Thursday, November 06, 2014

Shout Out To Wilson's Book World, Wolf Hall movie, The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss, Boy Proof by Cecil Castellucci and The Hearts of Horses by Molly Gloss

I lived in Florida for nearly 5 years back in the 80s, and the bookstore that I visited most often was Wilson's Book World, which is in St Petersburg, where I lived for a couple of years. I have to mention that the store owner was quite the hottie, and that talking books with him was part of the lure. Still, I remember going into a library in Largo, Florida and weeping at the empty shelves and the careless attitude of the librarian, who didn't seem to mind that they had so few books. So if you were going to be a bibliophile in the Tampa Bay area, you had to buy your books as cheaply as possible. Wilson's had plenty of used books at a reasonable price, and there was always the added bonus of chatting with Jeff the owner post-purchase (he works on illuminated manuscripts in his spare time, and is a photographer as well).

 More than 40 independent and used bookstores throughout the state are
participating in the first Florida Bookstore Day
Saturday, November 15, and will celebrate the stores as well as authors
and small presses. The brainchild of Tiffany Razzano
Wordier Than Thou, which supports creative writers through open mic events, a literary magazine and a radio show,
the new event was inspired by Record Store Day. In her research, Razzano
discovered California Bookstore Day, which was held for the first time last May 3.

Participating bookstores include Books & Books, Miami Beach and Coral
Gables; Vero Beach Book Center; Inkwood Books, Tampa; Oxford Exchange,
Tampa; Haslam's Book Store, St. Petersburg; Wild Iris Books,
Gainesville; and Murder on the Beach, Delray Beach. For a complete list
of participating bookstores, click here

Each store will organize its own programming for the day, which may
include readings by local authors, book signings, panels, special sales
and more. Regular updates about Florida Bookstore Day can be found on
earlier, a limited-edition poster series based on famous Florida novels
will be sold at some of the stores.

  This is a great quote, very true about the best bookstores being an integral part of the community.
"In my experience, a store's character is a direct reflection of the
wider community that it serves, which in turn influences the kind of
people who look to that store for a job.... The best booksellers will be
ones who really understand and identify with their customers, who read
similar books and book reviews, who consume similar culture, and who are
genuinely interested in the same topics that their customers are
interested in. The best thing a bookstore can do to build that
community, on both sides of the counter, is to empower its staff to
embrace their interests and to share them with one another and their
customers. In an increasingly digital world, it's a feeling of community
and mutual interest that will keep both customers and booksellers coming
back from day to day and year to year."

--Rachel Cass, head buyer at Harvard Book Store, Cambridge, Mass., quoted in Liz Gillett's piece for Booksellers New Zealand headlined "Why booksellers do it: the

This book has been on my TBR pile for a long time, and though I still plan on reading it, I am excited that it's been made into a PBS mini series. 
Wolf Hall
the "highly anticipated miniseries" based on Hilary Mantel's Booker
Prize-winning novel, will premiere on PBS Masterpiece April 5, 2015, reported. The six-part series, which stars Mark Rylance as
Thomas Cromwell and Damian Lewis as King Henry VIII, is a Company
Pictures and Playground co-production for BBC Two and Masterpiece. 

