Monday, June 30, 2014

Giveaway - Margarita Wednesdays - Deborah Rodriguez

You might recognize Deborah Rodriquez's name from her previous books - Kabul Beauty School and The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul.

Her latest book Margarita Wednesdays: Making a New Life by the Mexican Sea is newly released. And I have two copies to giveaway!

From the publisher, Simon and Schuster:

"In answer to the question of what happened following her New York Times bestseller Kabul Beauty School, Deborah Rodriquez is back with a new memoir.

Irreverent, insightful, and blatantly honest, Deborah takes us along on her inspiring journey of self-discovery and renewal after she is forced to flee Afghanistan in 2007. She first lands in California, where she feels like a misfit teetering on the brink of sanity. Where was that fearless redhead who stared danger in the face back in Kabul?

After being advised to commune with glowworms and sit in contemplation for one year, Rodriguez finally packs her life and her cat into her Mini Cooper and moves to a seaside town in Mexico. Despite having no plan, no friends, and no Spanish, a determined Rodriguez soon finds herself swept up in a world where the music never stops and a new life can begin. Her adventures and misadventures among the expats and locals help lead the way to new love, new family, and a new sense of herself.

In the magic of Mexico, she finds the hairdresser within, and builds the life she never knew was possible—a life on her own terms."

Photo credit: Susan Bonk
"In addition to writing, Deborah is a hairdresser and motivational speaker. She also owned the Kabul Coffee House which inspired her to write her first novel, The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul, which went on to become an international bestseller. She is the founder of Oasis Rescue, a nonprofit organization that provides help to women in troubled, post conflict, and economically depressed areas, providing supplies and skills to women who aspire to become more financially independent through hairdressing. She currently lives in Mazatlan, Mexico, where she owns the Tippy Toes Salon. "

Thanks to Simon and Schuster, I have a two copies to giveaway! Simply leave a comment to be entered. Open to US and Canada. No PO boxes please. Ends July 13/14.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Winner - The Grand Budapest Hotel

And the very lucky winner of a copy of The Grand Budapest Hotel, courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment is:

Brentlie S!

Congratulations! I've contacted you by email for your mailing address. Please respond within 48 hours. After that time, a new winner will be chosen. Thanks to all who entered. Check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

You Can't Judge a Book By It's Cover #10

- You Can't Judge a Book By It's Cover - Which is very true.
But you can like one cover version better than another...
UK cover
US/Canadian cover
I was hunting down cover art for Laline Paull's debut novel - The Bees - and came across the US/Canadian cover on the left and the UK cover on the right. I prefer the North American cover this time. For me, it captured more of the 'hive' feel and the queen bee is quite prominent. If you're squeamish about insects though, you might prefer the UK cover! Either way, it's a really good read!
Which cover do you prefer? Have you read The Bees?
You Can't Judge A Book By It's Cover is a regular Saturday feature on A Bookworm's World.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Bees - Laline Paull

Well, there's been lots of buzz surrounding Laline Paull's debut novel, The Bees. (sorry, couldn't resist!) And that buzz is well-deserved!

Flora 717 is born a sanitation worker in her hive - the lowest of the low. But Flora 717 is an anomaly - she can speak. One of the Sage Priestesses take notice of her and Flora is moved to the nursery to feed the young. Then against all odds, she becomes a forager, flying outside of the hive to find pollen and nectar to feed her hive. She is brave and kind and tries to serve her queen and live by the hive's dictum -'Accept, Obey and Serve'. But Flora 717 has another ability, one that goes against everything she has been taught from the moment she was born. And it is this instinct that now changes not just Flora's life, but that of the Queen and her hive.

Now, you might be saying to yourself - really? Bees? Trust me - you'll quickly become immersed in the life of the hive and truly invested in the character of Flora 717. And as you read or listen, you get caught up in her hopes and aspirations, in the struggles of her and her kin and in the day to day life of the community and the hive's struggle to survive. For there are predators. Humans make a brief appearance in the first and last chapters, reminding us of the fragility of nature and the harm our chemicals wreak.

The details of the hive and of the lives of bees were both informative and fascinating. Did you know that "It takes twelve bees their entire lives to gather enough nectar to make one teaspoon of honey?"

The architectural structure of the hive was quite detailed and vividly drawn.

From the author: "I realized that the most astonishing creatures and events are happening everywhere - it’s just a question of scale whether we notice them or not."  Paull's novel has definitely made me stop and take notice when I see bees busily buzzing in my flowerbeds, then flying away. Makes you wonder....

I chose to listen to The Bees. Orlagh Cassidy was the reader. She is a favourite narrator of mine, but I am very used to listening to her reading thriller and action books. I wondered how she would handle a distinctly different piece of work. The answer is - excellently. Cassidy's voice is unique, with lots of hidden gravel and nuance. She chose a voice for Flora that I both enjoyed and suited the mental image I had created of Flora. Cassidy interpreted the book very well, using tone, speed and inference to bring Paull's prose to life. There are some books I just know I have enjoyed more by listening, rather than reading them. The Bees is one of those.

The Bees has been aptly described as a combination Watership Down meets The Handmaid's Tale.

Read an excerpt of The Bees. Or listen to an excerpt of  The Bees. You can follow Laline Paull on Twitter.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Over the Counter #218

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? This week it's all about knitting...

First up was Knit Your Moustache by Vicky Eames.

From the publisher, Collins & Brown:

" Become a punk, a Victorian gent, a gnome, or even a pirate—all it takes is one of these 20 fantastic knitted disguises! The hilarious and fun-to-do projects include beards, moustaches, and different hairstyles (Mohawk, pigtails, even a bald head). Complete the look with an accessory like a bandit mask or a monocle. It's the perfect book for Halloween, costume parties, or whenever you want to turn into someone else for a little while.
Vicky Eames started knitting beards about three years ago, and hasn't stopped since. The original beard was made for a friend, but proved so popular that her shop, Wife of Brian, was born, selling moustaches, eyebrows, and other fuzzy delights. Vicky's proper job is in theater, and some of her beardy creations are currently starring in a Shakespearean production."
Next up was The Yarn Whisperer: My Unexpected Life in Knitting by Clara Parkes.
From the publisher, Stewart, Tabori  & Chang:
"Stockinette, ribbing, cables, even the humble yarn over can instantly evoke places, times, people, conversations, all those poignant moments that we’ve tucked away in our memory banks. Over time, those stitches form a map of our lives.—From the preface

In The Yarn Whisperer: Reflections on a Life in Knitting, renowned knitter and author Clara Parkes ponders the roles knitting plays in her life via 22 captivating, poignant, and laugh-out-loud funny essays. Recounting tales of childhood and adulthood, family, friends, adventure, privacy, disappointment, love, and celebration, she hits upon the universal truths that drive knitters to create and explores the ways in which knitting can be looked at as a metaphor for so many other things. Put simply, “No matter how perfect any one sweater may be, it’s only human to crave another. And another, and another.”
(Over the Counter is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World. I've sadly come the realization that I cannot physically read every book that catches my interest as it crosses over my counter at the library. But... I can mention them and maybe one of them will catch your eye as well. See if your local library has them on their shelves!)

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Deborah Coates - Hallie Michaels Trilogy Giveaway

Deborah Coates's latest book Strange Country is the final entry in her Hallie Michaels trilogy. Coates has described the series as 'rural fantasy.

From the publisher, Tor Forge:

"Strange Country is the final book in a haunting supernatural murder mystery trilogy set in the vast rural backroads and byways of the American Midwest, a setting and way of life that is rarely explored in contemporary and urban fantasy.

After facing Death himself and banishing a reaper bent on the destruction of Sheriff's deputy Boyd Davies, Hallie had hoped things would finally settle down; that she and Boyd would find more time to spend together, that ghosts would stay in cemeteries where they belong. But hopes are so easily dashed.

On a wintry night in mid-December, someone shoots and kills a woman with a high-powered rifle. Not long after, another of West Prairie City’s citizens is killed in exactly the same way, drawing the attention of federal investigators. But the connection between the victims is not easy to uncover....

Meanwhile, Hallie Michaels finds a note pinned to her front porch. “What do you fear most?” it asks, accompanied by a set of map coordinates. Over the next few days she receives an anonymous phone call, an unsigned letter left for her at the local ag supply, and finally a note stuck to her kitchen table with a carving knife, all asking the same question and with the same set of coordinates. The mysteries are piling up, and time is short...Will Hallie be able to get to the bottom of this, before the body count rises again?" Read an excerpt of Strange Country. You can find Deborah Coates on Twitter.

Sounds good eh? But what good is it to start with the last book of a series?! Well, thanks to the generosity of Tor Forge, the first two books in this series are part of the prize pack as well! Yes, one lucky winner will receive all three books - Wide Open (#1) and Deep Down (#2). Simply leave a comment to be entered. Open to US and Canada, no PO boxes please. Ends July 13/14.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Elizabeth is Missing - Emma Healey

One of the best things about my job is being asked "What have you read that's really good lately?" Well, Emma Healey's debut novel, Elizabeth is Missing, is one title I'll be recommending over and over again this summer. I really, really loved this book. Okay, you loved it Luanne, now what's it about?

Maud is in her eighties and is slowly but surely losing her memory, her ability to live alone and  to take care of herself. But the one thing she cannot forget is her friend Elizabeth. Maud is convinced she is missing, no matter what her daughter Helen, her carers and Elizabeth's son Peter says. She need to find her - Elizabeth is missing. Maud writes many notes to remind herself to continue to look for Elizabeth. And she does, putting herself in harm's way and her daughter at her wit's end.

But there is a second narrative as well, from Maud's past as a young girl in Britain, shortly after World II has ended.  Maud is an unreliable narrator. As the past and the present become tangled in Maud's memory, the reader is not quite sure of what is truth, what is memory and what is what might have been. But as I read, I had suspicions creeping in......

It is difficult to watch Maud struggle with knowing she is losing her memory. She is determined to hang on to her pride, her dignity and independence. And desperate to know what has happened to Elizabeth. Healey's writing captures Maud's frustration, the lost time and the fear so well. But Healey does inject humour into Maud's life as well. She is a feisty soul. Her daughter Helen is just as well drawn and provides a real and touching look at the difficult, often painful role of being a child and/or a carer of someone with dementia or Alzheimer's. I thought Helen's granddaughter Katy was very well written as well. She jokes and laughs with her grandmother and loves her very much. I wonder if there's a bit of Healey written into Katy.

Elizabeth is missing is both a mystery and a story of lives, heartbreaking, yet life affirming. Above all, it is a brilliant read, guaranteed to grab you and not let you go, even after the last page is turned. (have a tissue handy) Part of what made this book so poignant was Healey adding in part of her life and memories, with a nod to her grandmothers, Nancy and Vera.

"It was a few months after she (Nancy) died, that I began to write Elizabeth is Missing in earnest, combining the exploration of dementia prompted by Nancy with some of the stories I'd collected from Vera."

As I read, I too thought often of my own grandmothers, now both passed away. And it made me love the book even more. Read an excerpt of Elizabeth is Missing.

"Emma Healey grew up in London where she completed her first degree in bookbinding (learning how to put books together but not how to write them). She graduated from the MA in Creative Writing: Prose at UEA in 2011. Elizabeth is Missing is her first novel." You can find Emma Healey on Twitter and on Facebook.

Loved it, loved it, loved it. Emma Healey is on my 'must read' list. Can't wait to see what the next book brings. See what others on the TLC Book tour thought. Full schedule can be found here.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Giveaway - Now I See You - Nicole C. Kear

I love to read, to sew, to garden, to watch movies and lots more..... all to do with seeing....But what if....

That 'what if' became reality for Nicole. C. Kear. Her newly released memoir Now I See You, is, well, eye-opening....

From the publisher, St. Martin's Press:

"At nineteen years old, Nicole C. Kear's biggest concern is choosing a major--until she walks into a doctor’s office in midtown Manhattan and gets a life-changing diagnosis. She is going blind, courtesy of an eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa, and has only a decade or so before Lights Out. Instead of making preparations as the doctor suggests, Kear decides to carpe diem and make the most of the vision she has left. She joins circus school, tears through boyfriends, travels the world, and through all these hi-jinks, she keeps her vision loss a secret.

When Kear becomes a mother, just a few years shy of her vision’s expiration date, she amends her carpe diem strategy, giving up recklessness in order to relish every moment with her kids. Her secret, though, is harder to surrender - and as her vision deteriorates, harder to keep hidden. As her world grows blurred, one thing becomes clear: no matter how hard she fights, she won’t win the battle against blindness. But if she comes clean with her secret, and comes to terms with the loss, she can still win her happy ending.        

Told with humor and irreverence, Now I See You is an uplifting story about refusing to cower at life’s curveballs, about the power of love to triumph over fear. But, at its core, it’s a story about acceptance: facing the truths that just won't go away, and facing yourself, broken parts and all."

Read an excerpt of Now I See You.

And thanks to St. Martin's Press, I have two copies to giveaway! Simply leave a comment to be entered. Open to US and Canada. No PO boxes please. Ends July 6/14.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

You Can't Judge A Book By It's Cover #9

- You Can't Judge a Book By It's Cover - Which is very true.
But you can like one cover version better than another...
US cover
Canadian cover
I was hunting down cover art for Emma Healey's book - Elizabeth is Missing, and came across the US cover on the left and the Canadian cover on the right. I'm torn this time! The US cover gives off an ominous vibe that promises a good suspenseful read. But the Canadian cover is a note - a note that the main character refers to often. This week I can't decide. But what I can tell you is this - get your hands on a copy of this book. It's really, really good! Watch for my review on June 24. What cover do you prefer? Have you read Elizabeth is Missing? You Can't Judge A Book By It's Cover is a regular Saturday feature on A Bookworm's World.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Film on Friday #16 - Hide and Seek

Hide and Seek, from director Huh Jung, is Ram Releasing's latest DVD release. It was one of the highest grossing films in South Korea in 2013.

Okay, I admit it - I love a good scary movie. Sometimes I love it from behind a pillow but still...

Hide and Seek opens with mysterious person in a motorcycle helmet, simply standing and staring. This person appears throughout the film. I gotta tell you, that inaction is just as frightening as overt violence - it's the anticipation that something might happen that builds tension.

Our main character is Sung-soo. He has a beautiful wife and children, gorgeous home and plenty of 'things'. But he's also unsettled, suffering from insomnia and OCD. When he gets word that his estranged brother has gone missing, he goes to his apartment. And sets off a chain of events with that visit. Those symbols he sees by the doorbells of his brother's building? They're now appearing in his own building...

What great settings there were in this movie. The brother's apartment is in an industrial, crowded and ready to be demolished building. In contrast, Sung-soo lives in a luxurious, clean building with security. (I just have to mention that I've never seen a cleaner, brighter parking garage.)

Hide and Seek starts off with many lovely, creepy scenes, setting the tone. Outright violence is only introduced in the last half hour of the film. And even then, it's not over the top or gratuitous.

The acting, although a little overdone in places was good, with the villain being played particularly well. (don't want to provide spoilers) And as in any good thriller, there are those..."Why would you.... go back in, don't turn your back, leave the children alone...moments.

In watching the interviews with the director and actors, I learned that the premise for this film had its' roots in reality. Squatters - making their homes in other people's homes. Very creepy. And very real - a quick search on the Internet turned up numerous examples.

Ram Releasing is a genre offshoot of Film Movement, specializing in horror and thriller titles. Hide and Seek falls into the thriller zone and was definitely worth watching!

South Korea/Korean with English Subtitles/2013/107 minutes

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Mating for Life - Marissa Stapley

Mating For Life is Marissa Stapley's absolutely wonderful debut novel.

Former folk singer Helen has three daughters, Liane, Fiona and Ilsa. They all have different fathers and very different lives. But all four women have one thing in common. They are all facing changes, crossroads and crises in their lives.

Helen has eschewed matrimony her whole life. Now at sixty, she's found the man she would like to grow old with - but he wants marriage. Liane too, is contemplating marriage - but is she in love? She's attracted to the man on the next dock, but discovers he is married. Ilsa is on her second marriage, but her eye is wandering also. What is she willing to gamble - and what is she prepared to lose? Fiona is the one everyone can count on - to do the right thing and have everything planned. Her marriage is seemingly perfect. Seemingly - until a secret her husband has kept for many years is finally exposed.

There are many other women in the novel as well - acquaintances, friends and other family members - each with their own set of circumstances that Stapley brilliantly examines through actions, conversations and self examination.

The women's conversations and emotions were honest and believable, providing much food for thought in the reader's own lives. Fidelity, friendship and family and most of all, finding one's self and roles in life, are the focus of Stapley's evocative debut.

Stapley has a wonderful way with words. . I found myself rereading a few passages as I enjoyed the ideas and imagery so much....

"...she kept driving, turning her head to look out at the water, knowing she should be focusing on the road but unable to remember the last time she had driven along a road with no particular destination. Maybe never. The sun hit the waves, which smashed against the breakwater. 'Make a U-turn', the GPS instructed. She turned it off. On the other side, there was calm, and a pair of swans paddling together into the sun. She watched the swans until her chin was at her shoulder, then turned to face the road again and redirected her car so that she was once again heading in the right direction."

The Muskoka cottage country is the setting for many of the main scenes/get togethers. I enjoy reading about an area I'm familiar with. Stapley must be as well - the setting is easily pictured. (As are the scenes set in Toronto)

Stapley prefaces each chapter with a short blurb describing the mating habits of various animal species, from snapping turtles to bears to birds and more. Make sure to take the time to read them - they are directly relatable to that chapter. (As well as being informative)

Mating for Life was an engaging read. I found myself caught up in each woman's life, wondering at the choices they were making and where they would land. I appreciate that Stapley has not written cookie cutter lives for her characters.

An excellent debut and a book you'll want to pass on to the women in your life.
You can find Marissa Stapley on Facebook and on Twitter.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Over the Counter #217

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Well, this weeks it's memoirs about finding one's self - in very different ways....

First up was Mud Season: How One Woman's Dream of Moving to Vermont Raising Children, Chickens, and Sheep & Running the Old Country Store Pretty Much Led to One Calamity after Another by Ellen Stimson.

From the publisher, The Countryman Press:

"After a getaway in gorgeous rural Vermont—its mountains ablaze in autumnal glory, its Main Streets quaint and welcoming—Ellen Stimson and her family make up their minds even before they get back to St. Louis: “We’re moving to Vermont!” The reality, they quickly learn, is not quite as glorious, often far too quaint, but, happily, worth all the trouble.

In self-deprecating and hilarious fashion, Mud Season chronicles Stimson’s transition from city life to small Vermont farmhouse. When she decides she wants to own and operate the old-fashioned village store in idyllic Dorset, pop. 2,036, one of the oldest continually operating country stores in the nation, she learns the hard way that “improvements” are not always welcomed warmly by folks who like things just fine the way they’ve always been,

She dreams of patrons streaming in for fresh-made sandwiches and an old-timey candy counter, but she learns they’re boycotting the store. Why? “The bread,” they tell her, “you moved the bread from where it used to be.” Can the citified newcomer turn the tide of mistrust before she ruins the business altogether?

Follow the author to her wits’ end and back, through her full immersion into rural life—swapping high heels for muck boots; raising chickens and sheep; fighting off skunks, foxes, and bears; and making a few friends and allies in a tiny town steeped in history, local tradition, and that dyed-in-the-wool Vermont “character."

Next up was The Answer to the Riddle is Me: A Memoir of Amnesia by David Stuart MacLean.

From the publisher, Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt:

"On October 17, 2002, David MacLean “woke up” on a train platform in India with no idea who he was or why he was there. No money. No passport. No identity.

Taken to a mental hospital by the police, MacLean then started to hallucinate so severely he had to be tied down. Soon he could remember song lyrics, but not his family, his friends, or the woman he was told he loved. All of these symptoms, it turned out, were the result of the commonly prescribed malarial medication he had been taking. Upon his return to the States, he struggled to piece together the fragments of his former life in a harrowing, absurd, and unforgettable journey back to himself.

The Answer to the Riddle Is Me, drawn from David MacLean’s award-winning This American Life essay, is a deeply felt, closely researched, and intensely personal book. It asks every reader to confront the essential questions of our age: In our geographically and chemically fluid world, what makes me who I am? And how much can be stripped away before I become someone else entirely?"

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

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

That Night - Chevy Stevens

Chevy Steven's latest book That Night, is newly released.

"I traced the lines of my tattoos, counting the years, thinking back to that summer. I was thirty-four now and had been in custody since I was eighteen, when Ryan and I were arrested for my sister's murder."

Toni Murphy knows she and Ryan are innocent. But it made no difference. The trial was a joke - and the witnesses lied. They know what really happened that night. Toni just wants to reclaim her life after so many years locked up and returns to Campbell River to start over, but the past just won't leave her alone.

Stevens has written That Night in a past and present narrative - all through Toni's eyes. We learn what led up to that fateful night as she struggles in present day to rebuild her life.

Campbell River is home to some mean girls. Really mean girls. The degree of bullying is more than uncomfortable to read about, especially in light of recent news stories. The response of some of the adult figures is disturbing. But on the other hand, I found myself asking Toni out loud...why would you....? There are some dubious choices made and some questionable actions taken that help to seal Toni's fate - from both Toni herself and the adults in the book, including her parents. (They bullying theme is continued in the present day prison chapters as well.)

But it's fiction right? Stevens has given the reader lots of scenarios to react to.

Having just read Orange is the New Black, I found many of the details and scenes of Toni's prison time somewhat familiar - the running on the track, the foot massages, the mother figure who works in the kitchen and more.

The reader has a pretty good idea who has killed Nicole from the beginning and the novel is more about confirming that and proving Toni and Ryan's innocence. (Although Stevens does throw in a nice little twist) There are no real details of the crime or court case given. Instead the focus is on our protagonist, fighting back - against mean girls in her youth, against her own family, against mean girls in prison, against...

Who will enjoy That Night? Well, there's a lot of YA in the past chapters - teenage angst, rebellion, young love, loving the local bad boy etc. So if you had a little of that bad girl in you in your younger years (or wish you did) you'll enjoy sharing Toni's early years. Stevens does brings a real note of truth to adult Toni's life with her struggle to re-enter society after prison. And of course, there's always the question - does she ever see Ryan again? Can she clear her name? Beat the mean girls?

I enjoyed the Canadian setting, having visited the areas described. Stevens makes her home in the area and brings it to the page very well.
In my opinion, That Night is not quite the 'taut thriller' the cover blurb advertises, but it is an entertaining read and would be a good addition to your beach bag this year. Read an excerpt of That Night.  You can find Chevy Stevens on Facebook and on Twitter.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Giveaway - The Grand Budapest Hotel on Blu-Ray!

The Grand Budapest Hotel releases tomorrow! This is a movie I can't wait to watch! Thanks to the great folks at Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, I have a Blu-Ray copy to giveaway to one lucky reader!!

"THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL recounts the adventures of legendary concierge Gustave H. and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend. The story involves the theft of a priceless painting; a raging battle for an enormous family fortune; and a desperate chase on motorcycles, trains, sleds, and skis - all against the backdrop of a suddenly and dramatically changing continent."

Special Features-----⦁ Bill Murray Tours The Town ⦁ Kunstmuseum Zubrowka Lecture ⦁ The Society of the Crossed Keys⦁ The Making of the Grand Budapest Hotel ⦁ Part 1 – The Story ⦁ Part 2 – The Society of the Crossed Keys ⦁ Part 3 – Creating The Hotel ⦁ Part 4 – Creating A World ⦁ Mendl’s Secret Recipe ⦁ Promotional Featurettes – “Cast” and “Wes Anderson” ⦁ Stills Gallery ⦁ Theatrical Trailer

Wes Anderson’s Troupe of Unforgettable Characters
Part of what makes Wes Anderson’s films so iconic is his recurring troupe of talented actors in unforgettable roles and cameos. This gallery takes a look at the actors Anderson can’t stay away from and the roles that defined their collaboration.

"Bill Murray: The iconic actor is a strong supporter of Wes Anderson’s works and has appeared in most of his movies starting their amazing relationship with Rushmore. For Rushmore, where Murray portrayed a wealthy industrialist, Anderson revealed to have paid the actor the bare minimum allowed by the Screen Actors Guild ($9,000). Bill Murray has admitted that the part of Steve Zissou in The Life Aquatic was one of the hardest roles he’s ever played and that the main reason he did it was because Wes Anderson was helming it. I’m sure we can all agree that that decision contributed to the cementation of their future collaborations.

Tilda Swinton: Tilda Swinton arrived relatively late to the Wes Anderson game but has appeared in his last two consecutive films in very different roles. In Moonrise Kingdom, which has become the movie that defined her collaboration with Anderson, she played Social Services while in The Grand Budapest Hotel she underwent a major transformation to become an elderly woman who ultimately succumbs to her evil son’s antics.

Adrien Brody: Speaking of Tilda Swinton’s evil son in The Grand Budapest Hotel, Adrien Brody has appeared in three Anderson films: The Darjeeling Limited, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and The Grand Budapest Hotel. As part of the Whitmans in Darjeeling, Brody was able to seamlessly implant himself into a project that was so comfortably arranged (both Schwartzman and Owen Wilson had worked with Anderson before). This volatile threesome became inseparable enough that it was hard to imagine the fake brothers to not be a package deal in the movies that followed.

Owen Wilson: Starting this list off is Owen Wilson who was been in seven of Anderson’s eight films. From Bottle Rocket to Fantastic Mr. Fox and the newest The Grand Budapest Hotel, Anderson’s audiences can assume that Wilson is one of his closest colleagues. In fact, Anderson first met the actor at the University of Texas in Austin where they immediately became friends. Wilson’s defining role is, arguably, that of Eli Cash in The Royal Tenenbaums. This part brought out Owen Wilson’s unmistakable wit, which seems to be lost amongst some of his most uncouth movies.

Anjelica Huston: Huston’s roles in Wes Anderson films usually feature her as the matriarch of a quirky family. Along with Bill Murray, Anjelica Huston is one of the seasoned veterans heading Anderson’s great cast of characters. She played part in three of his movies starting with The Royal Tenenbaums where she perfectly captured his vision for the role. We haven’t seen her in Anderson’s latest films, but she is sure to make an appearance in his future works.

Jason Schwartzman: The role of Max Fischer in Rushmore was the one that defined Jason Schwartzman’s collaboration with Wes Anderson and his acting career in general. When he auditioned for the part, Schwartzman was 17 and dreamed of being a writer, not an actor. Almost ten years after Rushmore, he co-wrote the script for The Darjeeling Limited and has been in every Anderson film since.

Luke Wilson: Aside from helping Owen Wilson express his great comedic timing, another certain Wes Anderson movie also helped launch the successful career of Owen’s brother Luke. Luke Wilson co-starred in Bottle Rocket and then went on to participate in a slew of Hollywood films that now make up his long roster of accomplishments. Wilson collaborated with Anderson in some of his other movies such as Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums."
If you'd like to watch The Grand Budapest Hotel, simply leave a comment telling me which actor is your favourite for a chance to win a Blu-Ray copy! Open to US and Canada. No PO boxes please. (Ensure I have a way to contact you, either through your blog, email etc)
Ends June 29/14

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Winner - Third Rail - Rory Flynn

And the lucky winner of a copy of Third Rail by Rory Flynn, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is:

Myra C!

Congratulations! I've contacted you by email for your mailing address. Please respond within 48 hours. After that time, a new winner will be chosen. Thanks to all who entered. Check back tomorrow for another great giveaway.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Before I Wake - C.L. Taylor

Before I Wake is C. L. Taylor's debut novel. And I have to tell you - it's really good.

Present day. Susan sits by a hospital bed, hoping her comatose daughter will wake up. It was a dreadful accident, Charlotte stepping out in front of the bus like that. Or so Susan thought until she found Charlotte's diary - and the cryptic line - "This secret is killing me."

Taylor then cuts the narrative to the past and we are privy to Susan's diary, before she married and had Charlotte. The journal is troubling and worrisome, giving the reader a good idea of where Susan's life might be headed. We want to shake Susan out of her fantasy world but we can only keep reading as things deteriorate.

And just at a pivotal moment, Taylor switches back to the present. Susan needs to know the secret her daughter was keeping. Maybe, just maybe, by discovering the truth, she can help Charlotte wake up. But her attempts to ferret out the truth have her lying to her husband, badgering Charlotte's friends and more. She begins to dig up small tidbits of information, but no one believes her. In fact, they all think she's having an 'episode'. After all, it wouldn't be the first time would it?

Present day Susan is an unreliable narrator We just never really know if she is telling the truth or telling the truth as she imagines it to be. But her earlier diary is quite the opposite. And is in fact, quite frightening in the scenario that Taylor portrays.

Taylor's characters are all quite well drawn and definitely evoke reactions from the reader. Although the main plot idea has been done before, Taylor adds enough spin to make it her own. I quite enjoyed the past and present timeline and the cliffhanging chapter endings. The suspense starts in the first few pages and doesn't let up until the very end. (Although, it did keep me reading long past the time I should have shut off the light.)

Before I Wake was an excellent psychological suspense read. Taylor herself has a degree in psychology and that knowledge is used very effectively at building her story, in both timelines.

A recommended read and I'll be watching for Taylor's second book.

Read the first chapter of Before I Wake. You can find C. L. Taylor on Facebook and on Twitter.

Friday, June 13, 2014

You Can't Judge A Book By It's Cover #8

- You Can't Judge a Book By It's Cover - Which is very true.
But you can like one cover version better than another...
US/Canadian cover
UK/Australian cover
I was hunting down cover art for Rainbow Rowell's latest book - Landline, and came across the US/Canadian cover on the left and the UK/Australian cover on the right. I prefer the North American cover this time. That yellow phone grabs your attention. There's way too much going on with the UK cover - too many blurbs. It's just too busy. Either way though, it's a good read.
What cover do you prefer?
Have you read Landline?
You Can't Judge A Book By It's Cover is a regular Saturday feature on A Bookworm's World.
It's a day early this week. :0)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Over the Counter #216

What book caught my eye this week as it passed over the library counter and under my scanner? Well, with Father's Day right around the corner (Sunday June 15th), Confessions of the World's Best Father by Dave Engledow, seemed appropriate.

From the publisher, Gotham Books:

"A hilarious pictorial parody of a clueless father and his adorable daughter.

In an attempt to create an image that his new daughter would one day appreciate, Dave Engledow took a photo in which he’s cradling eight-week-old Alice Bee like a football and doctored it to look like he’s squirting breast milk into a “World’s Best Father” mug. Friends and family clamored for more. After Dave’s humorous attempts to capture the sleep-deprived obliviousness of being a first-time dad went viral, he and Alice Bee found themselves bona fide Internet and television celebrities.

Merging a Norman Rockwell aesthetic with a darkly comic sensibility, Dave pairs each side-splittingly funny image with a log entry describing the awkward situation that the World’s Best Father has found himself in. Readers of Sh*t My Dad Says and Awkward Family Photos will devour the artful and hilarious Confessions of the World’s Best Father."

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

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Eyes on You - Kate White

Kate White has no lack of experience when it comes to writing. She's the former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan Magazine, has written numerous non-fiction books on careers and leadership as well as a number of fiction titles that have made appearances on the New York Times bestseller lists.

Her latest title, Eyes on You, releases June 24/14 and is the first book I've read from this author.

Television host Robin Trainer has bounced back from both career and personal setbacks two years ago. She's got a hit show on her hands, and a book that looks destined for the best seller lists. But someone seems to be just as determined to knock her back down. Small things like nasty notes quickly evolve into actual physical harm. Who could it be? And why?

Well, White gives us lots of direction. Or misdirection if you will. She gives lots of attention to each and every possible perpetrator, leaving the actual doer as a fairly obvious conclusion.

I got the gist of White's writing when the opening paragraph was a fairly detailed description of a pair of shoes Robin has chosen to wear. As mentioned above, White was the editor in chief of Cosmo magazine. Her writing style is very similar in tone to the magazine's image and content. Lots of celebrity, sex and lifestyle.

It was hard for me to like Robin as I found her to be a shallow, self-absorbed diva. Indeed, most of the characters are one dimensional. The plot is somewhat pedestrian as well. I found myself speed reading, just to get to the end to confirm the whodunit.

For this reader, the publisher's description -  'a riveting novel of psychological suspense' was a bit of a reach.  Light suspense for that plane ride or the beach? Yes.

"Kate White has been the editor in chief of five magazines, including Cosmopolitan, and is the New York Times bestselling author of two thrillers and the Bailey Weggins mystery series. White is also the author of popular career books for women, including the bestselling Why Good Girls Don't Get Ahead . . . but Gutsy Girls Do."

You can find Kate White on Twitter and on Facebook.

