Sunday, February 08, 2015

Madame Bovary Movie, New Harper Lee Novel, RIP Suzatte Haden Elgin, Shadow Study by Maria V Snyder and Wildalone by Krassi Zourkova

This looks to be an exciting movie adaptation, starring one of the cast of Downton Abbey.
The first trailer has been released for Madame Bovary
a film adaptation of Gustave Flaubert's classic novel, Film & Stage
reported. Directed by Sophie Barthes (Cold Souls), the movie stars Mia
Wasikowska, Rhys Ifans, Paul Giamatti, Ezra Miller, Logan
Marshall-Green, Henry Lloyd-Hughes and Laura Carmichael.
I was thrilled to read that there is a new book coming out that is a sequel to To Kill A Mockingbird, called Go Set A Watchman. Unfortunately, author Harper Lee is said to be suffering from a stroke, and isn't able, according to some, to make rational decisions. So her lawyer and publishers are putting out statements attributed to Lee that some doubt came from her, and many are uncertain if she really knows that they are publishing this work that hasn't seen the light of day for 55 years. Still, I will happily read the book when it comes out, no doubt lining the pockets of those same lawyers and publishers.
Rediscovered Harper Lee Novel to Be Published
Harper has acquired North American rights to Go Set a Watchman, a newly
discovered novel by To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee. The book
will be published July 14 this year.

In a statement, Lee said the novel, which she completed in the
mid-1950s, "features the character known as Scout as an adult woman and
I thought it a pretty decent effort. My editor, who was taken by the
flashbacks to Scout's childhood, persuaded me to write a novel from the
point of view of the young Scout. I was a first-time writer, so I did as
I was told."

After To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960, Lee set aside Go Set
a Watchman and never returned to it. The manuscript was unearthed last
fall by Tonja Carter, Lee's lawyer, who found it attached to an original
typescript of To Kill a Mockingbird.

"After much thought and hesitation I shared it with a handful of people
I trust and was pleased to hear that they considered it worthy of
publication," Lee said. "I am humbled and amazed that this will now be
published after all these years."

Go Set a Watchman features many of the characters from To Kill a
Mockingbird, but is set 20 years later. Scout has returned to Maycomb
from New York to visit her father. She is forced to grapple with issues
both personal and political as she tries to understand her father's
attitude toward society, and her own feelings about the place where she
was born and spent her childhood.

"I, along with millions of others around the world, always wished that
Harper Lee had written another book," said Michael Morrison, president
and publisher of HarperCollins US General Books group and Canada. "And
what a brilliant book this is. I love Go Set a Watchman, and know that
this masterpiece will be revered for generations to come."

Calling the discovery "a remarkable literary event," Jonathan Burnham,
Harper senior v-p and publisher, added that it is "an extraordinary gift
to the many readers and fans of To Kill a Mockingbird. Reading in many
ways like a sequel to Harper Lee's classic novel, it is a compelling and
ultimately moving narrative about a father and a daughter's
relationship, and the life of a small Alabama town living through the
racial tensions of the 1950s."

Early reaction to the news was generally enthusiastic, though doubts
were raised as well
Charles J. Shields, who wrote a biography of Lee, told the New York
Times: "We're going to see what Harper Lee writes like without a strong
editor's hand, when she's, quite honestly, an amateur." The Times also
noted that "some critics and observers were skeptical" of Lee's role in
approving the deal, since the author suffered a stroke in 2007 and has
been living in an assisted living facility. Marja Mills, author of The
Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee, said, "I have some concerns
about statements that have been attributed to her."

But Burnham countered: "We talked to her through her lawyer and friend
Tonja Carter," adding he was "completely confident" Lee understood and
approved of the deal and that speaking directly with her "wasn't

In the Guardian, author Jay Parini summed up a common response to the
discovery: "One rarely gets a high-voltage shock in the literary world
a bolt from the blue.... It's important to celebrate a fine American
novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, which has introduced half a century of
American students to the pleasures of fiction.... It seems unlikely that
the publication of another novel by Harper Lee at this stage will make a
big difference to anyone, although it will certainly find curious eyes,
like my own, eager to read it. And why not?"

