Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Long Fall by Walter Mosley

In The Long Fall, Leonid McGill, an ex-boxer and private investigator, has "never been above taking a shady job for a quick buck", but now he's intent on turning over a new leaf. He's been hired to find four individuals. When he delivers the information to his client one man is murdered and another one is missing. McGill isn't happy that his investigating is getting people hurt and tries to track down the man who hired him. Meanwhile, McGill has trouble at home. His marriage is in shambles and his son, Twill, is up to something. McGill is afraid that he's headed for trouble. All of a sudden McGill becomes a suspect because of his shady past. He kicks his investigation into high gear while trying to keep his nose clean, which ain't easy with all of the enticements in New York City.

Great book! It's a superb mystery featuring a new character for Mosley. He is a great story teller and wonderful writer. While the novel is action packed, it still felt a little laid back to me. I don't know if it was the writing or the fact that McGill was trying to stay out of the fray. Anyway, I really enjoyed it and had a hard time putting the book down.

I really liked the side story of McGill's son, Twill. It showed McGill's softer side in that he really cared for Twill even though he wasn't his biological son. He would do anything to protect him. It was a nice contrast to McGill's tougher traits. I also loved that McGill was constantly quoting his father. McGill got some very good advice as he was growing up.

I love reading the first book in a series and this one was no exception. We get to see the characters built from the ground up as the author includes all of the nitty-gritty details of the protagonist's character.

Highly recommended. This is my first Mosley book; it won't be my last. There's a substantial backlist to keep me busy for awhile. I'll also be looking forward to the next Leonid McGill mystery.

For more information about this book, visit the Penguin website.

For more information about the author, backlists, tour dates and lots of other cool stuff, visit Walter Mosley's website.

The Little Road Trip Handbook by Erin McHugh

The Little Road Trip Handbook is a guide book for road travellers. From planning the trip, getting the car in order, picking your travelling companions, picking the music to enhance your travelling pleasure, and many other pieces of advice and information, Erin McHugh includes the things you'll need to know before hitting the open road and things you can do once you get there.

This is a must read (not to mention a must-keep-handy) guide book for all road trippers. It covers information you probably didn't think of, but wish you had once you're in the middle of nowhere. This isn't the type of book you read then set aside or lose in the clutter or lend to a friend. You'll need this book to plan your next adventure and the one after that and the get the idea.

It's nicely laid out with cool photos and tons and tons of information. The pre-trip checklist is invaluable. Know how to use jumper cables? We didn't. Even though we have two sets of jumper cables, neither of us (me or my husband) knew how they worked. Now we do. Other stuff, like the attractions and weird state/local laws will both come in handy for road trips through the US. Some of the laws are laugh-out-loud funny.

When I first took a look at the road games, I thought that they were a little silly and perhaps for a younger crowd, but then I thought "Hey, if you can't be silly on a road trip, when can you be silly?" We will definitely be giving these a try.

I love maps, therefore, I was enamoured with both the "Classic Road Trip" and "Bonus Road Trip" maps. We were in Northern Alberta last year just east of the the Alaska Highway and decided right then and there that the next trip we take in that direction would be all the way to Alaska. Now I have a guide to get us there. At about 4200 kilometres, I better start planning now.

This book will definitely find a spot in the glove compartment or seat pocket on our next trip. Until then, I'll keep it close by for planning purposes.

As I said before, this is one book you'll want to keep around. It would really make a great gift. Father's Day is around the corner. Doesn't Aunt Betsy have a birthday coming up? Hmmm...better get a couple of extra copies. ;)

Highly recommended. Even though most of the information is American, Canadians can use lots of the information for trips in Canada. And don't forget about those cross border trips. I know we try to go a few times a year.

For more information about this book, please visit the Sterling Publishing website.

Friday, May 29, 2009

AFRAID by Jack Kilborn - WINNERS!

This giveaway has now concluded and we have WINNERS to announce!

I didn't have as many entries as I'd hoped, but it's good news for those who did enter. Everyone gets a book! Those who didn't enter missed out on an opportunity to read a great book. Thanks to everyone who dropped by and to those who entered. You guys rock!

