Monday, October 13, 2014

The Martian Movie, The Night Manager, Poison Fruit by Jacqueline Carey, Fool's Gold by Phillippa Gregory, Alchemystic by Anton Strout and Wings By Aprilynne Pike

I adore Hugh Laurie, and have been watching him since his days on Blackadder Goes Forth! Of course, I watched him in House and A Bit of Fry and Laurie and Bertie and Jeeves tales. Now it appears that handsome Hugh and gorgeous Hiddleston will be together in an adaptation of a John Le Carre novel. I can hardly wait to see it. 

Hugh Laurie and Tom Hiddleston will star in BBC's television adaptation
of John le Carre's The Night Manager
"with WME fielding multiple offers from U.S. networks for a
straight-to-series pickup," according to the Hollywood Reporter. Ink
Factory (A Most Wanted Man) is producing, with David Farr (Hanna,
Spooks) writing the script.

My son Nick and I both read the Martian, and LOVED it, but I am not really happy that they have Matt Damon playing the young protagonist, mainly because Matt isn't that young anymore. But I am still thrilled that they're bringing this excellent SF novel to the screen!

Jeff Daniels (Newsroom) is joining the cast of Ridley Scott's
"high-profile sci-fi movie" The Martian
based on the novel by Andy Weir, the Hollywood Reporter wrote. Matt
Damon stars in the film, with Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig and Kate
Mara "circling the project" as potential cast members.

This is a hilarious video and so much fun to watch!
"When the computer says we have 5 copies, but we can't seem to findthem." Buzzfeed featured "12 awkward bookseller moments
noting that "no booksellers, books, readers, or bears were harmed in the
making of this list. Unless you count feeling awkward as being harmed.
In which case, yeah, there's a good amount of that."

Poison Fruit is the third and final book in Jacqueline Carey's excellent "Agent of Hel" series, and it just debuted this past week. I've read all of Carey's Kushiel's series, and all of her Santa Olivia books, too. Carey is a true storytelling genius, able to create a world that engages the reader from the first page, while also writing believable characters that make the story glide along on plots that are swift and sure. Carey's prose is deliciously evocative without being sentimental or drippy, and yet her stories shine with heartfelt emotion. Here's the blurb: 
The Pemkowet Visitors Bureau has always promoted paranormal tourism—even if it has downplayed the risks (hobgoblins are unpredictable). It helps that the town is presided over by Daisy Johanssen, who as Hel’s liaison is authorized by the Norse goddess of the dead to keep Pemkowet under control. Normally, that’s easier to do in the winter, when bracing temperatures keep folks indoors.
But a new predator is on the prowl, and this one thrives on nightmares. Daisy is on her trail and working intimately with her partner and sometime lover from the Pemkowet PD, sexy yet unavailable werewolf Cody Fairfax. But even as the creature is racking up innocent victims, a greater danger looms on Pewkowet’s horizon.

As a result of a recent ghost uprising, an unknown adversary—represented by a hell-spawn lawyer with fiery powers of persuasion—has instigated a lawsuit against the town. If Pemkowet loses, Hel’s sovereignty will be jeopardized, and the fate of the eldritch community will be at stake. The only one who can prevent it is Daisy—but she’s going to have to confront her own worst nightmare to do it.
  Though I was thrilled that Daisy had to confront her fears and better yet, confront her choice between Cody (Officer Down Low) and Stefan (The Ghoul/Outcast), I was a bit alarmed at how swiftly the romantic resolution happened after Persephonie's war. It seemed that Daisy and Stefan just dallied with one another, when her heart belonged to Cody all along (so why did she sleep with Stefan if not to be in a real relationship with him?). I also was confused by the fact that Hel herself never seemed to take any sort of action to protect the world tree. She was supposed to pit herself against Persephonie to retain hold of her domain, and instead she just sent out her hound, who guarded the tree anyway, and a couple of frost giants while Daisy's crew of monsters and friends did all the heavy lifting. Hel seemed to be a figurehead more than an active monarch, and therefore her threats of battling until the end seemed weak, since she herself wasn't prepared to actually DO anything or use any powers she may possess.
It was our heroine Daisy who had to bargain with an Angel (who was the messenger for God) to renounce her heritage and set everything to rights. I also didn't buy that her father the demon was pretty much okay with that. I would think a demon would be angry about losing his daughter and her influence on earth, and I also don't see how he would have tolerated his daughter mouthing off to him about messing with the wrong woman, her mother...what did that even mean? That she had the stones to raise Daisy to be a bad-ass? I found Daisy's talk with the Angel to be also somewhat disrespectful, in that she wasn't even polite enough to say please and thank you to God's messenger. When people have fallen on their knees and wept at the sight of an angel, suddenly Daisy's all business. But I still enjoyed reading this novel, so much so that I read through it in one day. It deserves an A, but I would recommend that those who enjoyed the first two books in the series keep themselves braced for a roller coaster ending that was a bit too slight and quick, but still satisfying.
Fool's Gold is the third book in the Order of Darkness series by historical fiction author Phillippa Gregory. Here's the blurb:
All that glitters may well be gold in the third book in the Order of Darkness quartet filled with intrigue, mystery, and romance, from #1 New York Times bestselling author Philippa Gregory.
Tasked to expose a coin counterfeiting scheme, Luca and Isolde travel to Venice just in time for Carnival. Amid the masks, parties, and excitement, the romantic attraction between the two reaches a new intensity that neither can deny.
Their romance is interrupted by the arrival of the alchemist, who may be the con artist they’ve been looking for. But as Luca starts to investigate the original charge, the alchemist reveals his true goal—he plans to create the Philosopher’s Stone, a mystical substance said to be capable of turning base metals into gold and producing the elixir of life.
With pounds of undocumented gold coins and an assistant who claims to be decades older than she appears, all evidence points to the possibility that the alchemist has succeeded in his task. But as Luca and Isolde get closer to the truth, they discover that reality may be more sinister than they ever could have imagined.
Luca and Isolde seem to be more in love than ever in book 3 of the series, and I can't imagine how the author will resolve the issue of Luca being promised to the church and a life of celibacy while Isolde needs to reclaim her estate from her evil brother and then make an advantageous marriage into the Italian aristocracy.I was also concerned that the Jewish people were conflated with evil counterfitting alchemists and witches. I know that throughout history, when anything went wrong, Jews were thrown out of towns and ghettos and often harmed or killed by townspeople in pogroms. But the readers are left to see that the young girl is actually an old "hag" and the alchemist with her have not only created a homonculus, they've created fools gold that turns into bloody mush after a certain period of time. Therefore they nearly destroyed the Venice economy and yet Luca's servant Frieze helps them get away with it on Luca's orders.I don't see how Luca could have helped them escape in good conscience, though he followed his bosses order to buy up all the false gold because apparently there is a small amount of real gold inside. There were a number of annoying inconsistent moments in the book, but I would still give it a B, and recommend it to those who have read the first two books of this YA series.

