Saturday, January 19, 2019

Gail Carriger Live in Seattle, Bookshops Around the World, Bookstore Cats, Women Warriors: An Unexpected History by Pamela Toler, RIP Mary Oliver, Gloria Steinem Movie, A Second Chance and A Trail Through Time by Jodi Taylor

I was able to go to the University of Washington Bookstore last night to see author Gail Carriger live, talking with the crowd of Seattle Steampunk afficionados and signing her books (I've read all but two of her novels). It was a wonderful evening, and Dwayne the book concierge who has been curating the Science Fiction and Fantasy section of the U Bookstore for at least 30 years, was there and remembered me, though I haven't been in the the store for at least 7 years. He was so kind and helped me, due to my disability, to be first in line so I didn't have to stand for hours and wait for my books to get signed, and then he held my books and my purse while he assisted me in getting down the stairs and into the parking lot to Nick's car. Miss Gail was a delight, and she loved the gifts I brought her, and she was resplendent in an Emerald green dress and gloves for her turn in the rainy Emerald City! I wish I had remembered to take photos, but I didn't. Still, it was a magical evening that I will remember forever. 

These are some bookstores that I have on my bucket list to visit!

Five Bookshops for Globetrotting Bibliophiles

Spanish writer, academic and literary critic Jorge Carrin, for
whom a bookshop is "the perfect place to understand the world," picked
"five bookshops that globetrotting bibliophiles
should put on their bucket list" for ABC Arts' The Bookshelf.

"When you enter a bookshop you discover a kind of country--a little
world--and you can find different aspects of the history of the world,
and also of the present time," said CarriĆ³n, author of Bookshops:
A Reader's History. "I know the library is more democratic than the
bookshop, but the bookshop is part of the city. It is a private space
with a public service dimension to the community that is very

Though I am allergic, I love bookstore kitty cats! They're so calm and soothing.

The 20 Most Instagrammable Bookstore Cats'

"There's something magical about stepping into a bookstore and finding a
cat lounging on a well-worn arm chair surrounded by rows and rows of
books. After all, cats make the coziest reading companions," Electric
Lit noted in showcasing the "20 most Instagrammable bookstore cats

I really want to read this book, it sounds fantastic. History has ignored or buried women's stories for far too long.

Review: Women Warriors: An Unexpected History

With Women Warriors: An Unexpected History, Pamela Toler (The Heroines
of Mercy Street: The Real Nurses of the Civil War) reveals a history
many readers will meet with surprise as well as fascination. By the end
of this brisk accounting of just some of the many women warriors Toler
found in her research, she makes it clear that while little known, this
phenomenon is neither new nor unusual.

Women Warriors is a broad examination that spans history from the second
millennium BCE through the present, and across Europe, Asia, Africa and
the Americas. Toler details dozens of examples, from the better-known
(Matilda of Tuscany, Njinga, Begum Sahib and, of course, Joan of Arc) to
the obscure (Ani Pachen, Mawiyya, Bouboulina), in two- or three-page
summaries. She notes primary sources in each case and questions "facts"
where appropriate (for example, numbers of troops are notoriously
dubious), often presenting a fact in the main body and then questioning
it in a footnote. Chapters organize women warriors into mothers,
daughters, queens, widows; besieged defenders and leaders of attacks;
women disguised as men and women undisguised.

Plentiful footnotes serve an important role, especially evidencing a
certain wry humor, as when Toler repeatedly and impatiently points out
the tendency to compliment women as behaving like men and to denigrate
men as behaving like women (a habit consistent throughout history and
common to women as well as men). Double standards are likewise
emphasized, as in the way historians and archeologists have examined
evidence. For example, the grave known as the "Birka man," from 834 CE,
had long been considered that of a male because of the martial burial
items found with him. In 2014, a bioarcheologist determined that the
bones were actually that of a female. Despite follow-up DNA testing,
scholars, archeologists and historians continue to argue about the
identification of the Birka woman. As Toler points out, the scholarly
contortions now employed to deny her status as warrior were never
mentioned while her skeleton was assumed to be that of a male.

With such copious content, Toler has been careful to keep her book a
manageable length: at just over 200 pages, Women Warriors is an easy
entry to an expansive topic. Toler found thousands of examples of women
warriors in her research--many more than are contained in these
pages--and argues that this proliferation deserves to be treated as more
than a series of freak anomalies. In conclusion, answering an earlier
historian's claim that women in warfare are "the most insignificant
exceptions," Toler sums up: "Exceptions within the context of their time
and place? Yes. Exceptions over the scope of human history? Not so much.
Insignificant? Hell, no!" --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at

Sadly, we lost one of America's greatest poets this week. RIP to a wild and wonderful woman of words.

