Sunday, August 24, 2014

Castle, NZ Poetry Plus Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch, Moth and Spark by Anne Leonard and A Song for My Mother by Kat Martin

I just adore Nathan Fillion, who played Mal Reynolds on the late lamented science fiction program Firefly, and now he plays Richard Castle on a mystery/cop program called Castle that I've been watching since the first season. Now all the books that Richard Castle has supposedly "written" that are actually out on shelves are about to become TV: Fictional Art Imitates Fiction

"It's a case of life imitating art, or television imitating TV fiction said about ABC putting in development a show based on the
Derrick Storm series of mystery novels written by fictional author
Richard Castle, played by Nathan Fillion on the ABC drama Castle. ABC
Studios is producing the project, "about a PI-turned-spy working for the

David Yates "is back in the world of Harry Potter," according to the
Hollywood Reporter, which reported that the man who directed four of the
eight Harry Potter movies for Warner Bros. (Harry Potter and the Order
of the Phoenix, the Half-Blood Prince and the two-part Deathly Hallows)
"is in negotiations with the studio to direct Fantastic Beasts and Where
the new Potter-based franchise the studio is hoping to launch" with J.K.
Rowling, who is writing the screenplay.

I love poetry, too. And this is lovely:
Robert Gray on New Zealand National Poetry Day:
Then I follow a new trail: The Sarah Broom Poetry Prize
spirit of imagination, freedom and determination" that marked the life
of poet Sarah Broom, who died in 2013. She wrote this

and if, after all,
when the world
starts to stray from me,
like a grazing animal,
nonchalant, diverted,
frayed rope trailing,

if you are still here
and still listening,

then, if you can

sing to me 

I've read about 6 books in the past two weeks, but I am only going to review three here, mainly because the others were not really worth the review time. I'm going to start with A Song For My Mother by Kat Martin because it was a skinny little volume that I read in two hours and nearly reversed my ban on book burning for. I was so insulted by the horrible sexism and the way that the protagonist and her mother were portrayed that I was nauseous by the time the book came to a close. Here's the blurb, which is full of hype and lies. This novel is as far from charming as you can get.

In this charming novel, Kat Martin brings readers back to the town of Dreyerville for another compelling story of love, loss, hope, and second chances…Years after running away with her boyfriend in her junior year of high school, Marly Hanson returns to Dreyerville at the request of her daughter, Katie, who has recently been treated for brain cancer. Katie has never met her grandmother, Marly’s mother, Winnie. But Marly and Winnie have been estranged for years, and confronting the past for each of them is painful. The homecoming is bittersweet, but revisiting the conflict between them is crucial if Marly and her mother are ever to find the bond they shared before Marly left Dreyerville. To complicate matters, living next door to Winnie is handsome sheriff and widower Reed Bennett, and his son, Ham, who is close to Katie’s age. Ham and Katie become fast friends, while the parents find their attraction to one another going deeper than mere friendship. But Marly’s time in Dreyerville is limited and risking her heart isn’t something she’s willing to do.

As the days slip past, and though she tries to avoid it, Marly and Reed become more deeply involved. Can she risk loving the handsome sheriff and giving up the future she worked so hard to forge for herself and her daughter? Can she make a life in Dreyerville after what happened all those years ago?
Will Marly finally realize that her true destiny and ultimate happiness lies in coming to terms with her past?
UGH, where do I start? The big secret of Marly's past is that her father was an alcoholic abusive asshat who nearly raped her and beat both her and her mother so severely that they were hospitalized. "Winnie" Marly's mother, is a poor excuse for a woman, because she didn't do what any decent mother would do and protect her child and throw the abusive bum out. She lived with him until he died, and then somehow expected her daughter to just forgive her for not making a safe home for her child, and for letting her run away and get married at a very young age to a total creep because that was safer than being at home with the old man. Winnie justifies her total failure as a parent by telling her daughter the AWFUL TRUTH that her father's mother (Winnies mother in law, Marly's grandmother) was a, GASP, prostitute, and that since her son had to grow up in a house of sin, watching his mother get paid for sex, he naturally grew up to be an evil abusing bastard who wants to rape his only daughter. Because, you know, anyone raised by a hooker is automatically going to become the next Jeffrey Dahmer....not.
I'm not a fan of prostitution, heaven knows, I find porn and prostitution to be vile and disgusting (and degrading to women) and I do not agree with people who say that there is nothing wrong with women selling themselves, and that 'sex worker' is a valid career for a woman or a man. It's wrong, it should remain illegal and I think that men need to stop seeing women as products that they can own, buy, sell or abuse.But while I believe that selling yourself is wrong, I don't think that children of prostitutes are automatically wired to become evil abusers and alcoholics. At some point, once they are nearing adulthood, young men or women need to realize that their choices in life are their own, and that their choices come with consequences.There are plenty of men and women out there who had truly awful childhoods with parents who were horribly cruel and abusive, and even kids who didn't have parents, but instead spent their childhood in foster homes, and a number of them have lived good lives and had great careers. Of course, the opposite can also be true, there are kids that had perfectly decent parents who grew up to do terrible things. My point is that using your mother's profession, shameful though it may be, as an excuse to abuse your family is ridiculous, lame and pathetic. But Marly, who seems fairly stupid once she gets back to her hometown, ends up going to church with her mother, falling in love with the town sheriff and dumping her career up North to marry and make babies with the sheriff and totally forgive her mother, because "she did the best that she could." That's total BS, she did NOT stand up for herself or her child, and allowed a total scumbag to run her life and ruin her relationship with her daughter, her family and her health. I found her actions unforgivable, and I found Marly's ability to just let it all go and settle back into her small town life unrealistic. The romance was syrupy and the other mom in the book allows someone she's never met to "watch" her 3 year old, and then is surprised when this crazy old lady runs off with her baby! Ugh! Stupid!
This novel deserves a D at best, and I couldn't recommend it to anyone with a brain, because it was just too awful. 

Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch is the second book in the Gentlemen Bastards series, and this one, though just as hefty as the first one (The Lies of Locke Lamora) takes place on the high seas, and involves Locke and Jean learning how to become pirates, and eventually settling in with a female-captained pirate crew. Here is the blurb:

In his highly acclaimed debut, The Lies of Locke Lamora, Scott Lynch took us on an adrenaline-fueled adventure with a band of daring thieves led by con artist extraordinaire Locke Lamora. Now Lynch brings back his outrageous hero for a caper so death-defying, nothing short of a miracle will pull it off.
After a brutal battle with the underworld that nearly destroyed him, Locke and his trusted sidekick, Jean, fled the island city of their birth and landed on the exotic shores of Tal Verrar to nurse their wounds. But even at this westernmost edge of civilization, they can’t rest for long—and are soon back to what they do best: stealing from the undeserving rich and pocketing the proceeds for themselves
This time, however, they have targeted the grandest prize of all: the Sinspire, the most exclusive and heavily guarded gambling house in the world. Its nine floors attract the wealthiest clientele—and to rise to the top, one must impress with good credit, amusing behavior…and excruciatingly impeccable play. For there is one cardinal rule, enforced by Requin, the house’s cold-blooded master: it is death to cheat at any game at the Sinspire.
Brazenly undeterred, Locke and Jean have orchestrated an elaborate plan to lie, trick, and swindle their way up the nine floors…straight to Requin’s teeming vault. Under the cloak of false identities, they meticulously make their climb—until they are closer to the spoils than ever.
But someone in Tal Verrar has uncovered the duo’s secret. Someone from their past who has every intention of making the impudent criminals pay for their sins. Now it will take every ounce of cunning to save their mercenary souls. And even that may not be enough.…
One of the great things about Lynch's books is that he provides plot twists and turns when you least expect them, and somehow manages to keep you on the edge of your seat throughout the battles and adventures, though you know that you have 760 pages of action to read through. I felt that there could have been some serious trimming in this book, however, as Lynch got a bit carried away with all the nautical jargon and the intricacies of being a pirate. There was so much detail on everything from ship size to ropes and sails and knots and what to loot and what not to, customs and understandings and rules, etc, that I nearly fell asleep a couple of times during the novel.If Lynch took out all that unnecessary nautical narration, I'd bet he'd have shaved at least 150 pages off of this hefty book that even in paperback is like a brick. Still, even with all that, I loved Locke's brilliance in getting them into and out of situations with such conniving skill, and I also loved the fact that Jean fell in love and was allowed to have fun and have dreams that didn't include spending his life as Locke's "muscle." It seems to me that the bad guys are getting more vicious in each successive novel, and now with Red Skies, Lynch has done what Jim Butcher does so well, he's left us on a cliffhanger, with Locke and Jean battered and sick and without funds, but not without hope. I've ordered the third book in the series, The Republic of Thieves, which I should have in hand by Wednesday. All in all, I'd give this book a solid B+, and recommend it to fans of pirates and thieves and all things nautical.

Moth and Spark by Anne Leonard was reminiscent of Lauren Willig's "Pink Carnation" flowers series married with Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern series. Willig's books are all 18th century romantic adventure/spy mysteries, and the Dragonriders of Pern are all romantic fantasy mixed with a bit of science fiction. What this blend ends up giving readers is a slow-starting romantic fantasy that grows more complex and fascinating as it gains steam. Here's the blurb:
A prince with a quest. A commoner with mysterious powers. And dragons that demand to be freed—at any cost.
Prince Corin has been chosen to free the dragons from their bondage to the Empire, but dragons aren’t big on directions. They have given him some of their power, but none of their knowledge. No one, not the dragons nor their riders, is even sure what keeps the dragons in the Empire’s control. Tam, sensible daughter of a well-respected doctor, had no idea before she arrived in the capital that she is a Seer, gifted with visions. When the two run into each other (quite literally) in the library, sparks fly and Corin impulsively asks Tam to dinner. But it’s not all happily ever after. Never mind that the prince isn’t allowed to marry a commoner: war is coming to Caithen. Torn between Corin’s quest to free the dragons and his duty to his country, the lovers must both figure out how to master their powers in order to save Caithen. With a little help from a village of secret wizards and a rogue dragonrider, they just might pull it off.
Though Tam was a bit too willing to cede her power and her life to her beloved prince, she still had backbone and a lot of common sense, which I appreciated. There is nothing that irritates me more as a reader than a protagonist who is just too stupid to live, or one who becomes stupid once they lay eyes on the man or woman of their dreams. The prose in this novel is a bit formal, but it becomes easier as you go along, and the characters are nicely drawn. The plot glides along on dragons wings, and with the exception of a slow bit at the front of the book, the story is sublime and swiftly told. The HEA is not syrupy or stupid, and the heroes and heroines have doubts and flaws, just like real people. All in all, I feel this novel deserves an A, and I'd recommend it to all those who enjoy well-wrought romantic fantasy with a dragon element...yes, that means you, George RR Martin Game of Thrones fans!

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