Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Oscar Books, The Museum of Extraordinary Things and Kristin Cashore's Graceling Trilogy

It's no secret that I am a huge fan of Helene Hanff's books, not just her famed "84 Charing Cross Road" but all of her other works, including "Q's Legacy" and "Underfoot in Show Business." My late best friend, Rosemarie Larson's mother, Jean Russel Larson, had a long correspondence with Helene Hanff, and was gracious enough to encourage my love of her works. Now her cousin Jean Hanff Korelitz has written a book that is getting lots of attention, and she's also listed as a Book Brahmin on Shelf Awareness this week.  I couldn't resist putting in a plug for her book and pasting her Brahmin choices below, since the latter are fairly similar to my own, and she does mention "Underfoot in Show Business."
You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz (March 18)
A successful New York City therapist, Grace Reinhart Sachs is living the
life she always envisioned for herself. A happily devoted doctor's wife
and mother to a young son, she is also the author of You Should Have
Known, in which she cautions women really to hear what men are trying to
tell them. But just as the book is about to be published, her own
marriage is suddenly thrust into turmoil with a violent death and a
missing husband it turns out she never really knew. Horrified by the
ways in which she has failed to heed her own advice and for neglecting
to see the clues in front of her, Grace must emerge from the detritus of
one life to create another for her child and herself.

This smart, gripping story is "unputdownable in the most delicious
way--not only are Jean's insights into family and trust brilliantly
observed, but her heroine is also intelligent, sensitive and perpetually
on the brink of earth-shattering disaster," said Deb Futter, the editor
of You Should Have Known. "Jean has woven a page-turning story about
living in New York City, learning to deal with the lies we tell one
another (and ourselves) and how tricky it sometimes is to be a wife, a
mother and a fully actualized individual."

Book Brahmin: Jean Hanff Korelitz

Intriguing, suspenseful You Should Have Known is Jean Hanff Korelitz's fifth novel, following A Jury of
Her Peers, The Sabbathday River, The White Rose and Admission, which was
made into a feature film starring Tina Fey and Paul Rudd. She is also
the author of a poetry collection, The Properties of Breath, and the
children's book Interference Powder, and has contributed essays to
Modern Love and other anthologies. Korelitz lives in New York City with
her husband, Irish poet Paul Muldoon, and their children.

On your nightstand now:
Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence
Wright; Longbourn by Jo Baker; The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer.

Book you've faked reading:
Ulysses. (Though to be honest I faked listening to it by sort of not
paying attention while it was playing. But seriously, does anyone
actually NOT fake reading it?)

Book you're an evangelist for:
Underfoot in Show Business by my distant cousin, Helene Hanff. Utterly
charming, howlingly funny tale of a failed playwright knocking around
mid-century New York. (We know, as the author does not, that she will
soon find wild acclaim as the author of 84, Charing Cross Road.)

Book that changed your life:
D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths. The book that made me an atheist at the
age of eight, while filling me with a passion for stories and art.

Favorite line from a book:
"(A)nd here my story ends. My troubles are all over, and I am at home;
and often before I am quite awake, I fancy I am still in the orchard at
Birtwick, standing with my old friends under the apple-trees." --Black

Also: That passage in Gatsby, about the train heading west from Chicago
across the Plains--always makes me cry. And I'm not even from the

Book you most want to read again for the first time:
I am very jealous of people who've never read Austen, because they can
read Austen for the first time. I am also excited to recommend Thomas
Perry's Jane Whitefield novels to people who don't know them, because
they are so breathtakingly paced and so smart.

Favorite book when you were a child:
Anything involving a horse.

Your top five authors:
I'd prefer to do books, actually:
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
My Name Is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok
Edie by Jean Stein and George Plimpton
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
The Odessa File by Frederick Forsyth

This is a grand idea, allowing writers to have a whole ride aboard a train dedicated to writing! I would LOVE to be aboard a train full of writers/authors, and just be able to sit and read and soak in all the inspiration!

Authors and trains? It's a natural fit. Amtrak has begun offering
"writers' residencies"
in the form of "long roundtrip rides aboard Amtrak trains dedicated
solely for the purpose of writing," the Atlantic Wire reported, adding
that the company plans to "turn the writers' residencies into an
established, long-term program, sending writers on trains throughout its
network of routes."

The genesis of the idea was a remark made by Alexander Chee
interview, where he said, "I still like a train best for [writing]. I
wish Amtrak had residencies for writers." Jessica Gross tweeted
support for the concept, and "though such lofty fantasies often die
unrealized, by the grace of some transportation-and-prose-loving god,
Amtrak actually responded to Gross on Twitter, and liked the idea," the
Wire wrote. She was offered the first "test-run"
residency, traveling from New York City to Chicago and back.

Julia Quinn, social media director for Amtrak, confirmed there has been
"overwhelming demand" from people interested in the program--part of the
reason the company is intent on turning this into a regular operation.
And what about the guy who started it all? Chee tweeted
up his own test run.

This trend by Hollywood to adapt novels to the screen is wonderful, in my opinion, as long as they stay as faithful to the original pages as possible. Still, there needs to be more adaptations of science fiction and fantasy novels, other than Phillip K Dick's work and Stephen Kings.  Sharon Lee and Steve Miller's Liadens would do marvelously on the screen, as would Maria Snyders Poison Study books and Lois McMaster Bujold's wonderful Miles Vorkosigan and his space adventures. Here's the run down for next month's Oscar contenders that are adaptations of books.

Oscar Preview: 'Adaptations Continue to Shape the Conversation'
With the Academy Awards coming up this Sunday, Word & Film explored the
power of book-to-film adaptations
and "how films based on written source material have fared in the Best
Picture competition, noting that during Oscar's 85 years, 54 Best
Picture winners "officially have been derived from novels, nonfiction
books, newspaper articles or stage dramas. For you numbers-crunchers,
that's 63.5%. Since comic books and pop fiction also now account for
half of the highest-grossing films of all time, the literary world
clearly has a major impact on both the box office and the awards

In 2014, four of the nine Best Picture nominees are "officially
book-based": The Wolf of Wall Street, Captain Phillips, Philomena and 12
Years a Slave. Word & Film observed that while Alfonso Cuaron's
blockbuster Gravity "is certainly exerting a strong pull on voters, 12
Years is a more comprehensive powerhouse.... Steve McQueen and John
Ridley's compelling statement makes an excellent case for collecting a
bunch of statuettes, including the big one, when the envelopes are
opened March 2."
I've finished, in the past 10 days, a raft of fascinating books, but four in particular stand out. The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman, and Graceling, Fire and Bitterblue, the series by Kristin Cashore.
Though I often read several books at a time, in this case, these books harmonized together quite nicely, though Museum is more "magical realism" from an author who really helped create a market for that sub-genre, and the Graceling series is YA fantasy, though it's the kind of fantasy that, like the Harry Potter novels or the Lord of the Rings trilogy that can, and should, be read by adults who like a ripping good read.
All of these novels deal with young women who have terrible parents and have to navigate the world, and learn to love despite personal setbacks and awful surroundings.
Museum, according to Book Page begins thus: "Coralie is the only child of a once-famous French magician who now runs The Museum of Extraordinary Things on Coney Island’s Surf Avenue. His curiosity show—packed with acts performed by so-called “freaks and oddities” like the Wolfman and Butterfly Girl—is being threatened by competing attractions that are being built nearby. Coralie was born with webbed hands, and unbeknownst to her, her father has been preparing her to one day become part of the museum."
What Coralie doesn't realize until she's in her late teens is that her father is a ruthless predator who uses people who are different in some way for his own gain, both monetarily and sexually. He even goes so far as to steal a female corpse to try and "create" a mermaid by cobbling her together with a large fish. The whole 19th century, turn of the 20th century background and the wretched way that those who are born different are treated was by turns heart-wrenching and fascinating, including the rights, or lack thereof, of women and children workers in the garment district of New York at the turn of the century (yes, that includes the horrific Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire that killed so many young women). Though she eventually rebels, the only problem I had with the novel was that Coralie was such a whinging coward when it came to leaving her horrific father, and when she goes back into the burning building with her beloved for no apparent reason, when she's putting her life and the life of her beloved at risk. I realize that at that time in history, women were not encouraged to read or write, or have strong opinions, and were thought to have only one true function, which was to marry and have children. Still, I took heart when Coralie had the courage to see her nanny/housekeeper/mum out of the house, knowing that she would stay behind to face her fathers wrath. All in all, a very engrossing story that will be of interest to anyone who wonders about the birth of labor unions and sufferage movements of the early 20th century, and to women who are interested in the lives of those who were considered "freaks" and who went on display in circuses and other venues. An A-, and a happy kudos to Hoffman for getting The Dovekeepers made into a mini-series.

