Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Over the Counter # 213

What book caught my eye this week as it passed over the library counter and under my scanner? This week it's The Legend of Zippy Chippy: Life Lessons from Horse Racing's Most Lovable Loser by William Thomas.

From the publisher, McClelland and Stewart:

"From acclaimed humorist William Thomas comes the funny yet poignant story of a thoroughbred racehorse that lost 100 races in a row -- but, in everyone's eyes, became the ultimate winner.

On April 20, 1991, at Capritaur Farms in Upstate New York, Zippy Chippy strolled into the world. He was born from American horse racing royalty -- Compliance (his father was Kentucky Derby-winner Northern Dancer; his great-grandfather Native Dancer, the Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner) and Listen Lady (great-granddaughter of Native Dancer). Even before his birth, the hopes (not to mention the bill for his planned production) for Zippy Chippy were high. His pedigree was horse racing gold: Northern Dancer, Man o' War, Count Fleet, Bold Ruler, War Admiral, and Buckpasser were all ancestors. His success and glory seemed inevitable.

But moments after his birth, Zippy Chippy struggled to his feet, took two steps forward . . . and stopped dead in his tracks. He looked around, took in his surroundings, maybe indulged in a little daydream, then promptly lay down for a nap in the straw. And thus began Zippy Chippy's storied racing career.

Vince Lombardi, one of the greatest NFL coaches of all time, famously said, "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing." These words have become the battle cry of athletes, coaches, and teams everywhere, but over the years, sports have taken on a literal interpretation of Lombardi's mantra. Match-fixing, doping, sabotage, cocky and mean sportsmanship, all in the name of winning, have infiltrated and scandalized games, teams, reputations, and newspaper headlines. Yet, since his first moments in the world, Zippy Chippy ignored Lombardi and turned his nose at the concept of winning-at-all-costs. In fact, he decided to not win at all, losing, over the course of his career, 100 consecutive races, at some of the greatest tracks in the country: Belmont Park, Aqueduct, Finger Lakes, and Suffolk Downs among them. And he did so with his owner, Felix Monserrate, by his side -- a man who refused to sell Zippy, or even retire him, simply because he couldn't come in first. Soon, Zippy's cheering squad grew to include people who, enchanted by his story, would travel from all over North America to watch him lose but then happily gallop back to his stable. To them, Zippy Chippy was just like them; someone who wasn't an athlete with a million-dollar contract, or someone with movie star looks -- he was a creature who struggled, who lost, and who failed even the lowest of expectations. But, somehow, he found a way to enjoy himself and eagerly return for the next race.

Told with laugh-out-loud wit and a lot of heart, The Legend of Zippy Chippy is the story of the losing-est racehorse in North American history -- a perpetual loser who would become the winning thoroughbred in professional horse racing to steal peoples' hearts."

(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, May 3, 2016

The Revenant on Blu-ray and Digital HD

It seems to me lately that the best movies I've watched have been based on really great books. Such is the case with Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu's award winning film The Revenant. (Based on Michael Punke's book) I always try to read the book first and then watch the movie. The book was fantastic and I hoped the movie would be as well.

The Revenant on Blu-ray and Digital HD is newly released from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

And my hopes that the movie would be good were met and far exceeded. Leonardo DiCaprio won an Academy and Oscar Award for Best Actor. The film won numerous other prizes.

DiCaprio portrays Hugh Glass, a frontiersman/tracker in 1823 America with a fur company, who is severely mauled by a bear. With both winter and hostile natives on their heels, the company commander assigns two men, Fitzpatrick and Bridger to stay with Glass until he dies, bury him and then catch up with the rest of the company. Also with Glass is his son Hawk, who is sure his father can survive. Seemingly close to death, everyone figures it won't be long 'til the end.

Fitzpatrick, played by Tom Hardy, decides that he doesn't want to wait around for Glass to die and instead chooses to leave him on his own. Hardy brilliantly interprets the despicable character of Fitzpatrick. I don't know how many times I yelled at the screen.

But it is Leo who steals the show. He has very little dialogue, but his physical acting and his facial expressions (especially his eyes) transmit so much more than words could have. His courage, grit, perseverance and determination to hunt down Fitzpatrick becomes the viewer's goal as well.