The Hearts of Horses by Molly Gloss was a book recommended to my Tuesday Night Book Group at the Maple Valley Library by Jenna Z, the Adult Services Librarian for the cluster of libraries in and around Maple Valley. 
She told us that it was a new kind of Western novel that combined the best of the old style Zane Grey with a new YA sensibility, because the main character is a young woman who "breaks" horses for riding in a gentle way, like the famed "horse whisperer."
After reading the novel, I agree to a point, but after you wade through the horse and animal talk, this is something of a coming of age story with a strong romantic through-line. Here's the blurb: 
In the winter of 1917, nineteen-year-old Martha Lessen saddles her horses and heads for a remote county in eastern Oregon, looking for work “gentling” wild horses. She chances on a rancher, George Bliss, who is willing to hire her on. Many of his regular hands are off fighting the war, and he glimpses, beneath her showy rodeo garb, a shy but strong-willed girl with a serious knowledge of horses. So begins the irresistible tale of a young but determined woman trying to make a go of it in a man’s world. Over the course of several long, hard winter months, many of the townsfolk witness Martha talking in low, sweet tones to horses believed beyond repair—getting miraculous, almost immediate results. It's with this gift that she earns their respect, and a chance to make herself a home
Librarian Jenna made the case for this to be a real page-turner, full of excitement and adventure, and while again, I almost see her point, the book drags like a stubborn mule in nearly every chapter because Gloss insists on detailing how Martha breaks horses, how she treats them in general, and all her blushing and fumbling around people, which gets tedious pretty quickly. Unless you are totally into horses and horse culture and Western history during the WW1 era, you will be bored spitless for about half of each chapter. Then there's all the death and hardship to report, so while I realize that there wasn't what you'd call decent healthcare in Oregon at that time, I found the constant updates and discussions of people dying of cancer, or accident, or being kicked by a horse, or contracting the Spanish flu to be way too gruesome and redundant for what was supposed to be an "irresistible tale."
In other words, I found this tale all too resistible. I'd give it a C, and recommend it to only those hard-core horse fans and Western history buffs who might find all the endless discussions of those topics interesting.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss has caused something of a stir in his fan base, mainly because it is not the next book in the Kvothe series, but instead it's more of a poetic novella about a character who appears in Name of the Wind and Wise Man's Fear, Auri, the young, half-starved magic girl who lives in the "Underthing" beneath the University that Kvothe attends. Kvothe befriends and feeds her, and she brings him magical gifts and falls in love with him, or at least becomes obsessed with his weekly visits. 
Here's the blurb:
Deep below the University, there is a dark place. Few people know of it: a broken web of ancient passageways and abandoned rooms. A young woman lives there, tucked among the sprawling tunnels of the Underthing, snug in the heart of this forgotten place. Her name is Auri, and she is full of mysteries.
The Slow Regard of Silent Things is a brief, bittersweet glimpse of Auri’s life, a small adventure all her own. At once joyous and haunting, this story offers a chance to see the world through Auri’s eyes. And it gives the reader a chance to learn things that only Auri knows....
In this book, Patrick Rothfuss brings us into the world of one of The Kingkiller Chronicle’s most enigmatic characters. Full of secrets and mysteries, The Slow Regard of Silent Things is the story of a broken girl trying to live in a broken world
Rothfuss himself admits that this was a story that came to him that he didn't exactly know what to do with when it was done. But after showing it to his agent and his publisher, both of whom loved it, it was decided that he should publish it as a stand-alone, though it was bound to cause some controversy with fans who are waiting with baited breath for the next book in the Kingkiller Chronicles. Still, I believe that most real fans of Rothfuss's first two books will fall in love with this dreamy little tome, so lush in imagery and so tender toward its strange protagonist. Auri comes off as a girl who would have been diagnosed with some form of Autism, had she lived in our world. Instead, she's become kind of fae with OCD overtones as she slips through the various strange rooms and passages of her underworld, finding broken or lost objects and then putting them where they are "supposed" to be, where they are "happy" and in balance with whatever harmonies Auri feels and intuits in her world. Since the story is told from Auri's POV, and she sees the world differently, there's a dream-like quality to the prose that is simply mesmerizing. It's the kind of book you will want to read in one sitting, so you can go through Auri's week with her, exploring the rooms and tunnels, looking for places for her lost items and preparing for her visit to Kvothe. I believe, too, that if anyone can convince readers that inanimate objects have a soul and are alive, it's Rothfuss and his Auri. Something about this book reminded me of Robert Frost's poems and Ursula LeGuin's Wizard of Earthsea. Perhaps it's the clean beauty of the prose, or the strength and untouchable nature of the protagonist, but either way, I highly recommend this short novel to those who loved Rothfuss's first two books and those who are fans of unusual fantasy characters. I'd give it an A, and hope that Rothfuss shares all of his short, unusual tales with us in the future.

