Sunday, April 19, 2015

RIP Gunter Grass, Orange is the New Black with Kate Mulgrew, Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine and Season of the Witch by Natasha Mostert

I was once a fan of Gunter Grass, and I read a lot of his work when I was in my 20s.
He passed away this past week, and his loss was keenly felt by the literary community. Here's some obit and tribute information from Shelf Awareness:
Gunter Grass
the author, social critic and Nobel Laureate who "became one of
Germany's foremost intellectuals and gadflies," died earlier today, the
Washington Post reported, adding the "themes that consumed his
literature--guilt, atonement and hypocrisy--were also central to his
political commentary." He was 87. Grass's many books included The Tin
Drum, Cat and Mouse, Dog Years, Crabwalk, The Flounder and his
controversial autobiography, Peeling the Onion.

In awarding him the 1999 Nobel Prize in Literature, the Swedish Academy
praised Grass
for embracing "the enormous task of reviewing contemporary history by
recalling the disavowed and the forgotten: the victims, losers and lies
that people wanted to forget because they had once believed in them."
The Academy also called his landmark 1959 novel The Tin Drum "one of the
enduring literary works of the 20th century."
The Guardian noted that Grass "was surprised
by the strength of the reaction" to his 2006 autobiography, Peeling the
Onion, in which he recounted being conscripted into the army in 1944 at
the age of 16 and serving as a tank gunner in the Waffen SS.
Translator Anthea Bell praised Grass as "a literary figure of the most
enormous stature in postwar German letters, and throughout the world."

On Twitter this morning, Salman Rushdie
"This is very sad. A true giant, inspiration, and friend. Drum for him,
little Oskar."

Nicholls has a point here, and I would never "showroom" at a bookstore, which is what people do when they go into a bookstore, find books they want to read and own, and then go shopping for them on instead of buying them at the bricks and mortar store.

"For all the ease and convenience of online shopping or the digital
download, I still feel a town without a bookshop is missing
something.... For much of the early nineties I worked in bookshops
myself, running the children's section in Waterstones Notting Hill with
a rod of iron and believing, like all booksellers, that books are
somehow special, that the expertise and enthusiasm of booksellers is
vital, that if you love bookshops you should spend money there, and that
to discover a book on display in a well-staffed, lovingly-maintained
shop, to hold it in your hand then to sneak off and buy the same book
online is really just a genteel form of shoplifting."
--Author David Nicholls
speaking at the London Book Fair Digital Minds Conference

On Tuesday, I will be attending a Town Hall reading of Kate Mulgrew's memoir "Born With Teeth." I am really looking forward to it, as I've read and watched several interviews with Kate already, and she's so fascinating and erudite that I fully believe she will bring even more viewers to her current show, Orange is the New Black. I have watched the first two seasons and am looking forward to the third, which is coming this summer.

The first trailer has been released for Season 3 of the Netflix series
Orange Is the New Black,
based on Piper Kerman's memoir and starring Kate Mulgrew,Taylor Schilling and Uzo Aduba. reported viewers can expect to see more of Adrienne
C. Moore (Cindy Hayes), Selenis Leyva (Gloria Mendoza), Nick Sandow (Joe
Caputo) and Samira Wiley (Poussey Washington), "who were upper to
regular during the past year." Season 3 will be released June 12.

First, in full disclosure, I've been named as a "Super Reader" by Penguin/Roc/Ace Publishers, so every month they will be sending me 4-5 ARCs of science fiction/fantasy, paranormal mystery, romance and thriller books as well as YA titles for me to read and review. I am not required to review these books, especially if I don't enjoy them, but I can and will review the ones that I find extraordinary or interesting. Of the four science fiction/fantasy/YA titles that I was sent this month, the first one I read, Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine, was a winner.
Ink and Bone, subtitled "The Great Library" is a delicious marriage of Harry Potter, (JK Rowling), Divergent (Veronica Roth) and Cornelia Funk's Inkheart, all set in a Steampunk universe where the Library of Alexandria became a ruling force in the world because the librarians controlled all the information disseminated to the public.Here's the blurb: 
In an exhilarating new series, New York Times bestselling author Rachel Caine rewrites history, creating a dangerous world where the Great Library of Alexandria has survived the test of time.…

Ruthless and supremely powerful, the Great Library is now a presence in every major city, governing the flow of knowledge to the masses. Alchemy allows the Library to deliver the content of the greatest works of history instantly—but the personal ownership of books is expressly forbidden.