Not far behind Leo is the cinematography - the backdrops are simply spectacular - the choice of actual settings instead of green screens brings the wildness and wilderness of the time and place to life. Costuming and physical props are just as believable. The bear attack is also really believable. (and a bit hard to watch)

Iñárritu has changed some of the events from the book - most notably, Glass's reason for revenge. But it works. This reason is more personal and will have the audience even more invested in Glass's drive for revenge. With every tortured step and obstacle thrown in his way, I was urging him forward, just as determined that he have his retribution. Iñárritu has also changed the ending from the book. It wasn't what I expected and I watched it two or three times. In the end, it seemed right and fit with the 'extra' character(s) that he had brought to his version of the story.

Brutal and brilliant, The Revenant is a welcome addition to my film library. Check out the trailer below. Gentle readers/watchers please be warned there are some graphic scenes. @RevenantMovie

   

The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge by Michael Punke

Michael Punke's 2002 novel, The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge, isn't one that I would have noticed or picked up were it not for the 2015 award winning film of the same name.

And that would have been a shame, as it's a he** of a good read. What surprised me even more is that it's based on factual historical events and persons. (At the end of the book, I went online to suss out the real story - absolutely fascinating reading)

1823 America. Hugh Glass is one of the best trackers and frontiersmen around, working for The Rocky Mountain Fur Company. When he is severely mauled by a bear, his compatriots carry him as far as they can in the winter mountains. Company Commander Captain Henry pays two men - Fitzgerald and Bridger - to stay with Glass until he dies, then bury him properly. But Fitzgerald has different ideas..... he decides that staying with Glass isn't worth his while. He forces young Bridger to leave Glass to die on his own and the two take off. But not before they steal Glass's gun and knife, leaving him alone and exposed to the elements.

And here's where the revenge part comes into play......Glass is as tough as nails and bent on revenge. And he wants his gun back. What follows is a nail biting fight for his life as Glass begins crawling towards the fort two hundred miles away where Fitzgerald and Bridger are to meet up with the rest of the company.

Punke has brought in many factual events and people - the conflicts between the native tribes and the white men who have come to trap and settle their land. The wilderness and the men living in it are brilliantly described, but it is Hugh Glass who captures the reader. The injustice done to him and his single minded desire to seek revenge on Fitzgerald will have the reader on the edge of their seat, urging him to take one more breath, one more step forward until.....

As I said not my usual fare, but I absolutely loved it. Punke is an absolutely wonderful writer.  Read an excerpt of The Revenant. And now that I've read it, I'm off to watch the movie....stay tuned for my review.

Giveaway - The Cook Up - D. Watkins

I've got a great giveaway today for those of you that love memoirs. The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir by D. Watkins has just released and I have a copy to giveaway to one lucky reader.

From Grand Central Publishing:

"Reminiscent of the classic Random Family and The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, but told by the man who lived it, The Cook Up. is a riveting look inside the Baltimore drug trade portrayed in The Wire and an incredible story of redemption.

The smartest kid on his block in East Baltimore, D. was certain he would escape the life of drugs, decadence, and violence that had surrounded him since birth. But when his brother Devin is shot-only days after D. receives notice that he's been accepted into Georgetown University-the plans for his life are exploded, and he takes up the mantel of his brother's crack empire. D. succeeds in cultivating the family business, but when he meets a woman unlike any he's known before, his priorities are once more put into question. Equally terrifying and hilarious, inspiring and heartbreaking, D.'s story offers a rare glimpse into the mentality of a person who has escaped many hells." Read an excerpt of The Cook Up.

"D. Watkins is a columnist for Salon. His work has been published in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Aeon, AlterNet, The Guardian and other magazines. He holds a Masters in Education from Johns Hopkins University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Baltimore. He is a college professor at Goucher University and has also been the recipient of numerous awards including a BMe fellowship, Baltimore Magazine's "Best Writer," award for 2015, and The Baltimore Business Journal's 40 under 40 list. He has lectured at countless, universities, events and programs around the country. Watkins has been featured on Meet the Press and has been a reoccurring guest on CNN, NPR's Monday Morning, Tell Me More, Huff Post Live and The Marc Steiner Show who described Watkins as being "A brilliant phenomenon that needs to be heard." Watkins is from and lives in east Baltimore." You can connect with D.Watkins on his website and follow him on Twitter.