I read Alchemystic on the recommendation of a friend, and while I thought it was going to be a series I would want to follow (magic masons who bring gargoyles to life? What is not to love?)I found the female protagonist, Alexandra Belarus to be too immature, annoying, ignorant and impulsive/reckless.Here is the blurb:
Alexandra Belarus is a struggling artist living in New York City, even though her family is rich in real estate, including a towering Gothic Gramercy Park building built by her great-great-grandfather. But the truth of her bloodline is revealed when she is attacked on the street and saved by an inhumanly powerful winged figure. A figure who knows the Belarus name…
Lexi’s great-great-grandfather was a Spellmason—an artisan who could work magic on stone. But in his day, dark forces conspired against him and his, so he left a spell of protection on his family. Now that Lexi is in danger, the spell has awoken her ancestor’s most trusted and fearsome creation: a gargoyle named Stanis.
Lexi and Stanis are equally surprised to find themselves bound to each other. But as they learn to work together, they realize that only united can they save the city they both love…
Lexi, (short for Alexandra) has an adopted brother who is a complete jerk, selfish and cruel, who tries to force Lexi to give up her grandfather's spellmason books to the psychopathic Kejetan, a ruler from the past in Lithuania who has promised her brother immortality as long as she gives up the books and the secrets to spellmasonry. Lexi fo course does this, and gives up Stanis, even though he is far more valuable to her family than her obnoxious brother. She also has two tremendously annoying friends, a cringing coward named Marshall and a ballerina friend named Rory who is also apparently adept at martial arts. Though Rory actually battles the bad guys and helps save Lexi from her impulsiveness, Marshall just seems to gasp and whine his way through the book, proving himself nothing but a liability. I found myself hoping that Stanis the gargoyle would drop him off the balcony and put an end to his uselessness. Still, having a coward who still swaggers around is something of a "Scooby gang" trope for YA fantasy novels and TV shows, so I would assume that Marshall is in the series to stay. Which is one reason I won't be continuing to read this series, which was a disappointment to me. The prose was juvenile, the characters annoying and stereotypical and the plot was stop/start jumpy, not at all smooth and clean. I'd give this book a C+, and recommend it to people who like to put their brains on hold when they read.

Wings by Aprilynne Pike was another recommended book that I picked up at Powells, and I am glad that I did. Unlike the the first of the Spellmason Chronicles, Wings is the first book in a series that doesn't condescend to the reader and has characters that are multi-faceted and fascinating, rather than cliches of teenage annoyance. Here's Publisher's Weekly's blurb:
Pike's debut novel-a faerie story with a touch of Arthurian legend-offers a botanical twist on the genre. Laurel Sewell, the new girl in town, discovers a strange "zit" on her back, which blooms into a flower. With the help of her friend and growing love interest, David, with whom she entrusts this information, Laurel finds out that she is a faerie, and that faeries are really highly evolved plants (Pike gives readers hints: Laurel prefers to have lunch outside and eats little besides vegetables and Sprite). Tamani, her sexy faerie guardian, completes the love triangle, as he protects Laurel from encroaching dark forces and fills in the blanks about her past. As Laurel and David never muster much chemistry, her rocky journey of self-discovery is the main draw ("It makes me want to go home and go to sleep and wake up to find that all of this is a dream. That the flower, the bump, even public school never happened"). Pike's novel mythology should win fans for this book, billed as the first in a series. 
I disagree with PW that there wasn't any chemistry between David and Laurel, I believed that there was plenty of chemistry between the two, and more between Laurel and Tam, who obviously loves her. I found the fact that her mother and father (adoptive, of course) had to be drugged regularly so that they didn't question the strange nature of their daughter to be rather poignient, yet it still seemed a little far-fetched that they never noticed that she was a plant who can't bleed or eat anything but other plants and soda pop. But this didn't detract too much from what was otherwise a very charming story. I read it in 4 hours flat, which I believe is a good thing. The prose was clean and light, the plot like a bubbling brook, zoomed right along and the characters seemed very realistic, in their highs and lows and yearnings. I enjoyed the changes in fairy mythology that Pike has written, and I also enjoyed the "blossoming" as an alternative to menstruation. Would that we all could have flowers on our backs instead of blood in our uterus. I'd give this lovely fantasy an A, and recommend it to those who enjoyed Jones' "Need" pixie series.

No comments: