Saturday, January 16, 2016

Plot Twist Bookstore Opens in Ankeny, Iowa, Bookstore Cats, Across A Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe and This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner

I lived just outside of Ankeny, Iowa (in a rural area called Saylorville) from 5th grade through High School, and I took the bus into town to go to school there. My family moved into Ankeny proper when I was 17, and a year later my parents got a divorce and I moved to my favorite town, Dubuque, Iowa to go to Clarke College (now Clarke University). I have too many horrific bullying memories and terrible memories of my parents break up (and the married men in town who pursued my mother like slavering dogs) to actually say that I "like" Ankeny as a town, and while I lived there, you could only get books at the Kirkendahl Library, there wasn't a bookstore in sight. All that is to say that a bookstore opening in Ankeny is a welcome announcement. I hope it thrives.

Plot Twist Bookstore Opening in Ankeny, Iowa

Mary Rork-Watson is opening Plot Twist Bookstore
of Des Moines, in April. The 1,400-square-foot store will feature new
books for all ages, gifts for readers and community events.

"What I want to offer my customers is connection," Rork-Watson said.
"Connection to the right book, to authors, and to other readers. It is
important to me to provide expertise and find the right book for each

Rork-Watson has extensive administrative/ office management experience
and said she wanted to "use my skills to operate my own business. I have
spent the last year researching the business of owning a bookstore and
decided I would be able to use my office management skills (and finally,
that English major) to operate a successful bookstore. Like most
industry professionals I've met during the last year, I am an avid
reader and book lover. As I move toward opening day, I am getting more
excited about bringing an independent book store to a community that has
never had one."

She added that "bookstores are a wonderful place of discovery and
reflect the character of a community. I always visit the funky, local
stores when I travel and I decided that I wanted to create that kind of
space. Ankeny has a strong history of supporting local culture and
businesses so it just fits here."

The store is located at 502 N. Ankeny Blvd., Unit 6, Ankeny, Iowa

I love bookstore cats, though I am allergic to them. These are especially funny photos of cats judging the bookstore patrons.

Bookstore Cats at Work: 'Silently Judging'

"Remember that New Year's resolution to read more books and watch TV
less? How's that working out for you?" Buzzfeed asked in warning that
"bookstore cats are silently judging your lack of reading in 2016
Your decision to neglect another book club meeting has not gone
unnoticed by these fuzzy-bellied, hyper-judgmental bookworms."

The solution? "Pick up a book from your local independent store. Or
bring them a peace offering of catnip, both are acceptable."

This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner is the second book in the Starbound Series, which began with These Broken Stars. Here's the blurb:
Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac should never have met.
Lee is captain of the forces sent to Avon to crush the terraformed planet's rebellious colonists, but she has her own reasons for hating the insurgents.
Rebellion is in Flynn's blood. His sister died in the original uprising against the powerful corporate conglomerate that rules Avon with an iron fist. These corporations make their fortune by terraforming uninhabitable planets across the universe and recruiting colonists to make the planets livable, with the promise of a better life for their children. But they never fulfilled their promise on Avon, and decades later, Flynn is leading the rebellion.
Desperate for any advantage against the military occupying his home, Flynn does the only thing that makes sense when he and Lee cross paths: he returns to base with her as prisoner. But as his fellow rebels prepare to execute this tough-talking girl with nerves of steel, Flynn makes another choice that will change him forever. He and Lee escape base together, caught between two sides in a senseless war. The stunning second novel in the Starbound trilogy is an unforgettable story of love and forgiveness in a world torn apart by war.
This sequel had all the same earmarks of the first, two people who shouldn't click at all, but do, coming together over bad things happening on a planet. Except, in this book, there is a war between the military and the planet's colonists, and the inevitable bad corporation from the first book shows up and once again tries to kill everyone who knows their secret. Lee and Flynn are wonderful characters, full of determination and compassion, and though I found the ending just a bit pat, I still loved the way that the two managed to survive all the hatred and fear and misinformation from their various groups. It reminded me of stories of Germans and Jews falling in love during WWII. The prose is lucid and strong, and the plot moves along at a swift pace. I'd give this novel an A, and recommend it to those who read the first book.

