Sunday, August 9, 2015

Red Line by Brian Thiem

In Red Line, Matt Sinclair has just landed his first case since coming off desk duty. A teenager is found on a bus bench. That's just the beginning, though, as other bodies turn up. With no apparent links among the victims, Sinclair has to wrap this one up quickly before this new chapter of his career comes to a crashing end.

When the book first came in the mail, I decided to read a couple of pages, just to see what it was like. I found the story so compelling that I immediately dropped the other two books I was reading just to see how this one was going to pan out. I wasn't disappointed. I absolutely loved this methodical police procedural with a great main protagonist.

Brian Thiem, the author, has extensive experience in both law enforcement and military duty. Since I'm not a huge fan of war related stories, I'm glad he focused on his knowledge of police work to bring us this terrific mystery.

There are many things I like about this book. First of all, the book got (and held) my attention from page one without gratuitous violence, sex or excessive swearing. Thiem proves that a good story and a great main protagonist go a long way in making a successful book. Next, Thiem not only explained many of the abbreviations/acronyms used in police work, he did it in a natural way. Not all authors do that. Also, cop lingo and insider slang was kept to a minimum. Both of these last items made me feel included rather than feeling like an outsider looking in. Besides that, the writing is pretty good and the characters are very believable.

I loved Matt Sinclair as a main character. His far from perfect life had me on the edge of my seat hoping he'd succeed in putting his troubles behind him. Everything that happened, though, left me with lots of doubt as to whether or not he had the capacity to do it. Lots of tension for sure! I especially loved his struggle with addiction and his relationship with his sponsor/friend. I also really liked how events from his past were scattered throughout the book. Because they were revealed slowly, they added another mysterious quality to the story.

The book also contains lots of information about Oakland, California. I haven't been there myself, but I'm sure those familiar with the area will get a kick out of reading about it.

Highly recommended. I'm anxiously waiting to read more works by this author.

For more information about this book, please visit the Crooked Lane Books website.

For more information about the author, please visit Brian Thiem's website.

Thanks to Sarah from Kaye Publicity for this review copy.

Red Line by Brian Thiem, Crooked Lane Books (The Quick Brown Fox & Company), ©2015. ISBN 9781629531946 (Hardcover), 360p.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Work Boyfriend by Deanna McFadden

In The Work Boyfriend, things seem to be going in the right direction for Kelly. She has a great job and a steady long term boyfriend. To everyone else, her life is nearly perfect. So, why can't she stop thinking about Garrett, her friend at work. During the chaotic holiday season, she wonders if she's made the right decisions and "finds herself questioning what she really wants from her life . . . and who she wants in it."

I really enjoyed this book. From the cover and title, I expected a much more "chick-lit" type of story. Not that that's a bad thing. I'm just glad it delved deeper into Kelly's inner-most feelings and dealt with her family issues.

I loved that the book had some Canadian references that were familiar to me. Even though I myself am not familiar with Toronto, I'm sure many readers will be and will get a kick out of reading a story set in their "backyard".

The book had an overall sadness to it with Kelly wondering about her life, the decisions she made, and what's going to happen in her future. I don't know exactly why but these types of books really appeal to me. Even though I present a somewhat "Pollyanna" or upbeat view to others, on the inside I lean towards pessimism and sadness. It's something I know and these types of stories make me feel at home.

I really liked Kelly as the main character. I think a lot of people (me included) wonder if the decisions they'd made are the right ones. They wonder if "the one" is really "the right one". Maybe it happens at the beginning of a relationship or maybe the middle or perhaps nearer the end. Maybe there's someone else involved (as in Kelly's case) or not. Maybe it's a case of cold feet, relationship ennui, or something else entirely. Regardless of the circumstance, I think a lot of people can relate to this. All of this makes the story current and relevant.

Highly recommended. I'd definitely read another book by this author.

For more information about this book, please visit the

I'd like to thank the author for this review copy.

The Work Boyfriend by Deanna McFadden, Farringdon Road Books, ©2014. ISBN 9780993991509(eBook),193p.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Inside the O'Briens by Lisa Genova

Inside the O'Briens takes a look at the O'Briens, one family afflicted by Huntington's disease.

I adored this book. As with Genova's other books it was very well written. She explains the medical details in layman's terms and doesn't get bogged down with technical jargon. She not only gives the reader insight in the disease (or condition), but also gives it a face and name to which the reader can relate.

I've heard of Huntington's, but didn't really know much about it. As it turns out, I didn't know anything, really. I think I had confused some of the symptoms with Parkinson's. For instance, I didn't know HD was inherited and that each child of an affected parent has 50% chance of getting it. I also didn't know that couples wanting to have children have options or that getting tested for the gene involves some counselling. All of these details were interesting. The littler glimmers of hope only did a little to break up the heartbreaking details of this devastating disease, which "has been called the cruelest disease known to man" (page 1).

