Sunday, February 22, 2015

Bookseller Questions, Reading Aloud, The Diabolical Miss Hyde by Viola Carr, The Winter Guest by Pam Jenoff and Lucy the Movie

I agree that these aren't stupid questions at all. And yes, booksellvers and 'Absolutely Not Dumb Questions to Ask a Bookseller'
 In a blog post headlined "An incomplete list of absolutely NOT dumb
questions to ask a bookseller or a librarian, both of whom are, indeed magicians!

the Booksellers at Laurelwood
"we spend much of our day answering questions posed by you, our
customers. Many of those questions are presented almost apologetically,
with the implied preface 'I recognize this may be a dumb question,
but....' Others are more direct, preemptively begging pardon with a
preamble along the lines of, 'this may be a really stupid question,
The logical conclusion: "[I]n the realm of books, we're magicians."

This is an interesting video about the importance of reading aloud to children, something that my mother did for me, and something that I did for my son as well. Of course there was story time at school, which I loved, and my son adored as well (at the MV Library with the Story Lady, Sharon Chastain!) 
Video: Kate DiCamillo on 'Reading Aloud to Children'

Ambassador for Young People's Literature and two-time Newbery winner,
"discusses the importance of reading aloud to children and celebrates
teachers and parents that take time to read aloud to the young people in
their life, to share stories and connect with great books together."

I am a big fan of Ewan MacGregor, and I look forward to seeing this film.
Actor Ewan McGregor will make his directorial feature film debut with
based on Philip Roth's novel and starring McGregor, Jennifer Connelly
and Dakota Fanning. reported that he is replacing Phillip
Noyce, who had been with the project "for more than a decade, when he
was first set to helm for Connelly, Paul Bettany and Evan Rachel Wood.
Fisher Stevens also had been attached as director at one point."
American Pastoral begins shooting in September in Pittsburgh.

Poet Philip Levine died on February 14. Here’s a tidbit of one of his poems:
From "Naming":
it's winter in Michigan with snow falling
in the twilight and hiding the stalled cars
on Grand River. Head whitened with snow,
Eugene lets the receiver slip from his hand.
I can see his eyelashes weighted with ice,
his brown eyes slowly closing on the image
of who I was, who I will always be.
The Winter Guest by Pam Jenoff was a book recommended to me by an author I admire on Facebook. Here's the blurb:
Life is a constant struggle for the eighteen-year-old Nowak twins as they raise their three younger siblings in rural Poland under the shadow of the Nazi occupation. The constant threat of arrest has made everyone in their village a spy, and turned neighbor against neighbor. Though rugged, independent Helena and pretty, gentle Ruth couldn't be more different, they are staunch allies in protecting their family from the threats the war brings closer to their doorstep with each passing day.
Then Helena discovers an American paratrooper stranded outside their small mountain village, wounded, but alive. Risking the safety of herself and her family, she hides Sam—a Jew—but Helena's concern for the American grows into something much deeper. Defying the perils that render a future together all but impossible, Sam and Helena make plans for the family to flee. But Helena is forced to contend with the jealousy her choices have sparked in Ruth, culminating in a singular act of betrayal that endangers them all—and setting in motion a chain of events that will reverberate across continents and decades.
I had serious problems with one of the twins, Ruth, right from the start of the book. She seemed like such a coward, so weak and wimpy, yet with a cruel streak that seemed bizarre, given her general lack of guts. Unfortunately, Ruth's cruelty leads her to sleep with her sister's beloved for no good reason, and then leave the child to be raised by Helena after she dies in a concentration camp. I found it hard to believe that Helena, who was smart, strong and brave, would so easily forgive her sister for all the horrible things she had done, including tipping off someone as to where the Jewish soldier was hidden so that he could be captured and killed. Her decision to do this so thoughtlessly ends up in the death of her brother, and the only decent and good things that Ruth seemed able to do was to take care of her young siblings prior to that, so it made little sense that she would endanger her entire family out of petty jealousy for Helena. Still, the book was fairly well written, with a plot that only slowed down a couple of times. I'd give it a B, and recommend it to people who read Kristen Hannah's The Nightingale, or other books about people coping with starvation and hardship in Nazi-occupied France or Poland.
The Diabolical Miss Hyde by Viola Carr was also recommended by an author on Facebook, and this Steampunk adventure fantasy/mystery was truly a delight, though it was a bit gory for my tastes. Here's the blurb:
Magic, mystery, and romance mix in this edgy retelling of the classic The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde–in which Dr. Eliza Jekyll is the daughter of the infamous Henry
In an electric-powered Victorian London, Dr. Eliza Jekyll is a crime scene investigator, hunting killers with inventive new technological gadgets. Now, a new killer is splattering London with blood, drugging beautiful women and slicing off their limbs. Catching "the Chopper" could make Eliza's career—or get her burned. Because Eliza has a dark secret. A seductive second self, set free by her father's forbidden magical elixir: wild, impulsive Lizzie Hyde.
When the Royal Society sends their enforcer, the mercurial Captain Lafayette, to prove she's a sorceress, Eliza must resist the elixir with all her power. But as the Chopper case draws her into London's luminous, magical underworld, Eliza will need all the help she can get. Even if it means getting close to Lafayette, who harbors an evil curse of his own.
Even if it means risking everything and setting vengeful Lizzie free . . 
Carr's prose sparks and darts around the streets of this dystopian fantasy London, and the plot moves at such a lightening-fast pace that I found myself unable to put the book down, because something was always happening that was crucial to the story or the characters. Lizzie is just as fascinating as Dr Eliza, with her street smarts and passions that overwhelm Eliza's scientific attitude and cold common sense. Readers will know Captain Lafayette as a werewolf long before it is revealed, and yet his dual being doesn't slow him from trying to catch the Chopper serial killer, whose ties to Dr Frankenstein become all too clear. I sincerely hope that Carr will keep this series going for at least a few more novels, because there are so many classic horror movie tropes for her to excavate, dust off and make new in her fascinating Steampunk London. A solid A, and I'd recommend it to anyone who likes mysteries and Steampunk and classic horror monsters or classic dark fantasy fiction.