Obituary Note: Mary Oliver

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet "whose work, with its plain language and
minute attention to the natural world, drew a wide following while
dividing critics," died on January 17, the New York Times reported. She
was 83. Oliver, a "phenomenon: a poet whose work sold strongly,"
published more than 20 books, including the Pulitzer-winning American
Primitive National Book Award winner New and Selected Poems.

"For her abiding communion with nature," Oliver was often compared to
Walt Whitman and Robert Frost, the Times noted, adding: "For her quiet,
measured observations, and for her fiercely private personal mien (she
gave many readings but few interviews, saying she wanted her work to
speak for itself), she was likened to Emily Dickinson." She "often
described her vocation as the observation of life."

Oliver's poetry collections include The River Styx, Ohio; House of
Light; The Leaf and the Cloud; Evidence; Blue Horses and Felicity. Among
her prose titles are Rules for the Dance, A Poetry Handbook and Long
Life: Essays and Other Writings.
From Oliver's poem "When Death Comes":

When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.

I love Gloria Steinem, and I've read and enjoyed several of her books. I hope that this movie does her justice.

Movies: The Glorias: A Life on the Road

Timothy Hutton has joined the cast of Julie Taymor's The Glorias: A Life
on the Road
based on Gloria Steinem's memoir, My Life on the Road, Deadline
reported. He will play Leo Steinem, Gloria's father, alongside Julianne
Moore as Steinem and Alicia Vikander as the feminist icon at ages 20-40.
The cast also includes Bette Midler as Bella Abzug and Janelle Monae
stars as Dorothy Pitman Hughes.
The movie "follows her journey to becoming a crusader for equal rights
and her groundbreaking work as a journalist and campaigner," Deadline
wrote. Taymor wrote the script with playwright Sarah Ruhl. Principal
photography is underway in Savannah, Ga.

A Second Chance and A Trail Through Time by Jodi Taylor are the 3rd and 4th books of this delightful British time-travel adventure series that has a wonderful PG Wodehouse sense of humor woven throughout the text. The crew of St Mary's is full of unforgettable characters who are out to protect history and the sanctity of St Mary's itself. Here are the blurbs: The third book in the bestselling British madcap time-travelling series, served with a dash of wit that seems to be everyone’s cup of tea.

Behind the seemingly innocuous facade of St. Mary’s Institute of Historical Research, a different kind of academic work is taking place. Just don’t call it “time travel”—these historians “investigate major historical events in contemporary time.” And they aren’t your harmless eccentrics either; a more accurate description, as they ricochet around history, might be unintentional disaster-magnets.

The Chronicles of St. Mary’s tells the chaotic adventures of Madeleine Maxwell and her compatriots—Director Bairstow, Leon “Chief” Farrell, Mr. Markham, and many more—as they travel through time, saving St. Mary’s (too often by the very seat of their pants) and thwarting time-travelling terrorists, all the while leaving plenty of time for tea.

In A Second Chance , it seems nothing can go right for Max and her fellow historians. The team confronts a mirror-stealing Isaac Newton and later witnesses how the ancient and bizarre cheese-rolling ceremony in Gloucester can result in CBC: Concussion By Cheese.

Finally, Max makes her long-awaited jump to Bronze Age Troy, only for it to end in personal catastrophe. And just when it seems things couldn’t get any worse, it’s back to the Cretaceous Period to confront an old enemy who has nothing to lose.

The fourth book in the bestselling British madcap time-travelling series, served with a dash of wit that seems to be everyone’s cup of tea.

Behind the seemingly innocuous facade of St. Mary’s Institute of Historical Research, a different kind of academic work is taking place. Just don’t call it “time travel”—these historians “investigate major historical events in contemporary time.” And they aren’t your harmless eccentrics either; a more accurate description, as they ricochet around history, might be unintentional disaster-magnets.

The Chronicles of St. Mary’s tells the chaotic adventures of Madeleine Maxwell and her compatriots—Director Bairstow, Leon “Chief” Farrell, Mr. Markham, and many more—as they travel through time, saving St. Mary’s (too often by the very seat of their pants) and thwarting time-travelling terrorists, all the while leaving plenty of time for tea.

In A Trail Through Time , Max and Leon are reunited and looking forward to a peaceful lifetime together. Sadly, that doesn’t even last until lunchtime.

The action races from seventeenth-century London to Ancient Egypt and from Pompeii to fourteenth-century Southwark as the historians are pursued up and down the timeline, playing a perilous game of hide-and-seek before seeking refuge at St. Mary’s—where new dangers await them. Overwhelmed, outnumbered, and with the building crashing down around them, will this spell the end of St. Mary’s?

