Monday, June 01, 2015

Bill Bryson Movie, Coloring Books for Adults, RIP Tanith Lee and Cinder by Marissa Meyer, The Map of Lost Memories by Kim Fay, and About Grace by Anthony Doerr

I am a fan of Bill Bryson's work, because he's my fellow Iowan and because my brother Kevin is also a huge fan. Now one of his hilarious, classic works is being brought to the big screen with Robert Redford and Nick Nolte. I can hardly wait to see it this fall!

"It's like a more comedic version of Wild, if Reese Witherspoon was in
her 70s and also Robert Redford," Entertainment Weekly observed in
showcasing a new trailer for A Walk in the Woods, starring Redford as author Bill Bryson and Nick Nolte as his hiking
partner Stephen Katz. The cast also includes Emma Thompson, Kristen
Schaal, Mary Steenburgen and Nick Offerman. A Walk in the Woods will be
released in theaters September 2.

I recently bought another coloring book for adults, and I find it soothing to sit and color for an hour or two...its like meditating. 

Coloring Books for Adults, A New Trend
Call it nostalgia, stress relief or meditation--for whatever reason,
coloring books for adults are suddenly filling in the blanks of a
previously untapped market. The most popular title far and away is
Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book by Scottish
illustrator Johanna Basford (Laurence King, distributed in North America
by Chronicle), which has sold 1.5 million copies in 28 countries since
its publication in 2013. The book is so popular that the publisher is
currently out of stock, and many booksellers say they could sell huge
amounts if they could get copies. Basford's second adult coloring book,
Enchanted Forest (Laurence King, Feb. 2015), has already sold more than
220,000 copies. More titles by Basford are on the way: on May 7, Penguin
Random House announced its acquisition of Basford's next two books, with
the first, Lost Ocean, to be published October 27, 2015.

The boom in adult coloring books began in Europe. Lisa Trudeau, U.S.
publicity and marketing representative for Jacqui Small (the eponymous
imprint of Quarto), said that early last year, when Jacqui Small pitched
her idea for the Art Therapy series, Small "saw that adult coloring
books were all the rage among French women. They were, at that time,
outselling all other nonfiction instructional books, even cooking. Women
were proudly posting their coloring accomplishments on Pinterest boards,
many claiming that the therapeutic effects of coloring were more
effective than yoga, meditation, or even antidepressants."
The appeal of adult coloring books is multihued. Tami Furlong, owner of
Fundamentals Children's Books and More Delaware, Ohio, said, "One customer told me coloring helped her get through the dark days after her husband passed away. I always suggest a
coloring book and colored pencils or crayons for every get well package,
whether for kids or adults."
I read two Tanith Lee books as a teenager that saved my life, Electric Forest and the Silver Metal Lover. Along with Restoree by Anne McCaffrey, these were the only books I could find at the time (in the early 1970s) that actually had a body-positive message for girls, noting that we are more than our outer shells, that we are valuable for our minds, hearts and spirits. She also wrote my favorite episode of Blake's 7, and British science fiction program, called "Sand." I've read many of her works over the years, and it breaks my heart that she has died so young. Rest in peace, dear Tanith.

British science fiction, horror and fantasy writer who also wrote poetry
and children's books, died on Sunday, the Bookseller reported. She was
67. Lee wrote more than 90 novels and 300 short stories and sometimes used
the pen name Esther Garber. In 1980, she was the first woman to win the
August Derleth Award for best novel (for Death's Master) at the British
Fantasy Awards. She also won a Lifetime Achievement Award from the World
Fantasy Convention in 2013 and the Horror Writers Association's Lifetime
Achievement Award this year.

I am a Flannery O'Connor fan as well, and I am delighted that she will have her own stamp!
The 30th stamp in the U.S. Postal Service's Literary Arts series will
The color portrait on this stamp, a watercolor painting completed digitally,
is based on a black-and-white photograph taken when O'Connor was a
student at the Georgia State College for Women from 1942 to 1945.
Surrounding O'Connor are feathers of peacocks, which she raised and
wrote about. Art director Phil Jordan of Falls Church, Va., designed the
stamp, with artwork by Sam Weber of Brooklyn.