Congratulations! The following people will receive a copy of Afraid by Jack Kilborn:

- Sharon
- Heather of Books and Quilts
- Cheryl
- Luanne of A Bookworm's World

Your addresses have been sent to Hachette Book Group. Keep your eye on your mailbox. Thanks again.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Lucky Girl by Mei-Ling Hopgood

In Lucky Girl, Mei-Ling was put up for adoption by her biological parents in Taiwan. She was the 5th girl born into a family in which the father's desire was to sire a boy. She was adopted by the Hopgoods and taken to America. Years later she receives a call from the nun who arranged the adoption. Her biological family (Ba, Ma and her sisters) wanted to meet her. Within a very short time, she was exchanging letters with them and talking to them on the phone. Not long after those initial communications, she travelled to Taiwan to see them. While both sides were happy to finally meet each other, it wasn't exactly the "homecoming" they imagined.

I loved this very well written and fascinating memoir filled with culture clashes, family secrets and tightly-held traditions. Mei-Ling's explanations, wonder and confusion of the customs and traditions were easy to relate to because she was an outsider, despite having been born there. I really like all of the references to food and eating, even though I probably wouldn't eat some of the food. I think I gained 10 pounds just by reading the book.

I admired Mei-Ling. In Taiwan, she was caught between her Ba's erratic behaviour, Ma's submissiveness, and her sisters' desires to protect her as well as their secrets. As the secrets were revealed, her desire to get to know Ma and her choices became Mei-Ling's focus. It was so difficult for Mei-Ling to communicate with Ma because of the language barrier; it was sad. I really felt sorry for Ma, who was trapped in a troubled marriage by her own beliefs and customs. Back in America, Mei-Ling wanted to keep in touch with her "new" family in Taiwan, but she also wanted to carry on with her life. It must have been incredibly hard for her.

The book was educational as well. I learned some interesting new things about the Chinese people and their culture. One thing that I found interesting is that they are straightforward and are not afraid to tell you exactly what they think. I identified with Mei-Ling who was sometimes taken aback by some of the comments. I loved how Mei-Ling discovered that the Chinese don't ask you "How are you?", they say "Have you eaten?" because of their fondness for food.

One of my favourite quotes:
Some people spend their whole lives trying to uncover, understand, or escape from their pasts. Mine rose up like a dragon, fast and furious. And I was blissfully ignorant, a sleeping ox about to be discovered--and devoured.

Highly recommended.

For more information about this book, visit the Algonquin Books website.

Loser's Town: A Novel by Daniel Depp

Loser's Town takes a look at the grittier side of Hollywood. David Spandau, a former movie stuntman, is now a private investigator who collects Western memorabilia and novels. He is hired by Bobby Dye, an actor, to investigate a threatening note he's received. Terry, a charming and dangerous Irishman, does some sleuthing for Spandau. As it turns out, Terry is a little too charming for his own good and attracts the wrong woman. Spandau uncovers lots of shady business along with a few surprises in this gritty noir mystery.

I enjoyed this novel. It's nicely paced with lots of action balanced with some slower sections giving the reader time to recover. I enjoyed reading the background information about the characters as I got further into the story. The side story featuring Potts and Squiers was interesting and I enjoyed their antics. The mystery part of the novel got a little lost and wishy-washy in parts, though. While I was waiting for the mystery part to pick up again, my interest started to wane and I got lost in the plot a few times. I think I had everything straight by the end and enjoyed it overall.

Depp has created an oddball and quirky collection of characters for this novel. I really liked Spandau. From some reason I kept picturing him as Dennis Farina. It's probably because I've seen him play a character or two who made wise ass, sarcastic remarks and had that wry sense of humour. Spandau was younger than Farina, though. Terry was quite charming and accomplished almost unbelievable feats in love conquests as well as the martial arts. I was almost sad that he got himself into so much trouble.

One word of warning. This book is peppered with profanity and racial slurs and is bound to offend some people. If you are easily offended this book might not be for you. However, if you are looking for good fictional read about the filth that surely exists beneath the glamour and glitz of Hollywood, I'm sure you'll enjoy this book.

It'll be interesting to see what Depp has in store for us in his next Spandau adventure. I'm sure it won't be boring.

Daniel Depp is half-brother to Johnny Depp. According to the press release that accompanied the book, Daniel and Johnny "have collaborated on films, making Daniel's knowledge of Hollywood absolutely authentic."


For more information about this book, please visit the Penguin Canada website.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

SERIAL: Free Downloadable eBook and AFRAID Giveaway!

Thanks to Brianne from Hachette Book Group I'm able to highlight a free, downloadable eBook from Jack Kilborn and Blake Crouch. It’s called SERIAL, a terrifying tale of hitchhiking gone terribly wrong. SERIAL is a horror novella and is like a deeply twisted version of an “After School Special.” It is the single most persuasive public service announcement on the hazards of free car rides.

The SERIAL eBook also contains a Q&A with Kilborn and Crouch, author bibliographies, and excerpts from their most recent and forthcoming works: Kilborn’s Afraid and Crouch’s Abandon.

I haven't read it yet, but it sounds great. I'll be reading it as soon as I can. Stay tuned for my review. To download your free copy of this eBook, click here. SERIAL is located under "Book Extras" in the bottom right-hand corner. You can download it either as a PDF file or there's also an ePub version of the book (the Sony eBook Reader format).

And that's not all. Brianne has also graciously offered up 5 copies of Afraid by Jack Kilborn for me to giveaway. How cool is that? It's a great book. Click here for my review.

For one entry, leave a comment below. For an extra entry, follow my blog. Leave a separate comment letting me know that you are a new follower or that you already follow me. Separate comments for each entry will be easier on me when I pick the winners.

Please leave an email address if there isn't one connected to your blog profile. You can't win, if I can't contact you.

- The giveaway is open to Canadian and US residents only. No P.O. boxes, please.
- You have until midnight (CDT), May 26, 2009 to enter.
- Five winners will be picked in a random draw by May 28, 2009. I'll email the winners at that time. Winners will have three days to respond with their mailing addresses.

Happy Reading and Good Luck in the giveaway!

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa

In The Housekeeper and the Professor, a housekeeper goes to work for a math professor who only has eighty minutes of short term memory. As a result of a car accident in 1975, he can remember everything that happened before it, but now after eighty minutes, his memory is wiped clean and he starts again. Every morning, it's like the housekeeper and the professor have never met. To keep track of all of the things he needs to remember, he creates little notes to himself which he keeps clipped to his suit, including a hand-drawn portrait of the housekeeper and her son, Root. Although he no longer teaches, mathematics remains his life-long passion; math and baseball.

I adored this wonderfully book. It's certainly one of my favourites this year and probably one of the best books I've ever read. To say it's beautifully written, is an understatement. The story enveloped me from the beginning and led me on an emotional roller coaster to the very end. The story was at times heart-breaking, yet it remained hopeful and heart-warming. The professor spends a lot of time explaining mathematics to the housekeeper and her son. Usually I'd find math a little dull, but not the way the professor explains it. His passion is contagious and not only rubs off on the housekeeper and Root, but also me.

The characters were memorable, quite ironic considering the subject matter. All of the characters were fantastic; I'd be hard pressed to name a favourite. Each of them had qualities to admire: the professor had his passion, the housekeeper had her compassion and perseverance. Root, so named by the professor because of his flat head which resembled the symbol for square root, had his maturity despite his age.

Yoko Ogawa shows us how beautiful mathematics can be; how precious our memories are; how relationships can be forges despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles and how baseball can be an obsession. I was especially surprised and pleased to see that the game of baseball did not revolve around the American teams. Who knew that was possible? ;)

Highly recommended. I'll definitely be looking for more of Ogawa's work.

For more information about this book, please visit the Macmillan/Picador website.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Slob by Ellen Potter

In Slob, Owen Birnbaum is overweight. Not only is he being picked on at school, but someone has been stealing his Oreo cookies from his school lunch. He's very serious when it comes to Oreos; he's allowed only three for the day because he's on a diet. Owen tries to catch the culprit so that he can get his daily "reward". On top of that, he's trying to make a contraption that will allow him to see into the past to an event that changed his whole life. Along with his sister, Owen goes scavenging for parts for his creation, which he's called Nemesis. Once it's complete, he thinks he can tap into an old video camera signal and get some resolution in their lives.

