Monday, November 05, 2018

LeVar Burton's Quote of the Day, The Last Bookstore in Hong Kong Closes, Quote of the Day #2, Amazon Waives Shipping Fees for the Holidays, Shelf Awareness Review, Good Luck With That by Kristan Higgins and Raised in Fire/Fused in Fire by K.F.Breene


I love LeVar Burton, from Reading Rainbow and from Roots and Star Trek The Next Generation, he's an amazing actor and reading advocate. And I agree with his words here, that reading needs to be a part of our daily diets, just like food. I know I can't go for very long without either.

Quotation of the Day
"But what we simply need to do is make sure we include the written word
as a part of our regular diets. We need to create a balance as best we
can as our modes of consumption change for our own benefit. We're
certainly living in an era where the paradigm has shifted away from the
written word into the moving pixelated image. But it's not like when
writing entered the fray, we just suddenly stopped talking [laughs].
There's no reason why we should stop reading y'all. We gotta keep
reading."
 --Actor and longtime reading ambassador LeVar Burton
in a q&a with Vice

This makes me sad, as it signals the end of an era, where there was at least one part of China that had freedom of the press and other freedoms that are now disappearing while the mainland Communist government takes over Hong Kong, now that it has been wrested from British rule.

Bookshop's Closure Signals New Era in Hong Kong
People Book Cafe in Hong Kong's
Causeway Bay district--the last bookshop in Hong Kong selling titles
banned by the Communist Party on the mainland--has closed
"marking the last chapter of the city's historic independent publishing
scene," the Guardian reported. Human rights activists and publishers
"have raised grave concerns over the closure," which follows the
disappearance and detention in 2015 of five city booksellers.

Paul Tang closed his shop "under pressure from the government,"
according to sources contacted by the Guardian, one of whom said the
city "was once the place where mainland readers came looking for the
truth. But today, you're afraid to even mention these forbidden topics."

Benedict Rogers, co-founder and chair of the NGO Hong Kong Watch,
observed: "Hong Kong used to be a window onto China, a sanctuary for
books that tell the truth about the mainland. But freedom of expression
and of the press have been significantly eroded in recent years, and the
closure of bookshops selling banned books is a further example of this."

"This is a very worrying situation," said Agnes Chow Ting, social
activist and member of the pro-democracy party Demosisto. "A lot of
chained bookstores and book publishers in Hong Kong are controlled by
liaison office of the Chinese government."

Quotation of the Day #2

Yes! Readers are one people! Everyone who loves books and reading has something in common with readers halfway around the globe. 

Book People 'All Speak the Same Language'

"In Frankfurt, I began to understand that the role the bookstore plays
in each of our communities is the same around the world. This
universality was validated as I visited bookstores in other cities
during my trip. In Paris, Frankfurt, and Berlin, shops of different
sizes, specialties, and styles reflected their environment, and all were
busy. In Paris, Shakespeare and Company even had a velvet rope to
regulate the line of people waiting for admittance.

"Returning home and sorting through business cards, notes, and book
recommendations written on bar napkins, I realized that although I had
so many new experiences as a Bookselling Without Borders fellow, I was
always engaged and at ease among these book people from so many
countries. In a sense, we all speak the same language."

--Lyn Roberts
of Square Books http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz38796684 in Oxford, Miss., who received a 2018 Bookselling Without Borders
Frankfurt Book Fair experience in Bookselling This Week

This will doubtless add to Amazon's already bulging bottom line, and take money away from brick and mortar bookstores and companies, but I think it is still a smart move on Bezo's part. 

Amazon Waives Shipping Fee for the Holidays
This morning the company announced that for the first time it is
offering free shipping with no minimum purchase on orders for the
holiday season. The promotion waives the $25 minimum for free shipping
for non-Prime members, and shipping will take an estimated five to eight
business days. According to Seeking Alpha, Amazon will end the offer
when deliveries can no longer reach destinations before Christmas.


This seems to be the theme of this post, dieting, food and how society treats eating and women's bodies in particular. If you are a larger person in America, you are always the target of those who are prejudiced against your size, including doctors and nurses, EMTs and politicians and company hiring managers (and just about everyone else). This book seeks to find some answers after the author has to deal with her daughters inability to eat due to an illness. As usual, answers on the "perfect" diet are hard to come by, as there really isn't such a thing in today's food culture that is so skewed by fad diets and those whose goal is to make money off of people's fear of fat.
 
Shelf Awareness Review: The Eating Instinct: Food Culture, Body Image, and Guilt in America

Good food, bad food, right food, wrong food. For many people, external
pressures and ideologies inform how they eat--so much so that they can
lose track of what their bodies are telling them. Virginia Sole-Smith, a
writer and editor, began to re-evaluate her ideas about food when her
baby daughter, Violet, suffered a medical trauma that made her stop
eating for two years. The Eating Instinct is her memoir of this
experience, given broader context by her research and interviews.
"Violet taught me that eating well cannot be about following rules; it
has to be about trusting our own instincts, which value safety, comfort
and pleasure just as much as nutrition, and sometimes more."

When her daughter drank chocolate milk or ate a cheese cracker,
Sole-Smith felt horrified, even though the goal was to get her to eat
anything by mouth, the higher in calories the better. Many parents fall
into anxious micromanagement of their child's food intake, often with
unexpected results. And when disconnection from instinct turns into an
eating disorder or obesity, "we reach a crossroads: Do you try to
correct the behavior--learning to eat according to a prescribed set of
external rules and conditions--or do you try to rediscover those
internal cues that tell us when to eat or when to stop? It's a divisive
question among doctors, therapists, and anyone who studies food."