Much like the times that various Star Trek crews have time traveled (I'm looking at you, Voyager) the St Mary's crew consistently mess things up in whatever time they're sent to observe, and not get involved. Of course, like the temporal prime directive, they ignore this and not only get involved, but are always stupid enough to wade into the fight and save people who are supposed to die at that point in time, regardless of the consequences. The protagonist, Max, is struck by the lack of History doing a smack down on herself and others for messing with the time line, but even though the famed soothsayer Cassandra warns Max that her protection via the muse of history isn't always going to help her, she and her beloved Leon still save a young boy from dying at Troy and bring him forward in time to work at a bar/casino. And if that wasn't confusing enough, Max is brought to an alternate time line where she had died and Leon was having to learn to live without her (Leon died in her time line). And she has to confront Bitchface Barkley again, because she's alive in this time line and, as always, out to kill Max so that she can have Leon and St Mary's to herself. While I enjoy the historical perspectives and the humor and wit of these books (I'm reading book 5 now) I get more than a bit frustrated with Max constantly flouting the rules and ending up half dead in the infirmary at the end of every book. Then there's her comrades at St Mary's who die off or are severely injured, usually due to their trying to help Max get out of the terrible situations she's gotten herself into. Why anyone would follow her to some spot in history, knowing her dismal track record, is beyond me. But I gather it's all due to her being a plucky red head, which is one of those sexist stereotypes that linger on, despite being horrifically outdated and stupid. Still, I'd give both of these books a B+, and recommend them to those who like Doctor Who and British adventure stories in general. 

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Books at the Golden Globes, Miranda Buys Drama Book Shop, Shadow and Bone on TV, A Forgotten Place by Charles Todd, Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor, Newt's Emerald by Garth Nix and a Symphony of Echoes by Jodi Taylor

I have just not been in a place where I can blog recently. There have been multiple storms that have caused power outages, then Comcast had an outage for a couple of days, so there was no internet, and between that we had houseguests, parties and Crohn's flares to deal with, so I am late in getting this post up. Sorry!

I find it interesting that as time goes on, there are more and more books being adapted to the small screen and the large screen. There's not a lot wrong with that, however, I've also noticed, as a bibliophile, that there are more authors than ever who pander to the entertainment industry by writing books that read like nascent screenplays, and that is just wrong, in my opinion. A good story is a good story, regardless of the medium, but don't create a book with the sole purpose of selling the movie and TV rights. Readers want to have the option of seeing the work in the "theater of the mind" first.

Bookish Winners at the Golden Globes
Book-to-screen adaptations collected their share of hardware at last
night's Golden Globe Awards with eight of the 20 nominated productions garnering trophies. Golden Globe winners that started as books or have book connections included:

The Wife, based on the novel by Meg Wolitzer: Glenn Close (actress in a
motion picture, drama)
If Beale Street Could Talk, based on James Baldwin's novel: Regina King
(supporting actress in a motion picture)
First Man, based on the book First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by
James R. Hansen: Original score, motion picture (Justin Hurwitz)
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, based on the Marvel comics superhero:
Best motion picture, animated

Sharp Objects, based on the novel by Gillian Flynn: Patricia Clarkson
(supporting actress in a series, limited series or TV movie)
The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, based on
Maureen Orth's book Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace and
the Largest Failed Manhunt in U.S. History: Best limited series or TV
movie; Darren Criss (actor in a limited series or TV movie)
A Very English Scandal, based on John Preston's book: Ben Whishaw
(supporting actor in a series, limited series or TV movie)
Killing Eve, based on Luke Jennings's Codename Villanelle novella
series: Sandra Oh (actress in a TV series, drama)

I love Lin-Manuel Miranda, and not just for changing the face of musical theater with his smash Broadway hit Hamilton, but also because he's a reader and a bright spot in the theater world, doing shows for charity and helping others realize their theater dreams. He's also currently playing Jack the lamplighter in Mary Poppins Returns, and he does an excellent job in the movie, singing and dancing and filling the screen with light and hope.So now he's bought the famed Drama Book Shop to keep it open so that other theater nerds will have a place where they can dream and foster their love of plays.

Lin-Manuel Miranda & Partners Buy NYC's Drama Book Shop

and three of his Hamilton collaborators have purchased New York City's
beloved Drama Book Shop which had
celebrated its 100th birthday last year but announced in the fall it
would close this month because of a large rent increase. The New York Times reported that
the new owners are Miranda, a longtime supporter of the bookshop; Thomas
Kail, director of Hamilton; Jeffrey Seller, lead producer; and James L.
Nederlander, president of the Nederlander Organization, which operates
the theater in which the show's Broadway production is running.

They bought the store from Rozanne Seelen, whose husband, the late
Arthur Seelen, had acquired it in 1958. She "sold it for the cost of the
remaining inventory, some rent support in the store's final weeks, and a
pledge to retain her as a consultant," the Times wrote.
Future bookseller Lin-Manuel Miranda
"It's the chronic problem--the rents were just too high, and I'm 84
years old--I just didn't have the drive to find a new space and make
another move," she said. "Lin-Manuel and Tommy are my white knights."

The rescue plan is a joint venture between the Hamilton team and the
city, which has pledged to find the store an affordable space in
Midtown. Julie Menin, the mayor's media and entertainment commissioner,
said, "The store is a gem and a cultural institution in New York, and we
want to make sure it's saved."

The Drama Book Shop will close its West 40th St. location on January 20,
and reopen at a new, as yet unnamed, location in the fall.

"When I was in high school I would go to the old location and sit on the
floor and read plays--I didn't have the money to buy them," Miranda
said. "After college Tommy Kail and I met in the Drama Book Shop
basement, and I wrote a good deal of In the Heights there.... They're
like family to us, and when we heard that the rent increase was finally
too precipitous to withstand, we began hatching a plan."

Kail, whose post-college theater venture, Back House Productions, was a
resident company at the store, commented: "I was in many senses
professionally born in that bookshop's basement--I spent the first five
years of my career there."

Seller's office, which is already running a Hamilton merchandise store
in Manhattan, "will oversee the day-to-day management," the Times noted,
adding that he said the bookshop will have a revamped website and
expanded programming, with a goal of breaking even, which in recent
years the store has done occasionally but not consistently.

Miranda already had a track record for being there when the shop needed
him <>. In
2016, a pipe burst on the third floor of the building that houses the
Drama Book Shop, causing severe damage. Customers rallied to support the
store and Miranda, using the hashtag #BuyABook, tweeted about the
situation and encouraged his followers to purchase books, which they
did. He later appeared for a book signing at the store when Hamilton:
The Revolution was published.

After the news broke yesterday, Miranda tweeted: "The best part of this
morning has been all your @dramabookshop stories. We love this place so
much  Keep 'em coming."

I loved all of Bardugo's Grishaverse books, and I am really looking forward to a hopefully accurate rendering of the books on screen. Fingers crossed!

TV: Shadow and Bone
Netflix has greenlighted Shadow and Bone
an eight-episode series based on Leigh Bardugo's bestselling Grishaverse
novels Shadow and Bone and Six of Crows, Deadline reported. The project
is from Eric Heisserer, writer of Netflix's recent hit Bird Box, and
Shawn Levy, executive producer of Stranger Things.

Created, written and executive produced by Heisserer, who will also
serve as showrunner, Shadow and Bone brings together the stories and
characters of both novels. Deadline noted that more than 2.5 million
copies have been sold in English and that Bardugo's Grishaverse books
have been translated into 38 languages. A new installment, King of
Scars, will be released later this month.

A Forgotten Place by Charles Todd is the 10th Bess Crawford mystery by the mother/son duo that I've read. Bess is similar to Maisie Dobbs, in that she's a WW1 nurse who has a good head on her shoulders, and is brave enough to follow her instincts when it comes to solving a murder mystery. Here's the blurb:
Though the Great War has ended, Bess Crawford finds herself caught in deadly circumstances on a remote Welsh headland in this tenth entry from the acclaimed New York Times bestselling author.
The fighting has ended, the Armistice signed, but the war has left wounds that are still agonizingly raw. Battlefield Nurse Bess Crawford has been assigned to a clinic for amputees, and the Welsh patients worry her. She does her best to help them, but it’s clear that they have nothing to go home to, in a valley where only the fit can work in the coal pits. When they are released, she fears that peace will do what war couldn’t—take their lives.
Their officer, Captain Williams, writes to describe their despair, and his own at trying to save his men. Bess feels compelled to look into their situation, but the Army and the clinic can do nothing. Requesting leave, she quietly travels to Wales, and that bleak coal mining village, but she is too late.
Captain Williams’ sister tells Bess he has left the valley. Bess is afraid he intends to kill himself. She follows him to an isolated, storm-battered peninsula—a harsh and forgotten place where secrets and death go hand in hand. Deserted by her frightened driver, Bess is stranded among strangers suspicious of outsiders. She quickly discovers these villagers are hiding something, and she’s learned too much to be allowed to leave. What’s more, no one in England knows where she is.
Why is there no Constable out here? And who is the mysterious Ellen? Captain Williams and his brother’s widow are her only allies, and Bess must take care not to put them at risk as she tries to find answers. But there is a murderer here who is driven to kill again and again. And the next person in his sights is Simon Brandon, searching for Bess and unaware of his danger. 
I knew who the murderer was about halfway through the book, but by that time I was fairly bored with the story, which was rife with redundancies. I also didn't like the Welsh people, most of whom seemed mean, cruel and greedy, if not outright thugs. Their clannish ignorance made Wales seem like the worst kind of backwater, the kind of place where you'd never want to visit because you couldn't be sure you'd make it out of your vacation alive. I doubt that this was the impression that the authors wanted readers to leave the book with, but that kind of sour note tainted my view of the book in the end. Though the prose was fairly mundane, the plot was sluggish. I'd give this volume a C, and only recommend it to the biggest Bess Crawford fans.

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor is a YA fantasy novel that reads like Harry Potter swathed in African/Nigerian culture. Yes, it's that good. I was surprised at how elegantly the author wove African myths/legends into the fabric of the "magical school for witch kids" plot. Since I've not read that many African legends, this book provided me with a many new vistas on the subject, and kept me entertained in the hijinks and trouble that the kids get into while learning to channel and control their powers. Here's the blurb:
Affectionately dubbed "the Nigerian Harry Potter," Akata Witch weaves together a heart-pounding tale of magic, mystery, and finding one's place in the world.
Twelve-year-old Sunny lives in Nigeria, but she was born American. Her features are African, but she's albino. She's a terrific athlete, but can't go out into the sun to play soccer. There seems to be no place where she fits in. And then she discovers something amazing—she is a "free agent" with latent magical power. Soon she's part of a quartet of magic students, studying the visible and invisible, learning to change reality. But will it be enough to help them when they are asked to catch a career criminal who knows magic too? Publisher's Weekly: Okorafor (The Shadow Speaker) returns with another successful tale of African magic. Although 12-year-old Sunny is Nigerian, she was born in America, and her Nigerian classmates see her as an outsider. Worse, she's an albino, an obvious target for bullies and suspected of being a ghost or a witch. Things change, however, when she has a vision of impending nuclear war. Then her classmate Orlu and his friend Chichi turn out to be Leopard People—witches—and insist that she is, too. Soon Sunny discovers her spirit face ("It was her, but it felt as if it had its own separate identity, too. Her spirit face was the sun, all shiny gold and glowing with pointy rays"). Eventually, the three and an American boy named Sasha visit the dangerous, magical city of Leopard Knocks and learn from their mentors in witchcraft that they must destroy Black Hat Otokoto, a monstrous serial killer and powerful witch. Although a bit slow getting started, this tale is filled with marvels and is sure to appeal to teens whose interest in fantasy goes beyond dwarves and fairies.
I disagree with PW in that I didn't find the book slow to start at all, in fact, once I'd started reading it, I couldn't put it down, and read it all in one afternoon/evening. The prose was sparkling it was so high energy, and the plot fizzed along without a hitch. A well deserved A, and a recommendation to those who love stories of magical teenagers on a journey to find themselves and help one another and their community.

Newt's Emerald by Garth Nix was another YA fantasy, though this one was Victorian/steampunkish and full of a sort of Regency romance vibe that, along with the inevitable British dry wit had me laughing more often than not. That said, I wasn't a huge fan of the protagonist, who was a bit dumber than I like, and had the whole "feisty but beautiful and petite" romance heroine cliche all sewn up.
Here's the blurb:
Inspired by the works of Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen, Garth Nix's Newt's Emerald is a Regency romance with a fantasy twist. New York Times bestselling author Gail Carriger calls it "charming; quite, quite charming." 
After Lady Truthful's magical Newington Emerald is stolen from her she devises a simple plan: go to London to recover the missing jewel. She quickly learns, however, that a woman cannot wander the city streets alone without damaging her reputation, and she disguises herself as a mustache-wearing man. During Truthful's dangerous journey she discovers a crook, an unsuspecting ally, and an evil sorceress—but will she find the Emerald?
SPOILER, of course she finds the emerald, but there are many evil people that stand in her way to actually having the thing in hand. Though in the end I didn't hate this novel, I felt there was just too much cutesy Jane Austen tropes to really make it shine on its own. I'd give it a B-, and recommend it to those who enjoy Austen spoofs and magical romance/mysteries.