I especially loved the scene at Fenway park where Joe attended (page 328) a baseball game with his family. He compares the number of people in the park with those diagnosed with HD as well as other diseases/disorders/conditions. It was an eye-opener. I doubt I'll ever look at a crowd of people the same way again.

Genova's presentation in this book was unexpected. While it's Joe O'Brien, the family patriarch, who's been diagnosed with the disease, he isn't the main focus of the book. The other family members, one in particular, are given consideration. I don't want to give too much of the story away, so I'll leave it at that. I will say, though, that I loved this approach and particularly loved how it ended.

I've read three other books by Genova: Left Neglected, about a serious brain injury called left neglect; Love Anthony, about autism; and Still Alice, about Alzheimer's. I adored them all.

Highly recommended. I hope Genova writes many more books.

For more information about this book, please visit Simon & Schuster's website.

For more information about the author and her other books, please visit Lisa Genova's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Simon & Schuster for this review copy.

Inside the O'Briens by Lisa Genova, Gallery Books (Simon & Schuster) ©2015. ISBN 9781501102554(Advance Reader's Edition), 335p.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Plain Killing by Emma Miller

In Plain Killing, Rachel Mast and her cousin Mary Aaron discover the body of Beth Glick, an Amish girl, floating in the quarry. Beth had left the Amish to join the English world, so it's not clear why she's back or why she's in Amish clothing. As it turns out, Beth isn't the only Amish girl they are concerned about. A few other girls have left and have never been heard from again. Beth's family along with the rest of the Amish community aren't keen on talking to the police. So it's up to Rachel, who used to belong to the group, along with Mary Aaron to help the police get information from the community to solve the case.

I really enjoyed this book, the second in the series. I don't really know much about the Amish or the Plain lifestyle, so I was particularly fascinated by the details about Old Order Amish life. I can't say if it was factual or fictional, but the information was definitely interesting. The cousins' adventure in New Orleans was especially exciting. It didn't seem like a probably scenario, but it sure was fun to read about.

It was fun to read about Rachel's interactions with the Amish. She's no longer belongs to the community, but because she left before being baptised and hasn't been shunned, the Amish people (with the exception of her mother) still confide in her and give her vital information, which she passes onto the police to help with the investigation.

Even though this book is part of a series, it can be read as a standalone book. I have the first one in the series, Plain Murder, on my to-be-read shelf, but I haven't read it yet. I probably should have read them in order, but this second one jumped out at me first.

Highly recommended for cozy lovers.

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

Thanks to those nice people from Kensington Books for this review copy.

Plain Killing by Emma Miller, Kensington Books, ©2015. ISBN 9780758291745(Advance Uncorrected Proof), 282p.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

DK's Idiot Guides in Full Colour!!

Are you a fan of DK's Idiot Guides? Well, now they are even better. If you are not familiar with the books, now's your chance to get acquainted with them. With new topics, new authors, and new colour photography learning a new skill is even more exciting.

DK is currently revamping their website, but they've just completed the section for these fabulous guides.  Why not pop over to DK's website and take a look?

In the coming weeks, I'll be reviewing two of the titles, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Needlework Tuesday - 2 projects on the go!

Needlework Tuesday is an occasional post detailing my needlework and/or crafting projects.

This week I was working on two knitting projects. I've made a little progress for the item I started in January from Mary Maxim's Knit Club of the Month. It's a pink baby blanket and I think it's turning out quite nice. Here's how much I have done:
As you can see the pattern is emerging. I took another look at the pattern, specifically the measurements. The finished project is only 29" by 36". Hmmm...that's really small.  Just the right size for a baby blankie, of course, but not much else.  There are no babies here, so I was hoping to use it another way. I guess I'll see when it's done.

I usually finish the month's project before the next one shows up, so it's unusual for me to have one outstanding.  However, the cable and pattern are both a bit complicated, so I still have to keep one eye on the pattern; some rows are easier than others. Also, the rows are quite long and since I'm not totally sure of the pattern, I like to finish a row before putting it down for the day. That means I only do a few rows at a time. In other words, it's slow going.

In the meantime, this month's project has also arrived. It's a scarf and boot cuffs. Here's the project (Sorry about the glare):

I'm not sure about the boot cuffs. Are you supposed to wear them with "fashion" winter boots or with more rugged winter boots? I'm not thrilled that the scarf and cuffs have different cable designs. Surely they were designed to be worn together, so shouldn't they be matching?  Hmmmm....

