do that is to write novels." She never bothered to tell me that she'd never sold a book in her life." I think de Castell is going to sell a few.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Outcast Dead - Elly Griffiths

The Outcast Dead is the sixth entry in Elly Griffiths' absolutely wonderful series featuring Forensic Archaeologist Ruth Galloway.

I stumbled across the first in this series (The Crossing Places) in 2009 and have eagerly awaited each new installment - I just know I'm before I even turn a page that I'm going to enjoy it.

The series is set in the Norfolk area of England - a setting rife with history and the perfect setting for these mysteries.

On her latest dig at Norwich Castle, Ruth turns up a female skeleton - one with a hook for a hand. Could she have uncovered the remains of the infamous 'Mother Hook', hanged for killing the children left in her care? The find stirs up interest outside archaeology circles as well. A television series, "Women Who Kill", wants to make the discovery the focus of their latest show. But the present is mirroring the past - a local mother is suspected of killing her own child....and then another young one goes missing. And DCI Harry Nelson is on the case.

Griffiths always weaves a fascinating tale, combining a well thought out mystery with fascinating bits of the past. (I often head to the Internet to follow up on the historical bits.) The theme of motherhood and mother love is also explored from many different viewpoints.  But the draw for me is the characters.

I have so enjoyed the character of Ruth. I think it's because she isn't a 'cookie-cutter' protagonist. She's become a single mother later in life, she's hard on herself, generous with her friends, is highly intelligent, but shuns the spotlight. She's not beautiful in a conventional sense, but has that something that draws people to her.  Griffiths has not endowed her with super sleuth abilities, rather she comes off as an actual person - one I would enjoy meeting.

The relationship between Ruth and Harry is a complicated one. And one small complication named Kate is now three years old. The supporting cast is wonderfully eclectic, and diverse. Cathbad, the self proclaimed Druid, is one of my favourites. He's quite enigmatic, showing up just when needed and he seems to see and recognize things that the others don't.  A wonderful little sense of the mystical is woven throughout the series. Cathbad's storyline with another returning character has been building over the last few books and a resolution is reached in The Outcast Dead. I've become invested in these characters and feel like I'm settling in to catch up on the latest when I pick up the newest of Griffiths' books.

Setting plays a large part as well. The Norfolk area, while seemingly bleak, is beautiful in Ruth's eyes. I think I would enjoy living in her little cottage in the Saltmarsh, 'where the sea and the sky meet.'

And the title? "'And we ask your abundant blessing, Lord, on these, the outcast dead...' This brief ecumenical service is held every year for the unknown dead of Norwich: the bodies thrown into unmarked graves, the paupers, the plague victims, forgotten,  unmourned, except by this motley collection of archaeologists, historians and sundry hangers-on."
I highly recommend this character driven mystery series. You could certainly read this book as a stand alone, but do yourself a favour and start with the first book.

Read an excerpt of The Outcast Dead. You can find Griffiths on Twitter and on Facebook.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Winner - The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards

And the winner of a copy of The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards by Kristopher Jansma, courtesy of Viking Press is:

Elizabeth B!

Congratulations! I've contacted you by email for your mailing address. Please respond within 72 hours. Thanks to all who entered - check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Film on Friday #11 - The Iran Job

The Iran Job from Director Till Schauder is the latest entry in the Film on Friday series. As with all Film Movement releases, it was an official selection at multiple film festivals.

I watched most of the Winter Olympics - and read of the controversy and upset surrounding what should be a politically neutral event.  The Iran Job also uses sports as a platform to explore a politically charged country and its people - in a distinctly different platform. Basketball.

American Kevin Sheppard is a journeyman basketball player - he makes his living playing for overseas teams. When approached to play by a fledgling team in the Iranian Super League, he accepts.

I've heard of the overseas leagues, but to be honest, had no idea that Iran had a league - and loads of avid fans!

Schauder's choice of Sheppard as a focal point of his film was a good choice. Sheppard is extremely engaging. It is this engaging manner that allows him to make friends in a time and place that is not US friendly. While it is fascinating to watch the basketball team, it is the people that allow themselves to be filmed as they talk openly to Sheppard that were the stars. Kevin makes friends with three young Iranian women and they share their thoughts about and hopes for their country. Sheppard's interactions with his teammates, apartment building superintendent, roommate, shopkeepers and more kept me engaged for the full 95 minutes. Schauder's film gave me a look at everyday Iran -a change from the nightly news stories. An excellent documentary well worth watching. (With a great soundtrack) English and Farsi with subtitles. 95 minutes.

As always, Film Movement includes a bonus short film. City Bomber is also from Till Schauder. I can see the tie-in with the main feature, but it didn't hold my attention. A German architect decides to bomb a downtown building - but is horrified to find his young daughter arriving just before it is set to detonate. It's shot in black and white, with choppy cutaways and significant stills. I can see the director flexing his artistic muscles, but it was a miss for me. German with English subtitles. 22 min.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Over the Counter #203

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Well, this week it was art  - but not quite the way you're thinking....

First up was To the Letter: A Celebration of the Lost Art of Letter Writing by Simon Garfield.

From the publisher, Gotham Books;

"Few things are as exciting and potentially life-changing as discovering an old letter. And while etiquette books still extol the practice, letter writing seems to be disappearing amid a flurry of e-mails, texting, and tweeting. The recent decline in letter writing marks a cultural shift so vast that in the future historians may divide time not between BC and AD but between the eras when people wrote letters and when they did not. So New York Times bestselling author Simon Garfield asks: Can anything be done to revive a practice that has dictated and tracked the progress of civilization for more than five hundred years?

In To the Letter, Garfield traces the fascinating history of letter writing from the love letter and the business letter to the chain letter and the letter of recommendation. He provides a tender critique of early letter-writing manuals and analyzes celebrated correspondence from Erasmus to Princess Diana. He also considers the role that letters have played as a literary device from Shakespeare to the epistolary novel, all the rage in the eighteenth century and alive and well today with bestsellers like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. At a time when the decline of letter writing appears to be irreversible, Garfield is the perfect candidate to inspire bibliophiles to put pen to paper and create a form of expression, emotion, and tactile delight we may clasp to our heart."

Next up was The Art of Lying Down: A Guide to Horizontal Living by Bernd Brunner.

From Melville House Publishing:

"An utterly charming study of the history of lying down—which is more complicated than you might think.
We spend a good third of our lives lying down: sleeping, dreaming, making love, thinking, reading, and getting well. Bernd Brunner’s ode to lying down is a rich exploration of cultural history and an entertaining collection of tales, ranging from the history of the mattress to the “slow living movement” to Stone Age repose—when people did not sleep lying down—and beyond. He approaches the horizontal state from a number of directions, but never loses his keen sense for the odd or unusual detail.

Far from being a pose of passivity or laziness, lying down can be a protest, a chance to gather thoughts or change your point of view—the other side to our upright, productive lives. Brunner makes an eloquent case for the importance of lying down in a world that values ever-greater levels of activity, arguing that time spent horizontally offers rewards that we’d do well not to ignore."

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

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Disappeared - Kristina Ohlsson

I quite discovered Swedish author Kristina Ohlsson by accident when I picked up her first book "Unwanted". Fortuitous accident - because it was the first in a fantastic crime series featuring Investigative analyst Fredrika Bergman. The third book, Disappeared, is newly released and it too was a fantastic read.

The prologue's opening lines, set in the past, grabbed me immediately....

"When the film begins she has no idea what she is about to see. Nor does she realise what devastating consequences this film and the decisions she then makes will have on the rest of her life."

Present day. Two years after she disappears, the dismembered body of Rebecca Tolle is found by a dog walker in a shallow grave.  When the crime scene team expand their excavation of the grave site, they find another body. But the second body has been buried for at least thirty years.

Are the two connected? Is this the work of a serial killer spanning thirty years?

Frederika and the special unit of the Swedish Federal Police are called in. Their case builds slowly, with multiple suspects - one of them close to a member of the team. I really enjoy Ohlsson's character building. She has given each main character a rich personal life that provides a more intimate reading experience. 

Ohlsson is extremely clever with her plotting and delivery of her story.  Interspersed with the investigation are Internal Affairs interviews held after the case has ended.

"You're here because you were in charge of an investigation that ended in disaster."

We get wee snippets of information that heighten the tension, provide subtle clues, provide teasers - and kept this reader up far too late. Midway through, I went back to read that prologue again as the pieces started to fall into place.

An intelligent, well written series (with a side of grisly) that I can easily recommend. I do hope Ohlsson plans to continue with this series.  Read an excerpt of The Disappeared.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Stillwater - Nicole Helget

Stillwater is Nicole Helget's latest book.

The first few chapters of Stillwater are seemingly the end of the book. We know what has happened, but was the path and story that led here?

Helget quickly immerses us into her tale, set in the frontier town of Stillwater Minnesota and spanning thirty years from 1840-1870.

A runaway wife makes her way to the local orphanage and gives birth to a pair of twins - boy and girl. The girl is adopted by a local wealthy family and lives a much different life than her brother who is raised at the orphanage.

That's the bare bones outline, but Helget's book is so much bigger. She deftly explores the connection between siblings, the need to belong and mothering from many different views. From the mother who walks away from the twins, from the daughter who is only a possession and tool for her mother, from the shunned Indian wife, from the nun who runs the orphanage, from the runaway slave who is desperate to save her son and more. She also uses the tundra swans of Minnesota metaphorically to great effect.

These themes are set within a fascinating historical narrative, covering the early days of settlement, the underground railroad, the Civil War and the inexorable path of progress. Helget's descriptions of time and place are excellent and provided me with vivid mental pictures as I read. Helget is a resident of Minnesota and that personal connection shows.

The characters are unique and unusual. Their actions often don't follow a straight line and their reactions are not always what we would expect. Some serve as background while others are more fully fleshed out.

I love old photographs and often wonder about the lives of those pictured. Stillwater reminded me of that - bits and pieces of history wound through with lives that might have been.

All of this is accomplished with absolutely wonderful prose. Helget is a born storyteller - I was entranced from first page to last. Read an excerpt of Stillwater.

You can find Nicole Helget on Twitter.