Monday, November 20, 2017

Local Bookshop Support, Thanksgiving Reading, Improv Origins, Gluttony Bay by Matt Wallace, A Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne, and The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

It would be swell to actually have a local bookshop to support, but, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I'd like to report that I am thankful that only 15 or so miles down the road, in Enumclaw, WA, there's a nice little used bookstore called The Sequel that I do try and support as often as possible. My primary care doctor and the hospital where I get my Remicade infusions for Crohn's disease are in Enumclaw, so I have reason to go there every month or so. It's a great little town with a wonderful downtown area that also sports an irresistible stationary store (with a wall of pens!) and an old fashioned movie theater, in addition to some great restaurants. But Rubbo has a good point here about how your buying choices influence your community.

'Reasons to Support Your Local Bookshop'

"Bookshops--and all the shops that come together to make up our
communities, to entice us away from our screens and into communal
spaces--can't exist without our customers. Where you shop is of course
entirely your choice, but it's important to really make that choice a
conscious one.... 
"We know there are reasons why you might choose to buy books from
Amazon. But there are also good reasons to support your local bookshop.
History shows that community bookshops won't always survive the arrival
of Amazon in their home territory. So, please know that your choices
will influence what your local community looks like in the years ahead.
And that it might not, in the long-term, be possible to choose both
global convenience and local experience."

--Mark Rubbo, managing director of Readings, with seven shops in and near Melbourne,
Australia, in a Guardian column
related to the imminent opening of Amazon in Australia.

This doesn't surprise me so much as delight me, that more people read and buy books on Thanksgiving. Autumn is my favorite time of year anyway, but this only makes it more wonderful. 

B&N Survey Finds Thanksgiving Eve 'Busiest Reading Day of the Year'

The day before Thanksgiving is the busiest reading day of the year, with
many holiday travelers turning to reading to help ease the stress of
traveling, an independent survey of holiday reading habits commissioned
by Barnes & Noble has found.

According to the survey, 77% of Americans read at least one book,
newspaper or magazine during Thanksgiving or other holiday travel, while
60% of travelers usually bring, buy or borrow reading material
specifically for travel on Thanksgiving Eve. Some 73% of respondents
said they felt that traveling on the day before Thanksgiving is a "good
time to bring a book they would enjoy and be able to read," and just
over a quarter of Americans feel that "bringing a book along for
Thanksgiving could give them a way to get out of an uncomfortable or
awkward conversation with a relative or other guest."

More than half of the survey's respondents said that they do not get to
read or enjoy books as often as they'd like, with 71% reporting that
holiday travel time is a good opportunity to catch up on books or
magazines that they haven't found the time to read. When it comes to the
benefits of reading while traveling, most respondents answered that:
it's a good way to pass the time while delayed; it helps ease the stress
of traveling; it helps "transport" the reader somewhere else; travel
time is good for catching up on books; and it gives the reader a chance
to learn something new.

Finally, 73% of respondents said that when they do read while traveling,
it makes their trip more relaxing, and 72% said that it makes their trip
more enjoyable.
I have been contemplating my theater degree, and how it has influenced my life recently, and this book sounds like one that would be utterly fascinating to read. I was not aware that Second City was a direct descendant of the original improv groups. 

Shelf Awareness Review: Improv Nation: How We Made a Great American Art
Improvisational theater was invented and developed in the 20th century
United States, and continues to be a life spring of new ideas and talent
for the performing arts, TV and film. Sam Wasson (Fosse) spent years
writing Improv Nation from archival research and scores of interviews.
The result is encyclopedic, garrulous and funny.

Improvisational theater requires its players to be receptive and
generous with each other, competitive but also trusting, and to be
fearless in front of an audience. The first games and rules of improv
were made by Viola Spolin, a Jewish Chicagoan working at the famous Hull
House, which served new immigrant populations in Chicago. Working with
children and then with adults at the Chicago WPA Recreation Project
during the Great Depression, she developed "Theater Games" that
encouraged people to open up and play together spontaneously onstage.
Spolin's son, Paul Sills, founded the Compass Theater, whose members
included the brilliant comedy duo Nichols and May. Some of its members
went on to found the famous and influential Chicago improv theater
Second City, which opened in 1959 to such instant success they didn't
have to advertise. New theaters were founded in cities across the
country, and the age of improv had arrived.