We search for a perfect set of rules, "a way to feed ourselves that...
feels simple and right. That doesn't make us feel guilty about
everything we put into our bodies." But Sole-Smith discovers that the
wellness and nutrition professionals we look to are as susceptible to
diet culture as the rest of us, and often struggle with their own
disordered eating. Though her emphasis is on the experiences of women,
Sole-Smith explores U.S. food culture across lines of class and race.
Restrictive diets, the popularity of weight-loss surgery and fads for
"clean eating" and "detoxing" are among her targets. She talks to food
professionals and people grappling with eating disorders, including the
growing category of "orthorexia," in which a person's obsession with
healthy eating actually damages their health.

To demand a program from her would be to miss her point, but if
Sole-Smith has any advice in conclusion, it is to take a risk and trust
yourself more with food. --Sara Catterall 

Good luck With That by Kristan Higgins was a very difficult book for me to read, not only because, as a larger woman (and chubby child), I've dealt with most of the difficulties, prejudices and harassment by family and the general public (and classmates from school) for my entire life, but also because I've gained weight in recent years due to the side effects of medications I'm required to take for Crohn's disease, Sjogrens Syndrome and arthritis, (and prior to that I had to take steroids for asthma and allergies for decades). I am heavier now than I've ever been in my life. Yet doctors still constantly harranged me, over the years, about my body size, as if losing weight would somehow cure the diseases I am struggling with, when that is not the reality. (There was a recent cartoon posted to Facebook of a woman going into a doctors office because her arm fell off, and she's told by the doctor that she needs to go on a diet and lose weight. So she yells "Why do I need a diet to reattach my arm? Seriously?" and the Doctor goes on to chart that she's an "uncooperative" patient. I would imagine that my own chart from various doctors has the same kinds of notations on it, because I've been denied medical care that I needed for things like pneumonia because of my weight, which the doctor's prejudice couldn't see past to treat me.)  
So I understood the frustrations and anger and fear and body hatred of the three main protagonists, Emerson, Georgia and Marley, whose POV is switched for each chapter. But the book, which I gathered was about learning to love and accept yourself, no matter your size, begins with the terrifying event of Emerson literally dying because she weighs in excess of 600 pounds, and her organs are failing. Her posthumous diary entries catalogue her failure to take control of her eating and to stop a "feeder" boyfriend from using her as a fetish by enabling her to overeat. This kind of extreme is rare enough that making it a focal point of the story felt like a scare tactic to me, to get women to hate and fear fat even more, and put themselves on more diets that don't work. (There is a statistic that says that 98 percent of diets don't work, and the dieter gains all the weight back and then some within 4 years of losing weight. We have been, as a gender and a society, fed a line of bullcrap by the diet and exercise industry, who make billions off of the false promises they make to  women everyday. Yo-yo dieting, with your weight going up and down over and over is worse for your body than maintaining a stable weight). Here's the blurb: New York Times bestselling author Kristan Higgins is beloved for her heartfelt novels filled with humor and wisdom. Now, she tackles an issue every woman deals with: body image and self-acceptance.

Emerson, Georgia, and Marley have been best friends ever since they met at a weight-loss camp as teens. When Emerson tragically passes away, she leaves one final wish for her best friends: to conquer the fears they still carry as adults.

For each of them, that means something different. For Marley, it's coming to terms with the survivor's guilt she's carried around since her twin sister's death, which has left her blind to the real chance for romance in her life. For Georgia, it's about learning to stop trying to live up to her mother's and brother's ridiculous standards, and learning to accept the love her ex-husband has tried to give her.

But as Marley and Georgia grow stronger, the real meaning of Emerson's dying wish becomes truly clear: more than anything, she wanted her friends to love themselves. A novel of compassion and insight, Good Luck With That tells the story of two women who learn to embrace themselves just the way they are.

That last line is patently false. Georgia, whose mother so loathes herself that she is addicted to plastic surgery and is anorexic, as well as being a cruel and controlling parent to her bastard daughter, only accepts herself when she has lost all her weight due to a bleeding ulcer that is downplayed as being no big deal, when in reality, ulcers and ulcerative colitis is something that can kill you, or at the very least make you sick for the rest of your life. Yes, she learns to accept herself, but only after she's thin and anorexic. And while she notes that she's treated very differently by everyone in her life once she's thin, her nutball mother still thinks she needs to lose a few pounds to truly be acceptable to the world. Marley, meanwhile, is from a big Italian family, and has some self esteem, but as a chef is somehow seen as having a bad relationship with food, when I think the opposite is true..she is able to eat good nutritious food that she makes herself, from scratch, nearly every day. She's described as being more "rubenesque"  than fat, but she ends up with an agoraphobic, PTSD-addled and slightly autistic boyfriend who, compared to the ultra-hot chef that Georgia ends up with, is like the booby prize for the fat girl. Marley and Georgia put their inheritance from Emerson to good use, and they remove Emerson's horrible fatphobic cousin from her home and give it to some needy neighbors, but again, the idea that super obese women (and overweight/fat women) in general are wealthy or gainfully employed is a farce. A majority of fat women are poor, and discriminated against in the workplace, so much so that it is hard for us to not only find a decent job, but its even more difficult to keep it or get promotions/raises like our thin coworkers. Despite all of that, I did enjoy reading this story, with it's flowing prose and swift plot. I just wish that the author had really written a book where the fat women learned to accept themselves while remaining fat. I'd give this book a B+, and recommend it to those looking for romantic stories with plus sized heroines struggling with the demons that all women have in this prejudiced society.
 

