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 Wednesday April 26th EST to enter. I'll need the winner's info by end of day on Thursday, so watch your inboxes! Open to US only.

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 naiveté 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."

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Close Enough to Touch - Colleen Oakley

Close Enough to Touch is Colleen Oakley's newest novel.

Our protagonist is Jubilee Jenkins who suffers from a rare condition - she is deathly allergic to other people. Being touched by them specifically. Understandably, Jubilee has retreated from the world. But when her mother dies, financial straits drive her out into the world.

I quite liked the character of Jubilee - she's quirky with a great sense of humour. But what clinched the deal was her love of books. She manages to secure a job as a library assistant. Here, Oakley had me nodding uh huh and laughing out loud. You see, I work in a public library as well. Warning someone about viewing questionable material (okay let's just say it - porn) in a public space, amorous patrons in the stacks, toilet paper thievery and more. I loved this (very true) line: " The job is really only about sixty percent books. The other forty percent is community service. Mostly mental health."

Okay, I digress. Now that she's managed to get out in the world, Jubilee is of course going to be in contact with people. Not necessarily physical. She meets Eric and his son Aja at the library. Eric and Aja both are 'wounded' as well. Eric is divorced and his daughter won't speak to him. Aja's birth parents are dead and he and Eric are still trying to figure things out.

I enjoyed Jubilee's rediscovery of the world, her forays into friendship and her hopes for what might be. Aja was also a favourite. His view of the world and his coping mechanisms were heart-breaking. It's no wonder that he and Jubilee bond. But here's where I had a hard time. I just didn't like Eric. I found him insensitive, self-centered and self serving. Yes, he is trying to reconnect with his daughter - through texts as she won't speak to him, but he isn't really seeing the child in front of him. And even after he learns of Jubilee's condition, he still wants to reach out and touch her. I just couldn't buy the 'so enamoured I can't help myself.'

Close Enough to Touch is one of those books that you can't predict where its going to go. And as the end drew near, I grew quite happy with the turn things took. And then Oakley changed the direction of the ending. Abruptly. And this reader didn't like it. In an effort to remain spoiler free, I won't go into details. But if you've read the book, I'd love to know what you thought about the ending. Read an excerpt of Close Enough to Touch.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Giveaway - The Secret Room - Sandra Block

Sandra Block has just released The Secret Room, the third book in her Dr. Zoe Goldman series.

From Grand Central Publishing:

"Her patients are dying. Some are apparent suicides and others possible accidents, but rumors are flying that Dr. Zoe Goldman is an angel of death- intentionally helping hopeless cases go to a "better place"- or, worse yet, a dangerously incompetent doctor.

As a new psychiatry fellow at the local correctional facility, Zoe is still learning the ropes while watching her back to avoid some dangerous prisoners. As the deaths mount up, Zoe is wracked with horror and guilt, feverishly trying to figure out what is going wrong and even questioning her own sanity.

What Zoe doesn't realize is that someone is targeting her patients to get to her. Someone who has access to her deepest secrets and fears. Someone who will stop at nothing to take everything Zoe has, even her life." Read an excerpt of The Secret Room.

"I am a forever-fan of the Zoe Goldman series and will read anything Block writes. You should too." Lisa Scottoline, New York Times bestselling author.

Sandra Block graduated from college at Harvard, then returned to her native land of Buffalo, New York, for medical training and never left. She is a practicing neurologist and proud Sabres fan and lives at home with her family and Delilah, her impetuous yellow lab. She has been published in both medical and poetry journals. You can connect with Sandra Block on her website, like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

And if you 'd like to read The Secret Room, enter to win a copy using the Rafflecopter form below. Open to US and Canada, no PO boxes please. Ends May 6/17.

Over the Counter #362

What book caught my eye this week as it passed over the library counter and under my scanner? A 'far-out' memoir....

Bleaker House: Casing My Novel, to the End of the World by Nell Stevens.

From Knopf Canada:

"On a frozen island in the Falklands, with only penguins for company, a young would-be writer struggles to craft a debut novel...and instead writes a funny, clever, moving memoir that heralds the arrival of a fresh new literary talent.

Twenty-seven-year-old Nell Stevens was determined to write a novel, but somehow life kept getting in the way. Then came an irresistible opportunity: she won a fellowship to spend three months, all expenses paid, anywhere in the world to research and write a book. Did she choose a glittering metropolis, a romantic village, an exotic paradise? Um, no. Nell chose Bleaker Island, a snowy, windswept pile of rock off the Falklands. There, in a guesthouse where she would be the only guest, she imagined she could finally rid herself of distractions and write her 2,500 words a day. In three months, surely she'd have a novel, right?

     It's true that there aren't many distractions on Bleaker, other than sheep, penguins, paranoia and the weather. But as Nell gets to work on her novel--a delightful Dickensian fiction she calls Bleaker House--she discovers that an excruciatingly erratic Internet connection and 1100 calories a day (as much food as she could carry in her suitcase, budgeted to the raisin) are far from ideal conditions for literary production. With deft humour, this memoir traces Nell's island days and slowly reveals details of the life and people she has left behind in pursuit of her art. They pop up in her novel, as well, as memoir and novel start to reflect one another. It seems that there is nowhere Nell can run--neither a remote island nor the pages of her notebook--to escape herself.

     A whimsical, entertaining, thought-provoking blend of memoir and travelogue, laced with tongue-in-cheek writing advice, Bleaker House brilliantly captures the hopes, fears, self-torture and humour of being young and yearning to make a creative life. With winning honesty and wit, Nell's race to finish her book emerges as a fascinating narrative in its own right."

(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 18, 2017

The Perfect Stranger - Megan Miranda

Megan Miranda's debut adult novel, All the Missing Girls, was a fantastic read. I couldn't wait to read her latest, just released book - The Perfect Stranger.

We meet Leah Stevens in the prologue. She's left her job in the city and moved to a small town to work as a teacher. Not a planned move, but...."(I) could start over. Be the Leah Stevens I had planned to be."

The why of her departure from her former life is only revealed slowly, in memories and offhand comments. And what of her roommate, the enigmatic Emmy? They lived together back in Leah's college days and now again by good fortune.

And then a woman is killed in that new, quiet small town. And Emmy goes missing.

Can I say that Miranda does missing girls really, really well. That first book also had us hunting for a missing girl. Miranda has again come up with a fantastic plot line in which nothing is as it appears - in part one. But in part two the mouse becomes the cat.....

"Truth and story - doesn't matter which comes first, as long as you get where you need to be at the end. As long as you end at the truth, all's fair."

So, who's telling the truth? I could see the danger ahead and found myself wanting to shout at the character to open her eyes and see what was coming! You know, those 'don't go in the basement' moments in a scary movie. She doesn't listen however. Thankfully, because otherwise the reader would be robbed of a heck of a good read. And no psychological thriller should be without that last gotcha ending. The Perfect Stranger ends with a 'just right' one. Read an excerpt of The Perfect Stranger.

Another great page-turner from Megan Miranda - this reader will be eagerly awaiting her next book.

You can connect with Megan Miranda on her website and follow her on Twitter.