Jess Brightwell believes in the value of the Library, but the majority of his knowledge comes from illegal books obtained by his family, who are involved in the thriving black market. Jess has been sent to be his family’s spy, but his loyalties are tested in the final months of his training to enter the Library’s service.

When he inadvertently commits heresy by creating a device that could change the world, Jess discovers that those who control the Great Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than any human life—and soon both heretics and books will burn.…
Jess, though he has a parent, feels like Harry Potter in his search for people he can trust and in turn, come to love. He's been cruelly used by his father, and his sociopathic brother, who appear to have no feelings for him other than what he can do for the family smuggling business. Jess is a bookish kid who loves to read "real" paper books, which are contraband, and his desire to become a library scholar stems from that, rather than his fathers insistence that he find a way to smuggle books from inside the school. His surly and intimidating instructor (rather like the heads of each house in Harry Potter) Wolfe has many secrets, and his compatriots, Thomas the "tinkerer" who engineers a forbidden printing press, Khalila who is the smartest of them all, Dario, the rich and snotty member of the crew and Glain, who is Welsh, Anna, Morgan and Portero all soon discover that anyone who is even thought to be rebelling against the Library and its rules soon dies a convenient, inexplicable death.  Unlike the kids in Harry Potter, though, the positions that these teenagers will eventually take within the library aren't all voluntary. When Morgan turns out to be an "obscurist", a rare and specialized mage who can mirror books onto the reading devices for the public and teleport people and books, she is told that she will be virtually enslaved, forced to wear a collar and forced to breed a new generation of obscurists while never leaving the "iron tower" for the rest of her days. BTW, in the above blurb it says that Jess creates a device that could change the world, but in my ARC, it was good-hearted, naive German Thomas who creates a printing press and is murdered for it. Though this "steampunk" world has more of a dangerous feel to it than HP, there's a still a remarkably beautiful, delicate story herein for teens and adults, written in sterling prose on a plot that glides along like a sailboat during a blustery day. An obvious A+! I honestly could not put it down, and I eagerly await the next book in the series. Ink and Bone's pub date is July 7, 2015, and I'd recommend all fans of Harry Potter and Divergent and The Mortal Instruments run to their local bookstore and grab a copy before they sell out, because I forsee this series becoming a huge success.
Season of the Witch by Natasha Mostert is a book I found at my local KCLS branch library book sale. It's a British book, which means that those who find the British/UK spellings of words to be difficult will be a tad peeved by the time they're a third of the way into the novel.Having grown up watching British TV shows and loving the accents and the sense of humor/wit displayed therein, and having read a great deal of British authors by the time I was a teenager, I was not at all put off by the spellings or by the more "chatty" prose of the novel. Here's the blurb from Publisher's Weekly:This spellbinding tale of magic and seduction from Mostert (Windwalker) shows that the unfettered pursuit of arcane enlightenment can sometimes come at too high a price. William Whittington, a terminally ill London investment banker, hires Gabriel Blackstone, a rakish "information broker," to find Robert, his missing 21-year-old son. Whittington's wife, who happens to be Blackstone's ex-girlfriend, knows Blackstone once belonged to an organization, Eyestorm, that used psychic methods to find missing objects and persons. When Blackstone draws on his remote viewing powers ("slamming the ride"), he discovers that Robert was murdered by one of two sisters-raven-haired Morrighan or flame-haired Minnaloushe Monk, direct descendants of Elizabethan occultist John Dee, who dabble in alchemy and the "Art of Memory." As Blackstone woos the suspects to discover which one is guilty, he falls desperately in love. Mostert, a South African writer now living in London, has produced a feverish tale that's goth SF at its finest.     
Though I found Gabriel to be a jerk and an egotistical cad for most of the novel, I understood his desire for arcane knowledge and understanding, which became, for him, mingled with the desire to possess both of the Monk sisters. It is obvious that Mostert, a South African, did extensive research into not only remote viewers, but also into witchcraft and the arcane alchemy, magic and mysticism of the 16th century. Combining the magic of old with the "new magic" of technology, computers and the internet is no mean feat, and Mostert pulls it off like a pro, seamlessly interweaving the codes of witchcraft with the codes of computer language.Her prose is jubilant, yet rarely excessive, and the plot has a few lovely twists and turns to keep readers engaged. A well-earned A, with the recommendation to anyone who finds psychic powers and magic as fascinating as the unseen world of computer hackers.

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