Good Day to you all, on this third week of January, not long after the POTUS Biden/Vice President Harris Inauguration. What a relief and a joy it is to have sane leadership in the White House. I was also delighted by the young poet who read her poem, The Hill We Climb, on the 20th and showed us that a bright future is ahead of us.
Meanwhile, I have a lot of Quotes of the Day and 5 reviews, as well as a touching tribute by JMS to one of the stars of Babylon 5, Mira Furlan, who died on January 20 of an undisclosed ailment. Rest among the stars beyond the rim, dear lady, and thank you.
Quotation of the Day
'Indies Keeping Their Bright Light Shining'
"Despite all the loss, uncertainty, and fear, there's still good news. During challenging times, we rise up together and collectively reaffirm our values. Many bookstores have had a successful year, and many more are reporting they had the best holiday in history....
"Whether or not sales were up, down, or flat, independent bookstores worked tirelessly to keep their bright light shining at a time when it feels like we need them more than ever--and I don't say that lightly. We always need bookstores, but in a year when we were confined to our homes, disinformation flared, Amazon deprioritized books, and our country desperately needed to read about antiracism, bookstores were there for us as an unwavering refuge in the storm.
"I'd like to say thank you to booksellers and everyone in the industry who reinvented their work again and again. Each book we bought felt like one more brick laid on the path to a better world."
--Carrie Obry, executive director of the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association, in a letter to members
Right now it's very difficult to get a vaccination, because so many people are vying for appointments. And meanwhile, more people die of COVID 19 because selfish people don't want to wear a mask in public. I am glad that the new administration paused in their celebration to honor those we've lost to this heinous virus.
Covid-19 Memorial: Inkwood Books
As President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris honored the 400,000 people in the U.S. who have lost their lives to the pandemic with a national Covid-19 memorial last night, Inkwood Books , Haddonfield, N.J., posted on Facebook: "Our lights are on tonight to remember and honor the six customers we lost to Covid-19, our Inkwood friends who lost loved ones, and all those around the world who are mourning."
This is an awesome use of a quarter of a million dollars, especially for women of color whose voices need to be heard.
Melinda Gates Donates $250,000 to the Carol Shields Prize for Fiction
Melinda Gates is donating $250,000 to help underwrite the Carol Shields Prize for Fiction , which was launched last February and named in honor of the late, renowned Canadian author, O, The Oprah Magazine reported. The C$150,000 (about US$118,300) award celebrates excellence in fiction by women writers in the U.S. or Canada. The first winner and four nominees will be announced in 2023. Gates made the donation through her investment and incubation company, Pivotal Ventures.
"Throughout history, women have been writing profound groundbreaking books," Gates said. "Yet often they earn less, are reviewed less frequently, and are overlooked for awards. The Carol Shields Prize is an exciting step toward a future where books by women get the attention and prestige they deserve."
Susan Swan, co-founder of the Carol Shields Prize, noted: "We are creating an activist foundation where women writers empower other women writers. Our mentorship programs for emerging women writers from all backgrounds and gender identities are critical to shifting cultural attitudes. Emerging women writers are the young trees in the forest and older writers like myself are here in part to help them grow."
Gates added: "Through all my travels around the world, whether in a Northern Indian village or a remote part of Tanzania, women tell me, 'Nobody's ever asked me my story before, they've never asked me about my life.' By listening to their stories, and saying their names we were telling them: your lives are important. That's why what the Carol Shields Prize will be doing is essential."
The Paris Library is on my wishlist for books to buy in February. I totally agree that bookstores are essential, and I hope that there will be many indie bookstores left when the pandemic is over.
Quotation of the Day
'I Need These Bookstores Like I Need Air'
"Here in Paris, independent bookstores like Shakespeare & Co. and the Red Wheelbarrow http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz47188364 are community centers that bring people together to celebrate life and the written word. I need these bookstores like I need air. For several years, I led a writing workshop in the upstairs library of Shakespeare & Co. It was an incredible experience to begin class as the bells of Notre Dame chimed. Recently, I became an investor in the Red Wheelbarrow. It is my favorite bookshop. The owner, Penelope Fletcher, tells the best stories and recommends just the right book at just the right time. Walking into her bookshop feels like coming home.