Boy Proof was recommended to me after I read some other YA fiction, as being exemplary and well written. Though it is a short volume, it is told in the first person POV of "Egg" a 16 year old girl whose parents are a famed actress and a special effects/makeup legend. She's developed a persona for herself based on a character named Egg from a science fiction movie, and because she's a bright gal she also feels alienated from most of her fellow students, and pushes people away with sarcasm and a mean-spirited attitude. Egg has isolated herself from most everyone but her father, whom she spends time with creating creatures and fantastical makeup for movies in his shop. Though Egg also belongs to the science fiction club and the school newspaper (as a photographer) she deliberately pushes anyone away who tries to befriend her. Until Max moves into her school and her life, and she discovers that there is someone else who is not only as smart as she is, but who is also a fan of all the same things she's a fan of, and whose father is a documentary film maker (so he understands the whole famous-parent embarrassment she feels). Max, who is an extrovert and a nice guy, eventually manages to worm his way into Egg's life, though she continues to treat him like crap and push him away, all the while hoping that he won't do it, and will instead somehow break through her angry shell and fall for her. When he takes up with a pretty normal looking girl who actually wants to be his girlfriend, Egg doesn't seem to understand why he didn't pick her instead. 
While I remember what it was like to be an outcast, angry, smart and nerdy teenage girl who finds her parents extremely embarrassing, I think Egg is a terrible person, a real bitch for treating everyone with such disrespect and cruelty, even when they have done nothing but be kind and friendly to her. When she discovers that the actress who played Egg in the movie is even bitchier than she is, and is also having a lesbian affair with a director, she starts to realize that being herself is better than pretending to be someone else. Eventually, the chickens come home to roost and everyone turns their backs on Egg, and her grades start to spiral downwards, so she begins to try and make amends for her terrible behavior, and realizes, in the process, that she is finding herself and that she wants to be a special effects/makeup artist like her father. The prose in this book reads like a teenage girl's diary, so it is by turns frustrating, angry and funny. It's a book that can easily be read in a couple of hours, and I believe a lot of teenage geek girls and nerdy gals will find many things in the book to identify with. Even though I didn't like Egg until the end, I found myself understanding her feelings of loneliness and her desperate desire to have someone love her for who she is inside. It's for that reason that I'd give this book at B+, and recommend it to teenage geekgirls everywhere.
Finally, yesterday I watched the final movie in a series of movies I picked up at the library because some group on Facebook posted a list of 10 Great Movies About Writers. Fool that I am, I put 6 of them on hold because I'd already seen the other 3. I assumed that they'd be good viewing because I am a writer myself, albeit a career journalist and blogger.  Turns out the previous 5 movies were awful, full of tortured, terrible people who all came to bad ends and made everyone around them miserable. So I was hoping that The Door in the Floor, which was based on the book A Widow For One Year by John Irving, was going to be different. I could have sworn I'd read this novel, yet the movie didn't remind me of the characters in the book until later in the film. It stars Jeff Bridges and Kim Bassinger, with a nude Mimi Rodgers adding titillation and degradation to the whole sordid mess. Basically, the story is that Jeff is a successful but bizarre children's book author (he runs around in the nude all the time and is a serial adulterer who draws women in the nude and eventually humiliates them and then leaves them for someone younger) who is married to Kim, who is a fragile kind of woman, and they have two sons together, when tragedy strikes and the boys are killed in a bizarre car accident (this is par for the course in almost all of Irvings novels. People, especially children, always have to die in some weird way that usually involves a car), and though the couple survive and have a 5 year old daughter together, they never manage to put their grief about the boys death behind them. Jeff hires a young man to be his assistant who falls in love with Kim, and after several excruciatingly awkward scenes of him masturbating to her underwear or a photo of her, he starts an affair with Kim, who deflowers him and is therefore accorded some sort of mythic status as the most beautiful and aloof woman on the planet, whom no one can really own. Jeff gets chased around with a knife-wielding Mimi later in the film, and his graphic sketches of her genitals end up on the windshield of a car he's fleeing in, which is hilarious, but sad. Jeff's character is a totally arrogant asshat throughout the film, and when Kim leaves him and the young guy at the end, its something of a relief. Still the final shot is a rather pathetic visual metaphor, and I could only give this movie a C, and that is mostly for the performance of Mimi Rodgers and Elle Fanning as the little girl.

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