Wasson often seems thrilled and dazzled by his famous subjects, and his
enthusiasm permeates this book. He has organized it chronologically,
with reference to the major political and cultural events of each
period. All the intertwined story lines and Wasson's frequent
digressions can sometimes feel a little chaotic, but another great
anecdote is always on the next page. He describes the evolution of
improv through scenes of creative meetings, rehearsals and performances.
Many artists succeeded and innovated in the early little theaters, and
went on to build strong networks and brilliant careers. Some found
improv "a hell of free will." Improvisational theater influenced a long
list of Hollywood movies, including The Graduate, Animal House and
Waiting for Guffman, and inspired TV shows such as Saturday Night Live,
the Daily Show, the Colbert Report and Key and Peele. Rage, depression
and addiction plagued many of the performers profiled here, along with
all the difficulties of starting careers in the arts. But the creative
and social joy of improvisational theater, and the application of its
principles to daily life, are the unifying themes. "Wherever there is
improvisation, anyone can speak her mind, and that mind, folded in with
others', will form a totally original, harmonious entity... the
democratic spirit channeled through art. Improvisation, then, is
inherently egalitarian; it is about how we can be free together." --Sara

Gluttony Bay by Matt Wallace is, alas, the second to last of his Sin Du Jour books. I've read the entire series of short and hilarious books, though there was always more of a dark horror element than I am usually comfortable with. But Wallace is a gifted storyteller, and his prose is muscular and snappy, which suits his greased lightening plots down to the ground. Here's the blurb: Gluttony Bay is the penultimate Sin du Jour affair, Matt Wallace's funny foodie series about the New York firm that caters to the paranormal, which began with Envy of Angels.
Welcome to Gluttony Bay High Security Supernatural Prison. We value your patronage. For your entertainment this evening, we are delighted to welcome the world's most renowned paranormal culinary experts.
And on the menu: You.
Publisher's Weekly: Wallace returns to the unusual, highly imaginative world of the Sin du Jour catering crew in his sixth installment (after 2017’s Greedy Pigs), the darkest yet. After the disastrous fallout from the American and supernatural presidential inaugurations, which Sin du Jour was hired to cater, the gang barely has a chance to breathe. Allensworth, Sin du Jour’s diabolical patron, kidnaps chef Lena Tarr—who’s sick with worry over her best friend, Darren Vargas, who’s missing—and head honcho Bronko Luck and whisks them off to Gluttony Bay, which happens to reside right next door to another infamous bay in Cuba. Lena and Bronko must cook up a feast for the diners, and, to their horror, they discover that someone they love is on the menu. Lena and Bronko’s dilemma is terrifying, and though Wallace’s trademark sharp humor is present, this installment is much heavier on horror elements than past stories, making a strong statement about the human capacity for cruelty. A spectacular, harrowing, and ultimately heartbreaking action sequence in the third act paves the way for the last installment. This novella is a gem to be savored, much like the delicacies that Sin du Jour serves up to its very strange clientèle
Though Lena and Bronko manage to escape with Vargas, I was not at all sure they'd escape with their lives, and it seems the rest of the team is imploding. The ending of the book is left fairly wide open, and several members of the staff are still in jeopardy, while one staff member is dead and another proves to be completely incompetent. Still, I was riveted and, as usual, hungered for more by the end. I am thoroughly hooked on these slight volumes (not a one is over 200 pages) and eagerly await each installment. I'd give this book an A, with a warning for those who are horror averse that it's a bit more grisly than previous volumes, and I'd recommend it to dark fantasy and horror fans.

A Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne is the first in a new epic fantasy series, by the author of the witty and wonderful Iron Druid series, which I adored. Hearne is friends with Patrick Rothfuss, whose Kingkiller Chronicles have resonated with fantasy fans around the world, so I wasn't at all surprised when Hearne announced that he was going to start writing an epic similar to Rothfuss, but of course completely different. Hearne starts out with a different style to his novel by having it told through the performances of a Bard who uses magic to appear as different characters, each with a story to tell about how they came upon the bone giants who started the war.  At the front of the book are actual drawings of the main characters with a little bio information beneath, so readers can delve into the book with confidence that they won't lose their place trying to figure out who is who. Here's the blurb:
From the author of The Iron Druid Chronicles, a thrilling novel that kicks off a fantasy series with an entirely new mythology—complete with shape-shifting bards, fire-wielding giants, and children who can speak to astonishing beasts
MOTHER AND WARRIOR Tallynd is a soldier who has already survived her toughest battle: losing her husband. But now she finds herself on the front lines of an invasion of giants, intent on wiping out the entire kingdom, including Tallynd’s two sons—all that she has left. The stakes have never been higher. If Tallynd fails, her boys may never become men.
SCHOLAR AND SPY Dervan is an historian who longs for a simple, quiet life. But he’s drawn into intrigue when he’s hired to record the tales of a mysterious bard who may be a spy or even an assassin for a rival kingdom. As the bard shares his fantastical stories, Dervan makes a shocking discovery: He may have a connection to the tales, one that will bring his own secrets to light.  
REBEL AND HERO Abhi’s family have always been hunters, but Abhi wants to choose a different life for himself. Embarking on a journey of self-discovery, Abhi soon learns that his destiny is far greater than he imagined: a powerful new magic thrust upon him may hold the key to defeating the giants once and for all—if it doesn’t destroy him first.
Set in a magical world of terror and wonder, this novel is a deeply felt epic of courage and war, in which the fates of these characters intertwine—and where ordinary people become heroes, and their lives become legend.
Many of the main characters are of the Brynt race, who are dark skinned, while other races are depicted as Asian and some seem to be Celtic or Pictish. I found this inclusion refreshing, while Publisher's Weekly felt that Hearne portrayed one of the SE Asian races as being refugees and therefore impoverished and not as worthy as the other races, which is bunk, in my opinion. The fact that he made sure that his fantasy was inclusive of many races and genders made it a better story, stronger and more realistic, because our world is full of different kinds of people, too. Inbetween the Bard's stories are some great scenes with fun characters who are heartwarming and human. Though things slow down a bit toward the end, I still enjoyed the storytelling provided herein delightful. Hearne's prose is sterling, and his plots never falter, though at times they do have slow spots. I'd give this book an A, and recommend it to anyone who has enjoyed the Kingkiller series by Rothfuss.

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman is a much-anticipated prequel to her famous tome, Practical Magic, which was made into an award winning movie about 25 years ago. I read and loved Practical Magic, and most of the other books Hoffman has written. She has a style reminiscent of MJ Rose and Susana Kearsley, that is dreamy yet robust and lively. Here's the blurb:
From beloved author Alice Hoffman comes the spellbinding prequel to her bestseller, Practical Magic.
Find your magic.
For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man.
Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk.
From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse.
The Owens children cannot escape love even if they try, just as they cannot escape the pains of the human heart. The two beautiful sisters will grow up to be the revered, and sometimes feared, aunts in Practical Magic, while Vincent, their beloved brother, will leave an unexpected legacy. Thrilling and exquisite, real and fantastical, The Rules of Magic is a story about the power of love reminding us that the only remedy for being human is to be true to yourself.
That last line is indicative of the theme of this novel, which seems to be that you can't escape who you are at the core, and what you can do with whatever powers you possess. Franny, Jet and Vincent are all imbued with magical talents that they struggle with using appropriately. 
While I loved reading about Aunt Isabelle, and Franny and Jet, Vincent seemed too capricious and cruel to me, and I didn't like his treatment of his sisters or of any of the other women in his life. Still, Vincent's child is the one who creates a line of family that comes down to the Owen girls that we know and love from Practical Magic. Hoffman's prose is, as always, lush and mesmerizing, which moves along on her dancing plots with nary a hitch. I couldn't put this book down, and I would give it a higher grade than an A if there were one. I'd recommend it to anyone who loved Practical Magic or any of Hoffman's other delightful novels. You can't go wrong with any of her books, really.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

RIP Jane Juska, Building Libraries into Luxury Homes, Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper, Reckoning by Lili St Crow, and A Scandal in Battersea by Mercedes Lackey

I remember reading an article about Jane J, and then reading her memoir, which I found slightly disturbing and fascinating at the same time. It sparked some debate in a used bookstore I once frequented, and the co-owner eventually felt that Juska's approach might help her grab a guy of her own. So the bookstore gal, an older woman, put an ad in the local newspaper that read "Tall ugly woman over 50 seeks man for romping and beer. If you want to talk first, Steinbeck works for me." She apparently had at least a dozen serious responses. Since I found my own guy through a personal ad in a magazine in the 80s, I certainly felt that Juska was on to something. May she rest in peace.

Obituary Note: Jane Juska

Jane Juska
whose bestselling 2003 memoir A Round-Heeled Woman: My Late-Life
Adventures in Sex and Romance, "followed her from her prudish Midwestern
roots to her liberated flings and brought her to Oprah Winfrey and
Charlie Rose's television talk shows to tell her story," died October
24, the New York Times reported. She was 84.

After watching Eric Rohmer's film Autumn Tale in 1999 at a theater in
Berkeley, Calif., Juska "bought an ad in the personals section of The
New York Review of Books. Not wishing to overspend on the ad, she
winnowed her piquant message to these memorable words, which cost her
$4.55 each: 'Before I turn 67--next March--I would like a lot of sex
with a man I like. If you want to talk first, Trollope works for me,' "
the Times noted. More than 60 letters arrived and Juska's subsequent
encounters formed the basis of the book.