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

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Desperate - Daniel Palmer

Daniel Palmer is a new to me author. I picked up his latest book - Desperate - on the strength of Harlan Coben's blurb - "If you've somehow missed reading Daniel Palmer, it's time to -- pardon the pun -- get Desperate."

Gage Dekker tragically lost his wife and son in an auto accident. It is at a grief group that he meets Anna, a woman also mourning the loss of a child. The two eventually marry and the thought of a child together is raised. With miscarriage and a lengthy adoption wait, their hopes for a new family together seem destined to not happen. But when they come across Lily, a pregnant young woman crying at a bus stop, it seems like fate has stepped into their lives. Lily does not want her baby and the Dekkers desperately do.

But can you want something so much that you become blind to those niggling feelings of misgivings? In the beginning it seems like Lily is an answer to their prayers. But then Gage does begin to listen to that little voice at the back of his head. But not Anna....

The 'everyday person put into extraordinary circumstances' premise is a favourite of mine. Palmer does a good job building on this style. The small things become larger until Gage himself is in a desperate position, with his life careening out of control.

Palmer's novel is built on plot and action, not on character development. The characters are somewhat one dimensional, despite the emotional baggage they are carrying. But is the plot that is the strength of Desperate. Palmer adds one twist after another, dizzying the reader with the direction the story takes. Palmer did definitely catch me unawares with many of the turns the book took. Some of them are a bit contrived, but add a grain of salt and you 've got a great thriller/suspense book for your beach bag this summer. Read an excerpt of Desperate.  You can find Daniel Palmer on Twitter.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Landline - Rainbow Rowell

I first 'discovered' Rainbow Rowell when I read her debut novel Attachments. I loved her story and her style and have been a fan ever since. (She's also written some fantastic YA titles - Fangirl and Eleanor & Park)

Rowell's latest book Landline is an adult book.

Georgie and Neal have been married for fourteen years. They have an established life with Georgie as the breadwinner and Neal as stay-at-home dad to their two daughters. Georgie works as a television scriptwriter. When she and her writing partner get an offer at last for their own show, Georgie is thrilled. The only hitch? They have to produce four scripts in a short amount of time - over the Christmas holidays. The plan was to visit Neal's parents in another state for Christmas. But, when Georgie cancels going with Neal and the girls, the cracks in their marriage widen to what may be the breaking point. Is this the end of their marriage?

Georgie tries to stay in touch with Neal by phone, but he seems to be out every time she calls. Depressed and not wanting to go home to an empty house, she heads to her mom's house and her childhood room. When her cellphone dies, she plugs in the bright yellow landline buried in the closet. And she finally reaches Neal. But, Georgie thinks she's losing her mind - when she talks to Neal, it's the past. The yellow phone is letting her revisit another Christmas, before they were married.

Rowell has again created a wonderfully quirky story in Landline. At first I thought the story would simply be a exploration of a relationship. Rowell makes the story unique with the addition of magical realism. The phone was a great plot device.

I liked the idea of seeing the past from the present. How often do we say to ourselves - "Oh, I wish I knew then what I know now." What would you do if you had the chance to change things? What if you couldn't? What if you didn't want to? Rowell raises some good questions and discussion points about marriage, relationships, balance in our lives and choices we make. What would you do if you had the chance to change things? What if you couldn't?

Rowell always creates quirky, fun characters. In Landline, Georgie's family - her mom and sister - both really appealed to me. I liked Georgie, but wanted to give her a bit of a wake up shake - especially in the past. I just didn't like Neal. Yes, in the present he's a good father. But seriously- in the past when she first meets him, I had my doubts. He's anti-social and quite frankly, I found him somewhat manipulative.

Rowell's prose are easy to read, are entertaining and seem to flow effortlessly. I finished Landline really quickly. Now, I quite enjoyed it, but didn't love it as much as past titles. Part of that was Neal, part of it Georgie's choices and part of it was perhaps an extra chapter or two that I thought was somewhat repetitive, covering ground already talked about. That being said, it's still a four star read from a very talented author. Landline releases July 8/14 - put it on your summer reading list.

Read an excerpt of Landline. You can find Rainbow Rowell on Facebook, and on Twitter.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Giveaway Winners!

And the winner of a copy of James Madison by Lynne Cheney,
courtesy of Viking Books is:


And the winner of a copy of  The Promise
Debbie F!
And the winner of a copy of The Bookman's Tale by Charlie Lovett,
courtesy of Penguin Books  is:
Michelle B!
Congratulations to all! I've contacted you by email for your mailing addresses. Please respond with 72 hours. After that time a new winner will be chosen. Thanks to all who entered - check the sidebar for ongoing giveaways.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

You Can't Judge a Book By It's Cover #7

- You Can't Judge a Book By It's Cover -
Which is very true. But you can like one cover version better than another...
US/Canadian cover
UK/Australian cover
I was hunting down cover art for Lisa O'Donnell's latest book - Closed Doors, and came across the US/Canadian cover on the left and the UK/Australian cover on the right. I prefer the US cover this time. Both capture the tone of the book, but I think the boy peeking through the door conveys the story inside better. And I always like to imagine what a character looks like instead of being presented with a ready made image.
Either way - it's a good read. (my review)
What cover do you prefer?
Have you read Closed Doors?
You Can't Judge A Book By It's Cover is a new regular Saturday feature on A Bookworm's World. .

Friday, June 6, 2014

Film on Friday #15 - The Jewish Cardinal

Director Ilan Duran Cohen brings us the true story of Jean-Marie Lustiger in his film, The Jewish Cardinal.

Film Movement consistently brings award winners to the small screen and this film is no exception - it's an official selection of numerous film festivals.

Lustiger was born a Jew in 1926 Poland. He converted to Catholicism at age 14. His mother was killed at Auschwitz in 1942. He rose in the ranks of the church and had the ear of Pope John Paul II.

Bare bones synopsis. And they're simply facts. Cohen brings this amazing man's life to....well, life.

Lustiger struggled with remaining true to his heritage, while embracing his faith. His dual 'roles' were both despised and embraced within the Church. The confrontation between the Jews and Catholics over Auschwitz and Lustiger's involvement was powerful. And enlightening - I was unaware of this piece of history.

Laurent Lucas was brilliant as Cohen, more than aptly portraying Lustiger's enthusiasm, strength, faith,conflict and more. The supporting case was just as wonderful, especially Aurelien Recoing as John Paul. The scenes between these two gave an intimate view of their relationship. And a 'human' view of these two men.

To be quite honest, I did not expect to enjoy this film as much as I did. I tend to shy away from religious films. But The Jewish Cardinal was not specifically about doctrine. Instead it brings to light both an important piece of history and the life of a complicated man. I was engaged from start to finish.