Across a Star Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund is the sequel to her book For Darkness Shows the Stars, which I read last month. Whereas the first book was a science fiction reimagining of Jane Austen's Persuasion, this novel is an SF reimagining of the Scarlet Pimpernel. Here's the blurb:
From Rampant and Ascendant author Diana Peterfreund comes this thrilling companion to For Darkness Shows the Stars, now in paperback. Across a Star-Swept Sea is a romantic science-fiction reimagining of the classic The Scarlet Pimpernel.
Centuries after wars nearly destroyed civilization, the islands of Galatea and Albion stand alone, a paradise where even the Reduction—the devastating brain disorder that sparked the wars—is a distant memory. Yet on Galatea, an uprising against the aristocracy has turned deadly. The revolutionaries' weapon is a drug that damages their enemies' brains, and the only hope is a mysterious spy known as the Wild Poppy. On neighboring Albion, no one suspects that the Wild Poppy is actually famously frivolous teenage aristocrat Persis Blake. Her gossipy flutternotes are encrypted plans, her pampered sea mink is genetically engineered for spying, and her well-publicized new romance with handsome Galatean medic Justen Helo . . . is her most dangerous mission ever.
When Persis discovers that Justen is keeping a secret that could plunge New Pacifica into another dark age, she realizes she's not just risking her heart, she's risking the world she's sworn to protect.
Other than Persis spending too much time distrusting and hating, or trying to hate Justen, and Justen believing, against all evidence, that Persis is an aristocratic idiot (when it's clear to the reader that she's sharp as a tack), there wasn't much not to love about this novel, which takes place on an island similar to Hawaii. As with the previous novel, I found the ways that humanity had re-invented technology and pharmacology fascinating. The flutternotes that are embeded in the hands of most people, and run by sucking nutrients out of their bodies, the genetic temporary solutions that can make you look like anyone, for awhile, the genetically engineered creatures like Persis' pet "sea mink" which sounds like a cross between an otter and a ferret...all of it was riveting. Yet all is not well, when we have a dictatorship claiming to be something like the French revolution on one Island and on another we have the aristocrats busy trying to prevent the "regs" (short for regulars) from rising up against them and turning them into mindless idiots. Throw in a couple of heated love scenes and you've got me hooked and waiting for the next installment of this series.
I'd give it an A, and recommend it to anyone who read the first book, as you will need knowledge of those characters, because they show up 2/3 of the way through this one.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is a book that my son's sophomore high school English class is reading, and, because my son Nick had serious qualms about reading the book, he asked me to pick up a copy and read it with him. To be honest, I was shocked and dismayed at this story of pre-apartheid Nigeria/Africa, which is full of violence against women and children, and murder as well. Here's the blurb: Things Fall Apart tells two intertwining stories, both centering on Okonkwo, a “strong man” of an Ibo village in Nigeria. The first, a powerful fable of the immemorial conflict between the individual and society, traces Okonkwo’s fall from grace with the tribal world. The second, as modern as the first is ancient, concerns the clash of cultures and the destruction of Okonkwo's world with the arrival of aggressive European missionaries. These perfectly harmonized twin dramas are informed by an awareness capable of encompassing at once the life of nature, human history, and the mysterious compulsions of the soul.
Okonkwo is a horrible man who beats his wives and children, and even murders once of his foster children for the flimsiest of reasons. He's a savage and evil man, and the women and girls in this book are treated like chattel, possessions to be bought and sold and used and abused at will. When I wrote to Nick's teacher to explain my dismay, she said it was a perfect portrait of the clash of cultures that she felt students needed to read and understand, so that they might be glad they don't live in this primitive society. I find that argument somewhat specious, as things have changed in Africa since the end of Apartheid. Women have more opportunity, and there are groups like the Peace Corps that are helping women get microloans to start their own businesses and helping them lower infant mortality with well baby programs and deal with HIV with condom programs. Though I know there is still a great deal of work to do for women and girls in Africa (and America), I don't see the value in reading a book with such a reprehensible character at its center. It's a short book and I read it in a few hours, but I feel terrible for my son having to read about this horrible man and his abuse of women (along with all the other men in his tribe). I'd give this book a D-, and I can't say I'd recommend it to anyone. It's a vile and disgusting novel with no redeeming qualities. 

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