Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Hillary Clinton in Seattle, Shattered by Kevin Hearne, One Day by David Nicholls, and the Glass Sentence by SE Grove

I've long been a fan of Hillary Clinton (and her husband), and the fact that her book signing drew so many people to the U Bookstore is evidence that I am not alone, and that I'm not the only one who thinks it is time that America had a female president. Though I've not read her book yet, I have seen her interviewed several times, and she's just so smart and delightful that I hope, though she says she is still deciding, that she will run for president in 2016. I would vote for her in a heartbeat.

Smooth Signing in Seattle for "Hard Choices"
The fans started gathering on Tuesday evening; by the time Hillary
Rodham Clinton showed up the next day to sign copies of her new book,
Hard Choices (Simon & Schuster), lines of people wound through two
levels of University Book Store in Seattle, Wash.
Some 1,200 customers purchased wristbands to get a book and a chance to
shake Clinton's hand and say a few words. No selfies, though--the Secret
Service didn't allow that, and Boomer the bomb-sniffing dog and the
body-wanding men were out in force.

One thing that was apparent, aside from the eagerness to see Hillary,
was the camaraderie of the crowd after the long wait. Bookstore
employees handed out bottled water, the sleep-deprived descended on the
coffee shop, and good humor abounded.

General books manager Pam Cady said that every waking moment in the week
had been about Clinton. The Secret Service started their reconnaissance
Friday morning, and while the store has hosted Jimmy Carter many times
and Bill Clinton once, this was a little more intense. All presidents
are rock stars, but the energy was off the charts. And happily, there
were no crazy episodes. Cady said, "The only quirky thing about the
entire event is that it wasn't quirky! Everyone had such a good
time--we're still hearing the love from our customers and her team. Even
the press was happy with how smoothly everything went."   

Hillary was gracious and "present" with everyone. Cady used a sports
analogy: "She never took a play off. But the thing that struck me the
most was how all the young women in line were so touched by her.
Hundreds of young women left with tears in their eyes after shaking
hands with her--and in the few moments she had with them she made them
feel that they could make a difference in the world and that they
mattered and what they brought to the table mattered." When Cady met
Clinton at BEA last month, her immediate impression was, "You will never
find a person more capable of running the world." The customers in line
seemed to agree. --Marilyn Dahl 

This is true, especially when you consider the value of a real, solid book that you can hold in your hands and love forever.
The Beauty of 'Real Books in Real Bookshops'
"Imagine getting to the end of your days with a lifetime of reading
behind you and there being nothing to show for all those experiences
save a slab of plastic, the contents of which are only licensed to you
and could be cut off on a whim at any moment.... Thankfully, while
there's still beauty in the world real books in real bookshops will
remain part of our lives."

--Chris Neill in a Sunday Express piece headlined "Why I'm so happy to

I did this, and the result is that my son has the highest reading comprehension score in the state of Washington, and is at 99 percent nationally.  So yes, it works. Just like it worked when my mother read to me from infancy until I learned to read to myself at age 4.

Doctors Prescribe Reading Aloud to Children from Birth

Under a new policy announced this week by the American Academy of
Pediatrics, doctors will advise parents to read aloud to their infants
from birth
The New York Times reported the decision evolves from "the increased
recognition that an important part of brain development occurs within
the first three years of a child's life, and that reading to children
enhances vocabulary and other important communication skills."

The group, representing 62,000 pediatricians across the country, "is
asking its members to become powerful advocates for reading aloud, every
time a baby visits the doctor," the Times noted. "It should be there
each time we touch bases with children," said Dr. Pamela High, who wrote
the new policy.
 The three books I've finished in the last 10 days are very different from one another, yet all deal with life, death, finding oneself and finding someone to love. 
Shattered is the 7th book in the Iron Druid series by the funny and wonderful Kevin Hearne, whom I met a couple of years ago at the University Bookstore in Seattle. Atticus O Sullivan, the two thousand year old druid who is the protagonist of Hearne's books, along with his dog Oberon, is like the Celtic version of Harry Dresden, if Dresden were written by Neil Gaiman and Jim Butcher in collaboration. If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you know how I adore Harry Dresden, so you'd realize that when I say that Atticus is on a par with Chicago's favorite wizard, that's quite a compliment. Here's the blurb:
"For nearly two thousand years, only one Druid has walked the Earth—Atticus O’Sullivan, the Iron Druid, whose sharp wit and sharp sword have kept him alive as he’s been pursued by a pantheon of hostile deities. Now he’s got company.

Atticus’s apprentice Granuaile is at last a full Druid herself. What’s more, Atticus has defrosted an archdruid long ago frozen in time, a father figure (of sorts) who now goes by the modern equivalent of his old Irish name: Owen Kennedy.

And Owen has some catching up to do.

Atticus takes pleasure in the role reversal, as the student is now the teacher. Between busting Atticus’s chops and trying to fathom a cell phone, Owen must also learn English. For Atticus, the jury’s still out on whether the wily old coot will be an asset in the epic battle with Norse god Loki—or merely a pain in the arse.

But Atticus isn’t the only one with daddy issues. Granuaile faces a great challenge: to exorcise a sorcerer’s spirit that is possessing her father in India. Even with the help of the witch Laksha, Granuaile may be facing a crushing defeat.

As the trio of Druids deals with pestilence-spreading demons, bacon-loving yeti, fierce flying foxes, and frenzied Fae, they’re hoping that this time, three’s a charm. "
I will have to talk some SPOILERS to note how I felt about the novel, so if you haven't read Shattered yet, skip the next few paragraphs. 
I was actually thrilled that Granuaile finally got some say in the plot of the book, even if it was only every third chapter. We had to hear from the fusty, crude and rude old archdruid every other chapter that wasn't Atticus, which became somewhat annoying as he's a sour and mean old codger who doesn't soften towards Atticus, whom he raised, until nearly the end of the book. By that time I was heartily sick of his nastiness and his focus on his belly and sex (and constantly berating poor Atticus). If it had been me writing the book, I would have killed him off in the final fae battle, and been done with it, but apparently there are things Hearne has in store for him in the 8th book. 
Granny, as I am going to call her, kicks some arse in the book, which is great, but she also makes a serious rookie mistake and nearly gets herself and her hound killed. And speaking of her hound, why is it that Orlaith sounds so stupid when compared to Oberon? Is it because she's a young dog at this point? Still, I enjoyed getting Granny's POV, separate from Atticus' and his usual dramas.  Though I was sad that some great characters died, I think that Hearne has brought his characters in line with what could and should happen when they are both out in the world fighting evil. I think a reckoning is coming for Loki, and I hope it won't be too horrendous for Granny and Atticus now that she has Loki's brand on her, and he's able to track her. At any rate, I'd give this book an A, and recommend it to Dresden File fans, Neil Gaiman fans and those who have read and enjoyed the previous 6 books.
One Day by David Nicholls wasn't at all what I expected it to be. I thought it would be a moving love story between two interesting people during a time period roughly equivalent with my own youth and college years. Not only was it not at all like that, it was not really what the blurb made it out to be: "It’s 1988 and Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley have only just met. But after only one day together, they cannot stop thinking about one another. Over twenty years, snapshots of that relationship are revealed on the same day—July 15th—of each year. Dex and Em face squabbles and fights, hopes and missed opportunities, laughter and tears. And as the true meaning of this one crucial day is revealed, they must come to grips with the nature of love and life itself."
The author has them go year by year only in the beginning, and then he adds a year or two here and there to get us close to present day as possible. Unfortunately, that's not the only flaw in this dreary, drab and dull novel. The two protagonists, Emma and Dexter, or Em and Dex as they call one another, meet after graduation and have a brief affair but decide to stay friends instead of becoming a couple. What follows is a dreadful load of whining and self loathing on the part of both Em and Dex, in that neither can seem to find their place in the world, nor can they manage to keep a decent relationship going. For Dex, this is because he's a total asshat and an alcoholic, sexist moneyed idiot who spends a majority of the novel drunk and puking on himself, when he's not having affairs with any and all women within reach. He of course then debriefs to Em, and whines to her constantly about his life, even when he's swimming in money and she's working as a waitress and is poor. the only woman he seems to value at all as a person is Em, but he doesn't seem to have the ability to understand that he actually cares for her enough to be in a real relationship, and, despite his feelings, he treats her badly and they end up estranged for several years. 
