Friday, March 06, 2015

RIP Leonard Nimoy, Book Prizes, Shakespeare and Co Website, Friendship by Emily Gould and Miss You Most of All by Elizabeth Bass

Having been a Star Trek fan for all 50 years of it's existence, I was sad to read of the death of Leonard Nimoy, a talented actor who played Mr Spock on the original series with such deftness. As noted, though, he did, indeed, live long and prosper. I read two of the books that he wrote, and found them nicely written and full of good humor.

Obituary Note: Leonard Nimoy
 As most of the universe knows by now, Leonard Nimoy, best known for
playing Mr. Spock on Star Trek, died on Friday. He was 83. Happily, he lived long and

A man of many talents and interests beyond the role that defined him to
the public, Nimoy wrote two memoirs: I Am Not Spock, which appeared in
1977, followed by I Am Spock (1995). He also published several volumes
of poetry that were illustrated with photographs he took. A Lifetime of
Love: Poems on the Passage of Life was published in 2002. He also
published several books of photography, including Shekhina (2005), a
collection of pictures with a spiritual, Jewish theme, and The Full Body
Project (2007), featuring his photos of full-bodied (Plus sized) women.

I love most modern Shakespeare adaptations for movies, they're usually so creative and fascinating, and having met Ethan Hawke, I can only imagine this stellar cast will rock Cymbeline.
"Shakespeare gets rocked" in a new trailer for Cymbeline
starring Ethan Hawke. Indiewire reported that director Michael Almereyda
(Hamlet) "once again dips into the Bard's work, and rounds up Ethan
Hawke, Ed Harris, Milla Jovovich, John Leguizamo, Penn Badgley, Dakota
Johnson, Anton Yelchin, Bill Pullman, Delroy Lindo and Kevin Corrigan
for this tale of a brutal battle between corrupt cops and a biker gang."
Cymbeline will be released in theaters and to VOD March 13.

I have long been a fan of Maggie Atwood, and LeVar Burton, as well as TC Boyle.
So I am glad that they're all being recognized for their good works.

Poets & Writers magazine announced that Margaret Atwood, Cheryl
Boyce-Taylor and Christopher Castellani have won the 2015 Barnes & Noble
which recognizes "authors who have given generously to other writers or
to the broader literary community." Barbara Epler, president and
publisher of New Directions, will receive this year's Editor's Award.
The winners will be honored March 23 in New York City at Poets &
Writers' annual benefit dinner, In Celebration of Writers.

Finalists in 10 categories have been named for the 35th annual Los
Angeles Times Book Prizes, which will be awarded April 18 on the eve of the L.A. Times Festival of Books.
This year's Innovator's Award goes to LeVar Burton "for inspiring
generations of readers with Reading Rainbow." The winner of the Robert
Kirsch Award for Lifetime Achievement is author T.C. Boyle, whose
"stature within our community is unique, from the breadth of his novels
and stories to his engagement with his students and role as a mentor,"
said Times book critic David L. Ulin.

Visiting Shakespeare and Company would be one of the very few reasons I would ever visit France, but now I can have some of the experience by shopping at their online store, which they so eloquently discuss here:
"Here, you're not likely to find cut-rate bargains, but you may find
something you didn't even know you were seeking, like a rare title
recommended by our biblio-insatiable staff. Or you may discover a first
edition that we ourselves discovered in a private collection, a book
hitherto tucked onto a shelf of an elegant Parc Monceau flat. Or you may
read on our blog about a singer/songwriter's passion for Swedish
literature and then decide to sample a new author or two.

"In return for your online purchase, we'll endeavor to give your books
that certain je ne sais quoi. It could be with the bookstore's official
stamp, a vintage postcard of Paris we found in a second-hand book, or a
pocket-sized poem typed by a Tumbleweed at the desk looking onto
Notre-Dame. Each package will be carefully, beautifully boxed and
shipped, sent like a message in a bottle to you or perhaps to a friend,
a message of warmth and solidarity that wherever you may be, in whatever
town or city, there's always a home for readers and literary wanderers
at Shakespeare and Company."

--The Shakespeare & Company, Paris, France, blog announcing the store's

I love cats, and this book trailer is pretty adorable:
Cat Out of Hell: A Novel
by Lynn Truss (Melville House), a trailer that features a fake
investigative news report shot at the Meow Parlour, which is the cat
cafe located on Hester Street in New York City. In it, some very cute
Cats Rights Activists protest the book, because it portrays cats as
evil--until the author herself arrives to quell their anger.