Raised in Fire and Fused in Fire by K.F. Breene are the second and third books in her  Fire and Ice paranormal romance series. Since this trilogy is self published, I was hesitant to start reading them at all, having been disappointed in nearly all the self pubbed books I've read and reviewed in the past. However, the first book in the series, Born in Fire, wasn't half bad, so I decided to give the rest of them a try. While I enjoyed Raised in Fire, I was seriously disappointed in Fused in Fire, as the book just fell apart after the first 200 pages. Suddenly the author crammed a lot of boring description of the underworld and its denizens into pages rife with battles that were also described in minute detail. The plot slowed to a crawl and I got so bored I fell asleep twice while reading it. The ending also left a lot to be desired, and the whole "bonding with a thousand year old really possessive dead guy" was creepy and not at all romantic, IMHO. Suddenly the fiercely independent heroine is reliant on an overly controlling dead guy (whose real form is gross, but since he lives in his human glamour form, we're not supposed to be grossed out by her kissing and having sex with his decaying underlying self...shudder) to help her get where she needs to go and to rescue her from the bad guys. Really? So love makes you into a weak woman? Ugh. Here's the blurbs: 
Raised in Fire: It is a common truth in my life that when it rains, it pours. 
The killings that once plagued New Orleans are cropping up again in Seattle. The local office is stumped. I'm called out to lend a fresh set of eyes, and my unique magical touch.
 It's only when I get there that I realize the Seattle office isn't stumped at all.They're being silenced by the Mages' Guild, a corrupt magical institution that doesn't want word to get out of what is plaguing the city. Worse, news of my magic might've slipped down to the underworld, hitting the ears of some extremely powerful demons.
What I thought was a routine murder investigation turns into a fight for my life. With the help of Darius, my stalker elder vampire, and my dual-mage side kicks, I somehow have to dodge the Guild in order to stop one of the most powerful demons I've ever encountered. If I don't? It'll escape back down below with proof of what I really am.
My life hangs in the balance, and this time, I can't see a way out.
 
Fused in Fire: I thought the threat from Seattle was finished. That we showed up in time and took care of business.
I hate being wrong. It really ruins my day.
When Roger, the alpha of the North American pack, shows up at my door with the news that a demon has made it to the Underworld with knowledge of me, some hard decisions have to be made.
Do I stay above ground, with all my magical friends, and wait for the battle to come to me? Or do I seek the demon out, and pluck the threat out by the root?
I don’t want my friends to die on my behalf. I could never life with myself. But if I venture into the Underworld, it’ll be the most perilous journey of my life.
This time, it isn’t just my life hanging in the balance, it is my eternity.
I also noticed that Raised in Fire had about 5 or 6 typos, like the first book, but the third and final volume had more typos and grammar mistakes than you can shake a stick at. It also had more cliches and trope-moments that were taken right out of the "how to write a paranormal romance" handbook. Since I felt like the author just phoned it in on the last book, I will give these two books a C, and only recommend them to people who can't abide not finishing a whole series, no matter how bad it becomes. 

Monday, October 29, 2018

Happy Birthday Island Books, Great American Read Winner, How to Build a Girl Movie, Quote of the Day, Putting the Fun in Funeral by Diana Pharoah Francis, The Bartered Brides by Mercedes Lackey, Born in Fire by K.F.Breene and Miss Kopp Just Won't Quit by Amy Stewart


As noted previously on my blog, Island Books on Mercer Island was my go-to-happy-place when I worked at the Mercer Island Reporter, from 1997-2005. The fact that the store was literally behind the MIR parking lot had nothing to do with it! It was a joy to just walk out the door of the MIR and walk a few paces into the back door of Island Books, there to encounter all the brilliant booksellers, including Roger Page (the owner) who were ready to recommend books I would love and to shove ARCs into my eager hands. My husband used to call me every payday and remind me not to spend my whole paycheck at Island Books, because we needed money for food and rent! Once we had a child, Nick became a fixture at the MIR and in Island Books children's room, where he happily played in their wooden playhouse, while his mom found yet another great children's classic to read to him at bedtime. Sadly, the MIR was sold and is no long staffed or created on Mercer Island, so I rarely get to shop there anymore, but now that the Pages have sold the store to someone else, I don't think it would be the same for me. But I still wish them a happy birthday.

Happy 45th Birthday, Island Books!

Mercer Island, Wash., which is celebrating its 45th anniversary on
Saturday, November 3, from 4-6 p.m. The event will include champagne and
cake. Customers are encouraged to bring photos of themselves taken in
the 1970s to share on the store's board and to share stories about
Island Books in its memory book.

I watched several episodes of the GAR, and the final one had me in tears, watching so many book lovers and authors shouting and applauding books that I've read and loved for  many years. I was thrilled that the magnificent To Kill a Mockingbird, by Nell Harper Lee, won the number one spot! Of all the books on the top 15 list, the only one I've not read is the Outlander series, which I found offensive for its portrayal of rape as being so easily dealt with and automatic in ancient Scotland. I couldn't finish the first book in the series for that reason. However, I loved the rest of the novels, and was surprised that out of the 100 top books chosen, the last 20-30 books were mostly ones I've not read or even heard of, for the most part.I was also slihgtly dismayed that Steinbeck was only represented by Grapes of Wrath, when so many of his other books are easier and more enjoyable reading, such as To A God Unknown and the wonderful Travels With Charley. Anyway, congrats to Harper Lee, wherever she is, while hoping she's sipping a mint juliep with Truman Capote in heaven.