Kristin Cashore's Graceling series is also about young women in their teens who are all different, and therefore have to find their purpose and place in society. 
The first book, "Graceling" is Katsa's story. "Graces" are what people in this realm call a particularly strong talent or ability, such as telepathy, enormous strength, or even the ability to see long distances or never miss with an arrow. Those who possess extraordinary abilities have one eye that's one color and the other is another color, and they're called "Gracelings." Unfortunately, in the kingdom that Katsa lives in, the king has thugs who 'discover' graces that are useful and then enslave the gracelings and use them for nefarious purposes. Katsa's grace, she believes, is killing, because that's what the king forces her to do, even before she becomes a teenager. Life as the king's enforcer and assassin palls for Katsa, and she soon discovers that her real grace is not for killing, but for survival. She also comes upon a graced lord who is her equal in battle, and romance begins to insinuate itself into her life. Katsa helps save a princess, Bitterblue, from her horrific father, who is king only because he has the "grace" of being able to control people with his words in a limited kind of telepathy that clouds minds and makes people believe he's not the psychopathic monster that he has become. Katsa and her lover Po's adventures are riveting reading, and the crystal clear prose combines with the roller coaster thrills of the plot to create a book that I was not able to put down. 
So I was a bit put off to learn that the second book, "Fire" was supposedly about Leck, the psychopathic monster king and his origins. It turns out that, while Leck was in the novel and we learn more about him, he's not the focus at all. The novel's protagonist is Fire, a young woman who is the daughter of a king even more monsterous than Leck, because he's fully psychic and able to easily get into people's minds and control them and change them into whatever he wants them to be. Of course, this makes him extremely beautiful, power-mad, arrogant and cruel, and while his daughter is just as powerful, she's eventually the only one who can stop his reign of terror. Fire has hair of every shade of red, gold and pink, and is so beautiful that, like her father, strange monster creatures that fly or crawl or swim are attracted to her presence as prey whenever she steps outside. After her father's death, Fire feels shunned for her powers, and spends a lot of time hiding indoors. She refuses to use her telepathic and empathetic abilities to harm others or to read their minds without their consent. Still, she is compelled to become involved in political problems when her nation is at threat of war with several other nations. In the process, she meets one prince whose mind is unavailable to her, and finds herself falling in love with him as a result. Leck is disposed of at the end of the book, or so it would appear, until readers encounter the tale of Queen Bitterblue in the third book of the series. Bitterblue takes place after Bitterblue's father Leck has been killed,(after a nightmarish 35 years as king) and her kingdom is in a shambles. While she was rescued by Katsa and Po, and put on the throne at age 10, Bitterblue has not been allowed to learn, 8 years later, of how the terrible killings and molestations her father conducted had such dire repercussions with her people and especially those who serve her in the castle. There are a number of illiterates, there are whole towns with buildings that are in a state of decay, and there's a river full of bones of her father's victims, plus no one wants to talk about the hatred and resentment people carry for her father's killings and his misuse of everyone. However, the castle librarian, known as Death (and pronounced, for some odd reason, to rhyme with teeth) has a photographic memory and is attempting to reproduce, by hand, all the books that her father destroyed to keep the people ignorant of what he was doing. Bitterblue also discovers that, once she sneaks out at night, there are thieves trying to steal back the artworks created for the king that were never paid for (and the artists were killed). She encounters a thief named Sapphire (called "Saf") and starts to have romantic feelings for him, until he discovers she's not just a commoner nicknamed "Sparks" but is, really, the Queen of Monsea. Acting out of a sudden fit of anger at Bitterblue's lying to him, Saf steals her crown (though she'd just saved him from being hanged) and throws it in the river. Soon after, Bitterblue, determined to get to the bottom of why she can't seem to make a dent in the problems of her kingdom or her subjects, discovers her father's journals and her mother's cyphered embroidery, and from then on, it's a race to figure out just how deep the corruption in her kingdom goes.
Though Bitterblue seems to be a smart woman, she makes a number of mistakes that come across as stupid, but I gather that her youth is at fault for this. I was heartened to see characters from the previous two books popping up in this final novel, and Katsa and Po were just as fascinating as seen from another perspective as they were from the first person. Fire was also interesting, and enlightening, toward the end of the book, which, though it was over 600 pages, was somehow still too short. I'd recommend this series to anyone who loved Harry Potter or  those who enjoyed Carrie Jone's dark pixies series, or lovers of fantasy with kick-butt heroines. An unreserved A, and a plea for Cashore to PLEASE write more books in this series.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day Mix