What a great clever novel for young readers! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I love books where the protagonist addresses the reader, this book is no exception. It makes me feel like an insider to the story. I loved how the story unfolded slowly giving the reader bit and pieces of the story. I also really liked the references to the "old" TV shows, especially the ones I watched.

The book is filled with many things that preteens and teens should be able to relate to (being picked on, trust, friendships, conflicts, strict teachers). Also, there are many great characters in this book. I really liked Owen and Mason. I could really relate to Owen's emotional eating, but I can't believe how much he ate. On the other hand, he is a growing teenage boy, so maybe it's understandable. I liked Mason because he was totally misunderstood and it took another "outsider" to see that. I, also, thought Nima was an interesting character and loved hearing about his Buddhist lifestyle. He turned out to be much younger than I thought he was going to be. I guess I always think of Buddhists as old. Silly, I know.

Even though the book is loaded with funny bits, it does have some serious or sad moments where I couldn't help but feel for the characters. I loved Owen and really hoped that things would go his way in the end.

I honestly didn't really understand the GWAB (Girls Who Are Boys) club that Jeremy/Caitlin, Owen's sister was into. Other than it being another aspect of teenage rebellion, I didn't see how it fit with Owen's predicament. Maybe I missed something. It was interesting, though.

The title is pretty clever and it's source and relation to the story totally surprised me. You'll just have to read the book to find out more about it. ;)

Recommended. Even though it's written for young readers, I enjoyed it and I think other adults will, too.

For more information about this book, please visit the Penguin Canada website or Ellen Potter's website.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Fall by Colin McAdam

Fall follows the life of Noel, an awkward teenager, who attends St. Ebury's private boys' school. He thinks he has gotten lucky in his senior year because he is rooming with the athletic, handsome and popular, Julius. Maybe things will finally change for him and some of Julius' popularity will rub off onto him. After awhile, Noel he develops an unhealthy obsession with both Julius and Julius's girlfriend Fall. When Fall disappears, the relationship between Noel and Julius dramatically changes. In fact, Noel's life starts to spin out of control; not exactly the changes he was hoping for.

I really enjoyed this book, but it was different from other books I've read. Colin McAdam offers a unique look at teenage angst. The story telling style was clever and a bit quirky. The author used many voices of the characters to tell the story, switching back and forth among Noel, Julius, Ant, Chuck and William. I really liked Noel and felt the most comfortable with the book when he was speaking. I think a lot of people could relate to him because of his desire to fit in.

While the use of the many voices made the story extremely interesting, it also made the story hard to follow at times. I had a little trouble trying to figure out who was talking. Even when I got used to the style I still had trouble following the story through some of the characters. The character of Julius was especially hard to follow. He doesn't appear to be able to complete a single clear thought or sentence. However, his "voice" really gave insight into his character. I thought it was wonderfully done.

I generally don't like making comparisons between books or characters. However, in this case I will. Fall reminded me of Catcher in the Rye and Noel reminded me of Holden Caulfield. Both of these books were original and both of these characters were misunderstood teenagers. While I did find these similarities, the stories and styles are very different.

For a more information about the book, visit the Penguin Canada website.

I'd definitely recommend this book to those looking for an interesting, solid, Canadian novel.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Mosquito by Roma Tearne

Set against the war in Sri Lanka, Mosquito, takes the reader into the lives of Theo and Nulani. Theo Samarajeeva, an author, has come back to his homeland to write his latest novel. One day Nulani, a young artist, shows up on his veranda and starts to draw him while he's working. She comes day after day and soon Theo and Nulani strike up a friendship. Despite their age differences, 28 years, they are inexplicably drawn to each other and a love affair envelopes them. Sugi, Theo's houseman, recognises the changes in his employer immediately and warns his employer to no avail. Eventually, the lovers are separated by the war and both face insurmountable odds of ever finding each other again.

