Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Harry Potter's Birthday, Final Daily Show, Martian Movie Clip, and Love in Bookstores, Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan and Vision in Silver by Anne Bishop

It's hard to believe that beloved literary icon Harry Potter, from JK Rowling's brilliant novels, is turning 35 already. Seems like just yesterday he was a poor orphan 10 year old living under the stairs at the Dursleys.
Image of the Day: Happy Birthday, Harry!

To celebrate Harry Potter's 35th birthday, on August 1, the Country
Bookshelf in Bozeman, Mont., hosted more than 200 people for an afternoon party featuring trivia games, a
costume contest, pin the scar on Harry, quidditch pong, wand making, a
sorting hat, a magical creature hunt and lots of Harry Potter themed
food. The Bozeman Daily Chronicle quoted events coordinator Carson Evans
"There's such an energy about Harry Potter fans; there's no other series
that people get so excited about and know so much about." Pictured:
Country Bookshelf staffers Cindy Hinson, Carson Evans (dressed as
Moaning Myrtle) and Kyle Butler.

              **    **
Another icon, this time of television, has taken his final bow. Jon Stewart, whose witty and wise political commentary kept America laughing and learning, decided to end his 16 year run on a classy note by promoting his wife's book.

Final Daily Show

Last night, just two nights before the Daily Show's final episode, Jon
Stewart made his final book recommendation--and it was a special one.
The book is Do Unto Animals: A Friendly Guide to How Animals Live, and

How We Can Make Their Lives Better by his wife, Tracey Stewart. To be
published on October 6 by Artisan Books, Do Unto Animals is a guide with
illustrations by Lisel Ashlock on how to improve animals' quality of
life at home, in the backyard and on the farm. Stewart, a veterinary
technician who has 19 rescue animals at home, mixes facts about animals
and their behavior with practical advice, projects and stories of her
own family's experience.

Jon Stewart said on the air last night
"I've always known that my wife is kinder and a nicer person than I am,
but to learn that she is funnier and a better writer? I'm not gonna lie
to you--stings a little bit!" Acknowledging that the book isn't
available yet, he recommended viewers "head down to your local
bookstore, your independent bookstore, and ask them to order it."

As I've said before, my son Nick and I both read and loved this book, which is being made into a movie with the way-too-old Matt Damon in the lead role.

In a new clip from The Martian
Andy Weir's novel, the crew of the ARES 3 "prepare for their mission to
Mars by spending 10 days in isolation," Entertainment Weekly noted.
"After their 10 days are up, a NASA psychologist interviews them to
judge their psychological state, and we learn more about the astronauts
who are making the journey to the Red Planet, as Jessica Chastain shuts
down sexism, Michael Peña recaps Goodfellas, and Matt Damon
ponders the scientific accuracy of Aquaman." Ridley Scott's film hits
theaters on October 2.

I've always found bookstores and libraries to be very sensual places, and probably because I love books so much, I find love stories/marriage proposals in bookstores to be the height of romance.

Bookshops: 'Where Love Stories Begin'

In an ode to bookshops as places "where love stories begin
Bert Wright, curator of the Mountain to Sea dlr Book Festival and former
bookseller, observed in the Irish Times that while there are many
reasons to root for the survival of bricks-and-mortar bookstores, one of
the most important "is the conviction that bookshops, like libraries,
art galleries and theatres, satisfy a fundamental human appetite for
culture and community and are therefore worth preserving. Always too, of
course, there is the feeling that you meet more interesting people in

Noting that the "notion of bookshops as hang-outs for cruising and
schmoozing often crops up in novels and in popular culture in general,"
Wright added that "it's not just readers and writers who find bookshops
romantic, for many a bookseller has met their soul mate on the job.
Twenty years ago this August I met mine. Reader, I married her."

Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan was the August book for the library's Tuesday night book group that I head up. Because it is a fictionalized account of the lives of Robert Louis Stevenson and his divorced wife Fanny Osborne, I was expecting an exciting tale of Stevenson's muse and the wrestling of books like Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde into existence. What I actually read was a dreadfully dull recounting of the lives of these two co-dependent people who were both unpleasant people. Here's the blurb: 
From Nancy Horan, New York Times bestselling author of Loving Frank, comes her much-anticipated second novel, which tells the improbable love story of Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson and his tempestuous American wife, Fanny.