The 93-cent O'Connor stamp includes the words "Three Ounce," indicating
what kind of mail it can be used for--packages weighing more than one
ounce, as well as for postcards and bulky or odd-sized envelopes that
require hand sorting. It will be issued June 5 as part of the Postal
Service's extension of its one-ounce Forever Stamp program.

My son Nick and I read and LOVED this book, so I know that both of us will be first in line to see the movie, just in time for Nick's 16th birthday!

A first look has surfaced of Matt Damon in the highly anticipated film
version of Andy Weir's novel The Martian
directed by Ridley Scott and written by Drew Goddard (Daredevil, The
Cabin in the Woods). Indiewire observed that "Star Wars fans will note
the color scheme that doesn't look entirely dissimilar to the rebel
pilot outfits, but that's probably just a coincidence or small homage."
The Martian's cast includes Kate Mara, Michael Pena, Kristen
Wiig, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Mackenzie Davis, Sean Bean, Donald
Glover and Naomi Scott. It hits theaters November 25.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer was recommended to me by a fellow Steampunk fan who knows of my love of re-booted fairy tales and legends, and YA fiction. Cinder is, of course, a re-telling of Cinderella, but done in a dystopian YA science fiction novel that is extremely well written. The chapters fly by, written in elegantly simple prose that harnesses the intricate but flowing plot. The protagonist, Cinder, is a cyborg whose evil stepmother takes all of the money Cinder makes repairing machines and uses it on her two human daughters, only one of whom is seriously hostile to Cinder. However, there's a plague that is eating away at the population of New Beijing, and when one of her stepsisters, Peony, is infected, Cinder's life goes from bad to worse, fast.  Here's the blurb from Publisher's Weekly:
First in the Lunar Chronicles series, this futuristic twist on Cinderella retains just enough of the original that readers will enjoy spotting the subtle similarities. But debut author Meyer’s brilliance is in sending the story into an entirely new, utterly thrilling dimension. Cinder is a talented teenage mechanic and cyborg—part human, part robot—who has been living in New Beijing with a demanding adoptive mother and two stepsisters, ever since her late stepfather took Cinder in after a hovercraft accident. Several events abruptly turn Cinder’s world upside down: a chance meeting with the handsome Prince Kai has her heart racing; a plague pandemic threatens her beloved sister Peony; Cinder learns she is immune to the plague; and the evil Lunar Queen Levana arrives on Earth, scheming to marry Kai. Though foreshadowing early on makes it fairly clear where the story is headed, it unfolds with the magic of a fairy tale and the breakneck excitement of dystopian fiction. Meyer’s far-future Earth is richly imagined, full of prejudice and intrigue, characters easy to get invested in, and hints of what might await in future books.
I really enjoyed this book, which I read in one sitting, and I look forward to reading Scarlett, the second book of the Lunar Chronicles. I'd give this book an A, and recommend it to young teenagers (13 and up) and adults who enjoy rebooted fairy tales with a twist.

I happened upon The Map of Lost Memories at my local library's year-round book sale shelves, and the premise intrigued me enough to grab the hardback version. Here's the blurb:In 1925 the international treasure-hunting scene is a man’s world, and no one understands this better than Irene Blum, who is passed over for a coveted museum curatorship because she is a woman. Seeking to restore her reputation, she sets off from Seattle in search of a temple believed to house the lost history of Cambodia’s ancient Khmer civilization. But her quest to make the greatest archaeological discovery of the century soon becomes a quest for her family’s secrets. Embracing the colorful and corrupt world of colonial Asia in the early 1900s, The Map of Lost Memories takes readers into a forgotten era where nothing is as it seems. As Irene travels through Shanghai's lawless back streets and Saigon’s opium-filled lanes, she joins forces with a Communist temple robber and an intriguing nightclub owner with a complicated past. What they bring to light deep within the humidity-soaked Cambodian jungle does more than change history. It ultimately solves the mysteries of their own lives.
I found the protagonist to be a fascinating character, as Irene seemed to be the only person who wasn't a drug addict or insane, or both by the time they got to the jungles of Cambodia. I could understand her frustration at being passed over for a well deserved promotion because she's a woman, as that kind of nonsense is still happening even today. Though I am not really a fan of Vietnam, this book made the people and their culture sound intriguing, and there were enough historical details to make even the most reluctant traveler at least want to read more about Vietnamese civilization and religion prior to the 19th century. The prose was dense, but clean, and the plot meandered a bit due to romance and soforth, but ultimately, this was a great adventure novel that is well worth the read. I'd give it a B+, and recommend it to those who like Asian cultures, historical romances and adventure tales.