A play based on A Round-Heeled Woman was written by Jane Prowse and
performed in several cities. Juska also wrote Unaccompanied Women (2006)
and Mrs. Bennet Has Her Say (2015).

This has always been a dream of mine, to have a home with many built in bookshelves and at least one room dedicated to being a library and a study. 

Cool Idea of the Day: Luxury Building Libraries
Some luxury building developers are adding a library "to the mix of
common spaces where residents can gather or find a quiet corner away
from their unit," the Washington Post reported, adding that while some
buildings include libraries with carefully selected books residents can
borrow, others offer residents the benefits of a partnership with a

For example, in partnership with New York City's Strand
rental building at 525 West 52nd St. "offer residents a library filled
with books chosen by Strand staff members along with resident-only book
signings, poetry readings, creative writing classes and a
Strand-sponsored book club," the Post wrote.
Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper was recommended to me as being similar in tone and content to Fredrik Bachman's works (A Man Called Ove), which I've loved. Unfortunately, this book's uneven prose and meandering plot with a completely nonsensical ending put it well below Bachman's, in terms of quality. Here's the blurb:
Eighty-three-year-old Etta has never seen the ocean. So early one morning she takes a rifle, some chocolate, and her best boots and begins walking the 3,232 kilometers from rural Saskatchewan, Canada eastward to the sea. As Etta walks further toward the crashing waves, the lines among memory, illusion, and reality blur.
Otto wakes to a note left on the kitchen table. “I will try to remember to come back,” Etta writes to her husband. Otto has seen the ocean, having crossed the Atlantic years ago to fight in a far-away war. He understands. But with Etta gone, the memories come crowding in and Otto struggles to keep them at bay. Meanwhile, their neighbor Russell has spent his whole life trying to keep up with Otto and loving Etta from afar. Russell insists on finding Etta, wherever she’s gone. Leaving his own farm will be the first act of defiance in his life.
Moving from the hot and dry present of a quiet Canadian farm to a dusty, burnt past of hunger, war, and passion, from trying to remember to trying to forget, Etta and Otto and Russell and James is an astounding literary debut “of deep longing, for reinvention and self-discovery, as well as for the past and for love and for the boundless unknown” (San Francisco Chronicle). “In this haunting debut, set in a starkly beautiful landscape, Hooper delineates the stories of Etta and the men she loved (Otto and Russell) as they intertwine through youth and wartime and into old age. It’s a lovely book you’ll want to linger over” (People).
First of all, Etta appears to be suffering from dementia and/or Alzheimers, and she should never have been allowed to wander off by herself. There are several places in the book where we're shown that she gets robbed and beaten and cut up, but then those are placed in such a way in the text that the reader isn't sure if they are hallucinations or reality. Then, for some bizarre reason, 3/4 of the way through the book, the author decides to get surreal and makes it appear that Otto and Etta are the same person. The book just ends, without any decent resolution or explanations, not long after that. So readers will feel confused and angry, and wonder, as I did, where the hell the editor for this manuscript was, that he or she let this book slide into babble and nonsense. It's also very hard to believe that Etta would have so many 'fans' when she's just walking around aimlessly, not really knowing if she's headed for the ocean or not. And we're never sure if her coyote companion, James, is real or another figment of her imagination. This book left me shaking my head in bewilderment and dissatisfaction. I'd give it a C, and only recommend it to those who like to try and find meaning in nonsense.

Reckoning by Lili St Crow is the fifth and final book in her Strange Angels YA series. Having been disappointed that Lilith Saintcrow seemed to be following a set of well-worn YA tropes and cliches in writing this series, I wasn't too keen on this book from the outset, but I was at least slightly surprised that it was better than the previous novels in the series, at least in terms of the fast-action plot and the smooth prose. Here's the blurb:
Nobody expected Dru Anderson to survive this long. Not Graves. Not Christophe. Not even Dru. She's battled killer zombies, jealous djamphirs, and bloodthirsty suckers straight out of her worst nightmares. But now that Dru has bloomed into a full-fledged svetocha - rare, beautiful, and toxic to all vampires - the worst is yet to come.
Because getting out alive is going to cost more than she's ever imagined. And in the end, is survival really worth the sacrifice?
So Dru faces down the big bad, Sergj, Christophe's evil father the vampire, in order to rescue Graves, who has become broken courtesy of Sergj,and she's also got to rescue Christophe who is being drained by his father and slowly killed. We learn that this ancient evil has designs on Dru's blood, too, as now that she's "bloomed" she has power that will make him able to walk in the daylight and take over the world, as big bads are wont to do.  Of course, things don't go his way, and Dru manages to whack his head off after Christophe the pretentious tries to drink him dry. Later, when Dru's life hangs in the balance, Christophe insists that she receive a blood transfusion from him, and he wants her to have all his blood in a grand 'romantic' gesture, because he makes it clear that he has the hots for her and won't stop foisting himself on her until they're together. This doesn't make him sexy, in my mind, it makes him a pedophile and a stalker, somewhat like Edward from the horrific Twilight series. I don't really get why he's so determined to have Dru, when he's hundreds of years old and she's still underage and illegal at 16, but somehow we, as readers, are supposed to forgive all his creepyness because he looks young and acts protective of Dru (though he also acts like a possessive jerk most of the time). Graves has been broken, so it will take awhile for him to return to being boyfriend material, but Dru has already explained to Graves that she loves him and needs him by her side. Still, Christophe asks Dru if there is any hope that she might accept his romantic/sexual advances, and yet again, she doesn't tell him no (WHY is beyond me...she already has Graves, so why keep this European douchebag on the line, when she knows he tried to make time with her mother as well...ewwwww), but says instead that she's "not ready" for any kind of sexual relationship. So Christophe says he will wait. Yuck. Still so creepy. But while the romance in the book was horrible, the action was decent, and I enjoyed watching Dru come in to her own. Clean and clear prose keep a well paced plot going in this book, so I'd give it a B-, and recommend it to those who have read the other books in the Strange Angels series.

A Scandal in Battersea by Mercedes Lackey is the 12th book in the Elemental Mages series, and highly anticipated by those who have read all the preceding volumes, as I have. Lackey never fails to tell a ripping good yarn, with characters that are full bodied and a plot that is full of interesting twists and turns. Here's the blurb:
The twelfth novel in Mercedes Lackey's magical Elemental Masters series reimagines Sherlock Holmes in a richly-detailed alternate 20th-century EnglandChristmas is a very special time of year.  It is special for Psychic Nan Killian and Medium Sarah Lyon-White and their ward Suki, who are determined to celebrate it properly.  It is special for their friends, Doctor John Watson, and his wife Mary, both Elemental Masters, who have found great delight in the season seeing it through young Suki’s eyes.   It is also special to others...for very different reasons.
For Christmas Eve is also hallowed to dark forces, powers older than mankind, powers that come awake on this, the Longest Night.  Powers best left alone.  Powers that could shake the foundations of London and beyond.
It begins slowly.  Women disappearing in the dark of night, women only missed by those of their own kind.  The whispers only begin when they start to reappear—because when they do, they are no longer sane.  And when Nan and Sarah and the Watsons are called on to examine these victims, they discover that it was no ordinary horror of the streets that drove them mad.
But then, the shadows reach for other victims—girls of good, even exalted families, who vanish from concerts, lectures, and evening balls.  And it will take the combined forces of Magic, Psychic Powers, and the world's greatest detective to stop the darkness before it can conquer all.
Nana, Sarah and Suki have all appeared in previous Elemental Mages books, so it was a delight to see them again, though they were put through their paces here, with a plot that never slows down for a moment, riding along the rails of the nearly flawless prose that is typical of Lackey. One of the things that I love about Lackey's series is that you know the big bad shadowy octopus of doom cannot win, and will not win, when all the mages band together to destroy it. The addition of a horrible pedophile who feels no remorse in killing little girls only adds to the satisfaction of his demise later in the novel. The fact that his cynical and evil assistant ends up free and with no consequences of his actions was bothersome, but I have a feeling that his turn of good luck will sour soon enough. Sherlock Holmes makes another appearance in this novel, and though he is a skeptic, his logic and reasoning end up helping the group solve the mystery and save more than a few people from a miserable death. I'd give this book an A, and recommend it to anyone who has read the other Elemental Mage books.This is a book you can curl up with near a nice fire and with a hot cup of tea or coffee and while away an entire afternoon.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Kingkiller Chronicles Comes to TV, Seattle is UNESCO City of Literature, The Brightest Fell by Seanan McGuire, Saint Brigid's Bones by Philip Freeman,Magic of Wind and Mist by Cassandra Rose Clarke, and Three YA Fantasies by Lili St Crow

I adored Pat Rothfuss' Kingkiller series of fantasy novels, and I am thrilled that Miranda has decided to bring the story to TV. That said, I wish to heck Rothfuss would get the third and final book of the series out on the shelves before I turn 60. 