This is a beautifully written, wonderful story featuring the horrors of war, the beauty of art and the passion of lovers. It drew me in from the very first page and kept me engrossed until the very last sentence. The details of the prisoners treatment seemed so real. By the time, these details were revealed in the story, I really felt something for Theo, which made reading all the more arduous. The descriptions of Nulani's paintings/drawings were vivid and outstanding.

The age difference between Nulani, 17, and Theo, 45, made me a little uncomfortable. However, the author presented their relationship in such a way that it almost seemed like their destiny rather than their choice. This type of relationship was not commonplace in Sri Lanka. In fact, a few of the characters were dismayed by the age difference. It didn't matter to Theo and Nulani. I couldn't help but wonder how this story would be received had the relationship taken place in the west.

Roma Tearne, from Sri Lanka, trained as an artist and worked as a painter for a number of years. It's no wonder that art plays such a prominent part of this story.

Mosquito is an multi-award winner. Among them: Finalist for the 2007 Costa Book Awards (previously Whitbread), Finalist for the 2008 Kiriyama Prize and Shortlisted for the 2008 L.A. Times Book Prize (Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction Category).

Recommended. I'd definitely read another book by Roma Tearne.

For more information about this book or to Browse Inside, visit the HarperCollins website.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Fatal Waters by Iris Moss

In Fatal Waters, Autumn Knight, a marine biologist, finds her ex-fiancé, Cory Perkins floating in the large aquarium. It's very strange because he supposedly died in a diving accident in Hawaii months before. This time she actually sees him her arms, but not before he utters a cryptic message.

She travels to Hawaii to at the request of a collector, Boris Zolo. Unbeknownst to Autumn, Boris suspects she is involved in the theft of some rare seashells and a gigantic pearl worth $45 million. As Autumn tries to figure out Cory's message, she does a little investigating. She better watch her back, though, because the situation is about to get very dangerous.

I really enjoyed reading this book. It has everything a good mystery needs. It's well written, well thought out, and has plenty of interesting suspects and red herrings. The story also includes plenty of intrigue, danger and suspense. While I'm not sure this book qualifies to be a true cozy mystery (what is the real definition anyway?), it certainly reads like one. There's no extreme violence, foul language or sex in this delightful mystery. Iris Moss has carefully crafted this one so that there's no need for gratuitous characters or "action" scenes. I particularly enjoyed the ending where she nicely ties up all of the loose ends and reveals the culprit. Sometimes I figure out the mystery myself, but in this case, I did not see it coming.

I admit that I mixed up a few of the minor characters a few times. I just couldn't keep track of who was who. Also, a few of the side stories confused me, but it all mad sense in the end.

Moss included some extremely interesting information about sea life and Hawaii. She undoubtedly drew upon her own experience and knowledge as a collector of marine life to write this book. It really was fascinating.

Recommended for mystery fans. I'd love to read another book by Iris Moss.

For more information about the book and the author, Iris Moss, please visit the Outskirt Press website.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Asian Heritage Month Giveaway from Hachette Book Group! - CLOSED

Thanks to Valerie at Hachette Book Group I have some books to giveaway. There will be five (5) winners who will each receive a package of these books:

1. Free Food for Millionaires By Min Jin Lee ISBN: 0446699853
2. Trail of Crumbs By Kim Sunée ISBN: 0446697907
3. The Fortune Cookie Chronicles By Jennifer Lee ISBN: 0446698970
4. Transparency By Frances Hwang ISBN: 0316166936
5. Strangers from a Different Shore By Ronald Takaki ISBN: 0316831301

To enter, leave a comment below stating why you'd like to read these books. Please leave an email address if there isn't one connected to your blog profile. If I can't contact you, you can't win.

- The giveaway is open to Canadian and US residents only. No P.O. boxes, please.
- You have until midnight (CDT), May 31, 2009 to enter.
- Five winners will be picked in a random draw on June 1, 2009. I'll email the winners at that time. Winners will have three days to respond with their mailing addresses.

Good Luck!

Latino Book Month Giveaway from Hachette Book Group!