I want to make mention of a movie that I watched this week called "Lucy" starring Scarlett Johansson. My husband, who is a fan of classic science fiction and horror films, said that he'd heard the movie was panned, and he didn't think it would be worth my time to watch. 
He was wrong.
I found the movie to be an interesting study of how we think, how we evolve as a species and how we currently use our brains. My guess would be that the reason it was panned by so many male critics was because ScarJo wasn't sexualized as women usually are in these movies, where it is only a matter of time before we cut away to the female star of the movie having sex with some guy, often the one who 'saves' her from some dire fate. Lucy started out as just a grad student in Taiwan who hooked up with a nasty, grubby Chris Pratt and found herself regretting it the morning after when Pratt handcuffs her to a briefcase full of something (he says he doesn't know what is in there, so neither does she) valuable and tells her to enter an office building, ask for a Mr Jank and then hand over the case and leave. Unfortunately, a Korean mafia don comes rolling downstairs, shoots Pratt and drags Lucy upstairs, only to force her to open the briefcase while he cowers behind a bunch of thugs in case the briefcase is booby-trapped, and then taking the four bags of some kind of drug that is inside and implanting it into the abdomens of four people, Lucy and three guys from other countries. They're all given passports and told that when they reach the airports in their cities (Rome, Paris, etc) they will be met by someone loyal to the ugly Korean don who will take the substance out of them and they will be set free (which we know from the outset is a lie. These guys don't leave behind people who can identify them, so this is a death sentence). For some reason, (we are never told why) Lucy is separated from the rest of the drug mules and taken to a filthy prison where she's groped by two hideously thin and greasy Asian guys who don't speak English. When she tries to keep from being violated, one of the greasy guys punches and kicks her in the stomach, thereby breaking the bag of the drug, which leaks into her body and transforms her brain, so that she's using 30-40 percent of it, and can therefore become a badass and fight her way out of the prison. She finds Morgan Freeman, a brain scientist, reads all of his work on the evolution of the human brain, and soon realizes she will have to take more of the drug to keep her body from degrading into a mass of cells. She reaches 50 percent usage and is able to disarm people and works with a French policeman to get the other three packages of the drug from the hands of the Korean thugs. After she gets all of the drug into her system, she tells Morgan Freeman that she will be able to use 100 percent of her brain, which means mastery over time and space, but she won't be able to survive in human form, so she promises to leave her knowledge on a computer thumb drive for Morgan Freeman and his scientists to excavate for future generations. Watching Lucy go back in time, seeing her use the full power of the human mind was awesome. Though she disperses into cells that are "everywhere," Lucy left behind quite a legacy of taking a horrible situation and turning it into an advantage not just for herself but for everyone. Truly a fascinating tale well told. I'd give it an A, and recommend that teenage girls watch it to realize that women are valuable for more than their bodies. 

No comments: