Tuesday, February 02, 2016

The Night Manager and American Gods movies, The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald, Night Study by Maria V Snyder and Their Fractured Light by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

I'm really excited to see these two movies/TV movies being brought to the screen from books. The first, the Night Manager has a stellar cast, and the second has already cast the lead role and is based on a fascinating novel by Neil Gaiman, one of my favorite authors.

The first trailer has been released for the BBC's The Night Manager
based on John Le Carré's novel and starring Tom Hiddleston and
Hugh Laurie. Indiewire noted that "Susanne Bier (Brothers, After the
Wedding) directed all six episodes, and while no air date has been
revealed just yet, the show will get a premiere at the Berlin
International Film Festival along side some other shows."

TV: American Gods
English actor Ricky Whittle (The 100) will play Shadow Moon in the Starz
TV adaptation of Neil Gaiman's American Gods
io9 reported. Bryan Fuller (Hannibal, Heroes) and Michael Green (Heroes)
are the showrunners and writers, with David Slade (Hannibal, 30 Days of
Night, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse), directing the pilot. American Gods
is expected to air in 2017, with filming slated to begin in April.

"I'm thrilled that Ricky has been cast as Shadow," Gaiman said. "His
auditions were remarkable. The process of taking a world out of the
pages of a book, and putting it onto the screen has begun. American Gods
is, at its heart, a book about immigrants, and it seems perfectly
appropriate that Shadow will, like so much else, be Coming to America.
I'm delighted Ricky will get to embody Shadow. Now the fun starts. 

Night Study by Maria V Snyder is a long-awaited addition to Snyder's popular Poison Study series, about a former royal food taster and kings assassin who come to love one another.
Here's the blurb:
New York Times bestselling author Maria V. Snyder transports readers back to the realms of Sitia and Ixia in an exciting new Study novel full of magic, danger and intrigue.
Ever since being kidnapped from the Illiais Jungle as a child, Yelena Zaltana's life has been fraught with peril. But the recent loss of her Soulfinding abilities has endangered her more than ever before. As she desperately searches for a way to reclaim her magic, her enemies are closing in, and neither Ixia nor Sitia is safe for her anymore. Especially since the growing discord between the two countries and the possibility of a war threatens everything Yelena holds dear.
Valek is determined to protect Yelena, but he's quickly running out of options. The Commander suspects that his loyalties are divided, and he's been keeping secrets from Valek…secrets that put him, Yelena and all their friends in terrible danger. As they uncover the various layers of the Commander's mysterious plans, they realize it's far more sinister than they could have ever imagined.
Yelena and Valek are on the run in this book, but there's also the complication of Yelena's pregnancy and her inability to do magic,(and whether or not the two are related) plus the re-emergence of some of her old enemies, like Owen and others, who want her dead and Valek incapacitated before they take over both countries. Yelena's idiot brother Leif is still causing more trouble than he is worth, and still eating his way through every chapter, and her father, who got them into this mess because he found a killer poison in the jungle, is also seemingly working against the interests of our hero and heroine. Fortunately, Ari and Janko are there to help pull Yelena out of some sticky situations, and Valek's new rival/apprentice assassin seems to want to help them, too, though she has her own agenda. As usual, Snyder's prose is lucid and lush, and her plot zips along beautifully, allowing the characters full breadth of motion to get things done. This is the kind of book you sit down to read and look up and realize you've read the whole thing in one sitting. I'd give this page-turner an A, and recommend it to anyone who has read any or all of the books in the Poison Study series.

Their Fractured Light by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner is the third book in the Starbound Trilogy. Though it is over 400 pages long, that's barely enough time for the authors to tie up all the loose ends of the story that they began with These Broken Stars and This Shattered World. Each book focuses on a guy and a gal who are worlds apart, politically, socially and in every other way, and yet they are destined to become a couple, through a chance meeting and circumstances that throw them together. Here's the blurb:
A year ago, Flynn Cormac and Jubilee Chase made the now-infamous Avon Broadcast, calling on the galaxy to witness LaRoux Industries' corruption. A year before that, Tarver Merendsen and Lilac LaRoux were the only survivors of the Icarus shipwreck, forced to live a double life after their rescue.
Now, at the center of the galaxy on Corinth, all four are about to collide with two new players in the fight against LRI.
Gideon Marchant is an underworld hacker known as the Knave of Hearts, ready to climb and abseil his way past the best security measures on the planet to expose LRI's atrocities. Sofia Quinn, charming con artist, can work her way into any stronghold without missing a beat. When a foiled attempt to infiltrate LRI Headquarters forces them into a fragile alliance, it's impossible to know who's playing whom—and whether they can ever learn to trust each other.
With their lives, loves, and loyalties at stake, only by joining forces with the Icarus survivors and Avon's protectors do they stand a chance of taking down the most powerful corporation in the galaxy—-before LRI's secrets destroy them all.
The New York Times best-selling Starbound trilogy comes to a close with this dazzling final installment about the power of courage and hope in humanity's darkest hour.
My favorite of the trio of couples, Lilac and Tarver make a tortured appearance in this book, as to Flynn and Lee from the second novel. My only problem with the third couple, Gideon and Sofia, is that Sofia's goal of killing LaRoux himself is foiled at least twice due to her cowardly inability to carry out her vendetta, which make her character seem almost wimpy, in addition to being duplicitous and manipulative. LaRoux is an evil creep who seems to be in love with his daughter, and not in a normal way, and he's intent on using and torturing as many alien beings (and killing as many human beings) as he needs to so that he can take over the galaxy and turn humanity into zombies with no free will, so that there will be "peace" and he will be in control of everyone. Why they don't kill this insane bastard, I don't understand. And when his daughter tells everyone that he's just "misunderstood" at the end, when he's obviously gone crazy and needs to be committed to a mental institution, I nearly lost it. He's not misunderstood, he's an insane and evil meglomaniac who tried to wipe out humanity, for crying out loud. He's like Hitler on steroids! Why she feels the need to sugar coat it and procure sympathy for him is beyond me.  But at least all three couples manage to survive and live to love one another and rebuild, with the help of the freed aliens. The prose is clean and not too overwrought, while the plot got a bit convoluted, yet it still righted itself by the end. All in all, a nicely done SF/Romance/YA hybrid that isn't as sophisticated as Linnea Sinclairs work or as complex as the Poison Study series, but manages to deliver a good solid read with an HEA ending. I'd give it a B+ and recommend it to those who enjoy the aforementioned authors, or who like space opera or SF/Romance books. 

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald was not what I expected at all. Supposedly a story about a small Iowa town and it's quirky residents response to the addition of a timid Swedish bookseller, I was thinking it would be something like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. While "Readers" does have some of the same ideas in it, with the epistolary aspect of each chapter, it lacks the love of place and much of the warmth of Guernsey, and I thought I detected a slight edge of contempt toward Iowa and its small towns in the early chapters. Here's the blurb:
Once you let a book into your life, the most unexpected things can happen...
Broken Wheel, Iowa, has never seen anyone like Sara, who traveled all the way from Sweden just to meet her book-loving pen pal, Amy. When she arrives, however, she finds Amy's funeral guests just leaving. The residents of Broken Wheel are happy to look after their bewildered visitor—there's not much else to do in a dying small town that's almost beyond repair.
You certainly wouldn't open a bookstore. And definitely not with the tourist in charge. You'd need a vacant storefront (Main Street is full of them), books (Amy's house is full of them), and...customers.
The bookstore might be a little quirky. Then again, so is Sara. But Broken Wheel's own story might be more eccentric and surprising than she thought.
A heartwarming reminder of why we are booklovers, this is a sweet, smart story about how books find us, change us, and connect us. 