Great American Read Winner is To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee's classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird
was chosen by bookish voters as America's #1 best-loved novel in The Great American
results were unveiled last night on PBS during the final episode
of the eight-part television competition and nationwide campaign, which explored the power
of books and the joy of reading through the lens of America's 100
best-loved novels, as voted on by the public.

To Kill a Mockingbird led The Great American Read voting from the first
week, and maintained its advantage over the months of voting, despite
strong competition from the five finalists. Lee's novel also topped the
list of votes in every state except North Carolina (which preferred
Outlander) and Wyoming (Lord of The Rings). More than 4 million votes
were cast. The top 15 titles were:

1) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
2) Outlander (series) by Diana Gabaldon
3) Harry Potter (series) by J.K. Rowling
4) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
5) Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
6) Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
7) Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
8) Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
9) Chronicles of Narnia (series) by C.S. Lewis
10) Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
11) Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
12) The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
13) A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
14) The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
15) The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I read Moran's first book, and I plan on picking up this one, mainly because I adore Emma Thompson and look forward to viewing everything she's done. 

Movies: How to Build a Girl
Emma Thompson will star in How to Build a Girl
based on Caitlin Moran's novel, the Hollywood Reporter wrote, adding
that Chris O'Dowd (Juliet, Naked) has also joined the cast that includes
Beanie Feldstein (Lady Bird), Alfie Allen (Game of Thrones), Paddy
Considine (The Death of Stalin) and Sarah Solemani (Bridget Jones'
Baby).The film comes from U.K. producer Monumental Pictures, which optioned
Moran's 2014 book and developed the project with Film4.
"We had fantasized about Emma Thompson playing the editor since we first
spoke with Caitlin about this project--I think Caitlin might have cut
the scene if Emma hadn't agreed!" said Alison Owen of Monumental
Pictures. "Thank goodness we struck lucky. We feel blessed."

Quotation of the Day

Booksellers 'Become Universal by Dint of Their Specificity'
 
"One of the virtues of my having no official business was the ability to
browse the aisles in a way our readers browse our stacks. Booksellers
know the value of serendipity and discovery well--our work, after all,
is to create experiences predicated upon unforeseen and unexpected
delights.
"The book is not dead. Books need booksellers. As a bookseller, I need
patience and courage. Booksellers, like great novelists, become
universal by dint of their specificity. Being decidedly of a particular
place is a profound way to be global. And the readers of any place have
a need to understand that place through experiences of elsewhere."

--Jeff Deutsch
director of Chicago's Seminary Co-op Bookstore
http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz38701588, writing about his experiences at the 2018 Frankfurt Book Fair for Bookselling This Week


Putting the Fun in Funeral by Diana Pharaoh Francis is a self published title, but not the first book of hers that I've read. I recall having a conversation with her via Facebook years ago, and being charmed by her wit and sincerity. I enjoyed reading three books in a series she'd written about pirates, but then she fell off my radar as a writer until recently, when this book was recommended by my fellow Steampunk readers of Gail Carriger's works. However, having read and reviewed more than a few poorly written self published books, I didn't have high expectations of FIF, so I was pleasantly surprised that there were only 5-6 obvious typos in the entire novel. Even traditionally published novels have an average of 3 typos per book, so I was glad to see that Francis cared enough about her work to do some copy editing and proofreading before having this work published. Well done, Ms Francis! I would also like to point out that this is a great book to read on or near Halloween, as it has scary monsters, scary people, bloodshed and sticky-sweet romance, all bundled together in one swiftly plotted place. Here's the blurb:
Beck Wyatt has always hated her mother-enough to kill her. As luck would have it, someone beats her to murdering Mommy Dearest and now Beck gets to plan the tackiest funeral the world has ever seen for the worst woman she's ever known.
But first, Beck has a few minor problems to deal with. First on the list? Avoid getting kidnapped. She also has to convince the police she didn't kill her mother. And then there's surviving a death curse ....
With the help of her three best friends, cheesecake, and a little magic, Beck figures she can handle anything, even the mysterious and irritating Damon Matroviani, whose sexy good-looks light her panties on fire.
All too soon, her life is turned inside out, and just when things are looking like they can't get any worse ... everything hits the fan.
While this book might seem to be just a paranormal romance at first blush, the author adds generous dollops of horror to the mix, and the 'steamy' love scenes, while frequent, go no further than describing sex,(thankfully without the precious euphemisms for body parts prevalent in most romance novels), while the protagonist and her man kiss and cuddle whenever they're not rescuing one another (or a dog) from something heinous.Personally, I found Damon to be controlling and possessive and abusive way too often for me to find his character attractive. He was obsessed with Beck, and obsession isn't love. Beck, after being tortured by her aunt/mother for most of her life really needs serious therapy before she embarks on a serious relationship, as she's unlikely to know how to say no to someone who abuses her, as its all she's ever known. Yet readers are supposed to think that Beck can continue to get beat up and almost die several times, and still not show any signs of PTSD . Still, while it had its faults, I enjoyed reading FIF, and I look forward to reading the next volume. For the zingy prose and the interesting protagonist, I'd give this book a B+, and recommend it to paranormal romance and horror readers.

The Bartered Brides by Mercedes Lackey is the 13th book in the Elemental Masters series, which is somehow appropriate for Halloween reading as well. I've read all of the Elemental Masters books, and enjoyed most of them, but this one added many more horrific elements than I was used to, including a serial killer who beheads poor young women and girls and uses them as magical "batteries" as he tries, ala Harry Potter's Voldemort, to resurrect this boss, the evil Professor Moriarty. Here's the blurb: The thirteenth novel in the magical alternate history Elemental Masters series continues the reimagined adventures of Sherlock Holmes in a richly-detailed alternate Victorian England.

The threat of Moriarty is gone—but so is Sherlock Holmes.
Even as they mourn the loss of their colleague, psychic Nan Killian, medium Sarah Lyon-White, and Elemental Masters John and Mary Watson must be vigilant, for members of Moriarty’s network are still at large. And their troubles are far from over: in a matter of weeks, two headless bodies of young brides wash up in major waterways. A couple who fears for their own recently-wedded daughter hires the group to investigate, but with each new body, the mystery only deepens.
The more bodies emerge, the more the gang suspects that there is dangerous magic at work, and that Moriarty’s associates are somehow involved. But as they race against the clock to uncover the killer, it will take all their talents, Magic, and Psychic Powers—and perhaps some help from a dearly departed friend—to bring the murderer to justice.

The twist at the end, which includes a transgender person, is quite clever, but I was still creeped out and horrified by all the blood and gore of the serial killings and the wretched lives of these girls (particularly Chinese girls) in Victorian England. I don't enjoy being frightened or nauseated by horror novels or movies, and I sincerely hope that the next installment in the series is less gruesome. That said, Lackey's prose is the gold standard for fantasy, and her plots never flag. I'd give the novel an A, and recommend it to anyone who has read her other Elemental Masters books.

Born in Fire by K.F. Breene is the second self published novel I've read this month, which has to be a new record for me, since I stopped reading and reviewing self pubbed works for two major review services about 5 years ago. This series was also recommended to be by folks on Gail Carriger's Facebook fan group, and while I'm always reluctant to pick up a self published work due to the poor quality of most of them, I was pleasantly surprised by Born in Fire, as there were under 10 typos and the author was obviously a natural storyteller. While the first 25 pages were riddled with cliches, Breene makes them work for her in often hilarious ways, throughout the rest of the text. Here's the blurb: Heart pounding and laugh out loud funny, USA Today Bestselling author K.F. Breene will take you on a magical joy ride you won’t soon forget.
Supernatural Bounty Hunter isn’t the sort of thing you see on LinkedIn. But with a rare type of magic like mine, I don’t have many options.
So dangerous or not, the job is mine. And it was going fine, until an old as sin vampire stole my mark, and with it, my pay day.
Knowing I’m poor and desperate, he has offered me a job. I’ll have to work by his side to help solve a top secret case.
Everyone knows not to trust vampires. Especially a hot elder vampire. But without any other jobs coming up, I’m stuck. As I uncover a web of lies and treachery, revealing an enemy I didn’t know existed, the truth of my identity is threatened. I might make it out alive, only to end up in a gilded cage.
The prose was highly stylized with tons of urban slang and cliches, as well as profanity, but it wasn't out of place with the snarky protagonist and her vampire partner. SPOILER, I wasn't at all surprised that Reagan is the daughter of Lucifer (and whenever they get that TV show going again, they should consider adding some of his illegitimate children to the mix, I think that Lucifer as a dad would be hilarious and fascinating) but I found it annoying that the author had to tell us how all the other supernaturals couldn't get enough of her yummy smell in every single chapter. I mean, we get it, Breene, move on! the plot swooped along like a vampire on fire, and the prose, though somewhat amateurish and fan-serviced, was readable. I'd give this book a B, and recommend it to anyone who wants a fast and funny paranormal romantic adventure.

Miss Kopp Just Won't Quit by Amy Stewart is the 4th novel in the Kopp Sisters series, all based on real women who lived during the years leading up to WWI. Having read all the other Kopp sisters novels, I remain steadfast in my loathing of Norma, the rude and cantankerous (and pigeon obsessed, yuck) younger sister who stays at home on the family farm, brings in no income and yet has the audacity to be controlling and critical of both Constance and Fleurette, though they both actually work to bring in money to keep them all in food and shelter. Meanwhile, Norma, who has nothing good to say about anyone, fiddles around with pigeons and mobile pigeon coops and bullies her sisters and everyone else she encounters. I gather we're somehow supposed to find this endearing, which is ridiculous. Here's the blurb: After a year on the job, New Jersey’s first female deputy sheriff has collared criminals, demanded justice for wronged women, and gained notoriety nationwide for her exploits. But on one stormy night, everything falls apart.
While transporting a woman to an insane asylum, Deputy Kopp discovers something deeply troubling about her story. Before she can investigate, another inmate bound for the asylum breaks free and tries to escape.
In both cases, Constance runs instinctively toward justice. But the fall of 1916 is a high-stakes election year, and any move she makes could jeopardize Sheriff Heath’s future—and her own. Although Constance is not on the ballot, her controversial career makes her the target of political attacks.
With wit and verve, book-club favorite Amy Stewart brilliantly conjures the life and times of the real Constance Kopp to give us this “unforgettable, not-to-be messed-with heroine” (Marie Claire).Publisher's Weekly:
Deputy Constance Kopp, of Bergen County, N.J., comes under scrutiny during the brutal 1916 election season in bestseller Stewart’s fraught fourth Kopp Sisters novel (after 2017’s Miss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions). While her mentor and boss, Sheriff Robert Heath, runs for Congress, the real-life Constance prepares for a successor less supportive of the “lady deputy.” Her extracurricular investigation into the case of Anna Kayser, a seemingly sane woman whose husband and doctor conspired to send her to a mental institution, unexpectedly threatens to affect the election. Stewart draws on newspaper accounts from the era for the vicious rhetoric aimed at Constance, whose audacity at working in a male-dominated profession provides political fodder for her boss’s opponents. Although the Kayser story eventually loses steam, Stewart skillfully builds nail-biting suspense around the election results and Constance’s subsequent employment prospects. The blend of practicality, forthrightness, and compassion in her first-person narration is sure to satisfy series fans and win new admirers. 
I disagree that this installment is satisfying to fans or new admirers. SPOILER, Constance loses her job when a new sexist Sheriff is elected, and her current boss loses his bid for a congressional seat. After all the good work she's done, it makes no difference to those who heap sexist slurs on her while the press engages in yellow journalism and makes her life even more fraught with danger and stress. Though the author leaves us with some hope of Constance and Norma and Fleurette getting work with the military in the lead up to America's involvement in WWI, I still felt let down by Sheriff Heath and the women in and out of the jails and asylums that Constance helped during her year as deputy/matron at the jail. Why was no one willing to stand up and help her? I can only imagine what horrors the women in the Bergen County jail will face with a man and male deputies in charge of their care. Though her prose was, as always, clean and strong, and her plot swift and sure, I was depressed after reading this novel, and while I would give it a B+, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who has melancholy tendencies. 

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Wit's End Review, Tea Company CEO on Barnes and Noble Board, Retirement Party for Bookstore Cat, The Devil's Thief by Lisa Maxwell,The Dark Net by Benjamin Percy, And the Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness, and The Confidant by Helene Gremillon


I've always been a fan of witty writing, especially that of writers like PG Wodehouse and Dorothy Parker, who understood that humor could have dark and sarcastic edges. This book sounds fantastic, and I plan on finding a copy of it soon, though I don't agree that puns are the basis of wit. 

Review: Wit's End: What Wit Is, How It Works, and Why We Need It
  
In books about aphorisms (The World in a Phrase) and metaphor (I Is an
James Geary has demonstrated he's someone who admires an elegant turn of
phrase. He mines a similar lode in Wit's End, an entertaining
exploration of how intellectual dexterity manifests itself in both
verbal and visual form.
  
From the beginning of this brief but wide-ranging survey, Geary explains
that true wit is about much more than the ability to tell a good joke or
a humorous story. His working definition of the term--"the faculty of
mind that integrates knowledge and experience, fuses divided worlds, and
links the unlike with the like"--sums up his belief that true wit is
much more than merely being funny, something "richer, cannier, more
riddling."  
That thesis is best illustrated in Geary's discussion of puns. Though
most people have been taught to regard this form of wordplay as the
lowest form of humor, Geary has a particular affinity for the talent it
takes when one "folds a double knowledge into words." Citing their
prevalence in Shakespeare (with an average number of 78 per play) and
the Bible, as well as Abraham Lincoln's special fondness for them, Geary
argues that puns illustrate "the essence of all true wit--the ability to
hold in the mind two different ideas about the same thing at the same
time." 
Geary even touches on the subject of artistic wit. A chapter delivered
as if it were an art history lecture, and accompanied by a handful of
illustrations, discusses "ambiguous figures." The work of 16th-century
Italian artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo in the trompe l'oeil tradition, for
example, is "an elaborate visual pun, placing in the mind two different
images of the same thing at the same time." To that end, Geary cites the
portrait The Admiral, painted out of the images of fish and crustaceans.
In Wit's End, James Geary is undaunted by the risk anyone writing about
the subject of being funny takes: spoiling the joke by explaining it.
Refreshingly, he shows here that he's fully equal to the task, enhancing
our appreciation of how true wit can both amuse and enlighten. --Harvey
Freedenberg freelance reviewer


I've been a fan of Celestial Seasonings Tea for a long time, and Barnes and Noble has been my go-to chain bookstore for almost as long (though I prefer independent bookstores). So the following was welcome news indeed.

Tea Company CEO on Book Company Board!

Barnes & Noble has appointed Irwin D. Simon, founder, president, CEO and
chairman of the Hain Celestial Group, to its board of directors. Simon,
who will serve as an independent board member, was recommended by
Richard Schottenfeld.
An organic foods and personal care products company, Hain Celestial
Group is best known for its Celestial Seasonings herbal tea. It also
owns Arrowhead Mills, which sells whole grain foods, and FreeBird
chickens.
Simon might also have been recommended by Schottenfeld because of the
example he is setting as a company founder and longtime head who is
slowly handing over control of the company: Simon announced in June that
he would step down as CEO and become non-executive chairman when a new
CEO is appointed.

This is lovely that Sonny the bookstore kitty cat gets a well earned retirement party prior to moving into a home where he can just rest and relax, not among the stacks!

Retirement Party Set for Sonny the Bookstore Cat
Prairie Fox Books  in Ottawa, Ill., is
hosting a retirement party
this Saturday for Sonny, the bookstore cat who is stepping down from his
job greeting customers to move in with a familiar family, the Times
reported. Prairie Fox Books opened in 2016 as the spiritual successor to
longtime local business the Book Mouse.

Special events coordinator Dylan Conmy said Sonny doesn't know life
outside of a bookstore, having come to the Book Mouse as a kitten in the
summer of 2008. Now he will join a family with two children at the
recommendation of Eileen Fesco, who owned the Book Mouse.

"They have been contacting us frequently. They can't wait to get him. I
think he's going to be very happy and spoiled," said Conmy, who has been
Sonny's bookshop colleague since moving to Ottawa in 2012. "I have very
fond memories of him and Ernie, the chinchilla. It was the one super
unique thing when I started working at the Book Mouse, because you don't
often see a chinchilla walking around either. So to have this very
uniquely colored cat co-existing with the chinchilla, just chilling, it
was great. You don't see many Barnes & Nobles with a fuzzy mascot."

My primary reaction to The Devil's Thief by Lisa Maxwell was screaming "AAaahhhhhhhhh" and slamming my head against my desk in frustration. The sequel to The Last Magician, which I read and was anxiously awaiting answers to the cliffhanger ending, The Devil's Thief provides readers with nothing more than nearly 700 pages of run around and redundancies. There isn't even a proper ending to the book, nothing is decided or tied up, and things have gone from bad to worse for the protagonists, particularly Esta and Harte. Not that Cela, Jianyu and all of the other characters have had an easy time of it. Everyone gets beaten, bruised and nearly killed in this installment, but they get little forward movement on their quest for all their trouble, and Maxwell seems hell bent on having every character drone on and on about their horrid families, how they don't fit in with any society or gang, and how guilty they feel for all the damage they've caused and their inability to regain the jewels and book needed to complete their quest. Why any decent editor at Simon Pulse would allow Maxwell to repeatedly let her characters say and do the same things over and over, is beyond me. Here's the blurb: In this spellbinding sequel to the New York Times bestselling The Last Magician, Esta and Harte set off on a cross-country chase through time to steal back the elemental stones they need to save the future of magic.
Hunt the Stones.
Beware the Thief.
Avenge the Past.
Esta’s parents were murdered. Her life was stolen. And everything she knew about magic was a lie. She thought the Book of Mysteries held the key to freeing the Mageus from the Order’s grasp, but the danger within its pages was greater than she ever imagined.
Now the Book’s furious power lives inside Harte. If he can’t control it, it will rip apart the world to get its revenge, and it will use Esta to do it.
To bind the power, Esta and Harte must track down four elemental stones scattered across the continent. But the world outside the city is like nothing they expected. There are Mageus beyond the Brink not willing to live in the shadows—and the Order isn’t alone in its mission to crush them.
In St. Louis, the extravagant World’s Fair hides the first stone, but an old enemy is out for revenge and a new enemy is emerging. And back in New York, Viola and Jianyu must defeat a traitor in a city on the verge of chaos.
As past and future collide, time is running out to rewrite history—even for a time-traveling thief. 
So all we really learn is that this whole magical object war was brought about by Thoth and Seshet, two ancient Egyptians with huge egos who wanted power for themselves and didn't want to share. So now they're inhabiting other bodies in order to battle for supremacy and revenge. Meanwhile, Harte, who is possessed by Seshet, has to wrestle with his lust and desire to possess Esta both magically and as a woman, whom he clearly wants to dominate (which is less romantic than it is creepy and abusive). This hefty tome is less spellbinding than it is impenetrable with the circular motion of the plot...once you think it's going forward, it's actually turning back around on itself, again. I implore you not to purchase this book that I wasted two days reading. It's not worth it, as we get no answers and no real forward motion on the plot points in the end. Borrow a copy from the library or beg one from a friend, if you must. I would suggest waiting for the hopefully final third book of the series and skipping this one altogether. I'd give it a C, and only recommend it to those who can't read a series without having read every single book, no matter how unworthy, to completion. And if I ever meet Ms Maxwell, I will have to refrain from kicking her in the shins for wasting my time and money on this overstuffed volume.

I am not a fan of horror fiction, or the hybrid genres thereof. Yet The Dark Net by Benjamin Percy, which was recommended to me as a "dark science fiction thriller" (which I should have known is code for "horror fiction tarted up with a bit of SF and a fast thriller plot" ) grabbed me with it's spiky claws and would not let me go until the final 15-20 pages. The first 30 pages alone left me gasping with the breakneck pace of the plot, but also the realistic characters and the plausibility of the grim and bizarre situations facing the protagonists. My heart literally pounded, and I ran (okay, hobbled, but still) to tell my son about this relentlessly amazing story that, though gruesome, would fascinate him as much as it did me (Like The Martian or The Name of the Wind, or Scythe, there are books that I know that will transcend the age and preferential differences between my son and I, the back-end baby boomer and the millennial). Here's the blurb: The Dark Net is real. An anonymous and often criminal arena that exists in the secret far reaches of the Web, some use it to manage Bitcoins, pirate movies and music, or traffic in drugs and stolen goods. And now, an ancient darkness is gathering there as well. This force is threatening to spread virally into the real world unless it can be stopped by members of a ragtag crew, including a twelve-year-old who has been fitted with a high-tech visual prosthetic to combat her blindness; a technophobic journalist; a one-time child evangelist with an arsenal in his basement; and a hacker who believes himself a soldier of the Internet. Set in present-day Portland, The Dark Net is a cracked-mirror version of the digital nightmare we already live in, a timely and wildly imaginative techno-thriller about the evil that lurks in real and virtual spaces, and the power of a united few to fight back.
“This is horror literature’s bebop, bold, smart, confident in its capacity to redefine its genre from the ground up. Read this book, but take a firm grip on your hat before you start.”—Peter Straub 
I have to agree with Peter Straub, you've got to grab hold of the handlebars of this roller coaster before you start the ride, which will leave you by turns screaming and begging the heavens for a way off before you vomit or your head explodes. Though the main protagonist is a journalist for the Oregonian, Percy doesn't seem to have too much respect for the institution of journalism or for it's practitioners, whom he likens to vultures who are selfish and cruel enough to do anything for a story. Having been a journalist for over 30 years at community magazines, newspapers and news websites, I heartily disagree. I never sought to harm others with my work, nor did I intrude or steal or violate any policies or laws to get stories for publication. I don't believe that my colleagues did, either. I didn't like the Buffalo Bill/Jeffrey Dahmer serial killer lionization in the book, nor did I like all the gratuitous death, bloodshed and violence. That said, Percy, like Stephen King, is a master craftsman/wordsmith who didn't waste one sentence or paragraph in this slender volume. I'd give it an A on technical ability alone, but the story is worth high marks, as are some of the characters. I'd recommend this book to people who like Kings work and love technology, Portland, Oregon and dark, bloody page-turners.

And the Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness, illustrated by Rovina Cai, is an amazing, beautiful book that tells the tale of Moby Dick from the perspective of the whales, out to hunt the mysterious white ship captained by the infamous whale killer Toby Wick, the devil himself. This book is beautifully written and illustrated, and would be a fine addition to someone's classic library. At a spare 160 pages, the story moves quickly, though it ought to be savored slowly as possible, just for the poignancy of the whale's culture and mythology if nothing else. Here's the blurb: From the author of A Monster Calls comes a richly illustrated and lyrical tale, one that asks harrowing questions about power, loyalty, obsession, and the monsters we make of others.
With harpoons strapped to their backs, the proud whales of Bathsheba's pod live for the hunt, fighting in the ongoing war against the world of men. When they attack a ship bobbing on the surface of the Abyss, they expect to find easy prey. Instead, they find the trail of a myth, a monster, perhaps the devil himself...
As their relentless Captain leads the chase, they embark on a final, vengeful hunt, one that will forever change the worlds of both whales and men.
With the lush, atmospheric art of Rovina Cai woven in throughout, this remarkable work by Patrick Ness turns the familiar tale of Moby Dick upside down and tells a story all its own with epic triumph and devastating fate.  
The power of pain and obsession and finally of compassion between species is at the heart of this novel, which left me crying in a way that the original Moby Dick failed to do. I felt like I understood Bathsheba, though she was a whale dedicated to hunting down a human, though he was a vile one,and to preserving the life of the human that her pod had kidnapped for information. I highly recommend this A list book, to anyone who wonders how ocean-dwelling mammals might view the world above them.

The Confidant by Helene Gremillon was one of those trade paperbacks that looked like it would be my kind of novel from the outside. Unfortunately, the inside prose was difficult to follow and roamed from POV to POV without any real logic or structure. The story of a vicious and insane barren woman and a young credulous woman who falls in love with her husband (and bears their child) is ground to sausage by the different points of view, so that by the time I reached the weird poem at the end, I wasn't sure who was really to blame for this poor child parentage and unusual upbringing, where she finds herself pregnant also with an illegitimate child. Here's the blurb: Paris, 1975. Camille sifts through letters of condolence after her mother's death when a strange, handwritten missive stops her short. At first she believes she received it by mistake. But then, a new letter arrives each week from a mysterious stranger, Louis, who seems intent on recounting the story of his first love, Annie. They were separated in the years before World War II when Annie befriended a wealthy, barren couple and fell victim to a merciless plot just as German troops arrive in Paris. But also awaiting Camille's discovery is the other side of the story, which will call into question Annie's innocence and reveal the devastating consequences of jealousy and revenge. As Camille reads on, she begins to realize that her own life may be the next chapter in this tragic story. Publisher's Weekly:
Set in Paris in 1975, Gremillon’s absorbing debut begins when Camille Werner receives a long, unsigned, handwritten letter among the condolence notes after her mother’s death. Already in a state of shock, both from the unexpected death and from breaking up with her boyfriend after his casual mention of not wanting children when Camille told him she was pregnant, Camille becomes fascinated with the correspondent’s tale of a budding romance between two teenage friends, Annie and Louis, in a small town on the cusp of WWII. Camille becomes convinced that it is this Louis who wrote to her, though she assumes her receipt of the missives is a mistake. In subsequent letters (which are differentiated from Camille’s narrative by the use of fonts), Louis spins his tale of a love that became doomed when Annie was befriended by a young, wealthy, and unhappy Parisian couple. As a book editor, Camille wonders if Louis (who never signs the letters) is trying to wangle a publishing contract. But when he reveals that Annie has a daughter born around the time of Camille’s own birth, Camille becomes obsessed with locating Louis and getting the whole story behind his letters.
Gremillon's prose is amateurish and confusing, and her characters are awful, cruel, possessive and preachy. I found the plot plodding and couldn't wait for the end of this sordid story. I'd give it a C, and only recommend it to those who find tales of parental obsession to be exciting. Be prepared to find these cardboard characters a disappointment.