I picked up About Grace by Anthony Doerr because I loved his Pulitzer Prize-winning All the Light We Cannot See so much, that I assumed all of his work would be of the same quality. Unfortunately, this isn't the case, as About Grace has one of the most irritating, distracted and idiotic protagonists I've ever encountered in fiction. Here's the blurb:
David Winkler begins life in Anchorage, Alaska, a quiet boy drawn to the volatility of weather and obsessed with snow. Sometimes he sees things before they happen—a man carrying a hatbox will be hit by a bus; Winkler will fall in love with a woman in a supermarket. When David dreams that his infant daughter will drown in a flood as he tries to save her, he comes undone. He travels thousands of miles, fleeing family, home, and the future itself, to deny the dream.
On a Caribbean island, destitute, alone, and unsure if his child has survived or his wife can forgive him, David is sheltered by a couple with a daughter of their own. Ultimately it is she who will pull him back into the world, to search for the people he left behind.
Doerr's characters are full of grief and longing, but also replete with grace. His compassion for human frailty is extraordinarily moving. In luminous prose, he writes about the power and beauty of nature and about the tiny miracles that transform our lives. About Grace is heartbreaking, radiant, and astonishingly accomplished.
Winkler, as he's referred to throughout the book, is insane. His "poetic" thoughts about every single dang thing that he sees is outlined in excruciating detail in paragraph after paragraph, until the reader is put to sleep by the drowsy dullness of it all. Winkler's wife, whom he badgered until she had an affair with him and then left her husband, finally has enough of his crazy sleepwalking when she discovers he's running around like a zombie with their baby daughter, Grace, putting her in more danger than his "prophetic" dreams. She takes the only sane course by leaving him and telling him to get some therapy so that he's not so obsessed with his 'dreams' that he forgets to live in the real world, where actions have consequences. Of course, being the ineffectual weirdo that he is, Winkler doesn't do that, he ends up destitute on an Island in the South Pacific, and therein gets involved with an Island family whose daughter he imparts his love of weather and the natural world. He has a prophetic dream about her, though, too, and ends up being banned from the Island family's household for pretty much the same reason he was left by his wife. So he watches the native girl grow up, and eventually follows her to Alaska in his quest to find his wife and daughter. He discovers his wife died of cancer, but he soon discovers that his daughter is alive and that he has a grandson. Instead of going to see her directly, he stalks his daughter and his grandson like a real creeper. He also has creepy sexual fantasies about the native girl that he watched grow up, which is just disgusting and wrong. Winkler is such a loser, such a dream-addled idiot that I kept hoping that he'd get hit by a bus or that someone would tell him to just GO AWAY and leave everyone alone, because he's a creep. But no, even though his daughter wants nothing to do with him, unsurprisingly, he works behind her back to have access to his grandson. When she discovers this, she's understandibly furious, and she refuses to allow him to see her or her son again, which leads to some more creepy stalking behavior by Winkler. When he finally rescues Herman, his wifes first husband, for some reason Grace allows him access to his grandson again, though it's not clear why, because he still seems dangerously nutso to the reader. At any rate, I'd give this book a C-, and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who has children, because it will frustrate you. I suppose Anthony Doerr purists might find it interesting, but beware that it might sour your love of his later works.  

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