From Publisher's Weekly: Swedish author Bivald's debut novel is a delight. Erstwhile bookseller Sara Lindqvist has traveled from her home in Sweden to the tiny town of Broken Wheel, Iowa, in order to spend time relaxing and reading with her pen pal, Amy Harris, but what she finds upon arriving is that she's just in time for Amy's funeral. Sara is bewildered but the townsfolk insist that she stay in Amy's house and generally refuse to let her pay for anything. She decides to give back by opening Amy's old store and sharing Amy's books with the community. Bivald fills the pages with book references, chief among them Austen and Bridget Jones, but it is her characters that will win readers over. Sara is unassuming and, as an outsider, provides a wonderful view of the Iowans. Amy's nephew, Tom Harris, Poor George, Caroline Rohde, and the rest all bear their own hurts and each is, in some way, healed by Sara's presence and her books. As in Austen, love conquers but just who and how will come as a pleasant surprise.
As a native of Iowa, born and raised, I have seen my fair share of the state, and I was a bit taken aback by the description of the town of Broken Wheel, and the fact that if it were where it was described as being, it would be in Southeastern Iowa, not Eastern Iowa. My parents both grew up on farms in small towns in Southeastern Iowa, (Wellman and Hopkinton) which are near the "big cities" of Iowa City and Cedar Rapids. I went to college in the most Eastern of Iowa towns, Dubuque, which is right on the Mississippi River and in the "hump" of Iowa that borders Wisconsin and Illinois.  And while my families farms were also sold off in the 1980s and many small towns surrounding them became even smaller and less inhabited, I can't imagine any of the mostly German/Irish heritage people who have lived there for generations allowing an entire town to fade and go to wrack and ruin. Small town folk not only know everyone's business, but they tend to have a lot of pride, so they usually keep things neat and tidy and try to put a good face on even the most dire of circumstances. 
Also, Iowans, especially small town Iowans, are a friendly lot, very generous and bound to help others and take people in. While I lived there, I never saw a homeless person because in every town I lived in, everyone took care of everyone else, so if someone were in need of a place to stay, someone else with extra room put them up, and fed them, and there were always soup kitchens and free meal programs and food banks or places that had day old bread from a local bakery for free, that kind of thing. There is also virtually no crime in small towns, again, because everyone knows everyone else. We never locked our doors until we moved to the "big city" of West Des Moines and then Ankeny. 

But Bivald's Broken Wheel is a town of suspicious and aloof characters, many of whom are narrow-minded and pushy. There are few young people, which tracks if you take it as gospel that this is a dying town, but nearly all of the supposedly 600 residents seem to be weird/crazy or lonely enough to have become somewhat cruel, or at least very defensive around one another. Perhaps things have changed in Iowa in the 30 years since I've lived there, but I am unsure that people, especially small town folk, change that often or that radically. Also, Bivald might not realize this, but Iowa has allowed legal same-sex marriage for more than a few years now. So her gay characters complaint of not being able to marry rings false. All of this makes me wonder if Bivald has ever even been to Iowa, or if she just visited at some point and decided to write a book about it. 

Her main characters, the Iowan Amy who writes to Sara in Sweden, about her charming neighbors and friends, are fascinating as bibliophiles who share a deep love of reading a good story. What is odd is Sara's experiences once she lands in Iowa, and her need to "pay her own way" when its obvious that the town runs on mostly a barter system anyway. Still, when she opens her memorial to Amy bookstore, and people start reading books and appreciating how a good story can change your life and broaden your thinking, the book really starts to enchant and entertain the reader with the joy and life that is brought back to Broken Wheel by that determined Swedish introvert, Sara. While the prose wasn't perfect, it was good for a translation from Swedish to English, and the plot moved along nicely. There was an HEA ending and lots of growth from the townsfolk to warm the heart, plus good discussions of books and how the various genres enrich people's lives, something I truly appreciate myself. All in all, this book gets an A-, and I would recommend it to those who enjoy heartwarming tales like those of Fanny Flagg or Helene Hanff.

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