Friday, April 28, 2017

Red Leaves - Paullina Simons

I was intrigued by the description of Red Leaves by Paullina Simons...

"In the tradition of Ira Levin’s A Kiss Before Dying and Donna Tartt’s The Secret History comes a suspenseful thriller from the international bestselling author of The Bronze Horseman—an utterly captivating story about four Ivy League students whose bizarre friendship leads to a twisted maze of secrets, lies, betrayal, and murder."

Sounds good right? Kristina is a star basketball player for Dartmouth. We meet her and her four friends playing a pick up game. There's an odd dynamic between the four from the opening chapters - not what you would expect of friends. Kristina leaves as the game is over to make an appointment with a Howard. Again, a very odd dynamic and a reveal. (I'm not going to spoil it in case you plan to read this book.) More oddness - Kristina happens to catch the eye of a police detective as she flounces around without a coat in the cold. (Much is made of her going without warm clothing throughout the book.) The cop's behaviour is not believable at all. Or is Kristina's or anyone else's for that matter.

So, part one is a (repetitive) rehash of the relationship between the four, both past and present that seems to go on and on. I grew tired of the enigmatic, evasive and mysterious circumstances of their friendships, the philosophical wordplay and bantering. (Stop here if you are going to read Red Leaves - spoiler ahead. I can't help it) Part two finds Kristina dead. And guess who's in charge. Yes, that detective. His police work is slipshod and so far removed from actual police procedure that it's laughable. (More one point he has about a dozen Saturday night specials (guns) in his trunk that he hasn't turned in yet from a bust two or three weeks ago.)

Okay, so the murder is (poorly) investigated. But along with that, every character cannot remember or later (two years in one case) admits they lied. This felt like a very convenient plot device much of the time. And the book continued on long after it should have ended. (The whodunit is not surprising)

I found the writing choppy, stilted and clumsy. That comparison made to Secret History the publisher made? Nope, not even close.

What I subsequently discovered was that Red Leaves was originally published in 1996. I'm sure that Simons' work has become more polished as she has since written thirteen more bookS since Red Leaves and garnered much praise. Sorry to say, but this book was a (big) miss for me. Read an excerpt of Red Leaves.

Cr: Renaissance Studio
"Paullina Simons is an internationally bestselling author whose novels include Bellagrand and The Bronze Horseman was born in Leningrad in 1963. As a child she immigrated to Queens, New York, and attended colleges in Long Island. Then she moved to England and attended Essex University, before returning to America. She lives in New York with her husband and children." Find out more about Paullina at her website, follow her on Twitter, and connect with her on Facebook.

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

I received this book for review from HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover # 156

- You can't judge a book by its cover - which is very true.
 But you can like one cover version better than another....

US cover
Canadian cover.
I've always enjoyed Jo Nesbo's gritty crime novels, especially the Harry Hole series. The newest entry is The Thirst. The US cover is on the left and the Canadian cover is on the right. This week is interesting in that the picture is the same, but the font colour, placement and the taglines are the differences. I find myself drawn more to the Canadian cover this week. The red seems to promise a dangerous read. And I wonder about the pattern in the words The Thirst. So Canadian cover for me this week. Which cover do you prefer? Any plans to read The Thirst? You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Giveaway - I'll Eat When I'm Dead - Barbara Bourland

Barbara Bourland's new novel, I'll Eat When I'm Dead, releases May 2/17 - and I have a copy to giveaway to one lucky reader! What's it about?

From Grand Central Publishing:

"Every weekday morning, as the sun rose above Sixth Avenue, a peerless crop of women - frames poised, behavior polished, networks connected, and bodies generally buffed to a high sheen - were herded by the cattle prod of their own ambition to one particular building. They're smart, stylish, and sophisticated, even the one found dead in her office.

When stylish Hillary Whitney dies alone in a locked, windowless conference room at the offices of RAGE Fashion Book, her death is initially ruled an unfortunate side effect of the unrelenting pressure to be thin. But Hillary's best friend and fellow RAGE editor Catherine Ono knows her friend's dieting wasn't a capital P problem. If beauty could kill, it'd take more than that.

