Sunday, June 07, 2015

Shadowhunters, Paper Towns, Harry Potter Prequel, and Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler, Eggs by Jerry Spinelli and Dragon in Exile by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

Having read the Mortal Instruments series, I was hoping for more movies, but I am thrilled that they're going to have a TV series of the books, which deserve a platform to lay out the stories visually.
Jon Cor (Dark Matter) has been cast in a recurring role on ABC Family's
straight-to-series drama Shadowhunters
based on Cassandra Clare's bestselling the Mortal Instruments YA book
series, reported. Cor will play Hodge Starkweather, joining
a cast that includes Katherine McNamara as Clary Fray, Maxim Roy as
Jocelyn, Dominic Sherwood as Jace and Alberto Rosende as Simon.

I've not read this book yet, but if it is anything like The Fault in Our Stars, I am sure I will love the movie based on John Green's novel.
A new trailer has been released for Paper Towns
based on John Green's novel and starring Nat Wolff, Cara Delevingne,
Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort. Jake Schreier (Robot & Frank)
directs. Indiewire noted that "in a summer of big, special-effects
blockbusters, don't count this one out. The author has a big following,
these are two young stars on the rise, and if it finds the same audience
and critical reception as Faults, it'll be a winner." Paper Towns opens
July 24.

You just can't go wrong with JK Rowling, and I imagine this will be a fantastic movie that will dazzle all the fans of Harry Potter and his world.
Warner Bros. announced that Oscar-winning actor Eddie Redmayne (The
Theory of Everything) will play Newt Scamander in the Harry Potter
prequel Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them reported that the film, which marks J.K. Rowling's
screenwriting debut, is slated for worldwide release in 3D and Imax
November 18, 2016. David Yates, who directed the last four Harry Potter
films, is the director and David Heyman, producer of all eight Potter
movies, is producing.

Dragon in Exile by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller might just be the best SF book I've read all year. I should note, first, that I am a huge fan of Sharon Lee and Steve Miller's Liaden Universe series of books and chapbooks, having read them all over the years. The world building is so intricate, the characters so vivid that after reading any of the books in the series, you feel as if you could travel to Surebleak and meet Aunt Kareen or Shan, or Val Con and Miri. Their real forte, however, is storytelling in sublime prose that sets their meticulous plots going at top speed. Once begun, it's nearly impossible to put a Liaden Universe book down, even for necessities, like food, fluids, sleep or caring for one's offspring, as my teenage son will attest. Here's the blurb:
#18 in the popular and exciting science fiction Liaden Universe®. Clan Korval rebuilds its fortunes on the gritty, semi-anarchic planet of Surebleak. Over a quarter million Liaden Universe® books are in print with an audience that keeps growing!
Star-trading Clan Korval—known to Terrans as the Tree-and-Dragon Family and to the locals simply as "the Dragon"—has been convicted of crimes against the homeworld. No matter that one of the "crimes" consisted of saving the elitist planet of Liad from very real internal threats, the Council of Clans wanted Korval heads to roll. Unfortunately for the Council, the Dragon's allies conspired to impose a milder punishment for saving the world: banishment, rather than execution.
Now relocated to the free-for-all world of Surebleak, the Dragon is under contract to keep the Port Road open to all traffic, and to back the New Bosses in imposing law and order on a society originally based on larceny and assassination. This modest rustication is going surprisingly well, until Korval discovers that the enemy they'd sought to destroy. . .wasn't quite destroyed, and is more determined than ever to eradicate Korval.
While the banishment killed no one initially, many of Korval’s trading allies are spooked, and some are reneging on ancient agreements, leaving the Dragon to make its own way. The clan’s efforts to stealthily recruit new allies is going haywire, and a secret death toll is rising even as the clan’s adherents endure increasing exposure to danger and deceit off-world.
To make matters worse, an active portion of Surebleak's native population liked the Old Ways just fine, and are conspiring to take the New Bosses—and the Dragon—down, and are sure they have the firepower and people to do it.
The exiled Dragon has to make an urgent choice—accept an alliance with criminals or face down each and every enemy in person, one by one.
 And so begins the roller-coaster ride full of thrills and manners that is a Liaden Universe novel! The delicate wit of the characters, the subtle sarcasm and the delightful dialog all conspire to keep readers saying "just one more chapter" until the night is through. As is my usual habit when I get ahold of a Liaden novel, I made sure that no one would disturb me for at least 12 hours while I devoured the book, leaving only a few chapters for the next day. While there were a number of resolutions to problems presented in previous novels, there were also flashbacks and reveals about past difficulties and incidences that made the storyline all the richer. I was glad to see more of Korval in Miri and Val Con, and very interested to see some of the workings of the dramliz in helping heal the minds of soldiers. I was also fascinated by the actions of the Tree...but to give away more would be spoiler territory. Suffice it to say I'd give this delicious space opera an A, and recommend it to anyone who has read the previous LU novels.
Eggs is the second YA book that I've read by Jerry Spinelli, the first being Stargirl, a work that I enjoyed much more than I did this novel. Perhaps it is because this was only his second work, and he's grown as an author in the ensuing years. Whatever the reason, the protagonist, David, is a horrible, obnoxious and very angry 9 year old boy who treats his grandmother like crap because his mother died of cancer and he apparently needs someone to blame for it.  When he's not looking for ways to hurt his rather wimpy, cowardly grandmother, he's hating on everyone else, including a girl he meets while on an egg hunt in a park, Primrose. Primrose's mother is a nutjob who plays at being a psychic and apparently hasn't the mental strength to care for her child.  Though I usually love reading YA novels, I get very tired of reading about children who act out in horrible ways while the adults around them remain clueless, selfish and totally inept. Here's the blurb: Eggs is a quirky and moving novel about two very complicated, damaged children. David has recently lost his mother to a freak accident, his salesman father is constantly on the road, and he is letting his anger out on his grandmother. Primrose lives with her unstable, childlike, fortuneteller mother, and the only evidence of the father she never knew is a framed picture. Despite their age difference (David is 9, Primrose is 13), they forge a tight yet tumultuous friendship, eventually helping each other deal with what is missing in their lives.
They don't mention it above, but the framed picture is of Clark Gable, not her father, whom Primrose's mother doesn't remember. Most of the characters are either ineffectual or mean in this novel, and though the ending is somewhat satisfying, the story itself is too bitter and cynical to be really enjoyable. The prose is clean and the plot slow, but it works. I'd give this limp and ugly duckling of a book a C, and recommend it to adults who had neglectful parents.
 I picked up a copy of Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler at a garage sale this weekend, and I read it in one sitting. This will be the 10th novel of the prolific Tyler's that I've read, but she has written so many more that I will probably never catch up. Unlike some of her previous work, such as the masterful Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, or the Tin Can Tree, Noah's Compass has a pathetic idiot of a protagonist in Liam Pennywell, a widowed and divorced father of three daughters, all of whom seem to hate him, though his youngest, Kitty, seems to just want to use him to be able to galavant off with her bizarre boyfriend. Here's the blurb:
Liam Pennywell, who set out to be a philosopher and ended up teaching fifth grade, never much liked the job at that run-down private school, so early retirement doesn’t bother him. But he is troubled by his inability to remember anything about the first night that he moved into his new and spare condominium on the outskirts of Baltimore. All he knows when he wakes up the next day in the hospital is that his head is sore and bandaged. His effort to recover the moments of his life that have been stolen from him leads him on an unexpected detour. What he needs is someone who can do the remembering for him. What he gets is . . . well, something quite different.
The detour spoken of above is meeting Eunice, a woman nearing 40 (to Liam's 60) whom Liam stalks in hopes of her becoming his "rememberer" and helping him recover his memories of the night he was beaten by a burglar. When Eunice misunderstands why he wants her, and assumes he needs help getting a job, a relationship ensues until Eunice reveals, fairly late in the game, that she's married. She still pursues Liam for some odd reason, though neither of them seems to have concrete feelings of love for one another, and neither seems willing for Eunice to leave her husband for them to be together. There's a great deal of indecision in this book, and it becomes more and more frustrating as the book moves along. The ending is abrupt and unsatisfying, and the characters all awful/boring/stupid or a combination of the three. The prose is mediocre and the plot plods along in a hum-drum fashion. I'd give this a C+, and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who finds waffling characters tedious. This is not one of Anne Tyler's best efforts. 

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