"I wrote this novel as a love letter to libraries, to bookstores, and to book people. In these difficult days, we need the sanctuaries of bookshops and libraries more than ever."--Janet Skeslien Charles, whose novel The Paris Library (Atria Books) is the #1 Indie Next List pick for February, in a q&a with Bookselling This Week http://www.shelfawareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz47188366
This young millennial speaks for not just her generation, but for the generations to come. I loved her poem and her spirit. Lovely.
Media and Movies
Inaugural Poet Amanda Gorman on the Late Late Show
Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz47188431 shared "some behind-the-scenes moments and her own political plans with a clearly enchanted James Corden" when she appeared on the Late Late Show virtually Wednesday night, Deadline reported. After reciting her poem during the Inauguration ceremony, Gorman "was widely celebrated for both the poem's profound message and her graceful recitation. When she tells Corden she was happy to be 'a small part' of the moment, the host disagrees: 'For me, you were the pivotal moment.' "
Gorman talked about how she was selected for the honor: "Dr. Biden, now first lady, saw a poem I recited at the Library of Congress. Turns out I ended up being her first choice for inaugural poet; I'm 22 and I've overcome a speech impediment--like, who would want me onstage? Then they called me and offered me the opportunity, and I danced around in my socks like a crazy person."
Recalling what she was thinking and feeling during the event, she said, "I'm cold. I know Biden is right behind me, so how does my hair look? My nose is sniffling, don't trip, don't mess up. And you kind of just have to let all that go and be a vessel for the poem; Barack Obama is standing next to me being like, 'You made us proud, you did a great job' in his characteristic voice. I didn't want to leave, and then Secret Service was like, 'No, really, you've got to go.' "
This was heartbreaking news for me, as a long time Babylon 5 fan, to see Mira Furlan gone beyond the rim so soon. May she rest among the stars. Here's a tribute to her from the show's creator, JMS.
RIP Mira Furlan, Actress from Babylon 5https://nerdbot.com/2021/01/21/mira-furlan-star-of-babylon-5-and-lost-has passed-away/?fbclid=IwAR3uTwQO5pamiXnGjf8-qTQA1ac7FnIJnp8Ru4Axz9QgOJ3UOU9o3NoXrYg
“When Mira Furlan came to audition for
Babylon 5, her home country of Yugoslavia was in turmoil and shattering into
two separate countries. During our first meeting, we spoke about her work and
her life, and I learned that she had been part of a touring theater group that
continued to cross borders of the disintegrating country despite receiving
death threats from both sides in the civil war.
I expressed my admiration for her courage, but she shrugged and waved it off. “What’s the worst that could have happened? Yes, they could have killed me. So what? Art should have no borders.”
Very few people knew that side of Mira: the fiery, fearless side that fought ceaselessly for her art. She brought all of those traits to Delenn, and in turn I tried to write speeches for her that would allow her to comment on what was happening to her homeland without calling it out by name. I guess I must have done it correctly because one day during the Minbari Civil War arc, she appeared in my office door, a cup of tea in one hand, in full makeup but wearing a pull-over robe from wardrobe, and said, “So, how long did you live in Yugoslavia?”
Her husband, Goran, has always been the rock of her life. He was and is a gentleman, quick to laughter, an accomplished director and as much an artist as Mira, which made them the ideal couple. I’ve rarely seen two people so utterly meant for each other.
I remember the first time Mira appeared at a convention with me and some of the other cast. She didn’t quite understand what it was all about, but gamely did her part. When the audience question period came along, a fan held up his hand and said to Mira, whose Yugoslavian accent was much stronger in the beginning than it became with time, “Say ‘moose and squirrel.’”
She had no idea what this meant, but she said “Moose and Squirrel” and the room erupted in one of the longest sustained laughs I’ve ever seen at a convention. We explained it later, but really, all that mattered to her was that the audience had been happy.
We’ve known for some time now that Mira’s health was failing…I’m not sure that this is the right time or place to discuss the sheer randomness of what happened…and have all been dreading this day. We kept hoping that she would improve. In a group email sent to the cast a while back, I heard that she might be improving.
Then came the call from Peter Jurasik. “I wanted you to know that Goran’s bringing Mira home,” he said. “Do you mean, he’s bringing her home as in she’s better now, or is he bringing her home as in he’s bringing her home?”
“He’s bringing her home, Joe,” Peter said, and I could hear the catch in his voice as he said it.
And as a family, we held our counsel, and began the long wait, which has now ended.
Mira was a good and kind woman, a stunningly talented performer, and a friend to everyone in the cast and crew of Babylon 5, and we are all devastated by the news. The cast members with whom she was especially close since the show’s end will need room to process this moment, so please be gentle if they are unresponsive for a time. We have been down this road too often, and it only gets harder.
If you are a fan of Mira’s work, fire up those special moments when she shook the heavens, and relive the art she brought to her work. For any actor, that is the best tribute possible: for the work to endure. As much as this is a time to grieve, it is also a time to celebrate her life and her courage.
All of our thoughts tonight will be on the memories she left behind, the dazzling light of her performances, the breadth of her talent, and the heart and love she shared with Goran, and with all of you.”
Joe Straczynski, creator, Babylon 5
South of the Buttonwood Tree by Heather Weber is a delightful novel reminiscent of MJ Rose's work or Sarah Addison Allen's lovely magical books. Though it got off to a slow start, it picked up speed after the first 20 pages and from then on I couldn't put it down. Here's the blurb: Heather Webber's South of the Buttonwood Tree is a captivating blend of magical realism, heartwarming romance, and small-town Southern charm.
Blue Bishop has a knack for finding lost things. While growing up in charming small-town Buttonwood, Alabama, she’s happened across lost wallets, jewelry, pets, her wandering neighbor, and sometimes, trouble. No one is more surprised than Blue, however, when she comes across an abandoned newborn baby in the woods, just south of a very special buttonwood tree.
Sarah Grace Landreneau Fulton is at a crossroads. She has always tried so hard to do the right thing, but her own mother would disown her if she ever learned half of Sarah Grace’s secrets.
The unexpected discovery of the newborn baby girl will alter Blue’s and Sarah Grace’s lives forever. Both women must fight for what they truly want in life and for who they love. In doing so, they uncover long-held secrets that reveal exactly who they really are—and what they’re willing to sacrifice in the name of family.
I was not surprised that (SPOILER) Sarah Grace and Blue ended up being sisters, but I was surprised at how bitter and cruel some of the older generation of women were to the protagonists, and how difficult it was for them to stop being so mean and controlling. Seriously, where are all the therapists when you need them? At any rate, the prose was intricate and the plot gained momentum and then careened along like a child on a new bicycle to a satisfying HEA ending. I'd give this book an A, and recommend it to anyone who likes MJ Rose, Alice Hoffman or Sarah Addison Allen's works.
My Sister's Song by Gail Carriger is a short story that only connects slightly to her parasolverse novels, but it's a delight just the same, as a standalone work. Here's the blurb: The warrior Mithra must repel a Roman legion alone and armed only with one very tasty weapon.
New York Times bestselling author Gail Carriger presents a funny historical fantasy short story about a woman warrior set in ancient Roman times.
The Romans are marching! To protect her lands and her tribe, Mithra comes up with a sticky solution to an impossible problem.
This charming short story is full of archaeological research, historical tips, and how one woman can face up against insurmountable odds, ideal for fans of Jane Yolen or Mercedes Lackey. If you want more strong women fighting hard for their family in a historical setting try Gail’s Custard Protocol series.
This is a quick read at 4000 words (about 9 printed pages) available in print form in Sword & Sorceress XVII (1998 edited by Marion Zimmer Bradley) and was Carriger’s first professional sale.
Though it is a SPOILER, I have to say that the historical solution to getting rid of unwanted incursions of soldiers by poisoning them with honey gotten from poisoned plant pollen is sheer genius. The prose is on point and the story itself moves along rapidly, leaving the reader wanting more. I'd give it an A, and recommend it for GC fans who want a bit of something fun and distracting outside of her Soulless and Finishing School series.
I don't know that I would call Keiko unforgettable or a great protagonist, since she caves to pressure and brings a disgusting and manipulative, lazy homeless man into her own apartment so that it will look like she is having a relationship, when in reality he treats her poorly and is only there to use her for his own benefit. Why she doesn't get rid of this creep I don't know, he's horrible. She finally realizes that she is only going to be happy working in the convenience store anyway, so the story comes full circle, and I would hope she tells everyone in her family and friend circle to go jump off a bridge and keep their noses out of her business. It's particularly frustrating to read about a character who obviously is a high functioning autistic person (probably has Aspergers) but, due to Japans loathing of anyone with a disability, the author never says why Keiko is so different from everyone else. Wake up, Japan! There is no shame in being disabled! I'd give this book a B, and recommend it to anyone who is looking for a unique protagonist story.
From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L Armentrout is a fantasy novel that I read as an ebook. The prose was rich and riveting and the plot sturdy and swift. This book reminded me a lot of the works of Sarah Maas and Veronica Roth. Here's the blurb:
Captivating and action-packed, From Blood and Ash is a sexy, addictive, and unexpected fantasy perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas
Chosen from birth to usher in a new era, Poppy’s life has never been her own. The life of the Maiden is solitary. Never to be touched. Never to be looked upon. Never to be spoken to. Never to experience pleasure. Waiting for the day of her Ascension, she would rather be with the guards, fighting back the evil that took her family, than preparing to be found worthy by the gods. But the choice has never been hers.
The entire kingdom’s future rests on Poppy’s shoulders, something she’s not even quite sure she wants for herself. Because a Maiden has a heart. And a soul. And longing. And when Hawke, a golden-eyed guard honor bound to ensure her Ascension, enters her life, destiny and duty become tangled with desire and need. He incites her anger, makes her question everything she believes in, and tempts her with the forbidden.
Forsaken by the gods and feared by mortals, a fallen kingdom is rising once more, determined to take back what they believe is theirs through violence and vengeance. And as the shadow of those cursed draws closer, the line between what is forbidden and what is right becomes blurred. Poppy is not only on the verge of losing her heart and being found unworthy by the gods, but also her life when every blood-soaked thread that holds her world together begins to unravel.
Poppy is a kick butt heroine who survives so many setbacks that it's amazing she is not insane by the end of this first book of the series. I liked that she never gave up or gave in, and was full of fire even when things were at their darkest. I also like that Poppy doesn't let Hawke's betrayal and revelations turn her away from wanting to help people and find the truth. I have to give this astonishing work an A, and recommend it to those who like female-lead epic fantasy.
Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han was the third book in her YA series, made into Netflix movies that are actually as good as, if not better than the books. I found the prose in this book to be simplified enough that it read as a middle grade novel for young tweens and early teenagers, rather than the full YA book treatment for older teens and young adults in their 20s. I felt the plot was simplistic as well, and became full of boring tropes by the third chapter. Here's the blurb: Lara Jean’s letter-writing days aren’t over in this surprise follow-up to the bestselling To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You.
Lara Jean is having the best senior year a girl could ever hope for. She is head over heels in love with her boyfriend, Peter; her dad’s finally getting remarried to their next door neighbor, Ms. Rothschild; and Margot’s coming home for the summer just in time for the wedding.
But change is looming on the horizon. And while Lara Jean is having fun and keeping busy helping plan her father’s wedding, she can’t ignore the big life decisions she has to make. Most pressingly, where she wants to go to college and what that means for her relationship with Peter. She watched her sister Margot go through these growing pains. Now Lara Jean’s the one who’ll be graduating high school and leaving for college and leaving her family—and possibly the boy she loves—behind.
When your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?
Honestly, this was like reading the vapid journal of a popular cheerleader from high school, whose main concerns are clothes, going out with boyfriends and giggling with friends/sisters. Stuff that most young women can't relate to, because many teenagers weren't popular or conformative during high school, and its those characters, with their differences and quirks and far from perfect home lives that are interesting to read about. The nerds grow up to create great things, while the pretty popular people tend to stay home and marry and have babies in their hometowns...boring! The protagonist is a controlling b*tch who has a huge meltdown when she doesn't get into the college of her choice, so then she has to go to one of the colleges that do admit her, and you'd think the world was going to end! Ridiculous! Lara Jean was just so superficial, selfish and vapid that I couldn't stand her, and I had trouble getting through this book. I'd give it a C, and only recommend it to those who want to know what the pretty and perfect girls from high school live like. Warning, it's not very exciting, it's actually a dull, stereotypical existence.