When two months later, a cryptic note in Hillary's handwriting ends up in the office of the NYPD and the case is reopened, Det. Mark Hutton is led straight into the glamorous world of RAGE and into the life of hot-headed and fiercely fabulous Cat, who insists on joining the investigation. Surrounded by a supporting cast of party girls, Type A narcissists and half- dead socialites, Cat and her colleague Bess Bonner are determined to solve the case and achieve sartorial perfection. But their amateur detective work has disastrous results, and the two ingénues are caught in a web of drugs, sex, lies and moisturizer that changes their lives forever.

Viciously funny, this sharp and satirical take on the politics of women's bodies and women's work is an addictive debut novel that dazzles with style and savoire faire." Read an excerpt of I'll Eat When I'm Dead.

"Barbara Bourland lives in Baltimore, MD. Formerly, she was a web producer for O, The OprahMagazine, and OWN, The Oprah Winfrey Network. I'll Eat When I'm Dead is her first novel. She is currently at work on a sequel, entitled Maniacs. Her third novel, Pine City, is also forthcoming from Grand Central Publishing." You can connect with Barbara on her website and follow her on Twitter.

And if you'd like to read I'll Eat When I'm Dead, enter to win a copy using the Rafflecopter form below. Open to US and Canada, no PO boxes please. Ends May 13/17.

Over the Counter #363

What book caught my eye this week as it passed over the library counter and under my scanner? One for the feline fans this week....

Cat Castles: 20 Cardboard Habitats You Can Build Yourself Paperback 16
by Carin Oliver.

From Quirk Books:

"Build your cat “paw-some” homemade habitats with easy instructions and common materials.

Shoeboxes and paper bags are fine for other cats. But your favorite felines deserve luxurious living spaces! This DIY construction guide includes fun and easy instructions for making cardboard trains, ships, food trucks, rockets, and other hideouts. Also included are tips for climbing towers and scratching pads that they can use to stay sharp.

All twenty projects are quick to assemble and require inexpensive and easy-to-find materials. You can customize them to match your cat’s wildest desires!"

(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, April 25, 2017

Beartown - Fredrik Backman

Fredrik Backman's books have always affected me - made me laugh, made me cry and made me think. A Man Called Ove and Britt-Marie Was Here are my two favourites. His newest book, Beartown, has just released. And it is a powerful and compelling read.

Beartown's opening chapter makes it impossible to not keep reading....

"Late one evening toward the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barreled shotgun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else's forehead and pulled the trigger. This is the story of how we got there."

Beartown is a small town nestled deep in the forest. What you must know is that Beartown is a hockey town. The residents (well most of them) live and breathe hockey. They have their hopes pinned on the junior team. They've made it to the semi finals. But if they win - it could mean new hope for the dying town - jobs, a new rink, tourism, a hockey school, a shopping centre - and hope.

"We need to feel, just once, that we're the best. I know it's a game. But that's not all it is. Not always."

Backman excels at characterizations. But the scope of Beartown is simply amazing. There are a core group of players and their families, but the supporting cast is just as well fleshed out. Every character in Beartown has a story. The setting is just as much a player as well. I could hear the pucks, feel the cold and picture the trees.

It is impossible not to be drawn into the story of Beartown. As we come to know the characters, it is their attitudes, outlooks, plans, schemes and dreams that drive the story forward. Forward to that first chapter.

An ugly event occurs that changes the lives of the players, their families and the townsfolk forever. Part two deals with the fallout from that event. As I mentioned, Backman's books make the reader feel - and again I was moved to tears, shaking my fist in anger and my head in disgust. I wanted so badly to skip to the last chapter to see what ending and resolution Backman had planned, but I managed not to. And I am glad I didn't - for it's all about storytelling in Beartown. To know the ending and not the path there would have robbed me of a fantastic read.

There are so many moments, truths and 'aha's' throughout Beartown. Although hockey is the focus of this book, you could easily substitute another sport - football comes to mind. And the question should be in every reader's thoughts - what price is too high to ensure a win?

From the book..."Why does anyone care about hockey? Because it tells stories." With Beartown, Backman tells one helluva of a story. Read an excerpt of Beartown.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Giveaway - The Resurrection of Gavin Stone - DVD/Blu-ray Combo Pack

Flash giveaway!! I had a chance to watch and review The Resurrection of Gavin Stone last week. In case you missed it, you can read my review here. It's a wonderful film - and I have two Blu-ray/Dvd combo packs to giveaway courtesy of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment!

