Book review & giveaway: Paris Ever After, by K.S.R. Burns

Paris Ever AfterK.S.R. Burns

on Tour May 1-14 with

Paris Ever After

(women’s fiction)
Release date: May 1st, 2018
at Velvet Morning Press
ASIN: B079H32ND3
260 pages
Author’s website
Goodreads

 

SYNOPSIS

Can Amy’s rocky start in Paris turn into a happy ever after?

Amy didn’t realize how stale her life was until she jetted off to Paris without telling a soul—not even her husband—and had the adventure of a lifetime. Now as she tries to establish herself in the City of Light, she finds that despite a fun (and quirky) group of friends and the ability to indulge in French pastries whenever she wants, reinventing her life is much harder than she imagined.

Then on Amy’s thirtieth birthday, two unexpected visitors leave her wondering if she will soon be saying au revoir to Paris and the new life she’s struggled to build. Her estranged husband, Will, shows up—but is he interested in reconciliation or separation? And a young woman who arrives on Amy’s doorstep unleashes chaos that could push Amy out into the street.

As Amy’s Parisian dream starts to fall apart, she must decide: return to the stability of Will and Phoenix (if that’s even still an option) or forge her way forward in Paris? Amid secrets and surprises, set in enchanting gardens, cozy cafés, and glittering Parisian streets, Amy must choose between two very different worlds. And each has a claim on her heart.

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MY REVIEW

I’ve read The Paris Effect (and reviewed it) and it didn’t take me long to dive right back in for its sequel (which I’d wished for, and so glad the author delivered!). Amy has established a life in Paris, though one that still seems a bit tenuous, as she is relying upon the goodwill of her friend Margaret for a place to live. She finds this to indeed be tenuous when Margaret has an unexpected guest, and that change leaves her more vulnerable than she expected.

It’s a struggle to write this review without giving away spoilers, so it’s going to be a bit short. Amy’s complications mount, and I couldn’t put this book down, wondering what would happen next, and how she’d get herself out of all the difficulties. I also was reading this on the plane on my way home from a trip to Paris, and I loved being able to relive some spots I’d visited. I may even have to re-read The Paris Effect, and then read this one again, just to have that fun once more.

I’m delighted to hear that The Paris Effect has been optioned for film rights. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we’ll be able to see the film/tv program soon!

NB: The author’s previous book, The Paris Effect, featured here on France Book Tours, was just optioned for Film & TV!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

k-s-r-burns

K. S. R. Burns
is the author of the Amazon bestseller, THE PARIS EFFECT, its upcoming standalone sequel PARIS EVER AFTER, and THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF WORKING GIRL: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use. She has lived and worked in four countries and 22 cities, including Paris. No longer a wanderer, Burns now resides in the Pacific Northwest, where in addition to novels she writes a weekly career advice column for The Seattle Times.

Visit her website.
Follow her on Facebook, Twitter

Subscribe to her newsletter

Buy the book: Amazon | Kobo | iTunes | Nook

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GIVEAWAY

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Visit each blogger on the tour:
tweeting about the giveaway everyday
of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time!
[just follow the directions on the entry-form]

Global giveaway open to all
5 winners

***

CLICK ON THE BANNER TO READ OTHER REVIEWS,
EXCERPTS, AND INTERVIEW

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Review for THE CHRISTMAS GAME

Thanks to My Book Addiction & More Reviews:

Palmer is a very good writer.  If you haven’t read the series you’ll enjoy this story without the background.  If you enjoy THE CHRISTMAS GAME, you will find the series grittier with much more complex story development and even more intriguing.

(read the entire review at the link above)

Check out THE CHRISTMAS GAME here. Available for all ebook formats.

Review: Blue is the Warmest Colour (La vie d’Adèle)

I have been lax in reviewing this film; I saw it in September, but only now have I had time to put my thoughts into a post. The nudge came from a spate of articles about how New York’s IFC centre said they would allow under-17’s in to see the film, even though (in the USA, at least) the film is rated NC-17 due to the ‘sapphic sex scenes’. The IFC issued a statement which said, in part, “This is not a movie for young children, but it is our judgment that it is appropriate for mature, inquiring teenagers, who are looking ahead to the emotional challenges and opportunities that adulthood holds…”

Naturally, there have been protests of that decision, but I’m glad that they have taken this position. Lesbian sex scenes (actually, sex scenes in general, whether GLBT or otherwise) should not be a reason for an NC-17 rating, in my opinion. Sex isn’t, in itself, offensive. And I would like to see more films rated higher, especially those with wanton violence. To me, Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Kill Bill’ series ought to have been NC-17. However, for whatever Puritan reasoning lies behind the MPAA, nudity and sex sparks tittering and indignation. I applaud the IFC centre for their position.

Now, to my actual review. I’m not sure where to begin. I’d been looking forward to this film since before it won the Palme d’Or at Cannes (see article link here), and when I saw that the Calgary International Film Festival would be screening Blue is the Warmest Colour, I snapped up a ticket as soon as they went on sale, and eagerly (impatiently) awaited the day.

This film was worth it. And more.

C’est le mieux. C’est très belle, et triste aussi.

Stretching over three hours, though I wouldn’t have complained if it were longer still, the film follows student Adèle from secondary school through to her mid-twenties. It’s based on the graphic novel ‘Le bleu est une couleur chaude’ by Julie Maroh (a beautifully illustrated book; it’s in English translation now, so do pick it up.)

In the beginning of the film, Adèle is not sure of herself, of her wants and desires. She dates a young man at her school, but it fizzles and she feels little for him. Then, crossing the street near the main square in Lille, she passes a young woman and her girlfriend. The girl’s blue hair catches her eye, and their gazes meet, both turning back to catch a second glimpse before they’re lost in the crowd. This scene was beautifully shot and my own heart fluttered, feeling the tension and attraction between Adèle (played by Adèle Exarchopoulos) and Emma (Léa Seydoux).

From there it progresses, and the pair meet again in a lesbian bar, and again when Emma seeks Adèle out after school. She’s several years older, in art school, and more experienced in the world than Adèle. It’s Adèle’s first real love, and the film is realistic in its portrayal of young love, passion, and eventual betrayal and falling out. Their relationship is sensual, and loving, and exactly the sort of thing for ‘mature, inquiring teenagers’ to see.

I hadn’t yet read ‘Le bleu est une couleur chaude’ when I saw the film, but I did pick it up afterwards. The film’s script veers from the graphic novel, but not so much so that readers of the novel would be so greatly displeased. Now, if you’re looking for a fast-paced film with intense drama in every minute, you should look beyond La vie d’Adèle and choose something else. It’s a slow-building film, more real-life than cinema. But it is genuine and passionate, and I was immersed. Walking home from the cinema afterwards, I felt in a daze, my imagination still there onscreen with Emma and Adèle, in Lille.

If Blue is the Warmest Color (La vie d’Adèle) comes to a cinema anywhere near you, you MUST GO.

Review: After Fall, Winter

afterfallwinterAs I began watching this film, After Fall, Winter, I had little to no sympathy for the main character, Michael. He’s practically bankrupt, owing hundreds of thousands of dollars, and he’s depressed, his latest book isn’t selling, and he even seems to consider suicide, holding a handful of Ambien. Fortunately, his Parisian friend calls him and suggests he come to Paris, get away from it all.

If he’d stayed in New York, I wouldn’t have even bothered to watch the film. That’s how much I disliked his character. And it didn’t get any better.

Once in Paris (also, I have no idea how he managed to pay for an airline ticket given that he’s so in debt, but I’ll suspend disbelief), he runs into a young woman, Sophie, at a petit magasin. She is buying oranges, and he comes into the shop, and without even saying bonsoir, he tries to hit on her. She ridicules him to the shopkeeper, and he is clueless. But he keeps running into her, at a rack of vélos, at yoga class, and she keeps turning him down when he tries to ask her out. Finally, she allows him to walk with her, (‘just a walk. We don’t call it a date, in France.’) and they begin a relationship.

They have discussions about many things, but eventually it turns to sex, and BDSM. She asks him about his fantasies, and Michael is dismissive of many of them, and unwilling to be truthful about his desires (even though he’d told her several times before that he never lied.) And a good part of the film is the two of them discussing various subjects, either in bed or walking around Paris, and in that way it reminds me of films like ‘Before Sunset’. Unfortunately, I think that Michael is very self-absorbed for too much of the film. Sophie is self-absorbed as well (most everyone is to some extent, after all), but she at least manages to live a life where she interacts with others and tries to do good. Michael interacts very little with anyone beyond more than a casual degree, (and he even does not seem to see his Parisian friend very often, though his friend invited him to stay.)