TV: The Kingkiller Chronicle

Showtime is developing a television series based on the Kingkiller
book series by Patrick Rothfuss that is being produced by Lionsgate,
with Lin-Manuel Miranda executive producing and John Rogers (Leverage,
The Player) as showrunner, Deadline reported. Miranda also will compose
music for the project, which is "a subversive origin story set a
generation before the events of the trilogy's first novel, The Name of
the Wind."

The Kingkiller Chronicle "is a collaborative franchise from Lionsgate
that includes a TV series adaption, a major feature film and interactive
games all being developed concurrently," Deadline noted.

Miranda said, "Pat Rothruss' Kingkiller series is some of the most
exciting storytelling I have ever read."

Hurrah! This is excellent news!

Seattle Designated a UNESCO  City of Literature
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has
declared Seattle, Wash., a City of Literature
It was one of 64 cities worldwide to join the UNESCO Creative Cities
Network, which now includes 180 cities in 72 countries highlighted for
their creativity within seven fields: Crafts and Folk Art, Design, Film,
Gastronomy, Literature, Media Arts and Music. Other newly named Cities
of Literature were Bucheon (Republic of Korea), Durban (South Africa),
Lillehammer (Norway), Manchester (U.K.), Milan (Italy), Québec
City (Canada) and Utrecht (Netherlands).

Noting that this decision is "the culmination of a years-long process
the Seattle Review of Books reported that "the bid for Seattle as a City
of Literature began in 2013 and it has seen wholesale staffing changes,
survived four different mayors, and the U.S.'s withdrawal from UNESCO in
the intervening years.... Through the whole process, Seattle City of
Literature has been promoting the bid." 
Bob Redmond, Seattle City of Literature
board president, told SRB: "We all know that Seattle is a world-class
city, but this underlines it in a new way--especially for people who
care about the arts, or books, or words. It matters to everybody here
that the world is looking at Seattle as a cultural leader. That should
make us feel good.... I feel a mixture of justification and joy. I feel
justification because I don't think that the mission of UNESCO and this
organization could be more relevant than it is right now: to build
understanding through the literary arts."

The Brightest Fell by Seanan McGuire is the 11th book in the October Daye series, and the first that has been published in hardback, as far as I know. I have something of a love/dislike (nothing as strong as hate, really) with McGuire's changeling series. On the one hand, her prose is slick and buttery, riding along on plots that are like roller coasters with twists and turns that will leave you breathless. There's a sea witch and a king of Cats and all manner of interesting fae in every installment of the series that will fascinate readers, because McGuire has an Irishwoman's way with a story. On the other hand, Toby, for all her friends and guards and fae royalty loyal to her as she is to them, always ends up holding the crap side of the stick, and always has to to save herself and everyone else, because, once again, someone has abducted or kidnapped her friends, or children, or lover and is holding them hostage until she completes some task or kills the bad guys, even if they're supposedly immortal. And there is always lots of blood and gore, and Toby usually barfs a lot, which seems to be a badge of honor for her, rather than signs of bulimia, a horrific eating disorder.  This gets tiresome after nearly a dozen books, and I wish that Toby's mother (and so many other people in her world) and sister weren't such evil selfish bitches who inevitably blame her for their problems, while at the same time reminding her that she's beneath them and worthless and should be put to death, if they could be certain they wouldn't break a nail doing so. Toby has cobbled together a "family" group of her lesbian fetch, her fetches lover, her fiance the king of Cats and his heir, her guardian/apprentice who can't seem to actually guard her or do much of anything right, ever, and her troll friend who drives a cab. Oh, and the sea witch, who can only help her by extracting a price, and sometimes can't help her at all due to a geas. She also has a friend who runs another kingdom, and some other peripheral characters, but again, these people's only role seems to be getting abducted or getting someone they love abducted or in trouble, and only Toby is able to retrieve these people, with little to no help from any of them. Why are all of her friends so ineffectual and clumsy and just plain stupid? Here's the blurb:
Things are slow, and October “Toby” Daye couldn’t be happier about that.  The elf-shot cure has been approved, Arden Windermere is settling into her position as Queen in the Mists, and Toby doesn’t have anything demanding her attention except for wedding planning and spending time with her family.
Maybe she should have realized that it was too good to last.               
When Toby’s mother, Amandine, appears on her doorstep with a demand for help, refusing her seems like the right thing to do…until Amandine starts taking hostages, and everything changes.  Now Toby doesn’t have a choice about whether or not she does as her mother asks.  Not with Jazz and Tybalt’s lives hanging in the balance.  But who could possibly help her find a pureblood she’s never met, one who’s been missing for over a hundred years?               
Enter Simon Torquill, elf-shot enemy turned awakened, uneasy ally.  Together, the two of them must try to solve one of the greatest mysteries in the Mists: what happened to Amandine’s oldest daughter, August, who disappeared in 1906.               
This is one missing person case Toby can’t afford to get wrong.

Unsurprisingly, once August is found, she's a horrible snob, mean and vicious, and of course, she hates Toby as much as their mother does. August's father, Simon, makes a great sacrifice for her of his own free will, and instead of being happy about it, and about being reunited with her vile mother, she immediately snarls about losing her father to Toby, and insists that Toby find him. Heaven forfend Toby get a break long enough to get married and have a chance at a normal life. She gets blamed for everything, is used constantly and seems to live on coffee and pain. I find this exasperating, but I still will read the next book in the series, because McGuire's such a fine storyteller. I'd give this book a B+, and recommend it to anyone who has read the other books in the series. 

Saint Brigid's Bones by Philip Freeman is subtitled "A Celtic Adventure" and is actually a mystery novel set in ancient Ireland of I'm assuming the 12th century. Someone who knows I adored visiting Ireland at the turn of the last century thought that I might enjoy this novel, and I did, to a certain extent. It's obvious that the author has been researching Irish history for a long time, because the world building within the novel is excellent. Readers will feel like they're there, breathing in the beauty of the unspoiled Irish landscape. Our crime-solving nun, sister Deirdre, is reminiscent of the crime solving monk in The Name of the Rose, Umberto Ecco's famous novel about an ancient British monastery. Most mystery novels give away the perp by around the third chapter, but this book keeps you guessing until you are 3/4 of the way through the book. The prose is crisp and clean, but the plot is  a bit slow in places, and while the daily activities of those in service to the church of that time are interesting in passing, there was often too much historical detail to keep regular readers from becoming bored. Here's the blurb: In an evocative Celtic novel set in a time when druids roamed the land, lively young sister Deirdre embarks on a mission to find the stolen bones of her convent’s patron saint. In ancient Ireland, an island ruled by kings and druids, the nuns of Saint Brigid are fighting to keep their monastery alive. When the bones of Brigid go missing from their church, the theft threatens to destroy all they have worked for. No one knows the danger they face better than Sister Deirdre, a young nun torn between two worlds.
Trained as a bard and raised by a druid grandmother, she must draw upon all of her skills, both as a bard and as a nun, to find the bones before the convent begins to lose faith. 
It's always surprising to remember how important and powerful the Catholic church was to people in ancient times. It is also weird to remember that illiteracy was common for centuries. Anyway, I liked Sister Deirdre, and the story itself was fairly told. I'd give it a B, and recommend it to Celtic history and mystery buffs.

Magic of Wind and Mist by Cassandra Rose Clarke is the sequel omnibus to Clarke's Magic of Blood and Sea, which I loved. Unfortunately, these two books are not actually a continuation of the story of the characters from the first books, these are the voyages of the daughter of the protagonist of the first books, Hanna, who is a sullen and somewhat stupid teenager who is, of course, bored with her life on her family's farm, and longs for adventure on the high seas, which she's heard about from her mother. Yet when Hanna is abducted by the fisherman she's apprenticed to, all she can do is whine and moan about wanting to go home ASAP. For that reason, and a few others, these books reminded me of The Wizard of Oz movie, based on the novels by L Frank Baum. Unfortunately, Hanna's companions on her adventure aren't as colorful or fun as the witches and the munchkins, or the scarecrow and tin man. Here's the blurb: Taking place in the world of Cassandra Rose Clarke’s Magic of Blood and Sea, this is the story of a would-be witch who embarks on an adventure filled with intrigue, mystery, mermaids, and magic.
Hanna has spent her life hearing about the adventures of her namesake Ananna, the lady pirate, and assassin Naji, and dreams to have some adventures of her own.
One day when Hanna is with her apprentice—a taciturn fisherman called Kolur—the boat is swept wildly off course during a day of storms and darkness. In this strange new land, Kolur hires a stranger to join the crew and, rather than heading home, sets a course for the dangerous island of Jadanvar. As Hanna meets a secretive merboy—and learns that Kolur has a deadly past—she soon realizes that wishing for adventures can be deadly…because those wishes might come true.
The first book is extremely slow-moving, and not much gets done, (except for Hanna whining and complaining) which is frustrating. The second book finally moves the plot along, and Hanna is able to use her wind witch skills to help defeat the evil Lord Foxhollow. Unfortunately, Hanna's companion and friend throughout the book is a creature who embodies the North Wind, and though he's a coward and weak and not too bright, the two are in love by the end of the book, which makes no sense to me, because they're not even the same species! Even while in human guise, Isofr is still just a magical wind, and how, exactly, the two would even have a real relationship is never explained. Could a wind creature "make love" to a human and engender human children?  Clarke never answers this question, and I was also disappointed that Hanna seemed so whiny and ineffectual most of the time, and only stepped up because her boyfriend the wind was such a coward, and the other people who she was shipping out with had no morals and were not terribly bright or brave. That left Hanna to do the magical dirty work, which she constantly complained about and then did anyway. I disliked her sullen and rude attitude and her unhappiness with everything and nearly everyone. For that reason I'd give this book a C+, and only recommend it to those who must read an entire series.

