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. 

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