Regrettably, this film is disappointing. I will not spoil the ending for those wanting to watch, but for me it merely solidified my opinion of Michael, and his selfishness led to the ruin of the lives of others. I don’t need a happy ending (I watch too much film noir to ever expect it), but at the very least I would hope that the characters actually grow as people. Perhaps past the ending, Michael does regret what has happened and learns from it, but given his previous record, I am rather cynical. Still, the writer (and director, and star) did manage to get me to watch the film in its entirety, so that’s something. ;)

Book Review: The Bleiberg Project, by David Khara

Bielberg-Project_cover_200x300Self-pitying golden boy trader Jay Novacek is having a bad week when he finds himself thrown into a race to save the world from a horrific conspiracy straight out of the darkest hours of history. Could secret human experimentations be carried out worldwide? Can it be stopped? This fast-paced thriller took France by storm when it was first published, reaping superlatives: “Spellbinding,” “exceptional,” “staggering,” captivating,” “brilliant,” “astounding,””fascinating.” Think a dash of Robin Cook,  a splash of John Grisham and a pinch of Clive Cussler with a very distinctive voice all it’s own. The book catapulted its author, David Khara, into the ranks of the country’s top thriller writers.

I’ve been impressed with every translation put out by the digital-first publisher Le French Book. My favourite is still The 7th Woman (by Frédérique Molay), but The Bleiberg Project runs a close second. This is an excellent thriller that everyone should pick up.

From the present day, to the harrowing days of WWII, The Bleiberg Project is a fantastical story that kept me reading. Khara builds suspense by flashing back to events during the war, and giving the reader hints, and he adeptly moves between characters. As a writer myself, I was interested to see how Khara worked in a first-person point of view (Jay Novacek) and third-person point of views (Eytan Morg, et al). The switch from first to third didn’t bother me, and I thought it might. But using Jay as first-person narrator gives the reader an ‘in’ so we can more easily get into the story and caught up in the suspense.

However, I was most fascinated by Eytan Morg, the assassin for Mossad, and the twists in his story surprised me. I’m hoping that isn’t the end of Eytan’s character. I can’t really say more, for fear of spoilers, and I really wouldn’t want to spoil this book for you.

This is another great read from the team at LeFrenchBook — I am so glad that someone is intent on making translations of award-winning, impressive crime and thriller novels from French into English. I’m hoping that LeFrenchBook will bring more of Khara’s work into their upcoming catalogue.

My thanks to Le French Book for providing a copy for an honest review.

Review: The Apology, ATP playRites festival

Stars David Beazely (Byron), David Patrick Flanning (Percy), Jamie Konchak (Mary), Ava Jane Markus (Claire), Graham Percy (Tom). Directed by Kate Newby. Written by Darrah Teitel.

Well. (*fans self*)
I’ve always had a bit of a thing for Lord Byron, so I knew I had to go see The Apology. And it didn’t disappoint. The first act was a slightly crazy, amorous yet philosophical romp, with an overabundance of sex. Actually, just make it an abundance, and not one I’d be complaining about. I appreciate that they didn’t shy away from the sexual content. Heck, it’d be hard to have any play about Byron & Shelley (particularly in 1814) that didn’t touch on the sexual antics.

In 1814, Byron, the Shelleys, and Mary’s sister, Claire Clairmont, took off for Switzerland, where they lived and created for several months. Most famously, Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein. (Also, historically, Polidori wrote ‘The Vampyre’, but that wasn’t dealt with here.) And at that time, the Shelleys were polyamorous.

I found the first act the most interesting and entertaining. The second act was shifted into the 21st century (which took a bit of adjustment after just previously being in 1814), though I suppose it was the chaos and drama of the domestic issues, like Byron demanding custody of his and Claire’s child, that I found a bit tiresome after awhile. For me, this act dragged. It was good, but act 1 was more engaging, had some good comedy and one-liners that garnered strong audience reaction. But all the fun crazy times have to end, and real life crashes in.

It was thought-provoking, and it’s a play that I’m still thinking about several hours afterwards, which means in my book that it was a good one. I wonder what Byron’s life, Shelley’s, Mary’s, and even Claire’s, would have been like without that time in Switzerland? Would Mary Shelley have become the writer she became? And Percy Shelley, would he have written some of the poetry he did without Byron’s influence?

I’ll leave you with poems by Byron and by Shelley, and I highly recommend reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. (She wrote other books too, like ‘The Last Man’.)

My Soul is Dark (Byron – 1815)

My soul is dark — Oh !   Quickly string
The harp I yet can brook to hear;
And let thy gentle fingers fling
Its melting murmurs o’er mine ear.
If in this heart a hope be dear,
That sound shall charm it forth again:
If in these eyes there lurk a tear,
‘T will flow, and cease to burn my brain. 

 But bid the strain be wild and deep,
Nor let thy notes of joy be first:
I tell thee, minstrel, I must weep,
Or else this heavy heart will burst;
For it hath been by sorrow nursed,
And ach’d in sleepless silence long;
And now ’tis doom’d to know the worst,
And break at once — or yield to song.

Ozymandias (Percy Shelley – 1817)

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away”.

Movie: Shame

I knew it would be cold. Dreary, even. The trailer showed as much: Brandon sitting on the subway, eyeing a woman across the aisle, his face expressionless. The dark New York streets, the plain and dull walls of his apartment, of his workplace. It’s a New York that seems nearly lifeless.

Brandon’s life is rote, routine. He wakes, jerks off in the shower, goes to work, looks at porn, goes home, looks at more porn. If he goes out, he picks up a girl. Maybe a prostitute. He gets off. (Even for me as a viewer, it was dull.) Living alone, his desires are hidden from others, and it’s not until his sister Sissy arrives that his world is shaken up. She’s in his apartment, even having sex in his bed on one occasion, and he can’t indulge in his usual practices. He’s pushed from his privacy, and he and his sister clash, their ideas about life at odds. They’re both messed up, from something that happened in childhood that is only vaguely alluded to by Sissy.

He does try to do it the ‘usual way’, going on a date with a woman he works with. They go to a hotel room, but he can’t get it up. It’s not enough for him; it doesn’t push the envelope. The downward spiral has already begun.

Shame is a film equivalent of literary fiction. I’m not sure how much Brandon learns, or if he’d ever manage to take any sense of joy from the world. It’s the kind of film that I’m glad I saw, but I’m not sure that I’d be able to manage it a second time. Maybe I will, after several years distance.

Both Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan were incredible in their roles. Fassbender’s performance was especially compelling. If I had a choice at the Academy Awards, I’d give him the Best Actor statuette. However, films like Shame don’t usually make it to a big name awards ceremony… the content just isn’t friendly enough.

Movie: Faust (1926)

This afternoon I went to watch the silent film classic “Faust” in the Cathedral Church of the Redeemer (the Anglican cathedral here in Calgary) accompanied by a live piano score. I’ve been a film buff for many years, but I haven’t had much exposure to silent films. As my current work-in-progress takes place in the 1920s, I thought it would be worthwhile to see what my characters might have seen.

The film opens with the Archangel and the demon Mephisto making a wager over the soul of Faust. Mephisto sends the plague to Faust’s village, and gives Faust a chance to save people, if only he’ll make a pact to give up his soul. The original pact is for one day only, but when Mephisto convinces Faust to embrace youth, the trial day turns into an eternity of youth, pleasures and debauchery. Faust bores of this life, and falls in love with an innocent young woman named Gretchen. He corrupts her, and she bears his child, to be thrown out and reviled as a whore. When her child dies, she’s convicted as a murderess, sentenced to be burned at the stake. When Faust realizes what has happened, he commands Mephisto to take him to her. He does not arrive in time to save her, and Mephisto turns him back into his aged self. He throws himself on the pyre with his beloved Gretchen, and she recognizes him, even in his old age. Love has redeemed him, and the Archangel rules that the Devil has not won the soul of Faust. The film closes as it began, on the image of the triumphant Archangel.

At first I had to remind myself that the effects were striking for the time period, but after the film had progressed, I stopped reminding myself and lost myself in the imagery. The play of light and shadow was captivating, and the look and makeup of Mephisto is something that must have heavily influenced later depictions, as he looked like our modern conception of the Devil, or even of a vampire. His hovering over the town was also used in the cartoon ‘Fantasia’.