Synopsis: "Gavin Stone (Brett Dalton, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) is a former child star whose hard-partying ways get him in trouble, forcing him to do 200 hours of community service at a church in his hometown. Gavin pretends to be a Christian to land the part of Jesus in the church's annual Passion Play and discovers that the most important role of his life is far from Hollywood in this inspirational comedy about faith, forgiveness and second chances from the director of What If…. Also starring Neil Flynn (The Middle), D.B. Sweeney (The Cutting Edge) and WWE legend Shawn Michaels."

Check out the trailer below for The Resurrection of Gavin Stone. May 2nd is the home release date. Scroll down to enter the Rafflcopter giveaway! This is short and sweet readers - you have until midnight Tuesday, April 25th EST to enter. Open to US only, no PO boxes please.

Beyond the Wild River - Sarah Maine

I really enjoyed Sarah Maine's debut novel, The House Between Tides, last year. I noted at the end of my review that I was looking forward to Maine's next book. Well that next book is here - Beyond the Wild River.

1888. Beyond the Wild River opens with a heartbreaking prologue - and death - on the Ballantyre Scottish estate.

1893. Nineteen year old Evelyn Ballantyre lives with her widowed father on their somewhat isolated estate in Scotland. Her father is often away for business and Evelyn finds herself somewhat bored. But when she begins an innocent friendship with a servant, it is seen as dangerous - in many ways. Evelyn will be accompanying her father on his next trip. That trip takes them to New York City, The World's Fair in Chicago and up to the wilds of Canada to fish in the Nipigon area. But that event from 1888 has reverberations that cross years and oceans.

I enjoy historical novels and their sense of propriety and manners as well as the language. But those same mores are confining. I appreciated Evelyn's questioning and quick mind, but her naivetĂ© is worrying. She could easily be taken advantage of. And of course there is someone quite prepared to do that - after all as the only child, she will have quite the dowry and inheritance coming to her. But fate steps in in the form of James, a favourite groom from Evelyn's childhood who now works as a fishing guide in Canada. But how did he end up here and more importantly why? That night in 1888 holds the answers.

At the heart of Beyond the Wild River is the secret of that fateful night in 1888 and it's repercussions. The who, why and ending were well executed. But there's also a young woman's coming of age as well as a romantic thread.

Maine does a lovely job of weaving history into and throughout her story. I especially enjoyed those scenes set in Canada, having visited the Lake Nipigon area.

Historical novels such as this take time to tell their story.  Those looking for a fast paced read won't find it here. Those looking for an atmospheric tale to savour will want to pick up Beyond the Wild River.

Read an excerpt of Beyond the Wild River. And yes, I will be looking forward to Sarah Maine's third book! You can find Sarah Maine on her website, follow her on Twitter @SarahMaineBooks and like her on Facebook.

Giveaway - The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence - Alyssa Palombo

'Alyssa Palombo has a gift for asking “what if” about major historical events. In her just released second novel, The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence, she supposes that Botticelli's muse, Simonetta Vespucci (whose feet he asked to be buried at), was really - scandalously - his mistress and what comes forth is a heartbreaking story of true love that readers cannot help but fall in love with.' And I have a copy to giveaway to one lucky reader! Read on for more about the book and author.

From St. Martin's Griffin:

"A girl as beautiful as Simonetta Cattaneo never wants for marriage proposals in 15th Century Italy, but she jumps at the chance to marry Marco Vespucci. Marco is young, handsome and well-educated. Not to mention he is one of the powerful Medici family’s favored circle.

Even before her marriage with Marco is set, Simonetta is swept up into Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici’s glittering circle of politicians, poets, artists, and philosophers. The men of Florence—most notably the rakish Giuliano de’ Medici—become enthralled with her beauty. That she is educated and an ardent reader of poetry makes her more desirable and fashionable still. But it is her acquaintance with a young painter, Sandro Botticelli, which strikes her heart most. Botticelli immediately invites Simonetta, newly proclaimed the most beautiful woman in Florence, to pose for him. As Simonetta learns to navigate her marriage, her place in Florentine society, and the politics of beauty and desire, she and Botticelli develop a passionate intimacy, one that leads to her immortalization in his masterpiece, The Birth of Venus.

In the grand tradition of Girl with a Pearl Earring, Alyssa Palombo’s The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence vividly captures the dangerous allure of the artist and muse bond with candor and unforgettable passion." Read an excerpt of The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence.