This should be interesting, too, since no one has adapted a Steinbeck novel (my favorite classics author) for years, as far as I know.
Literary adaptation wunderkind James Franco has added another book, John
Steinbeck's novel In Dubious Battle
to his growing list of projects. According to the Hollywood Reporter,
Franco "has assembled an all-star cast that includes Selena Gomez,
Vincent D'Onofrio, Robert Duvall, Ed Harris, Bryan Cranston and Danny
McBride" for the film, which has been adapted by Matt Rager (As I Lay
Dying). Principal photography will begin in March.
I remain a huge fan of Elgin's Ozark trilogy and her Native Tongue books, as well as her Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense books, which helped me find ways to defend myself against constant mockery and derision. RIP, Ms Elgin.

Science fiction author and poet Suzette Haden Elgin
who was best known for her Gentle Art of Verbal Self-defense books and
the Native Tongue trilogy, died January 27. She was 78. Locus magazine
noted that Elgin's "interest in linguistics is apparent in her SF,
particularly in the Native Tongue books and A First Dictionary & Grammar
of Laadan (1985), a work of nonfiction about the language she
constructed for the Coyote Jones series. She was widely published as a
linguist as well."

In an Amazing Stories magazine tribute
Severson wrote: "I was profoundly affected by her novel Native Tongue,
which was read and discussed by the Feminist Science Fiction Fantasy &
Utopian Literature ListServ/Bookgroup many years ago, when I was just
rediscovering my love for science fiction. When I discovered science
fiction poetry and the Science Fiction Poetry Association I was delighted to find it had been founded by,this extraordinary writer, linguist and poet." 

JMS is a legend among those of us who were dedicated Babylon 5 fans in the 90s. I imagine he will do the Mars series justice, and I hope to see it soon on TV. 

J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5) will write Red Mars
a series based on Kim Stanley Robinson's bestselling trilogy that is
currently in development for Spike TV. reported that the
show "has been on fast-track development at Spike since the network took
in the project in October with HBO's Game of Thrones co-executive
producer Vince Gerardis as producer and Robinson as consultant."

Shadow Study by Maria V Snyder is a very welcome new book in the "Poison Study" series Snyder began years ago. I discovered Snyder through that first book, Poison Study, and I couldn't read everything else she'd written fast enough. Snyder is a talented storyteller and a fantastic writer whose prose flows like liquid gold through the swift river rapids of her plots. But readers really stay with her books for the magnificent characters she creates, who are so real, so fascinating and intelligent that you mourn the fact that you can't meet them outside of the books. Yelena and Valek and Janco and Ari and Opal and the rest of these sublime characters stay with readers long after they've read the last page.I was fortunate enough to win a pre-publication copy of Shadow Study from Ms Snyders Facebook page, and I was thrilled when it arrived on a Monday and I'd read it by Wednesday. The 6th book in this series is a real page-turner, and I loved it. Here's the blurb: 
New York Times bestselling author Maria V. Snyder wowed readers with Poison Study, the unforgettable story of poison taster Yelena. Now she's back with a new tale of intrigue. Once, only her own life hung in the balance…

Oddly enough, when Yelena was a poison taster, her life was simpler. But she'd survived to become a vital part of the balance of power between rival countries Ixia and Sitia. Now she uses her magic to keep the peace in both lands—and protect her relationship with Valek.

Suddenly, though, they are beset on all sides by those vying for power through politics and intrigue. Valek's job and his life are in danger. As Yelena tries to uncover the scope of these plots, she faces a new challenge: her magic is blocked. She must keep that a secret—or her enemies will discover just how vulnerable she really is—while searching for who or what is responsible for neutralizing her powers.

Yes, the days of tasting poisons were much simpler. And certainly not as dangerous.…
Yelena tells one chapter, while Valek tells another, and Janco tells yet another. While the change in perspective is great, I found that it did chop up the plot enough to be a bit jarring at times, but because Snyder is such a skilled writer, the action keeps the change in POV from making the plot lag or sag in the just steams along like a swift train on greased rails. Yelena is such a stubborn character, so smart and compassionate that I enjoy the way that her mind works almost as much as I love the way that Valek, her soul mate, manages to get things done with elegance and stealth. There were flashbacks to his life as a child and during assassins training that were horrifying and fascinating in equal parts, making one admire him even more for having survived. Even the arrival of her gluttonous brother Leif couldn't sour me on the story, though I've not liked him in any of the books where he previously appears (he's too much of a pain in the rump, sexist and none too bright, but he reminds me of my own brother, so I can't complain too much). I don't want to give too much more away, because it would be a shame to spoil the book for other fans. Suffice it to say that this is an A+ novel that I would recommend to anyone who has read Snyders previous books, or even those who haven't, and want to dive into her wonderful fantasy novels for the first time. You won't be disappointed. 

Wildalone by Krassi Zourkova was recommended to me because I'd read some of Anne Rice's vampire novels, and because it was supposed to be a novel that combined myth and mystery, romance and fantasy. Unfortunately, this first novel from Princeton grad Zourkova read like a Greek version of Twilight, which was one of the most detestable novels to be published in the last 25 years. The prose is stilted and amateurish, the plot rambles and at times makes little sense, and the characters are ridiculous and horrible, by turns. Here's the blurb:
In this enchanting and darkly imaginative debut novel full of myth, magic, romance, and mystery, a Princeton freshman is drawn into a love triangle with two enigmatic brothers, and discovers terrifying secrets about her family and herself—a bewitching blend of Twilight, The Secret History, Jane Eyre, and A Discovery of Witches.

Arriving at Princeton for her freshman year, Thea Slavin finds herself alone, a stranger in a strange land. Away from her family and her Eastern European homeland for the first time, she struggles to adapt to unfamiliar American ways and the challenges of college life—including an enigmatic young man whose brooding good looks and murky past intrigue her. Falling into a romantic entanglement with Rhys and his equally handsome and mysterious brother, Jake, soon draws Thea into a sensual mythic underworld as irresistible as it is dangerous.

In this shadow world that seems to mimic Greek mythology and the Bulgarian legends of the Samodivi or “wildalones”—forest witches who beguile and entrap men—she will discover a shocking secret that threatens everything she holds dear. And when the terrifying truth about her own family is revealed, it will transform her forever . . . if she falls under its spell.

Mesmerizing and addictive, The Wildalone is a thrilling blend of the modern and the fantastic. Krassi Zourkova creates an atmospheric world filled with rich characters as fascinating and compelling as those of Diana Gabaldon, Deborah Harkness, and Stephenie Meyer.
Stephanie Meyer is the author of the Twilight series, which was so poorly written I was unable to finish the second book, and I gagged my way through the first book, incensed and disgusted by the idiotic Bella Swan and her dead amour, the vampire Edward.  Zourkova's Thea isn't much brighter than Bella, unfortunately, though Thea is supposedly a music prodigy and had the grades to get into Princeton from her native Bulgaria. She spends very little time studying, though, instead she's bullied into concerts by her professors, and she spends most of her time agonizing over finding the time to practice the piano inbetween obsessing over Rhys, a wealthy jerk who, it turns out, isn't even a student at the college anymore but is, instead, a daemon who was brought back to life by Thea's dead sister who is a Samodivi, a kind of forest witch who, if viewed during her ritual moonlight dance, kills and rips apart the viewer. Apparently, in return for bringing him back to life, Rhys must do whatever Elza, the Samodivi wants once a month during the full moon, and Elza wants to have sex with him, which, while it would normally make him happy, now suddenly repulses him, probably because he can't dominate and control Elza as he can all the other women he's abused in the past, as well as Thea, whom he bullies and treats like crap throughout the novel.  Rhys has a brother whom Thea seems to love as well, Jake, but whom she vacillates back and forth with, the more she learns about Rhys's past with her dead sister. Jake is a huge wimp, unable to stand up to his brother at all, preferring to sneak behind his back with Thea. There is nothing mesmerizing, irresistible or addictive about any of the characters in this book. Thea acts like an idiot who doesn't know her own mind or how to decide between two men, neither of whom is really worth her time, as both treat her like she's a possession that must be purchased, conquered and tamed. Neither seems to have any respect for her as a woman, student or as a musician, only insofar as it effects them and their libido (both make note of the fact that listening to her play the piano makes them "hard.") They abuse her, emotionally and physically, and somehow this is supposed to reflect their love of her, when it only makes her seem stupid and weak to allow herself to be treated this way and to throw away her academic career for these miserable, cruel brothers. Then Zourkova does what even most rookie authors know better than to do, she just leaves the characters hanging at the end, without even a semblance of an actual finale. We have no idea which man Thea has chosen, what happened to Elza the "wildalone" and whether or not Thea is going to continue at Princeton or go running home to Bulgaria whining and crying about Rhys and Jake. I can only assume there will be a sequel to this horrible novel, (which was watered-down mythic romance), that will strive, and probably fail, to answer some of the questions left by the first novel. I won't be reading it, however. I'd give this novel a C- and I would recommend it to those who actually liked trashy Twilight, though the characters in Wildalone aren't as well drawn as Meyers characters.

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