(The sound track was quite beautiful as well)

As, always Film Movement includes a short with their DVD. This time it's an nine minute film called Kosher from director Isabelle Stead. The tie in to the main film is obvious. It's about a lonely young Jewish boy finding a pig - and keeping it for a pet. The viewer is left to make their own inferences as there is no dialogue.

2012 / French with English subtitles / 90 min

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Over the Counter #215

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? This week it's memoirs - two very different memoirs that it was impossible not to leaf through,.

First up was Granny is My Wingman by Kayli Stollak.

From the publisher New Harvest:

"At twenty-three, Kayli Stollak, like most starry-eyed twentysomethings, assumed that she and her boyfriend, Charlie, would be together forever. Besides a rockin’ sex life, they shared a passion for motorcycle adventures, hedonistic European music festivals, and wearing matching glittery spandex to the disco. What more could a gal ask for? She envisioned their love burning well into their sixties.

And then he dumped her.

Heartbroken, Kayli turned to her seventy-five-year-old granny for support. And this ain’t no ordinary granny. Granny Gail is a ball-busting, sh*t-talking, gossipy yenta with an anecdote or piece of unsolicited advice for every situation. Granny didn’t sugarcoat the truth or let Kayli dwell on her failed relationship. No, Granny told her to cut the crap and snap out of it. Why didn’t Kayli give “one of those dating websites” a shot? With her ego on the line, Kayli threw the dare right back at her—if it was so wonderful, why didn’t single Granny join her in the world of cyber romance?

Granny Is My Wingman chronicles Kayli’s and Granny’s misadventures in online dating. What ensues is a hilarious tour through the obstacles of modern love: drunken hookups, late-night Facebook stalking, breathy phone calls with geriatric suitors, and the occasional rude dude. While Kayli powers through a marathon of OkCupid dates—the corporate drone married to his BlackBerry, the nail-biting thirty-three-year-old who still lives at home with his mom, the serial online dater—we learn about Granny’s romantic past and the bittersweet affair she carried on, even while married, for more than thirty years. The two women cheer each other on and become even closer as they share their dating exploits, learning that the hunt for happiness is the same whether you’re twenty-five or seventy-five.

Fresh, funny, and honest, Granny Is My Wingman is a book for anyone who has ever found love, lost it, and been crazy enough to do it all over again."

Next up was Acrobaddict by Joe Putignano.

From the publisher, Central Recovery Press:

"Follow the author as he goes on a harrowing journey from the US Olympic Training Center to homeless shelters to shooting heroin on the job to being declared dead. This story goes beyond addiction. It is about the fragility and tenacity of the human spirit and how that spirit can redeem each and every one of us by helping to push us through the darkness, whether the darkness is from death, divorce, or the disease of addiction.

Acrobaddict is a story about the close relationship between athletics and drug addiction—how the same energy, obsession, and dedication that can create an Olympic athlete can also create a homeless drug addict."

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

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Closed Doors - Lisa O'Donnell

I adored Lisa O'Donnell's debut novel The Death of Bees. (my review) And so did a lot of others - O'Donnell was the winner of The Commonwealth Book Prize. When I heard she had a new novel - Closed Doors - I jumped at the chance to read it.

O'Donnell has again set her novel in the recent past. Closed Doors takes place in the early 1980's on a small Scottish island where eleven year old Michael Murray lives with his mother Rosemary, his unemployed father Brian and his Granny.

Michael is busy practicing his 'keepie-uppies' for the talent show the neighbourhood kids are going to put on, arguing with his arch nemesis Dirty Alice and keeping an eye on what goes on in his bit of the world. But when his mother comes home from work bruised and bleeding, he's sent to his room. Why won't his ma go to the police? Why is he told to tell the neighbours she fell down the stairs? What happened to her?

Confused and worried, Michael needs to know what happened to her and what is going on.

"I listen at doors now. It's the only way to find out stuff. No one tells me anything."

Life has changed drastically for the Murray family. As adult readers, we know what has happened to Rosemary. And as adults, it is heartbreaking to watch Michael try to make sense of things. He continues to listen at doors, hearing bits and pieces and being told half truths as the family struggles to keep things quiet. But gossip in a small town cannot be contained and when another woman is hurt, there can be no more secrets.

O'Donnell has created yet another wonderful child narrator in Michael. His voice is real, running the gamut of emotions. There is a sense of innocence in the children of this island. Part of it is the insular nature of island living, part of it is the time period used. I can't imagine this same story being told in present day. O'Donnell has chosen time and place well - it absolutely works. The loss of that innocence makes Closed Doors a coming of age tale in so many ways.

"It's terrible to know too many things about people. It makes you feel like a liar because you have to act like you know nothing at all when the truth is you know everything there is to know."

"Lies make people happy, I think, and that's why people tell them, not to hurt or anger anyone, but to keep them safe from the truth, except our lie, the lie Ma and Da and Granny are telling to themselves and everyone else around them, it is the worst of lies and it is making no one happy and when lies don't make you happy, you have to wonder what will happen nest.

O'Donnell also deftly explores family and family dynamics in Closed Doors. What secrets would you keep to protect your family? And at what cost?

Closed Doors is another great read from a talented wordsmith. I'll be waiting for book number three.

"Lisa O'Donnell won the Orange Screenwriting Prize in 2000 for her screenplay The Wedding Gift. Her debut novel, The Death of Bees, was the winner of the 2013 Commonwealth Book Prize. She lives in Scotland." You can find Lisa O'Donnell on Facebook and on Twitter.

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

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Bird Box - Josh Malerman

I love audio books. Listening to a book is somehow more intimate, making you feel closer to the author's words. And the experience of the book is much different than reading it. Josh Malerman's debut novel Bird Box is one I am so very glad I listened to. My husband can't stand the light on at night, so I usually listen to an audio book before falling asleep.

Here's the premise of Bird Box. In the near future, something or someone has arrived on Earth. One glance at whatever it is will drive you mad and a horrible death immediately ensues. There are a handful of survivors who have figured out how to stay alive.  One group in a house by the river includes a young woman named Malorie.

Malerman flips the narrative back and forth as we learn how the situation in the house deteriorated and what led to Malorie and two four year olds named Boy and Girl sitting in a boat blindfolded, trying to row their way to what may or may not be a safe haven. Each narrative is just as gripping, switching at just the right moment, leaving the listener wanting more. (And leaving me mighty tired in the morning)

Malerman ramps up the scary factor by tenfold (or more!) Actions that we would take for granted are suddenly terrifying. Going outside is frightening beyond belief - is something watching you? Stalking you? What just touched your arm? Was it a branch...or something else? Was that a footstep or just a branch dropping? You can't know - because you can't open your eyes. You do, you die. But what if? What if you did look? What if you looked through a camera? What if...?

This is one of the best audio books I've listened to in a long, long time. Remember, I'm in the dark listening. It only intensified the story as I imagined what the characters in Bird Box were going through. I truly had goosebumps. There are no overt gory scenes in the book - rather it is the slow building tension that is the most horrifying. Cassandra Campbell was the reader and she did an excellent job. Her voice is easy to listen to and has a lovely resonant tone to it. Her interpretation of the book did it great justice. I felt I was in the story with Malorie as she recounted her tale - an even, resigned tone to the known and ramping up as the danger of the unknown increases.  Listen to an excerpt of Bird Box.

I'll be waiting to see what Malerman comes up with for his next book. Universal Pictures has also optioned Bird Box. Fans of Cormac McCarthy's The Road would love this book.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Giveaway - James Madison - Lynne Cheney

Looking for a great book for a father, grandfather, husband or friend for Father's Day? (Sunday June 15th) Well, Viking Books has a great idea for the history/political buffs in your life.  James Madison: A Life Reconsidered by Lynne Cheney is newly released. I have a copy to giveaway - and the great folks at Viking are guaranteeing delivery for Father's Day anywhere in the US!

From the publisher:

"A major new biography of the fourth president of the United States by New York Times bestselling author Lynne Cheney.

This majestic new biography of James Madison explores the astonishing story of a man of vaunted modesty who audaciously changed the world. Among the Founding Fathers, Madison was a true genius of the early republic.

Outwardly reserved, Madison was the intellectual driving force behind the Constitution and crucial to its ratification. His visionary political philosophy and rationale for the union of states—so eloquently presented in The Federalist papers—helped shape the country Americans live in today.

Along with Thomas Jefferson, Madison would found the first political party in the country’s history—the Democratic Republicans. As Jefferson’s secretary of state, he managed the Louisiana Purchase, doubling the size of the United States. As president, Madison led the country in its first war under the Constitution, the War of 1812. Without precedent to guide him, he would demonstrate that a republic could defend its honor and independence—and remain a republic still." Read an excerpt of James Madison: A Life Reconsidered.

Sound like a book you'd like to give someone? (Okay, or maybe keep for yourself?) Simply leave a comment to be entered (and a way for me to contact you - either by email or through your blog)

This giveaway is short and sweet in order to make sure the book arrives in time for Father’s Day. A winner will be randomly chosen on Sunday, June 8/14. Open to US only, no PO boxes. please.

The Madwoman in the Volvo - Sandra Tsing Loh

Having reached the age where the word menopause comes up in conversations with friends, Sandra Tsing Loh's memoir The Madwoman in the Volvo: My Year of Raging Hormones caught my eye.

I think there's much more than menopause driving Sandra Tsing Loh's year of raging hormones. While she explores menopause with some actual references to science and respected authors on the subject, Loh's life just seemed to go off the rails as she turns fifty. And menopause was along for the ride. I felt her mood swings, anger and depression had roots in 'pre-existing conditions', if you will. Her affair (Mr.Y) and the dissolution of her marriage (Mr. X) seem to take top billing for much of the book. She also explores her relationships with her children, her aging father, her sibling, friends with seeming candor, but admits, " Like with my middle-aged Volvo, I don't have a temperature or emotional thermostat that actually works."

Although the book is only 288 pages, I had to take a break from the book a few times and return later. Loh's intensity and selfish me, me, me attitude was tiring and quite frankly, grew boring.

I must admit, I had not heard of Loh before picking up this book - she is a broadcaster, writer and performer. But, I was actually quite disappointed (and felt manipulated as a reader) when I reached the end of the book and read the disclaimer....

"Except where noted in the acknowledgments, the characters appearing in this book are composites who are not intended to refer to specific people. While inspired by true events, the actions, scenes, and dialogue in this book have been chosen to illuminate the changes states of mind of the narrator, and are of story-making purposes only."

Read an excerpt of The Madwoman in the Volvo. Fans of Loh will probably enjoy the book.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Food and Drink With DK Canada! Canada is running a great promotion from now until July 1st. They've put together a great selection of books in their Food and Drink Boutique - and they're all 30% off.
There's a wide variety of titles to choose from - baking, cooking, preserving, wines and more.
Two books specifically caught my eye...
First was Family Cookbook: More than 700 healthy quick recipes for all occasions by Caroline Bretherton.

700. Quick. Right up my alley for sure! And healthy to boot!

Family Cookbook is broken down into a number of sections, giving you a chance to choose from Babies and Toddlers, Family Meals, Easy Entertaining, Food to Go, Baking and Cooking with Kids. And within each section, there are chapters - pasta, rice, brunch, grilling etc. Bonus chapters on allergies, freezing, shopping and more are a great bonus. The index at the back does allow you to search by ingredients as well.

I admit (and I'm sure my family would agree) I am not a talented cook. I have my stand by dishes, but don't try something new often enough. And a lot of it is down to time - I don't want to spend a lot of time with complicated instructions and ingredients.

Family Cookbook recipes are exactly as promised - quick and uncomplicated. Easy for this basic cook. But oh my goodness - there are so many I want to try. Seriously, I have paged through all 496 pages and cannot believe how good everything looks. Baked ricotta is on the menu for tomorrow's dinner. With a side of watermelon salad. I really liked the 'smart with leftovers chapter'. No thinking about what to pack for lunch the next day.

Family Cookbook was chock full of amazing full colour photos that had my mouth watering. After all, we eat with our eyes first! The instructions are clear, easy to read and well laid out. This is just a fantastic cook book and one that I'll be referring to over and over again. It would be a great gift for just about anyone.

It's planting season in my neck of the woods. And with summer, comes fresh fruit and vegetables. We try to one or two meatless main meals a week. Vegetables Please: The more vegetables, less meat cookbook by Carolyn Humphries also looked like another cookbook I could really use.

The recipes in Vegetables Please are a little more 'sophisticated' if you will.  And inventive - taking and elevating basic veggies from side dishes into main meals. I particularly enjoyed the chapters on soups and crepes. Baked ricotta (do you see a theme here?) with roasted zucchini ('cause there's always too much zucchini in the garden) and tomatoes is a recipe I'll be trying.

There are some accompanying photographs for some recipes, but I would have liked to see more. The recipe instructions are  numbered, very clear and easy to follow, with a separate column for ingredients.

The opening chapter is lovely, detailing the vegetables, spices, herbs and legumes used in the book. There's also an excellent appendix on basic techniques, such as making an omelet, making pastry, roasting and cooking vegetables and more, all with accompanying colour photograph's.

That's just two of the books in the Food and Drink Boutique - check it out - you might find a great reference book for your cookbook shelf.