Happy Valentine's Day! Of course, what is not to love about books on this romantic day, and one of my favorite genres is paranormal romance and science fiction/romance and fantasy/romance hybrids. Linnea Sinclair and Sharon Lee (and Sharon Lee and Steve Miller) write some excellent science fiction/romance books, and Shana Abe's Drakon series is a marvelous paranormal romance series full of steamy love scenes and beautiful prose.

And while we are on the topic of beauty, these are some great photos of beautiful librarians:
'This Is What a Librarian Looks Like'
For those who still cling to the outdated cliche; of librarians as
cranky, shushing killjoys, Salon's "This Is What a Librarian Looks Like"
feature offered a counter-image in the form of Kyle Cassidy's
photographs, which were taken last month American Library Association's
Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia.

"I realized I had a stereotype in my mind of what a librarian looked
like, which is one of the reasons I wanted to do this project. Whenever
I think something is true, I'm often wrong," Cassidy said. "I tend to
think of librarians as the ones I know from my public library and from
school. But there are librarians who are researchers and archivists
doing extraordinarily technical work. There are librarians who work in
specialized fields who have to know about archaeology, for example, or
medicine or research science. The field was broader than I had gone in
there thinking."

Ingrid Abrams, a librarian at Brooklyn Public Library who participated
in the project, added: "If you haven't been in a library since you were
a little kid, or maybe have only seen libraries in movies, you might
think we're all a bunch of humorless, shushing curmudgeons. The truth
is, we're a variety of ages. We're every race, ethnicity and religious
background imaginable. We can be the type who wears a suit and tie every
day or someone like me, who has pink hair and dresses in bright colors.
Not that any part of how we look really matters, but if the only
librarian you've ever seen is the librarian ghost from the first scene
of Ghostbusters, I assure you we're a really dedicated and friendly

Seattle was, a year or two ago, named the most literate city, but now the "other" Washington, on the East Coast, has somehow outstripped us. Still, Seattle came in second, which isn't a bad thing. Notice that the team we beat in the Superbowl this year, Denver, is number 6 on the list. Insert snarky smile here...

Washington, D.C., continued its reign as "America's most literate city
according to the annual study conducted by Central Connecticut State
University president John Miller. The study is based on data collected
from the largest cities (population 250,000 and above) in the U.S.,
including number of bookstores, educational attainment, Internet
resources, library resources, periodical publishing resources and
newspaper circulation.

The top 10 most literate cities in 2013 were:

1) Washington, D.C.
2) Seattle, Wash.      
3) Minneapolis, Minn.      
4) Atlanta, Ga. (tie)
5) Pittsburgh, Pa. (tie)
6) Denver, Colo.
7) St. Paul, Minn.
8) Boston, Mass.
9) St. Louis, Mo.
10) San Francisco, Calif.