Alyssa Palombo is the author of The Violinist of Venice. She has published short fiction pieces in Black Lantern Magazine and The Great Lakes Review. She is a recent graduate of Canisius College with degrees in English and creative writing, respectively. A passionate music lover, she is a classically trained musician as well as a big fan of heavy metal. The Violinist of Venice is her first novel. She lives in Buffalo, New York." You can connect with Alyssa on her website and follow her on Twitter.

And if you would like to read The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence, enter to win a copy using the Rafflecopter form below. Open to US and Canada no PO boxes please. Ends May 6/17.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Celebrate Earth Day with DK Canada!

Today is Earth Day and I can't think of a better book to be reading today than Smithsonian Earth: The Definitive Visual Guide from DK Canada. (This is the second edition of this title. More than one million copies of this title have been sold!)

Our world is simply an amazing place. The old saying 'a picture is worth a thousand words' definitely applies here. Earth the book is filled with gorgeous colour photographs throughout the five main sections - Earth, Land, Ocean, Atmosphere and Tectonic Earth. There are numerous sub sections within each of those main areas.

Although they are all fascinating, I was really drawn to the Land and Ocean chapters. Descriptions, photos and facts about places I will never get to visit in person captivate me. Continents, countries, mountains, deserts, oceans, lakes, cities and rural areas and so much more. The 'technical' descriptions of the science covered in the book is presented in clear, easy to understand language. The photographs and images are all sharp, defined and in colour. The text boxes used contain clear, concise information.

Earth is an incredible reference book - the wealth of information presented is staggering.  (IMO, DK publishes some of the best reference books around!) The timeline is fascinating to follow - from the beginning to present day.

Earth has found a home on my coffee table, ready to be picked up and leafed through - finding something new every time I do.

Friday, April 21, 2017

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #155

- You can't judge a book by its cover - which is very true.
 But you can like one cover version better than another....

US cover
UK cover
The cover blurb from Ruth Ware on both US and UK covers was enough to convince me to put Erin Kelly's forthcoming novel, He Said, She Said, on my to read list. The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. At first glance the covers appear to be almost the same. And they are - except the US cover has a starry background on the blue part of the picture. The UK cover has a shot of a path/ground area. There's a hint of a burning page on the US cover, but the UK is 'hotter' with flames and smoke. But here's what tilted my decision to the US cover this week. There's a hint of a woman on the US cover,  but the UK is not so shy . We've got a full image of the back of a woman. Surprise! And I am tired of women in danger or dangerous women photos. Which cover do you prefer? Any plans to read He Said, She Said? You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.

Film on Friday #51 - The Resurrection of Gavin Stone

I covered the last of the leftovers and washed the last dish last Sunday. Easter Sunday in fact. And then I sat down to watch what turned out to be a perfect movie for the day - The Resurrection of Gavin Stone.

Gavin Stone was a child television star. But that fame has fizzled and Gavin is now just another washed up actor. In trouble. Sentenced to community service, Gavin picks a church in his old home town to do those hours. But when he sees that the church is running a play, he decides to audition for the role of Jesus. The catch - he pretends to be a Christian.

I knew I was going to like the movie right from the opening scenes. It had a very modern (and funny) feel to it.

Brett Dalton was a great choice for the lead - his transformation from smug 'star' to finding his faith is well portrayed - and believable. The supporting cast of characters were just as great. I really liked ex-wrestler Shawn Michaels in his role as Doug. And D.B. Sweeney has just the right tone as the church's pastor. Wise enough to know when to let things play out, but full of good advice when needed.

Gavin fumbles and bluffs his way through what he believes a Christian 'looks' like. His first church service was quite funny - Communion wafers and wine, the collection plate and his idea of the way he should dress and behave. And the rockin' live band quite surprised him.

But it the way we live that professes our faith. This is what Gavin eventually sees - the members of the church living their faith. The play within the movie was very moving, with key scenes of Christ's life portrayed. As Gavin acts his way through the production, he begins to change......

The relationship between Gavin and his father needs repairing as well. I liked the understated way this was handled. Again, very believable.

I did mention earlier that The Resurrection of Gavin Stone was the perfect movie for Easter Sunday viewing. But, it would be great viewing anytime for those looking, exploring or confirming their faith. A wonderful film to show at church or watch with friends. Suitable for family viewing as well and a great soundtrack as well! Check out the trailer below.

"Movie has been provided courtesy of Mongrel Media and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."