I found it interesting that Mephisto is also aged at the start of the film, but when he gives Faust his youth, he also turns into a youthful version of himself. And he has a sense of humour, taking a woman’s love potion (likely brandy or another spirit) and mixing it up with a few other ingredients to turn it into a real love potion. She drinks it, and falls in love with Mephisto, to his amusement and dismay. Though Faust’s journey is a dark one, Mephisto’s antics had many in the audience snickering. There was much applause at the end, and the composer and pianist spoke briefly afterwards.

According to Robert Bruce, the pianist who scored the film today, every theatre would have had its own set of musicians to create a live score for each film that played. However, unlike his score, most would be made up quickly, given that new films would screen regularly. I can imagine this could be a challenge to the musicians and it’s fascinating to think that if you went to see the same film in several theatres, you could hear a different score in each. I wonder if anyone actually did that, just to have a different experience of the same film?

The presentation was hosted by the Pro Arts Society, and now that I know they exist, I’ll be checking out their future events.

Movie: The Woman in the Fifth

The Woman in the Fifth stars Ethan Hawke (Before Sunset) and Kristin Scott Thomas (Ne le dis à personne, The English Patient). Tom is a writer and university lecturer in Paris to see his estranged wife and daughter. He is robbed and is stuck at a rundown hotel in a Paris suburb, scraping by with an under-the-table job of questionable legality. He meets Margit at a literary evening and soon they are having a torrid affair. When not with Margit (who will only see him after 4pm), he spends his time writing a lengthy letter to his six-year-old daughter and getting to know the waitress/barmaid at the hotel.

The film starts off normally. That is, totally comprehensible and almost ordinary, but once Tom meets Margit, things become strange. It’s that turning point (as in the film The Last Minute when Billy Byrne takes drugs and everything in the film becomes slightly surreal) where you’re not sure what is real and what is not. It’s a dark film, tension-filled, yet also mostly quiet. There are some dramatic and gory points but a lot is not explained.

I often prefer films where things aren’t so cut and dry at the end; closure is not always the best ending. Most films with definitive endings are ones that I cease to think about the moment the credits roll. Far better to have a film be strange and provoke thought and speculation, or leave some puzzlement. In this case, the film was an excellent advertisement for the novel (by Douglas Kennedy), as I’m inclined to pick it up to see what the screenwriter cut out.

Movie: Midnight in Paris

Watching ‘Midnight in Paris’, written and directed by Woody Allen, is a bit like walking into a nostalgia shop, except the entirety of Paris is the shop. The film commences with a series of location shots of Paris, setting the tone and the scene for the rest of the film. For those familiar with the city, favourite haunts and landmarks trigger that nostalgic feeling. For those unfamiliar with the city, the montage might get a tad dull, though one would hope that an unfamiliarity of Paris would not preclude seeing this film.

Gil (Owen Wilson) is a Hollywood screenwriter visiting Paris with his fiancée (Rachel McAdams) and her parents. He’s obsessed with 1920s Paris, and one night after getting lost walking back to his hotel, at the very stroke of midnight, he’s picked up by revelers in an old Peugeot. He finds himself somehow transported to 1920s Paris, partying with F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda, meeting Hemingway, Picasso, Gertrude Stein… it’s a veritable name dropping of ‘20s literary society. On his second visit, he is enchanted by a young woman dating Picasso. He falls in love with her, and returns to the 1920s via the car at the stroke of midnight to visit her, and to get Stein’s views on his unpublished novel. As their visit to Paris lengthens, his relationship with his fiancée is souring, and he has to decide what he should do with his life.

The film has an excellent ensemble cast: Kathy Bates as Stein, Marion Cotillard as Gil’s love interest Adriana, Adrien Brody as Salvador Dali, and Gad Elmaleh as the detective, among others. Corey Stoll especially was a delight as the very upfront and opinionated Ernest Hemingway. The film is an English student’s dream: my theatre companion squealed at the sight of T.S. Eliot, and then of Paul Gauguin and Toulouse-Lautrec. I wonder if Woody Allen’s nostalgic Paris is the 1920s?

I know what era of Paris I would like to visit, should a car come for me at midnight… the 1940s-1950s, visiting the cafés and rubbing shoulders with the existentialists. But of course, you knew that, right?