Anyway, I really like the yarn. It's Mary Maxim Starlette Ragg that I've used before on the Christmas Stockings I showed awhile ago. Of course, I couldn't wait to start it and since I already had the needles (sort of, more about this next week), I figured why not? Here's what I've done so far:

I know the cable pattern is hard to see.  It's hard to see in person, too. 

Needlework Tuesday is hosted by Heather over at Books and Quilts.    If you'd done any crafting this week that you'd like to share with others, please head over to Heather's blog and use the Mr. Linky to link up your post, so others can enjoy your creations.   If Heather hasn't posted an update this week, you are welcome to post links and/or comments here.  ;)

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Smithsonian Great Design by DK Publishing - I Love DK!!

It's time once again for the I LOVE DK promotion where readers pick their favorite DK book.  All you have to do is pick one that you love and let DK know with a short review or a sentence or two.

On Valentine's Day they will select one of the reviews and that  reviewer wins a $250 DK shopping spree from DK.  They will also select a participating blogger for the same prize. 

So, if you love DK books as much as I do I encourage you to participate  between January 19 and February 4th.  Just go to Twitter and use the hashtag #ILoveDK letting DK know you favourite DK book.  Not on Twitter?  No problem.  They also have a Facebook page.   I left this a little late, but there's still a few days left to let the world know your favourite book from DK Canada and win a great prize!

Anyway, I posted about lots of great DK books over the past few years. Here's my recent favourite:

Smithsonian: Great Design features over 100 designs from around the world using numerous photographs and informative text. Within the covers, you'll find information about furniture, flatware, vehicles, graphics and much more. There's really something for everyone. In a nutshell, it's " the world's best design explored and explained."

I loved this book!! The thing I loved most about it was that it taught me that every item I see or touch each and every day has been gone through the design process. It can have a designer label or a generic one. It doesn't matter if it's sold at Wal-Mart, a high end "designer" store, or given away for free. Someone somewhere made decisions about its form and function. The book was definitely an eye-opener.

Besides being informative, the book is beautifully laid out with absolutely gorgeous photographs. Many of the designs are iconic, while others are less well known (at least to me) and somewhat surprising. Some of the items are just beautiful; some more functional; many a little of both. I love that the book is presented chronologically (1860 to the present), which allowed me to see the evolution of design. I also enjoyed the information on the designers and design movements.

The book starts with an interesting, but short, introduction explaining what design is and how it works. Each chapter starts with a list of items designed in that time period. I kind of wish there were page numbers on that page so that I could quickly find what I'm interested in, but I guess that's what the table of contents is for.

Within the chapters, each design item is featured on a 2 or 4 page spread. There are lots of photos and information about the item. The Visual Tour section is my favourite part because it focuses on the details of the particular item with annotated and/or labelled photographs. Besides the photographs, there's lots of information about the items including: date, materials used, country of origin, and scale of the piece. There's also a side bar about featuring information about the designer, many times with a photo.

There's so many great items in this book. It was hard, but I managed to pick a few favourites. Here they are:

  • Kitchen/dining items: Flatware, especially the spoons (page 30-31), Aga cookers (pages 42-43) Kilta tableware (page 118-119), and Pride cutlery (pages 122-123)
  • Vehicles: Volkswagen Beetle Model 1300 (pages 80-03), Vespa (pages 98-101), Austin Seven Mini (pages 168-171), and Cadillac series 62 (pages 172-175)
  • Furniture: Egg chair (pages 162-163), Barcelona Chair (pages 58-59), Wiggle Chair (pages 202-203), Vermelta Chair (pages 229-235), Laver sofa (pages 238-239), and Masters Chair (pages 248-249)
  • Miscellaneous: Penguin paperback covers (pages 102-103), Dyson DC01 vacuum cleaner (pages 226-227, I have a soft spot for all things Dyson)

The most surprising item in the book was the London Underground map (pages 64-65). What surprised me was that the diagrams were very similar to those used on our bus schedules here. It didn't occur to me that these needed "designing". However, after reading the information about how and why they are designed that way, I was amazed I didn't see it before. I liked the Munich Olympic Games pictograph (pages 204-205) for much the same reason. Both of these were very cool!!!!

Book also features a table of contents and index.

Highly recommended. This gorgeous coffee table book will be looked at repeatedly and already sports a number of bookmarks.

For more information about this book, please visit, while DK revamps its website.

I'd like to thank Chris at DK Canada for this review copy.

Smithsonian: Great Design by DK Publishing, Dorling Kindersley (DK), ©2013. ISBN 9781465414403(Hardcover), 256p.