Meanwhile, Em flutters around, being a teacher and a playwright and a waitress, all while sleeping with and living with losers whom she's only attracted to because they're in love with her and spend a lot of time stroking her failing ego. That's another thing that makes this book such a stinker, no one likes themselves, and if they do, its for all the wrong reasons. Everyone's faults are played up until you find yourself wishing that they'd all commit suicide already or seek counseling or just fade away and quit whining about how pathetic their lives are. Though she's supposed to be brilliant, Em comes off as weak and wimpy and stupid, unable to actually do what she loves, writing children's books, until the final chapters of the book. But when Dex and Em FINALLY get together and things are going well, of course we can't have that, because happiness isn't allowed in "real life" or slice of life novels, so the author goes and SPOILER, kills off Em in a stupid bicycle accident. This leaves our male protagonist with the perfect excuse to slide back into being a drunken arse until the final pages of the book, when we learn that he has suddenly pulled himself out of his tailspin and is dating an employee and spending time with his daughter from his brief marriage to this horrid woman named Slyvie. 
I wanted to throw this novel against the wall and abandon it halfway through, but I kept thinking that eventually either Em or Dex would wake up and things would start to fall into place for them. I was sure things had to get better, but that was only a very brief moment in the book, and then it went back to being dull, dreary and drunk. And why is it that every British novel I've ever read has cold, disapproving parents who are total shite at the job of caring for their offspring? Why have children at all if you're going to only be cruel and distant to them? Makes not an ounce of sense to me. But then, most of this novel didn't seem to make much sense, or have a reason for existence. I am giving it a generous D, and not an F only because the plot was such that it went by at a decent pace, even if you stopped to wince in embarrassment for the characters every chapter. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who enjoys literature, romance or a good read.
The Glass Sentence by SE Grove is a steampunk style novel that reads somewhat like Phillip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" YA novels, but with fewer gruesome animal killings and more political infrastructure. There's also maps, loads of magical and fantastic maps in this post "Great Disruption" world. As with many great YA adventures, our heroine is an orphan by circumstance, in that her parents are explorers and cartographers who set out to make some discoveries after the GD, and subsequently disappear from our heroine Sophia's life for the next 10 years. Sophia is left with her uncle Shadrack, who is a master cartographer,albeit somewhat of an absent-minded father figure. Of course they have the standard mysterious housekeeper, who turns out to be a kind of refugee herself, and once Sophia encounters a boy named Theo who has escaped from the circus, things get really interesting on the character's quest journey.Unfortunately, Uncle Shadrack gets kidnapped by a crazy cult leader and is forced to tell the crazy cult leader lady where Sophia is going, because if he doesn't, he will have all his memories squeezed out of him and into the sand of an hourglass, then transferred to a map. The crazy lady is looking for the glass "tracer" map that can only be read by moonlight, which tells of where to find the carta major, or map of the world, which crazy lady longs to get her claws on it so that she can force Shadrack to change the map and send her back into her own time, before the GD. The world building in this book is extraordinary, very detailed and fascinating, as are the characters, who are full-bodied and brilliant. Though the main characters live in the late 19th century, the GD has created pockets of different times/eras throughout the world, and There re scientists of all stripe studying these eras to find out how they came to be and how to best allow the people within them to move around to other times. The pirates and botanists, princesses and thugs that Sophia encounters are all written as realistically as possible, not as throw-away side characters at all. The prose is beautiful and crisp, the plot sails along swiftly and the story itself is gripping and engrossing. I'd give this book, which is the first of a series, an A, and recommend it to those who love unique YA novels, steampunk and original world building.

No comments: