Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Romance of Bookshops, Readers of the Last ARC, RIP Harper Lee and Umberto Eco and After You by Jojo Moyes

Quotation of the Day
"There is nothing like the romance of a bookshop. A living, breathing
behemoth where people wander around in dreamy circles, bump into
interesting strangers, flirt, buy a book, go for coffee, fall in love,
get their hearts broken, then go back for consolation. We know this from
films of old, from 84 Charing Cross Road and The Big Sleep to Manhattan,
Notting Hill and You've Got Mail. This is the 'How We Met' story that we
would like to tell our children and friends: 'Oh, we met in the poetry
section of that old bookshop in 1984, and look at us now!' "

--Arifa Akbar in an Independent story with one of our favorite
headlines: "Bookshops are back--because you can't meet a lover on your

This is just so cool! I love it that this ARC traveled far and wide and developed into
a new book!

Readers of the Last ARC
After the Woods, Kim Savage's just-released debut psychological
thriller, was generating so much buzz--and requests for advanced
copies--that publicist Morgan B. Dubin at Farrar, Straus & Giroux Books
for Young Readers ran a "traveling ARC blog tour
" with
one single ARC, the last one she had on hand. That copy traveled from
blogger to blogger, from New York City to upstate New York, Boston,
Pennsylvania, Chicago, northern Illinois, Texas, Louisiana and finally
back to N.Y.C. Dubin asked the bloggers who received it to record their
doodles, ideas, theories and reactions in the ARC itself as they were
reading, creating a community of passionate readers within the pages.
The dog-eared ARC--thoroughly marked up with doodles and comments from
"great first sentence!" to "double eeek!"--is now back in the offices of

This past wee we lost two great authors, Harper Lee and Umberto Eco, whose works I've read and loved. 

Harper Lee Dies at Age 89
Harper Lee
author of the iconic To Kill a Mockingbird--one of the most beloved
works of American literature--and the more recent Go Set a Watchman,
died on Friday in her hometown of Monroeville, Ala. She was 89.

Published in 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird became an immediate bestseller,
won the Pulitzer Prize and was made into what has become a classic
movie. The book was been a steady seller since it was published--most
American students read it at least once in school--and has sold more
than 40 million copies.

Set in the 1930s in a small town like Lee's hometown, the story is a
coming of age-Southern gothic tale dealing with pervasive racism,
inequality and legal injustice from the point of view of a young girl,
Scout. The book is revered for its narrative style, its sense of humor,
its vivid and eccentric characters. The plot involves a tragically
common situation in the Deep South during the time: Scout's lawyer
father, Atticus Finch, represents a black man falsely accused of raping
a white woman. Most townspeople want to lynch the defendant and deeply
resent Atticus's strong defense. Atticus's wisdom, integrity, high moral
values and gentleness are a shining example for Scout and a signal of
hope for readers. To Kill a Mockingbird's characters, including Scout's
brother, Jem, and friend Dill (based on her real-life friend Truman
Capote) are among the best known in the world. As one fan said over the
weekend, "You can go to France and mention Boo Radley, and people will
know who you mean."

Lee was famously reclusive, declining interviews, uncomfortable with her
fame and success. In 2007, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of
Freedom by President Bush for her contribution to literature, and she
traveled to the White House for the honor.

Lee published nothing after To Kill a Mockingbird--until last July, when
Go Set a Watchman, an early draft of To Kill a Mockingbird, with many of
the same characters but set in the 1950s, appeared. The book was an
instant sensation, celebrated with the same kind of excitement and
public events that greeted new Harry Potter books. Although not as
polished as To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman was marked by the
same strong narrative style. Some fans were disappointed that Atticus
Finch is portrayed as a segregationist and says demeaning things about
blacks, but for many, it was wonderful to read more prose by Harper Lee.

Remembrances and testimonials have poured in. Among the many eloquent
ones was this from President Obama "When Harper Lee
sat down to write To Kill a Mockingbird, she wasn't seeking awards or
fame. She was a country girl who just wanted to tell an honest story
about life as she saw it.

"But what that one story did, more powerfully than one hundred speeches
possibly could, was change the way we saw each other, and then the way
we saw ourselves. Through the uncorrupted eyes of a child, she showed us
the beautiful complexity of our common humanity, and the importance of
striving for justice in our own lives, our communities, and our country.

"Ms. Lee changed America for the better. And there is no higher tribute
we can offer her than to keep telling this timeless American story--to
our students, to our neighbors, and to our children--and to constantly
try, in our own lives, to finally see each other."
Umberto Eco
"an Italian scholar in the arcane field of semiotics who became the
author of bestselling novels," as the New York Times put it, died
February 19. He was 84. Eco "sought to interpret cultures through their
signs and symbols... and published more than 20 nonfiction books on
these subjects while teaching at the University of Bologna, Europe's
oldest university. But rather than segregate his academic life from his
popular fiction, Mr. Eco infused his seven novels with many of his
scholarly preoccupations."

The most successful of these was The Name of the Rose, which sold more
than 10 million copies in about 30 languages. His other books include
Foucault's Pendulum, The Island of the Day Before, The Prague Cemetery,
History of Beauty, Baudolino, Serendipities: Language & Lunacy, The Book
of Legendary Lands
recently, Numero Zero. Eco was honored with Italy's highest literary
award, the Premio Strega; was named a Chevalier de la Légion
d'Honneur by the French government; and was an honorary member of the
American Academy of Arts and Letters.

The Guardian reported that Italy's prime minister, Matteo Renzi, praised
Eco as "an extraordinary example of a European intellectual
combining unique intelligence of the past with a limitless capacity to
anticipate the future. It's an enormous loss for culture, which will
miss his writing and voice, his sharp and lively thought, and his

In the Telegraph, novelist Allan Massie paid tribute to Eco, noting that
"intellectual though he was, with a personal library of some 50,000
Eco didn't immure himself in the proverbial Ivory Tower
A whisky-drinker with, for most of his life, a 60-cigarettes-a-day
habit, he was an accomplished journalist and early media don, who adored
popular culture, starting with the comic books of his childhood. 'I
suspect,' he said, 'that there is no serious scholar who doesn't like to
watch television.' "

But Stephen Moss observed in the Guardian that the "key, in taking stock
of his 60-year career, will be putting the fictions in context
Do not trust obituaries that emphasize 'the author of The Name of the
Rose' to the exclusion of his other personae. His novels were a
relatively small part of his output, and his contributions as critic,
editor, literary theorist and all-round provocateur should not be
forgotten. He was fascinated by--and wanted to look afresh
at--everything. Nothing was sacrosanct. The society in which he had
grown up had been torn apart by the second world war, and he sought to
understand why. That was the key to his leftwing politics and to his
restless intellectual wanderings. Perhaps the Anglo-Saxon literary and
intellectual world is safer and more self-contained because it did not
suffer that mid-century catastrophe."

After You by Jojo Moyes is the sequel to Me Before You, her bestselling fiction book about assisted suicide and quality of life. Though I read and enjoyed Me Before You, I felt that the women in the book were somewhat stereotyped and lacked backbone, other than the main character, Louisa "Lou" Clarke, who was firmly ensconced in the Manic Pixie Dreamgirl trope. So I was heartened when, in this book, Lou's mother finally breaks free of her role as a slave to her husband with no opinions that aren't approved by him, and decides to develop her life by taking classes and not shaving her legs. Yet Lou herself can't seem to move on from the paralyzed man she fell in love with, Will Traynor. Here's the blurb:

The sequel to Me Before You, which is soon to be a major motion picture releasing 6/3/2016
“We all lose what we love at some point, but in her poignant, funny way, Moyes reminds us that even if it’s not always happy, there is an ever after.” —Miami Herald
“You’re going to feel uncomfortable in your new world for a bit. But I hope you feel a bit exhilarated too. Live boldly. Push yourself. Don’t settle. Just live well. Just live. Love, Will.”
How do you move on after losing the person you loved? How do you build a life worth living?

Louisa Clark is no longer just an ordinary girl living an ordinary life. After the transformative six months spent with Will Traynor, she is struggling without him. When an extraordinary accident forces Lou to return home to her family, she can’t help but feel she’s right back where she started.

Her body heals, but Lou herself knows that she needs to be kick-started back to life. Which is how she ends up in a church basement with the members of the Moving On support group, who share insights, laughter, frustrations, and terrible cookies. They will also lead her to the strong, capable Sam Fielding—the paramedic, whose business is life and death, and the one man who might be able to understand her. Then a figure from Will’s past appears and hijacks all her plans, propelling her into a very different future. . . .

For Lou Clark, life after Will Traynor means learning to fall in love again, with all the risks that brings. But here Jojo Moyes gives us two families, as real as our own, whose joys and sorrows will touch you deeply, and where both changes and surprises await.

So one day, out of the blue, Lily Houghton-Miller, a horrible 16 year old claiming to be Will's daughter shows up on Lou's doorstep. Lily's mother was Will's long term girlfriend in college, and apparently got pregnant and then broke up with Will without telling him she was going to have his baby. Fast forward to years later when said girlfriend is remarried to a wealthy man but hears of Wills death and then tells her daughter that this man was her biological father, and, because Lily wasn't getting along with her mother and stepfather (she calls him "F-face") she decides to leave home to find out more about her father and his family by imposing herself on Lou. Lily is a lying, scheming, thieving and manipulative girl who uses drugs and people without conscience. Lou is somehow a complete push-over for this girl, to whom she owes NOTHING, but seems to feel she's responsible for throughout the novel.  No matter how badly she behaves, Lou always supports her and picks up the pieces of whatever mess she's gotten herself into. Even when Lily steals all of Lou's family heirloom jewelry and anything of value, including money, from her apartment (the "friends" she lets into the apartment to do drugs help in this endeavor), Lou tells Lily that she "owes her nothing" and that all is forgiven and fine. Lily has abused her trust so many times by this point, and been horrible and mean to her so often that I was having sympathy for Lily's cold and cruel mother by this point. Meanwhile, Lou has the worst job in the world, working in an airport bar for this nutball manager, and when she gets the opportunity to actually move to NYC and have a great job doing what she loves, she turns them down because Lily is missing and she feels she can't leave the evil little troll until she's "safe and stable." 
Honestly, I wanted to smack Lou in the face at least twice in every chapter. She's such a doormat! She finally finds someone to love, a handsome EMT named Sam, and she screws that up, too. In the end, though, she finally manages to fix things with handsome Sam, and Lily ends up living with her grandparents, and Lou's parents finally reconcile. So all is well that ends well, though I found the whole novel rather maddening and frustrating.  Still, it is worthy of a B+ and I'd recommend it to anyone who read Me Before You and has the patience to find out what happened to Lou and her family.

Monday, February 22, 2016

New Bookstore in Seattle, Emily Dickinson Movie, Martain Potatoes, Dietland TV Show, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, Love in Lowercase by F Miralles, Big Girl by Kelsey Miller and the Edge of Dreams by Rhys Bowen

Hurrah! A new bookstore opening in Seattle!

Third Place Books: 'Meet Your New Bookstore

Third Place Books managing partner Robert Sindelar shows off the new
In a piece headlined "Seward Park, meet your new bookstore
the Seattle Times previewed Third Place Books
April and "will feature an espresso bar, a full restaurant called
Raconteur (breakfast, lunch and dinner), a full bar downstairs, an
event/reading space capable of accommodating up to 100 people and
books." Robert Sindelar, managing partner at Third Place Books, which
has stores in Lake Forest Park and Ravenna, estimates the new store will
stock 15,000 to 20,000 titles and 50,000 volumes. There will be a
separate children's department.

Sindelar, who is v-p of the American Booksellers Association, said the
bookseller's formula relies on a key ingredient: make the store feel
welcoming. "Being multigenerational is important to our success," he
said. "Everyone in the household should like to be there. This is an
incredible opportunity. Here's a chance to grow a reading public."

The Seattle Times noted that the new location's "most distinctive
architectural feature is its arched roof, uncovered when the renovators
knocked down the dropped ceiling and found both the ceiling and the
original wood trusses. Now the interior ceiling is clad in beautiful
overlapping wood, like a warm wood floor. Skylights let the light in."

I've always been a fan of Emily Dickinson's poetry, so I am looking forward to seeing this movie when it comes out.

Movies: A Quiet Passion
A clip has been released for A Quiet Passion
the film directed by Terence Davies (The House of Mirth, The Deep Blue
Sea) that "tells the story of Emily Dickinson from her early days as a
young schoolgirl to her later years as a reclusive, unrecognized artist
whose huge body of emotional and powerful literary work was discovered
after her death." Cynthia Nixon and Jennifer Ehle star.

I LOVED the book and the movie of The Martian, and I think it is hilarious that a potato company wants to use the movie images to sell their potatoes, since Matt Damon's character must grow potatoes on Mars to continue to live there.

Merchandising Highlight: Martian Potatoes

A photo of The Martian
DVD being sold next to potatoes in a store's produce department went
viral over the weekend, and if you've read Andy Weir
novel or "seen the movie, it seems like perfect cross-promotion, done
perhaps by some clever person at a random grocery store. But it's no
accident," io9 reported.

The Albert Bartlett potato company
Twentieth Century Fox to use the movie and Matt Damon's face to sell its
Rooster potatoes. The promotion even includes the chance to win a free
trip to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The DVD/Blu-Ray insert
comes with an Albert Bartlett advertisement as well.

This was another great book, and I'm looking forward to seeing the TV show.

TV: Dietland

Producer Marti Noxon (Lifetime's UnREAL and Bravo's Girlfriends' Guide
to Divorce) has signed a multiyear overall deal with Skydance
Productions to create and develop new projects for the studio. According
to the Hollywood Reporter, the "first under the pact is drama Dietland
based on the novel of the same name by Sarai Walker. Described as part
coming-of-age story and part revenge fantasy, the potential series is
set against the backdrop of the beauty industry and explores society's
obsession with weight loss in a bold and funny fashion."  

I just read the best science fiction novel I've picked up in years. It's called The Long Way to A Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers and it is brilliant. 
I accidently bought the book in e-format, so I had to read it on my Nook device, which is something I try to avoid, as it tires my eyes. I thought that it was just a good cheap paperback until I got an email saying that the book was ready to read on my Nook. I had to charge the thing up for a couple of hours before it would even start up, because I've not used my e-reader for at least 2 years. Still, I figured that this book, bought because I'd not read a straightforward science fiction novel for awhile (I've read a lot of hybrids, but not many that are squarely within one genre) sounded interesting. Turns out "Small Angry Planet" is a thrilling page-turner that rests somewhere between a Star Trek, Babylon 5 and Firefly episode in tone and in plot and characterization. Here's the blurb:
A rollicking space adventure with a lot of heart
When Rosemary Harper joins the crew of the Wayfarer, she isn't expecting much. The patched-up ship has seen better days, but it offers her everything she could possibly want: a spot to call home, a chance to explore the far-off corners of the galaxy, and some distance from her past.
And nothing could be further from what she's known than the crew of the Wayfarer.
From Sissix, the exotic reptilian pilot, to Kizzy and Jenks, the chatty engineers who keep the ship running, to the noble captain Ashby, life aboard is chaotic and crazy—exactly what Rosemary wants. That is until the crew is offered the job of a lifetime tunneling wormholes through space to a distant planet. Sure, they'll earn enough money to live comfortably for years, but risking her life wasn't part of the job description.
The journey through the galaxy is full of excitement, adventure, and mishaps for the Wayfarer team. And along the way, Rosemary comes to realize that a crew is a family, and that family isn't necessarily the worst thing in the universe…as long as you actually like them.
 Most people call this kind of science fiction "space opera" because it has the melodramatic tone that was the hallmark of Star Trek in all it's wonderful incarnations. But I feel that this sells the novel a bit short. There's so much more to the vivacious crew of the Wayfarer! There's the wonderful Dr Chef, who serves as a nurturing alien who not only cures his crew's ailments, he feeds them fresh food and tea and herbal drinks to keep them going physically and spiritually. Dr Chef comes from a planet where his kind have nearly wiped their species out through war, leaving only about 300 of them alive to roam space. Ohan is a joined species (like the Trills of Deep Space Nine) who can only navigate through wormholes and soforth by allowing themselves to be infected with a parasitical species that eventually kills them. Jenks, who is a rare non-genetically-modified dwarf/little person is in love with the ship's artificial intelligence, Lovelace, whom everyone calls "Lovey." Kizzy is the wonderfully wild and optimistic engineer, ala Jewel Staite's character on Firefly. Sissix comes from a reptilian race for whom physical affection is as natural and constant as breathing. Into this mix comes human Rosemary, who is fleeing her wealthy traitorous father, an arms dealer of the lowest sort, hoping that her changed identity will change her life. She ends up negotiating their way out of a heist, and helping the crew in matters both great and small, even starting an affair with Sissix,so that the reptile can get the required amount of touch that she needs. The prose is sterling, clean and bouncy, while the plot moves at light speed, and before you know it, you're left praying for a sequel. I LOVED this book so much, I read it through in one sitting. I would give it an A+, and recommend it to anyone who enjoys social science fiction or space adventures. 
 Big Girl by Kelsey Miller was supposedly about a young woman who decides to stop dieting and "get a life," memoir, so I assumed there would be a great deal of discussion of body image, learning to love yourself at any size and the feminist/political ramifications of being fat and female in a society that tries to force women to be thin at any cost and beautiful by any means. I assumed wrong, because the book is actually one long whining screed about a sad young woman who loathes herself so much that she is willing to believe anything and do anything to make herself thin or lose weight. She has never cared for her body in a realistic way, and becomes bulimic and nearly anorexic by dieting with cruel obsessiveness. After gaining and losing and gaining and losing weight, Kelsey comes upon an "intuitive eating" book and program, wherein she talks to a psychiatrist daily about how she feels while eating and her twisted ideas about food and eating. Kelsey is also something of an obsessive compulsive person, and while she embarks on this new way of eating, she feels compelled to share everything about it on a magazine website in a column, opening herself up to trolls and other bullies who taunt and verbally abuse her about every move that she makes and every mouthful she eats. For some reason, Kelsey only "hears" the negative comments and responds to them while obsessing about the cruel things they say, as if because they're being mean, they must be right, though they do not know her at all. Here's the blurb:
A hilarious and inspiring memoir about one young woman's journey to find a better path to both physical and mental health.
At twenty-nine, Kelsey Miller had done it all: crash diets, healthy diets, and nutritionist-prescribed "eating plans," which are diets that you pay more money for. She'd been fighting her un-thin body since early childhood, and after a lifetime of failure, finally hit bottom. No diet could transform her body or her life. There was no shortcut to skinny salvation. She'd dug herself into this hole, and now it was time to climb out of it.
With the help of an Intuitive Eating coach and fitness professionals, she learned how to eat based on her body's instincts and exercise sustainably, without obsessing over calories burned and thighs gapped. But, with each thrilling step toward a healthy future, she had to contend with the painful truths of her past.
BIG GIRL chronicles Kelsey's journey into self-loathing and disordered eating-and out of it. This is a memoir for anyone who's dealt with a distorted body image, food issues, or a dysfunctional family. It's for the late-bloomers and the not-yet-bloomed. It's for everyone who's tried and failed and felt like a big, fat loser. So, basically, everyone.

Having been a fat gal for most of my life (and yes, I've been a "regular sized" person, too, when I was right around the same age as Kelsey, nearly 30 years ago) I totally understand her struggles with weight and her fear of eating and even her unease with her past molestation, though it never got so far as rape or other sex act (as it did with me, but that's another story).  What I had a harder time understanding was her vicious self hatred. Though there have been times when I've disliked by body and been frustrated by my physical limitations, I've never hated myself as deeply as Kelsey does. But I am also not as OCD as Kelsey, who seems to be so fanatical about little piddly details and perfectionist about ridiculous things that its a wonder she wasn't institutionalized during her youth. Her mania, which borders on Aspergers, freaked me out enough to make me want to put the book down several times, and her immaturity, jealousy and constant self-flagellation became nauseating after the third chapter. So if you are looking for a book that will inspire you to love and care for yourself as a larger person, this isn't that book. Thin is a Four Letter Word is a much better book on body acceptance, as is the recent release "Dietland" by Sarai Walker. The prose is mediocre and the book itself drags about halfway through, as Kelsey's struggles become redundant. I don't know that Kelsey ever learned to love and accept herself, though she at least became less obsessed with food through the intuitive eating program. I'd give this book a B-,and recommend it to people who already have a sense of self worth, because if you don't, this book will only depress you further.
Love in Lower Case by Francesc Miralles was a fun surprise of a novel, a short and sublime tale of a lonely man and his quest for the love of his life, whom he's not seen since childhood. Here's the blurb:
A romantic comedy for language lovers and fans of The Rosie Project, about a brainy bachelor and the cat that opens his eyes to life’s little pleasures
When Samuel, a lonely linguistics lecturer, wakes up on New Year’s Day, he is convinced that the year ahead will bring nothing more than passive verbs and un-italicized moments—until an unexpected visitor slips into his Barcelona apartment and refuses to leave. The appearance of Mishima, a stray, brindle-furred cat, becomes the catalyst that leads Samuel from the comforts of his favorite books, foreign films, and classical music to places he’s never been (next door) and to people he might never have met (a neighbor with whom he’s never exchanged a word). Even better, the Catalan cat leads him back to the mysterious Gabriela, whom he thought he’d lost long before, and shows him, in this international bestseller for fans of The Rosie Project, The Solitude of Prime Numbers, and The Guest Cat, that sometimes love is hiding in the smallest characters.

The characters who bound into Samuel's life are the real stars of the novel, from the bizarre and fascinating Valdemar to the odd writer/neighbor Titus, who only compiles books from other sources, to his disappearing guest cat Mishima. Samuel is such a recluse and not terribly good with people, as I'd guess he's either intensely shy or somewhere on the autism spectrum. How he can be so madly in love with someone he only met briefly as a child, and now sees crossing a street as an adult is a mystery that the book refuses to solve. Yet the charm of the novel is in the journey that he takes to come out of his shell. The prose is very good for a translation and the plot moves along gracefully. There are lots of interesting tidbits in this book, which I will not spoil for readers, and I will give it an A, while recommending it to writers and romantics everywhere. 
The Edge of Dreams by Rhys Bowen is the 14th MoIly Murphy mystery, and while I've read all but three of her novels, I don't usually buy the latest hardback copy of Bowen's works because they seem to be out in paperback rather quickly. The same things that always bother me about MM mysteries bothered me in this one, and the same things that always charm me kept me reading well into the night. The MM mysteries take place at the turn of the 20th century, and because she's a product of her time (1905), it's hard to expect Molly to be as independent and strong as I'd want her to be during her investigations. At that time it was perfectly normal for Molly's husband, police captain Daniel Sullivan, to expect her to stay away from murders and mysteries now that she's a wife and mother to one year old Liam.  But because Molly had her own successful Private Investigations business, and because she has two friends, Sid and Gus, who live together as a couple and travel, make art and are never going to marry or be "traditional" women, I have always felt that Bowen should allow Molly to be non traditional, too, and stand up to her husband's bullying and do her investigations out in the open, instead of sneaking around, lying to her husband and getting into dangerous situations that could be avoided. Here's the blurb:
Molly Murphy Sullivan's husband Daniel, a captain in the New York City police force, is stumped. He's chasing a murderer whose victims have nothing in common—nothing except for the taunting notes that are delivered to Daniel after each murder. And when Daniel receives a note immediately after Molly and her young son Liam are in a terrible train crash, Daniel and Molly both begin to fear that maybe Molly herself was the target.
Molly's detective instincts are humming, but finding the time to dig deeper into this case is a challenge. She's healing from injuries sustained in the crash and also sidetracked by her friends Sid and Gus's most recent hobby, dream analysis. And when Molly herself starts suffering from strange dreams, she wonders if they just might hold the key to solving Daniel's murder case.
Rhys Bowen's characteristic blend of atmospheric turn-of-the-century history, clever plotting, and sparkling characters will delight readers in The Edge of Dreams, the latest in her bestselling Molly Murphy series.
Bowen's prose is straightforward and clean, and her plots sail along swiftly, but I think readers generally know whodunit well before the end, and I assume that Bowen plans her novels that way, for reader satisfaction. This time Molly nearly dies, again, due to her own ridiculous obsession with "seeing things through" or just plain nosiness. While her mother in law and Daniel both try to get her to stay home an heal after a tram accident (she's battered, bruised and has a cracked rib, but her son is unscathed), as usual Molly ignores them and goes off to seek out clues in the cases that are causing her husband so much trouble. Inevitably, she discovers the link between them is a madman who wants revenge on everyone who had him committed to an asylum for the criminally insane, and the dreams of a little girl who was traumatized by the fiery death of her parents. There is some discussion of Freuds Interpretation of Dreams in here, which is fascinating, and I was thrilled to learn that Molly and Daniel are keeping Bridie, her MIL's ward, on at their house so that she can get a full education and have a career outside of homemaking or being a servant.  Sid and Gus still strike me as being more than a bit self-centered, but they are always fascinating in their unusual interests and knowledge of the latest subjects. They also provide a way for Molly to get away from her MILs disapproval and her husbands demands. I'd give this book a B+ and recommend it to anyone who has read the other Molly Murphy mysteries.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Clinton's Shopping Day, Two Movies and Two TV Shows Based on Great Books, and Staked by Kevin Hearne, Truthwitch by Susan Dennard and Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold

This is just so awesome, that presidential candidate Hillary Clinton would go shopping in a bookstore if she could do so without being surrounded by people. It means a great deal to me that the democratic presidents that we've had, Clinton and Obama, have been readers. It doesn't surprise me that many of the republican presidents, such as the Bushes, haven't.

Clinton's 'Anonymous' Day Includes 'Stopping in a Bookstore'

"There's nothing I like better than to be anonymous, as hard as that is
to achieve. So I would spend the day, you know, out in nature, talking a
long walk, walking through one of the beautiful towns here in New
Hampshire, stopping in a cafe, stopping in a bookstore. You know, maybe
calling some of my friends, some of whom are here tonight, and say,
don't tell anybody but meet me, you know, there. That's what I, that's
what I want to do, and it's what I get the great joy out of."

--Hillary Clinton, asked by Anderson Cooper during the CNN debate on
Wednesday night
what she would do if she could be anonymous for a day.

Two movies and Two TV shows based on Books.
I'm really excited for the Me Before You movie and the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society movies that are coming out based on the wonderful books by the same name. We read both of these books in my library book group, and most of us loved them!
Also, TV shows based on "A Discovery of Witches" and the life of William Shakespeare couldn't come at a better time, now that Downton Abbey is going off the air, after the final season (#6). 

The first trailer is out for Me Before You
based on the novel by Jojo Moyes, Variety reported. Directed by Thea
Sharrock from a screenplay by Moyes and Scott Neustadter/Michael H.
Weber (The Fault in Our Stars), the film stars Emilia Clarke (Game of
Thrones) and Sam Clafin (Hunger Games). The cast also includes Charles
Dance, Jenna Coleman, Matthew Lewis, Vanessa Kirby, Stephen Peacocke,
Brendan Coyle and Janet McTeer. Me Before You opens June 3.
"Much-in-demand Brit actress Rosamund Pike [Gone Girl] is circling
long-gestating project Guernsey
Deadline reported. Directed by Mike Newell (Harry Potter and the Goblet
of Fire) and based on The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer, the project is being produced by
Paula Mazur and Mitchell Kaplan (owner of Books & Books in Miami, Fla.) via the Mazur/Kaplan Company.

Deadline noted that there "is still a ways to go before this project
gets a green light, but the script remains a perennial favorite among
Brit film execs, who praise the richness of the central character.
Financing is coming together for this, with a number of players
potentially in the mix and kicking the tires, including StudioCanal."

Bad Wolf is developing a drama based on A Discovery of Witches
the first installment in the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness.
Deadline reported that the production company "has acquired TV rights
and is developing a drama based on the book with a view to adapting all
three in the series." Life On Mars' Ashley Pharoah is adapting the novel
for the screen while Harkness will also pen several episodes."

Colm Meaney (Hell on Wheels) and Mattias Inwood have joined the cast of
TNT's drama pilot that "tells the wild story of young William
Shakespeare's (Laurie Davidson) arrival onto the punk rock theater scene
that was 16th century London," Deadline reported. Shekhar Kapur
(Elizabeth) is directing a pilot written by Craig Pearce.

Meaney plays James Burbage, "a carpenter with a vision: to build the
first theatre in London since Roman times, a 3,000-seat auditorium that
became so famous it was simply called The Theatre." Inwood will play his
son Richard Burbage, who "eventually realizes that there is more to
being an actor than the crowd's adoration and he and Will go on to form
the greatest actor-writer partnership the world has ever seen," Deadline

Staked by Kevin Hearne is the final book in the Iron Druid Chronicles, which was a surprise to me as well as a disappointment. As the 8th book in the series, I'd assumed that there would be at least 9 books to round things out, but apparently, Hearne wants to move on to other types of books, such as his Star Wars novelization that he recently published (I read it and didn't like it, but I think I wasn't really the target audience for the book). Here's the blurb:
Iron Druid Atticus O’Sullivan, hero of Kevin Hearne’s epic urban fantasy series, has a point to make—and then drive into a vampire’s heart.
When a Druid has lived for two thousand years like Atticus, he’s bound to run afoul of a few vampires. Make that legions of them. Even his former friend and legal counsel turned out to be a bloodsucking backstabber. Now the toothy troublemakers—led by power-mad pain-in-the-neck Theophilus—have become a huge problem requiring a solution. It’s time to make a stand.

As always, Atticus wouldn’t mind a little backup. But his allies have problems of their own. Ornery archdruid Owen Kennedy is having a wee bit of troll trouble: Turns out when you stiff a troll, it’s not water under the bridge. Meanwhile, Granuaile is desperate to free herself of the Norse god Loki’s mark and elude his powers of divination—a quest that will bring her face-to-face with several Slavic nightmares.

As Atticus globetrots to stop his nemesis Theophilus, the journey leads to Rome. What better place to end an immortal than the Eternal City? But poetic justice won’t come without a price: In order to defeat Theophilus, Atticus may have to lose an old friend. 
There are plenty of battles and lots of insane bad guys to vex the trio of Owen/Granuaile/Atticus, but there are also lots of lesser gods and witches set to help them vanquish the vampires who want to wipe out the druids before they've even gotten more than a handful trained. As with all of Hearne's books, there's a lot of witty banter, lots of backstory/history lessons with Oberon the Irish Wolfhound, and lots of pain and suffering (and death) by not only the main trio, but everyone around them. Though I understand the need for these battles and collateral damage, I felt that Hearne was a bit heavy-handed with the bloody bits, because it began to veer closely to horror fiction for me when people start dying for something they have no real part in, other than a tenuous connection to Atticus. This particular novel, which is told from three POVs, also didn't have the same swift plot as the previous books, though the prose was just as vital and vigorous. Still there was an HEA ending, (or at least Happy For Now) and though I will miss Atticus and Oberon, I can honestly say that the ride has been worth the price of admission.  An A- for this final book, which I'd recommend to anyone who has read the rest of the Iron Druid Chronicles.

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard was something of an impulse buy. It sounded like a Discovery of Witches combined with Arabian Knights and Steampunk kind of fantasy novel, which is right up my alley, usually. However, Dennard's prose style was stilted and florid, which slowed down the plot considerably, especially during the first half of the book. The two main characters seem at first to be in love with one another, but as the novel progresses, they are supposed to be a kind of prophesy come to life, as sisters who are sent to save the world. Here's the blurb:
On a continent ruled by three empires, some are born with a "witchery," a magical skill that sets them apart from others.

In the Witchlands, there are almost as many types of magic as there are ways to get in trouble—as two desperate young women know all too well.

Safiya is a Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lie. It’s a powerful magic that many would kill to have on their side, especially amongst the nobility to which Safi was born. So Safi must keep her gift hidden, lest she be used as a pawn in the struggle between empires.
Iseult, a Threadwitch, can see the invisible ties that bind and entangle the lives around her—but she cannot see the bonds that touch her own heart. Her unlikely friendship with Safi has taken her from life as an outcast into one of reckless adventure, where she is a cool, wary balance to Safiya’s hotheaded impulsiveness.
Safiya and Iseult just want to be free to live their own lives, but war is coming to the Witchlands. With the help of the cunning Prince Merik (a Windwitch and privateer) and the hindrance of a Bloodwitch bent on revenge, the friends must fight emperors, princes, and mercenaries alike, who will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.
Both Safi and Iseult have to deal with the prejudices and limitations of their time, which sets lethal limitations on women, especially noble women like Safi, who is made doubly valuable as a "truthwitch," though her powers do not extend as far as everyone believes that they do. While I gather that the duo want to make their own way, they seem to suffer from a great deal of stupidity, especially Safi, who seems to forget her past disasters and just jumps headlong from one mistake to another. After slogging through the first slow chapters, I was glad when things began to pick up, and by the halfway mark it got really interesting. Still, I didn't really like Safi and Iseult as people, because they seemed rather selfish and intent on their own lives instead of realizing that Merik's people were starving and dying due to political machinations they both should have been well aware of. That they eventually realize this and stop to help is good, I just felt that it took too long for them to get there. Still, not a bad novel, all in all. I'd give it a B-, and recommend it to the YA fantasy crowd, especially young women who enjoy adventures that star young women, and who like Jane Austen's prose style.

I hotly anticipated Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold. I've read all of LMB's Miles Vorkosigan science fiction novels, and LOVED them dearly. Bujold has created, after all, science fiction's first handicapped hero who solves problems with his brain rather than brawn. This 17th novel was dubbed a "new Vorkosigan saga novel" and fans like myself were looking forward to catching up with Miles and his family, especially now that he's middle aged and dealing with 6 children and a smart wife. BTW, I've also read nearly all of LMB's other works, including the first book of the Sharing Knife series, which I deeply disliked for its sexism, but has been absent from the rest of her work. Unfortunately, Gentleman Jole proved to be an excruciating bore for the first 70 pages, and only started to get a bit interesting around page 93. By page 123, things picked up considerably, and it was pretty smooth sailing from there on, but good god, why LMB decided to have Cordelia (Mile's mother) and her dead husband's male lover Oliver Jole just futz around in their daily routines for so many pages without actually doing anything is beyond me. It was an insomnia cure that I never expected from an adventurous writer like Bujold. Why have a middle aged (50 year old) man and a 76 year old senior citizen woman blather on about having children in uterine replicators and then act all shy and reticent about having sex, though they'd both had intercourse before with each other and with Cordelia's bisexual husband Aral? It boggles the mind, and not in a good way.  Here's the blurb:
Three years after her famous husband’s death, Cordelia Vorkosigan, widowed Vicereine of Sergyar, stands ready to spin her life in a new direction. Oliver Jole, Admiral, Sergyar Fleet, finds himself caught up in her web of plans in ways he’d never imagined, bringing him to an unexpected crossroads in his career.
Meanwhile, Miles Vorkosigan, one of Emperor Gregor’s key investigators, this time dispatches himself on a mission of inquiry, into a mystery he never anticipated – his own mother.
Plans, wills, and expectations collide in this sparkling science-fiction social comedy, as the impact of galactic technology on the range of the possible changes all the old rules, and Miles learns that not only is the future not what he expects, neither is the past.

We don't even see Miles until near the end of the book, and then it's only peripherally, to get his approval for his mothers insane scheme to replicate 6 female children from eggs and sperm she'd had frozen before her husband died. She's given 3 of these eggs to Jole, for him to replicate boys from his lover Aral's genetics and his sperm, though Jole is somewhat loathe to commit to having children at this stage of his life. This makes much more sense than Cordelia, who is OLD, for heavens sake, wanting to raise 6 babies in her retirement years. My mother is only 2 years older than Cordelia, and she (and all her friends) would no more want to deal with babies at their age than they'd want to jump off a cliff. By the time you reach your 70s, no matter if you're going to live to be 100, you're more tired than horny and jonesing for babies (and bottles, diapers, spit up and crying at all hours). It also makes no sense that Cordelia still looks like she's in her late 30s, with only a little gray hair and a totally rocking body that somehow has missed the ravages of time and gravity. No sagging boobs, butts or crinkly skin and crows feet for the Vicerene! Of course Jole is also a total hottie, with very little gray hair and all lean muscle with, again, hard abs, no extra weight or sagging skin and flagging libido! Heaven forbid these characters have anything in common with mere mortals! Miles seems to be the only person with any sense at all, who questions why, when she has two children and plenty of grandchildren, that Cordelia wants to take on 6 babies, who, even with the help of nannies, are going to be a handfull at best.
From what I can discern from their few and stilted conversations, Cordelia's justification for this is best summed up as a selfish need to have babies that weren't born damaged, like Miles, and because she wanted girl children but never had the opportunity to slow down and have them replicated before this, which is BS, in my opinion. Babies require a lot of time and energy, and once you reach your 70s, I don't care how long-lived your species is, you're not going to be as full of vim and vigor as you were during your child-bearing years, which is currently up to age 40 or so. And if you have to have a phalanx of nannies to do the work of raising the children for you, why have them at all? Just as playthings or guarantees of immortality? The two main characters sneaking around for sexual liaisons also got to be more than a little ridiculous (they are adults, for crying out loud!) and Mile's capitulation to his mother's bizarre whims seemed sad more than accepting and excited. I was so disappointed in this novel I wanted to cry. Where was the adventure, the brilliant Miles problem-solving? Boring and ridiculous, I'd have to give this book a C+, and recommend it to only the most die-hard LMB fans, who won't mind wading through all the dull day to day to get to the story at the end.