A Symphony of Echoes by Jodi Taylor is the second book in the Chronicles of St Mary's, a comedic British science fiction/steampunk series that is begging to become a BBC TV show ala Doctor Who. I swore that after all the misogyny of the first book in the series that I wasn't going to read any more of them, but I found myself drawn to this irresistible novel like a moth to flame. The writing zings with funny bon mots and references to history and SF/F cultural landmarks, and the plots move so fast you might as well be in the TARDIS, or one of St Mary's "pods" flinging yourself around in time and space instantaneously. They're un-put-downable, and I read the second book in a day. Here's the blurb: The second book in the bestselling British madcap time-travelling series, served with a dash of wit that seems to be everyone’s cup of tea. 
Behind the seemingly innocuous facade of St. Mary’s Institute of Historical Research, a different kind of academic work is taking place. Just don’t call it “time travel”—these historians “investigate major historical events in contemporary time.” And they aren’t your harmless eccentrics either; a more accurate description, as they ricochet around history, might be unintentional disaster-magnets.

The Chronicles of St. Mary’s tells the chaotic adventures of Madeleine Maxwell and her compatriots—Director Bairstow, Leon “Chief” Farrell, Mr. Markham, and many more—as they travel through time, saving St. Mary’s (too often by the very seat of their pants) and thwarting time-travelling terrorists, all the while leaving plenty of time for tea.
In the sequel to Just One Damned Thing After Another , Max and company visit Victorian London in search of Jack the Ripper, witness the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral, and discover that dodos make a grockling noise when eating cucumber sandwiches. But they must also confront an enemy intent on destroying St. Mary’s—an enemy willing, if necessary, to destroy history itself to do it.

Once again our heroine Max manages to mess up every situation she's in, but she has help from her hapless contemporaries and the stalwart staff of St Mary's, which includes the goddess of history in disguise. I often questioned why Max and her friends were so intent on putting themselves in harms way, when, as educated adults they obviously should have known better, but apparently historians have a stupid need to actually see serial killers up close (such as Jack the Ripper) and the risk of dying is well worth it to view this abomination. Turns out, SPOILER, that the Ripper is actually some kind of alien bacterial entity who infects/invades its host and then goes on a killing spree.Taylor has no problem describing every gruesome moment of horror, either, which makes me wonder about her mental health.  I would give this book a B, and recommend it to anyone who read the first book, with the warning that these books are addictive in the same way that chocolate or potato chips are can't stop at reading just one.

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Indie Bookshops, Fantasy Novel TV Adaptations, UK New Year's Honor's List, Baby, I'm Howling For You by Christine Warren, Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust, Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor and Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor

This quote is spot on, and I will try to support any local indie bookstores more this year than last, when many books were bought on Amazon.

Indie Bookshops 'Only Survive if You Support Us'

"Also, if you're considering #NewYearsResolutions--how about pledging to
support a local bookshop (in person or online)? Our towns would be
sadder places without them & Bezos owns half the world already... We
only survive if you support us “
#IndiesRock #SupportLocal"

--Gutter Bookshop, Dublin, Ireland, in a New Year's Eve tweet

This is an exciting list, and I am always amazed at which novels make it to the small screen from books, often by first time authors. 

Fantasy Novel TV Adaptations to Look for in 2019
Noting that "there's a long road between a green light and a series
actually making it to air," Vulture showcased "15 of the TV fantasy
we confidently feel will be premiering in the near(ish) future, as
opposed to a one-and-done press release that hasn't come to fruition
after a few years' time. Hell, some of them even already have a premiere
date. So here's what you should be keeping your eyes open for when 2019
rolls around--sorted, for your convenience, by how soon we're likely to
see them."

Congratulations to Philip Pullman the wonderful Margaret Atwood!

Awards: Bookish U.K. New Year's Honors List

Philip Pullman was knighted
and Margaret Atwood was made a Companion of Honor for services to
literature in the New Year's Honors list, the Bookseller reported. Julia
Donaldson received a CBE for services to literature, while Chris Riddell
was awarded an OBE for services to illustration and to charity. David
Olusoga also received an OBE, for services to history and community

Jessica Kingsley, founder of autism publisher Jessica Kingsley
Publishers, now part of Hachette, received a British Empire Medal for
services to people with autism.

Noting that he was "very surprised and honored" to be offered a
knighthood, Pullman said, "I believe the profession of letters should be
recognized as having a proper place in the life of the nation, along
with science, and sport, and music, and scholarship, and many other
human activities.... I'm immensely grateful to those who have worked so
hard over many years to edit, publish, illustrate, and sell my books,
and to the Society of Authors, which does so much for the profession of
authorship. I'm most grateful of all to those who continue to read my
books, and I hope they don't have to work as hard as those who edit

In addition, Neil MacInnes, president of Libraries Connected, received
an OBE for services to public libraries; and a British Empire Medal was
awarded to librarian Ian Anstice for services to the public libraries