Betrayals, Jealousy and Defiance by Lili St. Crow (Lilith Saintcrow's pen name for her YA titles) are books 2, 3 and 4 of the Strange Angels YA series of urban fantasy novels. I've read several of Saintcrow's other series, and while I like the fact that she has strong female protagonists in place, and they are always handy with the kick-butt and the snarky attitude, for some reason, this series seems to be following a YA tropes "bible" of some type, so that the books seem formulaic and predictable. There's the inevitable love triangle, between the female protagonist and two very "different" types of boys, (in this case, it's the gorgeous European half vampire vs the handsome American goth boy werewulf or loup garou whom she knows and trusts) there's the showdown with an evil and powerful overlord figure, (in this case, there's also a showdown with a female half vampire who is jealous of our heroine's youth and beauty and attention of the European half vamp, whom she wanted for her own, and who, shudder, had a thing for the protagonist's mother), and there's the body issues that the protagonist kvetches about, though all the other male characters find her stunningly beautiful. Dru Anderson, the heroine, also constantly slips away from the authority figures/school/her guards and gets into trouble, and she also must rescue her loup garou love interest because no one else is as brave as she is, or as stupid, as the case may be. Oh, and like all good heroines, she's an orphan, with survivor guilt and daddy issues. Here's the blurbs: 
Poor Dru Anderson. Her parents are long gone, her best friend is a werewolf, and she’s just learned that the blood flowing through her veins isn’t entirely human. (So what else is new?)
Now Dru is stuck at a secret New England School for other teens like her, and there’s a big problem— she’s the only girl in the place. A school full of cute boys wouldn’t be so bad, but Dru’s killer instinct says that one of them wants her dead. And with all eyes on her, discovering a traitor within the Order could mean a lot more than social suicide. . .
Can Dru survive long enough to find out who has betrayed her trust—and maybe even her heart?
It's a good thing Dru Anderson is fast. Because the sucker chasing her isn't slowing down and he won?t rest until he has tasted her blood and silenced her heart . . . Dru?s best friend, Graves, and her strange and handsome savior, Christophe, are ready to help her take on the ultimate evil. But will their battle for Dru's heart get in the way of her survival? Now that sixteen-year-old Dru's worst fears have come true and Sergej has kidnapped her best friend Graves, she'll have to go on a suicidal rescue mission to bring him back in one piece.
That is, if she can put all of Christophe's training to good use, defeat her mother's traitor, Anna, once and for all, and manage to survive another day...

The other thing that bugged the crap out of me while reading these books is that Saintcrow took a page from one of the worst YA series ever written, Twilight, and described what Christophe and Graves smelled like every single time they appeared. Bella was so annoying with her "strawberry scented hair" in the Twilight books that I assume the author was hoping that you'd overlook the terrible prose and the heinous plot and paper thin characters because you were reminded, constantly, that she smelled good and that there were no pretty girls in Fall City, WA, so all the boys were wild for California girl Bella, who had the personality of a doorknob. Saintcrow is an excellent prose stylist who knows how to tell a good, original story, however, so I was truly disappointed in her phoning this one in with the apple-pie scented Christophe and the "boy sweat and moonlight" scent of Graves. And Dru's knees and legs are constantly turning rubbery like noodles, and she is always crying and clinging to the nearest friendly man after a crisis, because, you know, girl hormones and all of that makes a girl so weak. Ugh. And just in case you're not aware of how immature  teenage girls are, she can't seem to stop blushing whenever she's kissed, darn it, and she calls her breasts,"breasticles." Isn't that just adorable? No, it's not.
I was embarrassed for Saintcrow, who should know better, but seems to be okay with putting this cliche riddled prose on the shelves. Just to complete the series, I will read book 5, but I doubt it will be any better than the previous novels. I'd give the series a B-, which is generous grading, and only recommend it to fans of the Hunger Games and Twilight. Don't expect Saintcrow to cover new ground here, because you won't find any.