And if this sounds like a book you'd like to read, I have one copy to giveaway. Open to US and Canada, no po boxes please. Ends May 14. Enter using the Rafflecopter form below.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Mission Hill - Pamela Wechsler

Mission Hill is Pamela Wechsler's debut novel.

This first novel in a planned series introduces us to Abby Endicott, Chief of the Boston DA's Homicide Unit.

Abby is a bit of rebel - she's tough, wealthy, but prefers to work for a living, she butts heads with the higher ups, feels rules are made to broken and her personal life is, well, let's say - unsettled and complicated. I think she's an interesting protagonist - I like that I couldn't predict her actions, reactions or the path she would take. She's not warm and fuzzy and I didn't agree with or like all of her choices, but she's intriguing. I'll be curious to see where Wechsler takes her in future books.

When she's called out to Boston's latest homicide, Abby's personal and work lives collide. Wechsler has crafted a good plot, incorporating murder, lies, corruption, gangs, courtroom drama running parallel with a personal plotline.

Wechsler is herself a lawyer and worked as a criminal prosecutor for fifteen years. That insider knowledge gives credence to her plot and characters. Her descriptions of time and place are excellent as well, drawn again from personal knowledge. Wechsler has also worked as a legal consultant and writer for television dramas. I did find that the action in the final chapters read more like a script with short staccato sentences. I just didn't find myself caught up and drawn into the drama of the closing scenes, though I thought I should be.

That being said, I think Mission Hill is a good first book. The groundwork has been laid in regards to players and settings. Wechsler is currently at work on the second Abby Endicott novel - I look forward to her next case. Read an excerpt of Mission Hill.

You can connect with Pamela Wechsler on her website, find her on Twitter as well as on Facebook.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Giveaway - InVision - Sherrilyn Kenyon

Woohoo! I'm the latest stop on the blog tour and scavenger hunt for InVisionSherrilyn Kenyon's 'hotly anticipated' seventh volume in her YA series, The Chronicles of Nick - and I have a copy to giveaway to one lucky reader!

Make sure you also enter the sweepstakes for a SIGNED backlist set of 
THE CHRONICLES OF NICK! 

From the publisher, Griffin Teen:

"Think you have a lot of pressure on your shoulders? Nick Gautier was born to bring about the end of the world . . . it's not easy being the heir of a demon overlord. But Nick is determined to thwart his destiny and get into a good college. To be more than his genetics and prophecy foretell. No one is ever going to tell this stubborn Cajun who and what he really is. Or how to live his life.

Not even the Fates of the Universe. But now that he and his team of ancient gods and demons have claimed the Eye of Ananke and he sees the missteps of the future, he has to battle the demons within that are far deadlier and more treacherous than any he's battled before. All the while his arch nemesis is back and determined to reclaim his place as the harbinger for Armageddon. Even if it means killing Nick and barbecuing everyone he loves to do so."

Watch the book trailer here. The Chronicles of Nick is soon to be a movie as well! You can connect with Sherrilyn Kenyon on her website, find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Enter to win a copy of InVision using the Rafflecopter form below. Open to US only, no PO boxes please. Ends May 14/16.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, April 29, 2016

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover #103

- 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
Laura Lippman is an author I read regularly - I'm looking forward to picking up her latest, a stand alone titled Wilde Lake. The US cover is on the left and the UK cover is on the right. Easy choice for me this week - I'm going with the US cover. I am drawn to the eerie setting and the isolated house. The letters on the UK make me think of college and a letter jacket. It wouldn't entice me to pick it up at all. So, any plans to read Wilde Lake? Which cover do you prefer this week?
You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature at A Bookworm's World.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Twenty Questions for Gloria - Martyn Bedford

Twenty Questions for Gloria is the new YA read from Martyn Bedford.

Fifteen year old Gloria is drawn to Uman, a newcomer at her school. He's unlike the other boys, in both manner and mind. He sees through her 'perfect' life to the boredom that simmers below the surface. And it is that boredom that has her rashly accepting his offer to go on an 'adventure'.

And here's where the great tag line on the cover comes in to play...."Two go missing - one comes back."

It is Gloria who returns. What happened?  Gloria's family and friends, the reader - and the police want to know. The answers are to be found in the twenty questions of the police interview.

I thought this way of telling Gloria's story was unique. Each question reveals a little more and we slowly learn the truth. But we are also privy to Gloria's thoughts - and some of the things she decides to keep private.

There is the mystery of what happened of course, but the thrust of the book is an exploration of young love, self examination and an emotional snapshot of teen life, angst, hopes and dreams.

I too, was drawn to Uman - Bedford has created an unusual, intriguing protagonist. His dialogue is witty, his actions - although somewhat rash - are true to his own self.  His background is sad, but for me he has a resilience that is innate. So, for this reader, it was Gloria's slow self realization that I became invested in. With each question and answer, we see how her awareness grew over the time away.

When I was young, I was offered a chance to go on an 'adventure' as well. I said no, but after reading the book I wondered - what if I'd said yes? The ending was just right - and what I had hoped for. Read an excerpt of Twenty Questions for Gloria. You can connect with Martyn Bedford on his website.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Over the Counter #312

What books caught my eye this week as they passed over the library counter and under my scanner? A pair of biographies this week exploring lots of......pizza and things......

First up is Slice Harvester: A Memoir in Pizza by Colin Atrophy Hagendorf.

From the publisher, Simon and Schuster:

"One of NPR’s Best Books of 2015.

Over the course of two years, a twenty-something punk rocker eats a cheese slice from every pizzeria in New York City, gets sober, falls in love, and starts a blog that captures headlines around the world—he is the Slice Harvester, and this is his story.

Since its arrival on US shores in 1905, pizza has risen from an obscure ethnic food to an iconic symbol of American culture. It has visited us in our dorm rooms and apartments, sometimes before we’d even unpacked or painted. It has nourished us during our jobs, consoled us during break-ups, and celebrated our triumphs right alongside us.

In August 2009, Colin Hagendorf set out to review every regular slice of pizza in Manhattan, and his blog, Slice Harvester, was born. Two years and nearly 400 slices later, he’d been featured in The Wall Street Journal, the Daily News (New York), and on radio shows all over the country. Suddenly, this self-proclaimed punk who was barely making a living doing burrito delivery and selling handmade zines had a following. But at the same time Colin was stepping up his game for the masses (grabbing slices with Phoebe Cates and her teenage daughter, reviewing kosher pizza so you don’t have to), his personal life was falling apart.

A problem drinker and chronic bad boyfriend, he started out using the blog as a way to escape—the hangovers, the midnight arguments, the hangovers again—until finally realizing that by taking steps to reach a goal day by day, he’d actually put himself in a place to finally take control of his life for good."

Next up is Mess: One Man's Struggle to Clean Up His House and His Act by Barry Yourgrau.

From the publisher W.W. Norton:

"Hilarious and poignant, a glimpse into the mind of someone who is both a sufferer from and an investigator of clutter.

Millions of Americans struggle with severe clutter and hoarding. New York writer and bohemian Barry Yourgrau is one of them. Behind the door of his Queens apartment, Yourgrau’s life is, quite literally, chaos. Confronted by his exasperated girlfriend, a globe-trotting food critic, he embarks on a heartfelt, wide-ranging, and too often uproarious project—part Larry David, part Janet Malcolm—to take control of his crammed, disorderly apartment and life, and to explore the wider world of collecting, clutter, and extreme hoarding.

Encounters with a professional declutterer, a Lacanian shrink, and Clutterers Anonymous—not to mention England’s most excessive hoarder—as well as explorations of the bewildering universe of new therapies and brain science, help Yourgrau navigate uncharted territory: clearing shelves, boxes, and bags; throwing out a nostalgic cracked pasta bowl; and sorting through a lifetime of messy relationships. Mess is the story of one man’s efforts to learn to let go, to clean up his space (physical and emotional), and to save his relationship."

(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!)