Friendship by Emily Gould was recommended by either Book Riot or one of the other book pages that I follow on Facebook. It was mentioned as a riveting read, and while I can't say that I found it enjoyable, it was well-written enough that I felt compelled to finish it.
Here's the blurb:
A novel about two friends learning the difference between getting older and growing up
Bev Tunney and Amy Schein have been best friends for years; now, at thirty, they’re at a crossroads. Bev is a Midwestern striver still mourning a years-old romantic catastrophe. Amy is an East Coast princess whose luck and charm have too long allowed her to cruise through life. Bev is stuck in circumstances that would have barely passed for bohemian in her mid-twenties: temping, living with roommates, drowning in student-loan debt. Amy is still riding the tailwinds of her early success, but her habit of burning bridges is finally catching up to her. And now Bev is pregnant.
     As Bev and Amy are dragged, kicking and screaming, into real adulthood, they have to face the possibility that growing up might mean growing apart.
     Friendship, Emily Gould’s debut novel, traces the evolution of a friendship with humor and wry sympathy. Gould examines the relationship between two women who want to help each other but sometimes can’t help themselves; who want to make good decisions but sometimes fall prey to their own worst impulses; whose generous intentions are sometimes overwhelmed by petty concerns.
     This is a novel about the way we speak and live today; about the ways we disappoint and betray one another. At once a meditation on the modern meaning of maturity and a timeless portrait of the underexamined bond that exists between friends, this exacting and truthful novel is a revelation.
Gould's protagonists are both shallow, stupid, immoral people whom I loathed after the first two chapters. When Bev becomes pregnant, Amy gets cruel and jealous and begins to deteriorate further into selfish narcisism. Then Bev and Amy (but moreso Bev) befriend a wealthy socialite who wants a part-time baby, and is willing to pay Bev for the privilege,  Amy proves to be even more of a horrible person by sleeping with Sally the socialite's husband Jason, who comes off as quite a creep.  Neither Bev or Amy seem to have any problem sleeping with married men, or sleeping around on their boyfriends, or lying, cheating and stealing. They have no morals and their thoughts are vapid and selfish, with no regard for others. The two friends inevitably have a parting of the ways, and only at the end of the novel, when Amy realizes that she's been a jerk (though she only thinks she has been a jerk about not attending the birth of Bev's baby, when it will be obvious to readers that she's been an egotistical jerk for most of her life) does she finally write an email to Bev, seeking forgiveness. Bev responds with an emoticon heart, and that's the end of the novel. I assume that means that the two become friends again, but to be honest, by the time I'd waded through this morass of idiocy, I didn't really care if they became friends again, I just wanted the novel to be over. Gould's prose is tidy and spare, allowing the zigzagging plot to move along at a decent pace. But one of my questions about any book that I want to read is whether or not it contains a story worth telling, a story that brings characters or a situation to light that are important, or entertaining, or informative. The characters in this book made for a story that wasn't any of those things, but instead provided lots of frustration and disgust on the part of the reader, who just wants them to make a choice and go with it and do something decent with their lives. I didn't want to spend any more time with Amy and Bev than I had to. I'd give this book a C, and recommend it to those who like contemporary fiction about contemptible people, because it's a trope of many modern authors that "good" characters aren't realistic, nor is happiness a plausible state of being.

Miss You Most of All by Elizabeth Bass also has a contemptible character in it, and a selfish and shallow pre-teen, who, along with a dim-witted stepsister provide most of the agony of the book. However, Bass manages to weave in a couple of decent characters and lots of sparkling dialog to keep the book from becoming a stinker.
I got this copy of Miss You Most of All from the Covington Dollar Tree, where I sometimes manage to find books that are surprisingly good for a buck.
Here's the Publisher's Weekly blurb (because the regular blurb doesn't say much):
Bass's sparkling debut will inspire laughs and tears as the sisters of Sassy Spinster Farm experience one of the most memorable summers of their lives. Cancer survivor Rue Anderson; her sister, Laura Rafferty; and military veteran Webb Saunders run a successful Sweetgum, Tex., farm where boarders can learn “hands-on about planting, harvesting, canning, and storing.” Despite some problems—Rue's just out of chemo and sharing custody of her 11-year-old daughter with her now engaged to be married ex-husband—things have a way of running themselves until the unexpected arrival of Heidi Dawn Bogue, Rue and Laura's bratty little stepsister, who's all grown up, on the run from a Brooklyn “psycho embezzler mobster,” and seeking sanctuary even though she knows Laura despises her. With bountiful grace and a real feeling for her characters, Bass creates a three-hanky delight by finding the earthy, homespun humor the women learn to embrace even in the most difficult situations.
 I was surprised that a book with such a promising premise would put itself in danger of killing the story by having a bitter, mean, cruel and ugly character at its center. Rue is almost the polar opposite of her sister Laura, probably because she's had to negotiate and even things out whenever Laura caused disaster to strike. Laura's bitter vitriol really mar this otherwise interesting novel by causing readers to want her dead after the first 50 pages. Even though she nearly killed her sweet and kind sister Rue in a car accident that was completely her fault (for driving at a reckless speed when she didn't have a license), Rue still insists on keeping her around, poisoning everything around her with mean-spirited remarks and drunken licentiousness. A handsome farm hand, Webb, makes it clear that he is in love with Laura and wants a relationship with her, but she spurns him at every turn. Then when fluff-headed Heidi shows up, on the run from a mobster boyfriend, Laura gets even more vituperative and does her dead-level best to make everyone around her miserable. Meanwhile, Rue's preteen daughter falls in with a nasty young gal who wants her to try and break up her father's engagement to a local 5th grade teacher (who is pregnant with his child) in favor of the friend's mother. Realistically, their scheme never would have worked, but for some reason, here it does, if only for a brief time. Erica (Rue's daughter) only realizes her mistake too late, when it is obvious that her mother's cancer has metastisized and that she is going to die. Although everything seems to be headed for disaster, there is an HEA for Laura at the end, though I am unsure why the author felt she deserved such a thing, when she had been such a pill and remained so right through to the end. Still, she saves a chicken and Heidi from being killed, and she finally admits that she does have a heart, though it takes her sister's death to get her to a final reckoning. I'd give this novel a B-, and recommend it to those who like "chick lit" and Southern contemporary stories. 

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