The study measures quantity, not quality
Miller told USA Today, explaining that quality is "more subjective and
harder to verify." When people complain or question his rankings, he
counters: "Show me the data." Next year, Miller plans "to take his study
global and rank the most literate countries. He predicts that Finland
may surprise people," USA Today wrote. Among the highlights of this
year's findings:

* Parts of the "Rust Belt aren't so rusty" when it comes to public
libraries. Cleveland is No. 1, and Pittsburgh is No. 2, based on the
number of branches, volumes, circulation and staff per capita.
* Boston is No. 27 in education levels, despite being home to scores of
colleges, because of "its abysmal high school dropout rates."
* Washington, not New York (No. 16 on the overall list), scores highest
for the number of magazine and journal publishers "because of all the
trade publications devoted to politics and the federal government." 

And in news of my home state, Iowa, here's a nice bit of discussion about the importance of independent bookstores in fostering community. I wholeheartedly agree!

Despite the growth of e-books since the launch of the Kindle in 2007,
"independent bookstores have been growing [in] popularity in Iowa City,"

"I think that independent bookstores have staff that are warm, smart,
and spontaneous," said Jan Weissmiller, co-owner of Prairie Lights "We like seeing people. We don't look at this as just a job; everyone who works at Prairie Lights loves
Prairie Lights and is really curious about our customers that come in

Weissmiller added that print books still have a loyal audience: "There
is something about touching a book, writing in a book, and knowing where
you are in one. Just physically and technically, there is something that
people like about old-fashion books. There is also an awareness that
bookstores are endangered, and I think people know if they want a
bookstore, they have to support it."

Nialle Sylvan, owner of the Haunted Bookshop
"Independent bookstores are where people exchange ideas; it's where
people go to meet. It's a community location, it's very active, and that
is something that really speaks to people. And maybe people are just
remembering that books are places where beautiful things happen; we all
kind of need a little of that right now."

I've been a fan of John Scalzi for awhile now, and I am delighted to see that his humorous novel Redshirts is going to be a TV series. I am betting it will be quite popular with the science fiction nerd crowd. 

FX is teaming with producer Jon Shestack (Dan in Real Life) and
producer-director Ken Kwapis (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) and his
partner Alexandra Beattie to develop a limited series based on John
Scalzi's Hugo award-winning novel Redshirts reported. Kwapis will direct the opening episode.

"Redshirts is a madcap, hyper-meta tale," Shestack said.

Kwapis added: "If Jorge Luis Borges had been a staff writer on the
original Star Trek, he would no doubt have concocted a story like

Finally the greatest classic lit writer in America give us his wise words about love:

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Jamie Ford and "When She Woke"

I loved Jamie Ford's "Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet" which we read for my library book group, and I've also recently read and enjoyed his "Songs of Willow Frost."  From what I've read, he's been doing a grand book tour and having a great time at the Winter Institute here in Seattle.

Transforming himself into debauched, eccentric Hunter S. Thompson is all
in a day's work for novelist Jamie Ford
Outfitted in a Hawaiian-print shirt and fisherman's hat, gripping a
cigarette holder and a bottle of booze, he recently attended a costume
soiree at the Pulpwood Queen Girlfriend Weekend in East Texas, an annual gathering of authors and readers where this year's theme was "Viva Las Vegas, Baby!"

Ford has traveled from Illinois to Italy promoting his second novel,
Songs of Willow Frost, since it was
published last September. By the time he's done touting the tale, he'll
have state-hopped and ocean-crossed his way to more than 45 events,
including some in Norway. Ford is no stranger to the whirlwind schedule,
having toured extensively for his hit debut novel, Hotel on the Corner
of Bitter and Sweet.

"I say that my books have a career, I'm just along for the ride, which I
stole from Pamela Anderson," joked Ford. (The actress quipped something
similar about her breasts.)