Thanks to Valerie at Hachette Book Group I have some books to giveaway. There will be five (5) winners who will each receive a package of these books:

1. B as in Beauty By Alberto Ferreras ISBN: 0446697893
2. Into the Beautiful North By Luis Urrea ISBN: 0316025275
3. Hungry Woman in Paris By Josefina Lopez ISBN: 0446699411
4. The Disappearance of Irene Dos Santos By Margaret Mascarenhas ISBN: 0446541109
5. Houston, We Have a Problema By Gwendolyn Zepeda ISBN: 0446698520

To enter, leave a comment below stating why you'd like to read these books. Please leave an email address if there isn't one connected to your blog profile. If I can't contact you, you can't win.

- The giveaway is open to Canadian and US residents only. No P.O. boxes, please.
- You have until midnight (CDT), May 31, 2009 to enter.
- Five winners will be picked in a random draw on June 1, 2009. I'll email the winners at that time. Winners will have three days to respond with their mailing addresses.

Good Luck!

A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick

In A Reliable Wife, Ralph Truitt, a wealthy Wisconsin businessman, advertised for "a reliable wife". Catherine Land answered the ad, but her intentions were anything but honourable. Besides sending him her cousin's photo instead of her own and then lying about her dreadful past, she has plans to abscond with his money. No, Catherine is not the woman Ralph advertised for nor is she the woman she claims to be. Things change though once she meets Ralph and lives with him for awhile. She realizes that she may not be able to carry out her plan. When Ralph sends Catherine to retrieve his son, she discovers that she her choices may be few. Does Catherine follow through with her plans or does she succumb to her husband's desires for a reliable wife? You'll just have to read the book to find out.

This beautifully written piece of historical fiction is suspenseful, emotional and heart-breaking. It was a wonderful and riveting read. I had a hard time putting the book down. The characters were very believable and memorable; the passion and emotions felt by the characters were all too real. I couldn't help but feel sorry for Ralph. He was very lonely and wanted someone with whom he could share his life. His humiliation, his passion, and his strength; all seemed so raw. As for Catherine, at times, I really felt sorry for her; at other times I hated her for what she was doing to Ralph. I really didn't like her very much. As the story progressed, the intensity continued to build until all of the emotions and expectations all come together in an powerful and totally satisfying conclusion.

The author includes many repulsive details of arsenic poisoning, Catherine's choice for getting rid of Ralph. It all seemed so real. Some readers might find the details a bit much. There's also quite a long section where Ralph's sexual yearnings for a woman are expressed and a few other sexual passages that might leave some readers uncomfortable.

This book would make a great book club read. There are plenty of themes that should keep the discussions going for some time.

For more information about the book, please visit the HarperCollins website.

Highly recommended.


In the past month, my blog has received some awards. I've been pokey in posting these mostly because of time constraints. I'm honoured to receive each and every one of them.

I've put off posting a few of them for awhile. Sorry about that. Even though the move went extraordinarily well, the aftermath is taking time away from other things I love to do. Not to mention that my husband retired last week. I wanted to spend more time with him, but sheesh, he's always around now. ;) Anyway, here are the awards:

The lovely Luanne from A Bookworm's World has awarded me the The Zombie Chicken Award. Thanks Luanne!

The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the zombie chicken - excellence, grace and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words. As a recipient of this world-renowned award, you now have the task of passing it on to at least 5 other worthy bloggers. Do not risk the wrath of the zombie chickens by choosing unwisely or not choosing at all...

The marvellous Missy at Missy's Book Nook has given me the Let's Be Friends Award . Thanks Missy!

Blogs that receive the Let’s Be Friends Award are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to eight bloggers.

Missy has also given me the 2009 Friendly Blogger Award. Thanks again Missy!

And finally, magnificent Marci from Travels of a Bookworm has given me the One Lovely Blog Award. Thanks Marci!

As I said before, I'm very honoured to receive these. I appreciate that you thought of me when you handed these out. I honestly don't have the time right now to pass these on. There are so many deserving blogs. Find them. Read them. Follow them. And oh, congratulations to the above blogs for getting the awards in the first place. They are very much deserved. Thanks.