Baby, I'm Howling For You by Christine Warren is the first in a new paranormal romance series about a town full of shapeshifters in Washington state, most notably werewolves and werecoyotes in this novel. It's meant, I believe, to be more modern in its take on romance, in that there are sex scenes in over 60 percent of the chapters. And, also like a lot of modern romance novels, the sex talk and descriptions of the act go on for far too long. The line between erotic and pornographic is as thin as a whisper in this novel, while I prefer supernatural books that focus more on the story and developing strong female protagonists rather than endless descriptions of moist genitals and how "hard" he is at the mere mention of her name (and all the positions they take when having sex, like the inevitable 'doggy style'). Of course, these aren't the only cliches and romance novel tropes deployed in "Baby..." The men, who are all were-beasts of some type, are full of toxic testosterone and machismo. They growl and snarl and sneer, especially the male protagonist, who "claims" the (cliched) petite red headed female protagonist, and is overly possessive of her right from the get go, constantly looming over her and telling her what she can and cannot do, while also bullying her and being what I would consider emotionally abusive in order to "protect" her. But of course, our "little red" werewolf falls madly in love with him after he has sex with her, because he's big and strong and manly, and she is, regardless of what she says, a huge wimpy damsel in distress who is being stalked by an insane werecoyote and his pack of werecoyote criminals. Blech. Here's the blurb:
WELCOME TO ALPHAVILLE, where the she-wolves and alpha-males play. . .for keeps.
Renny Landry is a wolf on the run. Pursued by a shapeshifting stalker and his slobbering pack of killer coyotes, she is forced to flee her job as a librarian to find sanctuary in the wooded hills of Alpha, Washington. A well-secluded safe space for troubled shifters, Alpha is Renny’s last hope. But the first person she meets there is a gorgeous alpha male with fiery eyes, fierce tattoos, and one ferocious appetite—for her…
Mick Fischer thought he left his past behind when he moved to Alpha. But fate has a way of biting him in the tail when a female wolf shows up on his property. Wounded, desperate—and disarmingly hot—Renny brings out the snarling, protective alpha beast in Mick like no other woman he’s known. Can these two haunted, hunted wolves manage to mate for life…even as the deadliest past demons howl at their heels?
There are so many redundancies in this book, I was surprised that it had any editorial supervision at all. The prose is decent, with the exception of the graphic sex scenes, and the plot is completely predictable. I'd give this book a C, and only recommend it to someone who wants a sexed-up gory romance with wolves for a beach read.

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust is a YA retelling (or modern reboot) of the Snow White fairy tale.  I was surprised at how engrossing the book was, and how inventive the author was in remaking the evil stepmother into someone very relatable and in making Snow White a teenage lesbian in search of her own path and her self. Here's the blurb: Sixteen-year-old Mina is motherless, her magician father is vicious, and her silent heart has never beat with love for anyone—has never beat at all, in fact, but she’d always thought that fact normal. She never guessed that her father cut out her heart and replaced it with one of glass. When she moves to Whitespring Castle and sees its king for the first time, Mina forms a plan: win the king’s heart with her beauty, become queen, and finally know love. The only catch is that she’ll have to become a stepmother.
Fifteen-year-old Lynet looks just like her late mother, and one day she discovers why: a magician created her out of snow in the dead queen’s image, at her father’s order. But despite being the dead queen made flesh, Lynet would rather be like her fierce and regal stepmother, Mina. She gets her wish when her father makes Lynet queen of the southern territories, displacing Mina. Now Mina is starting to look at Lynet with something like hatred, and Lynet must decide what to do—and who to be—to win back the only mother she’s ever known…or else defeat her once and for all.
Entwining the stories of both Lynet and Mina in the past and present, Girls Made of Snow and Glass traces the relationship of two young women doomed to be rivals from the start. Only one can win all, while the other must lose everything—unless both can find a way to reshape themselves and their story.
Lynet and Mina's stories are limned in lush prose that is so evocative you can nearly smell every room and feel the cold and see the bright silk fabrics of the Southern kingdom. In this retelling, the men are at fault for all the trauma and trouble that Mina and Lynet experience, and the most heinous villains are Minda and Lynet's fathers, who try to use their daughters for their own selfish ends.  Once the men are vanquished, everything falls into place for both Lynet and Mina, and the HEA is a sweet wrap up that proves that love conquers all. 
I'd give this inclusive retelling an A, and recommend it to anyone who is interested in a better ending for fairy tale heroines. 

Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor is a British time-travel fantasy/SF series that hovers around Steampunk fiction but never actually lands in that genre. The prose is fusty and funny and zippy, while the plot chuffs along like a steam train across the UK. Here's the blurb: “History is just one damned thing after another.” —Arnold Toynbee

Behind the seemingly innocuous facade of St. Mary’s Institute of Historical Research, a different kind of academic work is taking place. Just don’t call it “time travel”—these historians “investigate major historical events in contemporary time.” And they aren’t your harmless eccentrics either; a more accurate description, as they ricochet around history, might be unintentional disaster-magnets.

The first thing you learn on the job at St. Mary’s is that one wrong move and history will fight back—sometimes in particularly nasty ways. But, as new recruit Madeleine Maxwell soon discovers, it’s not only history they’re often fighting.

The Chronicles of St. Mary’s tells the chaotic adventures of Max and her compatriots—Director Bairstow, Chief Leon Farrell, Mr. Markham, and many more—as they travel through time, saving St. Mary’s (too often by the very seat of their pants) and thwarting time-travelling terrorists, all the while leaving plenty of time for tea.

From eleventh-century London to World War I, from the Cretaceous Period to the destruction of the Great Library at Alexandria, one thing is for sure: wherever the historians at St. Mary’s go, chaos is sure to follow in their wake.

Though I realize a great deal of British humor is based on the cliche of "bungling clerks and government lackeys," I found myself growing tired of watching one character after another die in some horrible fashion, only to have the main character assume the blame for all that goes wrong, because she's yet another self-effacing female who is beautiful but doesn't know it (because women who know they're beautiful are considered conceited and evil...heaven forbid a woman have the same confidence in herself and her intelligence and qualifications as a man!) Though it's written by a woman there's enough sexism and misogyny in this book to set the women's movement back at least two centuries. While I enjoyed the idea of this book, the execution didn't live up to it fully. So I'd give it a B-, and I'd recommend it to those who are interested in Steampunkish time travel tales that follow all the standard British tropes of science fiction.

Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor is the sequel and final book of her Strange the Dreamer duology, which is supposed to fall into the YA fantasy genre, I believe. As usual with Taylor's books, I loved the first novel, became invested in the characters and the fantastic world building, only to be horrified at the second book's squashing of everything I found delightful about the first book, sort of like Godzilla stomping Tokyo. There's constant death, sorrow, abuse of women and children, infanticide, pain and savage revenge writ large across chapter after chapter in MON, so much so that I had to put the book down and go back to it when my stomach stopped roiling. This is certainly not a book to read if you are even slightly depressed, as it will make you want to jump off of a bridge. Here's the blurb:Sarai has lived and breathed nightmares since she was six years old.
She believed she knew every horror, and was beyond surprise.
She was wrong.
In the wake of tragedy, neither Lazlo nor Sarai are who they were before. One a god, the other a ghost, they struggle to grasp the new boundaries of their selves as dark-minded Minya holds them hostage, intent on vengeance against Weep.

Lazlo faces an unthinkable choice—save the woman he loves, or everyone else?—while Sarai feels more helpless than ever. But is she? Sometimes, only the direst need can teach us our own depths, and Sarai, the muse of nightmares, has not yet discovered what she's capable of.
As humans and godspawn reel in the aftermath of the citadel's near fall, a new foe shatters their fragile hopes, and the mysteries of the Mesarthim are resurrected: Where did the gods come from, and why? What was done with thousands of children born in the citadel nursery? And most important of all, as forgotten doors are opened and new worlds revealed: Must heroes always slay monsters, or is it possible to save them instead?
Love and hate, revenge and redemption, destruction and salvation all clash in this gorgeous sequel to the New York Times bestseller, Strange the Dreamer.   
I wanted to love, or at least like, this sequel. But once Taylor decided to allow a man who murdered children and infants to be revived after he was rightfully killed (along with the idiot wife who seems to love him, though he's a murdering scumbag) and then gives him a second chance to remarry his wife and rule over a town and live happily ever after, because, well, he was so sad that he killed all those babies, I was too nauseated by the evil and injustice of it all to enjoy any of the rest of the novel. SHAME on you, Ms Taylor. A serial child killer doesn't deserve to just 'start over' and have an HEA. There is no redemption for evil of that caliber, ever. I also didn't understand or appreciate why one of the children who survived his murderous rampage would heal the SOB. LET HIM DIE, I kept shouting (in my head) to the book. Also, the blurb says that its possible to "save" monsters instead, but poor Nova, who has been looking for her sister for centuries, and has become a monster herself, doesn't get the salvation of the baby-killing Eril Fane, no, she kills herself once she learns her sister is dead. So redemption is only for evil guys, apparently. This is why I am giving this novel a B-, when I should give it a C, but at least we have the two main characters with an HEA.I just don't know if I want to read any more of Taylor's books, because it's always a bait and switch with her, and I don't appreciate it.