Events for Ford's novels have ranged from a visit to a medium security
prison to a country club tea to a walking tour along Seattle streets.
One gathering drew more than 1,000 people, necessitating a
state-mandated police escort, while at another a librarian asked him to
ring her bell--literally--which was then added to a collection of signed

Making appearances is the flip side of Ford's "monastic lifestyle" as a
writer and an aspect of the job he enjoys. "To interact with readers is
really fun," he said. "I think of book events as 50% entertainment, 40%
education and 10% reading, if that. It's literary vaudeville."

During talks, he delves into the historical aspects of the novels and
shares stories behind the books. Set in Depression-era Seattle, Songs of
Willow Frost centers on a young Chinese American boy, William, who
glimpses a familiar-looking actress on screen; convinced she's his
mother, he runs away from the orphanage where he lives to track her
down. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet also takes place in
Seattle, shifting between the 1980s and the 1940s, when 12-year-old
friends Henry and Keiko are separated after she is sent to an internment
camp for Japanese Americans during World War II.

Readers are often curious to know which aspects of Ford's novels are
autobiographical. One answer is that the stories are infused with
feelings drawn from real-life circumstances. "I think authors channel
quite a bit of emotion in their work. There were father and son things
that came up in Hotel, and I just went with it," said Ford. Songs of
Willow Frost, on the other hand, is "definitely a mother/son book. I
dedicate the book to my mom. Not that it's biographical or
autobiographical, but there is a lot of emotional angst there. Without
it being a Dr. Phil moment, it comes from an emotional well somewhere."

Sometimes event attendees share their connections to the stories. Hotel
on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet has opened doors for some people once
reluctant to speak with family members about their experiences in
war-time internment camps, which changed when they read the book
together. Ford was even invited to a reunion of former internees of Camp
Minidoka, depicted in the novel, where "Don't Fence Me In" was a darkly
comic selection on the karaoke repertoire.
At one of Ford's appearances, a woman announced that the figure in the
frontispiece photo in Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is her
aunt, Mae Yanagi. The identity of the little girl shown in the image,
which is housed at the National Archives, hadn't previously been known.
Mae and her family have since joined Ford at signings in the Sacramento
area, where she lives. Another memorable moment took place when a woman
approached Ford at an event to share that like William in Songs of
Willow Frost, she had grown up at the Sacred Heart Orphanage in Seattle,
abandoned by a mother who couldn't afford to provide for her and her

Inquiring minds also want to know how life has changed for Ford, a
former advertising executive, since he became a bestselling author. "I
think that's a funny question because I'm like, 'Is my life supposed to
change?'" he said. "You pull back the curtain, it's not quite so
glamorous. I still have to pick up dog poop in the backyard." When he's
not on the road, Ford is at home in Montana playing "Mr. Mom" to a
blended family that includes six teenagers.

A self-described "geeky kid" who logged a lot of time in a Carnegie
library while growing up, Ford is right at home in bookish venues. "I
visit places I like to be even when I'm not traveling. I could spend
time in fewer airports, but I could be in a different bookstore or
library every day and be quite happy," he said. "I love talking about
books. Not just my books, anyone's books."

Regardless of the locales where Ford appears, audience members from
Norway to Kentucky share a common tie. "The interesting thing I've found
is that readers are readers, whether they have southern accents or
Boston accents or they're Seattle hipsters or they're homeless or in a
prison," said Ford. "Reading is a beautiful common denominator. They all
read for the same reason, for entertainment and escape, but also to
enlarge their appreciation of the human condition." --Shannon McKenna
Schmidt, Shelf Awareness
I've just finished "When She Woke" by Hillary Jordan this past Monday, and I was surprised at how much more I enjoyed it than I enjoyed the book on which it was based, "The Scarlett Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
I'd read Scarlett Letter in 9th grade, of course, and I found myself being rather frustrated with Hester Pryne, because she seemed so gullible. Looking back, though, I had a rather jaundiced view of men and relationships because my parents where having troubles, and because my mother insisted on treating me as if I were her friend and confidant and not her daughter, I had to hear about all the sexual foibles and affairs of not only my parents, but everyone else's parents, including the town fathers and ministers and teachers, which made social interactions tortuously embarrassing. I just could not understand why women allowed men to victimize them, and to make them pay the price for the after effects of sexual relations, which to me seemed to be something that was mutual, so men should have to pay an equal price socially, morally and physically, in terms of taking care of children resulting from the union.
At any rate, in When She Woke, Jordan has taken her cue from Margaret Atwood's "Handmaids Tale" and put Hester Pryne into a future world where the religious right has taken over America and set women's rights back to the turn of the 20th century, meaning no reproductive rights (no abortion or birth control) and few legal rights. So when Hannah, the protagonist, has an affair with a popular evangelist minister who is married, she seeks an illegal abortion because she knows that if the child were born and the affair exposed, his career would be over and he's have to divorce his wife who became barren because of an epidemic STD that he gave to her early in their relationship. Here's the flap blurb: When She Woke, tells the story of a stigmatized woman struggling to navigate an America of a not-too-distant future, where the line between church and state has been eradicated and convicted felons are no longer imprisoned and rehabilitated but chromed—their skin color is genetically altered to match the class of their crimes—and then released back into the population to survive as best they can. Hannah is a Red; her crime is murder (abortion is considered murder).
Of course, Hannah goes through terrible trials, nearly being killed by a group who call themselves "The Fist of Christ" who make it their mission to kill women who are chromed, especially the "reds" because these men do not deem them worthy to live, and because they are psychopaths looking for a way to 'legally' rape and murder women. She goes to a "redemption" center, which is something like "rehab" with a religious nutjob in charge, and as soon as she is thrown out for showing compassion to another chrome who has gone mad, she finds the resistance movement and, with a friend Kayla in tow, tries to find her way to Canada, which hasn't reverted back to religious fundamentalism.
Though I loved watching Hannah become more self-assured and self aware, I found her constant adoration of the hypocritical minister to be annoying. I just felt that her martyring herself in order to keep him in a job was ridiculous, especially when he told her that he wanted to come out about their relationship and divorce his wife and marry her. She didn't want that, however, and felt that he was doing so much good ministering to the poor and suffering of the world, that her sacrifice of her life was necessary because she wasn't as important as he was. Arg.
Though I found that frustrating, I was glad that things ended well for Hannah and her friend Kayla, and I felt that a lot of the questions brought to the fore about religion and politics and women's rights were dealt with in a challenging and intelligent fashion. I'd give this book an A-, and I would recommend it to those who read Handmaids Tale and/or the Scarlett Letter and were as chilled by those scenarios as I was.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Happy 9th Birthday, Dear Blog

Today, Superbowl Sunday, 9 years ago I was bored by all the football on TV, so I decided to start a blog about my passion, books, reading and authors.
This year, my hometown team, the Seattle Seahawks, WON the Superbowl, so I was watching the game instead of writing a blog entry.
So, YAY Seahawks, and it's about time we had a winning team!
And sorry that I haven't had the chance to write an entry until now.
I think I've discussed a wide variety of books, people and whatever came my way during the past 9 years, and I am pretty proud of my nearly 400 posts to date.
Meanwhile, I've survived 3 straight days of Crohn's flares, and I've also managed to get my closet excavated so that I could put two of my bookshelves in there, and attempt to get it to look like this:

I hope that someday I will be able to afford to have one of these in the living room in front of the bay window and also have my bedroom closet transformed to look somewhat like this (without the green paint of course).
Oh, and I am hoping to get another box of books in the mail tomorrow, which will make a small dent in my 2014 Wishlist.
That Wishlist includes:
Jeeves and the Wedding Bells
The Invention of Wings
The Lost Girls of Rome
Eighty Days
Fever Moon
Stone Cold
Dad is Fat
The Museum of Extraordinary Things
All seasons of "A Bit of Fry and Laurie" on DVD
and the latest Atticus the Druid tale from Kevin Hearne, as soon as it's available.

Sharon Lee's latest Carousel book is on its way to me, as is the Ransom Riggs "Peculiar Children" sequel, plus a book about cats for my Mum, and a story of the War that I don't remember the name of, as well as Susanna Kearsley's Every Secret Thing.
So far, it's been an exciting month full of changes, and hopefully it will continue to be a great reading month.