At the age of thirty-five, Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne has left her philandering husband in San Francisco to set sail for Belgium—with her three children and nanny in tow—to study art. It is a chance for this adventurous woman to start over, to make a better life for all of them, and to pursue her own desires.  Not long after her arrival, however, tragedy strikes, and Fanny and her children repair to a quiet artists’ colony in France where she can recuperate. Emerging from a deep sorrow, she meets a lively Scot, Robert Louis Stevenson, ten years her junior, who falls instantly in love with the earthy, independent, and opinionated “belle Americaine.”
Fanny does not immediately take to the slender young lawyer who longs to devote his life to writing—and who would eventually pen such classics as Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In time, though, she succumbs to Stevenson’s charms, and the two begin a fierce love affair—marked by intense joy and harrowing darkness—that spans the decades and the globe. The shared life of these two strong-willed individuals unfolds into an adventure as impassioned and unpredictable as any of Stevenson’s own unforgettable tales.
Though they both traveled to exotic locales and seemed to love one another, Stevenson was an invalid for much of the book, and Fanny was mostly concerned with taking care of him, though she also eventually sought some fame as a writer as well. Stevenson comes off as a weak willed, sick and rather needy person who treated most everyone around him poorly and like servants, which he seemed to expect as his due, for some reason. Fanny was not a kindly person and she treated her children like lap dogs. There is way too much period detail and narration in this novel and not enough characterization of the protagonists, so that in the end, you don't really care when they die. Horan's novel about Frank Lloyd Wright, Loving Frank, was a much better novel, and I was therefore surprised that it took me four tries to actually get through this long-winded novel. I'd give it a C+, and recommend it only to die-hard fans of RL Stevenson.

Vision in Silver by Anne Bishop is the third book in the "Others" series. I've read and reviewed the first two, and, as I am not really into horror fiction, I read the first book under protest. However, the characters were so well written that I couldn't stop thinking about them, so I read the second book and found myself yearning to know what happens next to our intrepid cassandra sangue, (blood prophet) Meg as she develops her relationship with Simon Wolfgard and the other terra indigene shape-shifters. This brought me to a dilemma, as the third book, Vision in Silver, is new and still in hardback, so it's expensive and I couldn't afford to buy a copy. However, a friend reminded me of my beloved library, and I was able to snag a copy right away, and read it in a day. Anne Bishop's prose is mesmerizing, and her plots fly like the wind. Her characters are the real stars of her novels, however, and they are so well drawn that within her detailed world they come alive. Here's the blurb: 
The Others freed the cassandra sangue to protect the blood prophets from exploitation, not realizing their actions would have dire consequences. Now the fragile seers are in greater danger than ever before—both from their own weaknesses and from those who seek to control their divinations for wicked purposes. In desperate need of answers, Simon Wolfgard, a shape-shifter leader among the Others, has no choice but to enlist blood prophet Meg Corbyn’s help, regardless of the risks she faces by aiding him.

Meg is still deep in the throes of her addiction to the euphoria she feels when she cuts and speaks prophecy. She knows each slice of her blade tempts death. But Others and humans alike need answers, and her visions may be Simon’s only hope of ending the conflict.

For the shadows of war are deepening across the Atlantik, and the prejudice of a fanatic faction is threatening to bring the battle right to Meg and Simon’s doorstep…

I feel compelled, almost against my will, to keep reading Anne Bishop's Others series, though I know that there will be way too much death and gore and horror for me to rest easy at night. In fact, I had a nightmare last night that ended with me sitting bolt upright in bed, puffing as if I'd run a marathon and afraid that whatever was chasing me in the nightmare was going to take a bite out of my leg any minute. I do not like being frightened, and I like terror even less. Yet I know when the next Others book comes out, I will be anticipating it with the fervor of a Humans First and Last fanatic, unfortunately. Damn you, Anne Bishop!  Still, I'd give this book an A, and recommend it to anyone who has read the first two novels. But be warned, they are addictive, and once you start reading them, you will be hooked. 

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