Sunday, May 29, 2016

Dietland Redux, Gaiman's Bio Documentary, The Look of Love by Sarah Jio, Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire, plus Reckless and Fearless by Cornelia Funke

I loved this book, and felt it was, in many ways, a feminist manifesto for millenials.
Book Trailer of the Day: Dietland
published last year, our reviewer wrote "In a confident, daring first
novel, Sarai Walker mixes satire and mystery as she holds a magnifying
glass over Western culture's objectification of the female gender. The
result is combustion of enormously entertaining and thought-provoking
proportion." Now out in paperback from Mariner Books, Dietland has a
special relevance in this election cycle where issues about women and
misogyny abound. The publisher has created Post-it notes
an Instagram page and a very funny book trailer to get the word out and use them all for change.

I can hardly wait to see this, as I am a long term fan of Neil Gaiman's work and his quirky, smart self. 
TV: Neil Gaiman: Dream Dangerously

A trailer has been released for the documentary Neil Gaiman: 
which will be shown exclusively on Vimeo beginning July 8. Deadline
reported that the film, created by Respect Films' director/producer and
editor Patrick Meaney and Jordan Rennert (producer/DP), "chronicles
Gaiman's childhood in Portsmouth U.K. to his initial success in writing
The Sandman comic series to his more recent work."

The story is told in Gaiman's own words, as well as through interviews
with friends/collaborators Terry Pratchett, Bill Hader, Michael Sheen,
Lenny Henry, Wil Wheaton, Stoya, J.H. Williams III, Lev Grossman, Brea
Grant, Merrilee Heifetz, Charles Brownstein, Sam Kieth, Jill Thompson,
Colleen Doran, and "his chats with George R.R. Martin, Jonathan Ross,
John Barrowman, Grant Morrison and Phillip Pullman."

I've only read one other book by Sarah Jio, Goodnight June, which was about Margaret Wise Brown and a Seattle bookstore (I reviewed that book on this blog in 2014). But the premise of The Look of Love sounded so delicious, I couldn't resist buying it at the local library book sale. The idea that a young woman has the gift of seeing when people are truly in love, and that it was passed down to her from a series of women with green eyes (and the modern day setting of Seattle's wonderful Pike Place Market) drew me into the book right away, and once begun, I wasn't able to put the book down. Jio's prose is beautiful without being too precious, and her plots are well structured and punctual. But it's her characters and storytelling talents that engage the reader and keep them up long past bedtime, reading just one more chapter until they find themselves at the end of the novel. Here's the blurb: Born during a Christmas blizzard, Jane Williams receives a rare gift: the ability to see true love. Jane has emerged from an ailing childhood a lonely, hopeless romantic when, on her twenty-ninth birthday, a mysterious greeting card arrives, specifying that Jane must identify the six types of love before the full moon following her thirtieth birthday, or face grave consequences. When Jane falls for a science writer who doesn’t believe in love, she fears that her fate is sealed. Inspired by the classic song, The Look of Love is utterly enchanting.
Another thing that I love about Jio's novels is that she doesn't waste the readers time with puffed up paragraphs of description or minutia. Most of her novels, the ones that I've seen or read, are under 300 pages. Writers like George RR Martin and most literary fiction authors could learn something from Jio in this regard. I'm planning on ordering several of her other novels, which sound just as engaging and enchanting as this one. A solid A, with the recommendation to anyone who loves romantic stories set in Seattle.

Reckless and the sequel Fearless by Cornelia Funke are fantasy novels that I stumbled on at the same library sale where I encountered the Sarah Jio novel, reviewed above. As with her Inkspell novels, Funke has once again revitalized the fairy tale into something unique, dark and deliciously strange. Here's the blurbs:
Reckless: Ever since Jacob Reckless was a child, he has been escaping to a hidden world through a portal in his father's abandoned study. Over the years, he has made a name for himself as a finder of enchanted items and buried secrets. He's also made many enemies and allies—most important, Fox, a beautiful shape-shifting vixen whom Jacob cares for more than he lets on.
But life in this other world is about to change. Tragedy strikes when Jacob's younger brother, Will, follows him through the portal. Brutally attacked, Will is infected with a curse that is quickly transforming him into a Goyl—a ruthless killing machine, with skin made of stone.
Jacob is prepared to fight to save his brother, but in a land built on trickery and lies, Jacob will need all the wit, courage, and reckless spirit he can summon to reverse the dark spell—before it's too late.
Jacob Reckless has only a few months left to live. He's tried everything to shake the Fairy curse that traded his life for his brother's—legends such as the All-Healing Apple, the Well of Eternal Youth, the blood of a northern Djinn. And yet hope after hope is extinguished. After months of fruitless searching, Jacob journeys through his father's mirror one final time to deliver the bad news to Fox.
But there they hear of one last possibility—an item so legendary that not even Mirrorworlders believe it exists: a crossbow that can kill thousands, or heal one, when shot through the heart. But a Goyl treasure hunter is also searching for the prized crossbow. Jacob must find it first—and somehow convince Fox to do whatever it takes to save him.

I loved the fantasy/fairy tale elements, but I was thrilled by the twists and turns and new takes that Funke had on them, and her strong lead characters. Fox, a shape-changing woman, was especially fascinating, as she is deeply in love with Jacob but seems unable to tell him how she feels, and the two are unable to establish a relationship beyond that of partners in the treasure hunting business. I realize that readers are supposed to love Jacob and Will, his seemingly stupid younger brother, but I was somewhat repulsed by Jacob's greed and Will's wimpy idiocy of always getting himself into trouble, even as an adult, and then just waiting for his brother to come along and get him out of whatever predicament he's in. As if he has no strength or ability to extricate himself from his own mess. Will's girlfriend Clara also seems extremely weak and never seems to do much but constantly badger Jacob to save Will, no matter the cost. Therefore it's inevitable that Jacob barters his life in exchange for his brothers, and then tries everything to find a way out of dying. Of course, he must also rescue Fox from a "Bluebeard," a handsome serial killer who captures beautiful young women and drains them of their lifeforce through fear. Once again, the only person able to do anything is Jacob, which seems out of place since Fox has been, prior to this, more than able to take care of herself. The fact that this fairy-tale world behind the mirror holds just as much prejudice, war, greed and terror as our world makes it seem all the more engrossing, even if just to see what bizarre and murderous creature comes up against Jacob and Fox next. I'd give these two YA books an A-, and recommend them to those who are partial to dark fantasy and fairy tales.

Seanan McGuire's A Local Habitation is book two in her October Daye series. In this installment, Toby the changeling gumshoe has to figure out what is happening at a computer software company started by fae royalty. Here's the blurb:
October "Toby" Daye is a changeling, the daughter of Amandine of the fae and a mortal man. Like her mother, she is gifted in blood magic, able to read what has happened to a person through a mere taste of blood. Toby is the only changeling who has earned knighthood, and she re-earns that position every day, undertaking assignments for her liege, Sylvester, the Duke of the Shadowed Hills.
Now Sylvester has asked her to go to the County of Tamed Lightning—otherwise known as Fremont, CA—to make sure that all is well with his niece, Countess January O'Leary, whom he has not been able to contact. It seems like a simple enough assignment—but when dealing with the realm of Faerie nothing is ever as simple as it seems. Toby soon discovers that someone has begun murdering people close to January, whose domain is a buffer between Sylvester's realm and a scheming rival duchy. If Toby can't find the killer soon, she may well become the next victim.
Local Habitation is the second installment of the highly praised Toby Daye series.
 What is odd about this latest mystery is that Toby discovers that her blood magic is worthless while she's at the County of Tamed Lightening, because each body has been drained of it's memories at the time of death, so there's nothing for her to "read" from the blood that she tastes on the victims. As the bodies pile up, it was easy for me to figure out who was doing the killing, and I also figured out that the two ultra-attractive/sexy male and female characters were actually one Jekyl/Hyde person, and that they were using some kind of love magic on Toby and her assistant to try and keep them from finding the killer. It really hacked me off that Toby and the others were so forgiving of the dual person, though the male half nearly raped her. I also find it disturbing that Toby seems to survive on coffee and air, never taking time to sleep or eat. Other than that, I do enjoy this series, and I think Toby is a fascinating private investigator in the underground world of the fae and changelings. I'd give this book a B+, and recommend it to anyone who like supernatural mystery hybrids. 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Bookstores To Put on Your Bucket List, Bookshop Movie, The Rook by Daniel O'Malley, The Dark Lady's Mask by Mary Sharratt, and Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire

I have seen a few of these, though most great bookstores around the world are on my bucket list, of course.

 'Bookstores Every Reader Should Visit in Their Lifetime'

The Independent showcased "12 bookstores every reader should visit in
noting that in addition to the many U.S. indies that recently celebrated
Independent Bookstore Day, "there are plenty of picturesque
print-hoarding spots around the world that are also worthy of a visit in
spirit of the day year-round, even if this holiday doesn't formally
broaden its reach beyond the U.S."

This looks like my kind of movie, full of wonderful books and characters.

 Movies: The Bookshop
Emily Mortimer, Bill Nighy and Patricia Clarkson will star in Spanish
director Isabelle Croixet's English-language drama The Bookshop
based on the novel by Penelope Fitzgerald. The Hollywood Reporter wrote
that Mortimer will play Florence Green, "a free-spirited widow who puts
grief behind her and risks everything to open up a bookshop--the first
such shop in the sleepy seaside town of Hardborough."

I was fortunate this past week to read three really wonderful books while recovering from pneumonia. I was surprised by them all, as I wasn't expecting the hours of page-turning joy that I got from them. 

The Rook by Daniel O'Malley was a case in point. It sounded like a cross between Buffy the Vampire Slayer, James Bond/The Kingsmen and Blindspot, with its amnesiac heroine. I wasn't expecting the gripping prose or the page-turning plot, nor was I expecting the wonderfully dry British humor laced throughout to make me laugh out loud and alternately sweat through some of the terrifying situations that the protagonist finds herself in. It has been awhile since I read a book that I honestly could not put down. I read The Rook in one day, from morning until evening, and I wept because I discovered that the sequel, The Stiletto, won't be out until June 14. It is going to be difficult to wait. Here's the blurb:
Myfanwy Thomas awakes in a London park surrounded by dead bodies. With her memory gone, her only hope of survival is to trust the instructions left in her pocket by her former self. She quickly learns that she is a Rook, a high-level operative in a secret agency that protects the world from supernatural threats. But there is a mole inside the organization and this person wants her dead.
As Myfanwy battles to save herself, she encounters a person with four bodies, a woman who can enter her dreams, children transformed into deadly fighters, and an unimaginably vast conspiracy. Suspenseful and hilarious, THE ROOK is an outrageously inventive debut for readers who like their espionage with a dollop of purple slime. Publisher's Weekly:At the start of Australian author O’Malley’s impressive debut, a supernatural detective thriller distinguished by its adept use of humor, an unknown woman reads a letter that opens “Dear You” and closes “Sincerely, Me.” The letter informs the woman that she now inhabits the body of Myfanwy Alice Thomas. A second letter from Thomas gives her body’s new mental occupant a choice—either flee London to take up a new, carefree life of affluence, or pretend that she is in fact Thomas in order to identify the person responsible for her memory loss. If the situation isn’t confusing enough, the “new” Thomas finds herself in the middle of a park in a heavy rain; scattered on the ground are motionless bodies wearing latex gloves. After making the more interesting choice, she learns that Thomas is a “Rook,” one of the leaders of a super-secret government organization that protects an unknowing public from a wide variety of paranormal threats. While the “old” Thomas has left detailed explanations about people and things for her successor, the “new” Thomas still must struggle to mask her complete ignorance about some of her major responsibilities. Dry wit, surprising reversals of fortune, and a clever if offbeat plot make this a winner. Dr. Who fans will find a lot to like.
I completely agree that Doctor Who fans like myself are going to love this book, especially those who appreciate strong women companions, like Donna Noble or Martha Jones.  Myfanwy (or Miffy as some operatives call her) is a smart gal who realizes that she has to fake her way through until she can get a grip on why she's had her memory wiped and who is trying to kill her. I was sure that I knew who her nemesis was, and I was right to an extent, however, the person who was really behind it all was a complete surprise to me. I loved that Miffy never gave up, and was adept at uncovering so much of what was going on behind the scenes. I can't really reveal much more without spoiling the book, but I do want to note that the prose is exceptional and the plot like a wild roller coaster ride in a beautiful amusement park that you want to come back to over and over again. I can't say enough wonderful things about this A level book, except that I didn't want it to end. I'd recommend it to anyone who loves supernatural thrillers and Doctor Who.

I received a free copy of The Dark Lady's Mask by Mary Sharratt from either Shelf Awareness or Goodreads, I am not certain which, since I applied to both for an ARC. As I explained in my email to the publisher, this book is right up my alley, being about theater (I've got a degree in theater) and history (ditto), while also having a strong female protagonist. This beautifully-appointed novel is subtitled "a novel of Shakespeare's Muse" which only adds to the mystique for lovers of the Bard like myself. 
I was not at all surprised, then, that I loved this book, but I was thrilled that the prose was gorgeous and the plot intricate but swift, so as not to mire the reader in too much trivia and history of the age. Here's the blurb:  
Shakespeare in Love meets Shakespeare’s Sister in this novel of England’s first professional woman poet and her collaboration and love affair with William Shakespeare.

London, 1593. Aemilia Bassano Lanier is beautiful and accomplished, but her societal conformity ends there. She frequently cross-dresses to escape her loveless marriage and to gain freedoms only men enjoy, but a chance encounter with a ragged, little-known poet named Shakespeare changes everything.

Aemilia grabs at the chance to pursue her long-held dream of writing and the two outsiders strike up a literary bargain. They leave plague-ridden London for Italy, where they begin secretly writing comedies together and where Will falls in love with the beautiful country — and with Aemilia, his Dark Lady. Their Italian idyll, though, cannot last and their collaborative affair comes to a devastating end. Will gains fame and fortune for their plays back in London and years later publishes the sonnets mocking his former muse. Not one to stand by in humiliation, Aemilia takes up her own pen in her defense and in defense of all women.

The Dark Lady’s Mask gives voice to a real Renaissance woman in every sense of the word.

Aemilia's struggle to write poetry and to be recognized for her work is one that will be familiar to all female writers, unfortunately, even today. Especially while trying to deal with family issues, as Aemilia does, with a wastrel husband and two illegitimate children, one from a noble who seduced her when she was 16 and one fathered by William Shakespeare himself, who turns out to be quite a cad, especially after his child dies. There's lots of poetry in each chapter and some lovely, juicy behind-the-scenes information on Shakespeare's plays and how they were written, whether in collaboration with Aemilia or from Shakespeare's own hand. I also found the idea of Shakespeare being bisexual rather interesting, considering how often there are cross-dressers in his plays. All in all, this fascinating book deserves an A, and a top-notch recommendation to anyone who loves Shakespeare or the theater or England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1. 

I picked up a copy of Seanan McGuire's Rosemary and Rue on a Facebook recommendation from Book Riot for great female supernatural sleuth series. Since I don't recall reading anything by McGuire previously, I was intrigued. I found that, though it was slow in spots, McGuire's October Daye was quite a tough cookie, reminiscent of Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden, though she's a changeling, so she doesn't start out as human as Harry, nor does she have powers as strong as his. Here's the blurb: 
Rosemary and Rue is one of the most successful blends of mystery and fantasy I've ever read—like Raymond Chandler by way of Pamela Dean. Toby Daye has become one of my favorite heroines, and I can't wait to read more of her continuing adventures."     
 —Tim Pratt, author of Dead Reign
The world of Faerie never disappeared; it merely went into hiding, continuing to exist parallel to our own. Secrecy is the key to Faerie's survival—but no secret can be kept forever, and when the fae and mortal worlds collide, changelings are born. Outsiders from birth, these half-human, half-fae children spend their lives fighting for the respect of their immortal relations. Or, in the case of October "Toby" Daye, rejecting it completely. After getting burned by both sides of her heritage, Toby has denied the fae world, retreating into a “normal” life. Unfortunately for her, Faerie has other ideas...
The murder of Countess Evening Winterrose, one of the secret regents of the San Francisco Bay Area, pulls Toby back into the fae world. Unable to resist Evening’s dying curse, Toby must resume her former position as knight errant to the Duke of Shadowed Hills and begin renewing old alliances that may prove her only hope of solving the mystery...before the curse catches up with her. Rosemary and Rue is the first installment of the highly praised Toby Daye series.
 I felt so bad for Toby, because of how poorly she was treated by humans and fae, and because she'd lost 14 years of her life to a horrible fae who turned her into a fish.Somehow everyone blamed Toby for her disappearance, instead of helping her recover, so she eschews both sides and tries to get her life back together so that she might be able to convince her now-teenage child to spend time with her biological mom. But one of the noxious pure-blood fae puts a death geis on her to find her killer, and thus begins Toby's path to redemption. There were just a couple of dead spots in this otherwise fast-paced novel, and the prose is fairly clean and serviceable. I disliked the fact that Toby is near death at least once a chapter, and that she seems incapable of fully defending herself, for some weird reason. If she was a private investigator prior to her imprisonment as a fish, she would, one assumes, be more adept with martial arts, guns and knives and whatever magics she can bring to bear. Still she never gives up, and everything turns out right in the end. There was a tad too much gruesome description for my taste, but this was an otherwise well written book. I'd give it a B+, and recommend it to anyone who likes female supernatural sleuths.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Summer Book to Movie Guide, Shakespeare's Landlord by Charlaine Harris, Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson and Wild Wood by Posie Graeme-Evans

It's becoming more common these days for books to be made into movies. Sometimes, that's a good thing, and sometimes it's not. Here's a list of books turned movies for just this summer. From Shelf Awareness, as usual.

"2016 Summer Movie Guide: The Books That Made the Screen
A "comprehensive list of all the films opening between May and August
that have a literary basis or some real-life biographical/historical
source. You can sort through the various goodies below, and plan

Shakespeare's Landlord by Charlaine Harris (of the Sookie Stackhouse paranormal mystery/romance novels turned into the True Blood TV series) is the first book in the Lily Bard mystery series. My husband happened on 3 of them at a garage sale, and scooped them up for me because he knows I enjoyed the first Sookie books, though I was never a fan of the TV show.
Lily Bard is different than Sookie, and Harris' other mystery sleuths because she's trying to outrun her past (she was kidnapped, gang raped and tortured, and left with a gun with one bullet so she could either kill her kidnapper or herself. She chose the kidnapper) by working as a maid in a small town called Shakespeare, while taking martial arts classes and doing strength training at the local gym. Lily has scars, both outside and inside, and yet she's gaining strength everyday, while keeping things clean in her new hometown. Unfortunately, her nightly walk is interrupted when she sees someone taking a body to the local park using her garbage wheelbarrow. Here is the blurb:
Welcome to Shakespeare, Arkansas. Lily Bard came to the small town of Shakespeare to escape her dark and violent past. Other than the day-to-day workings of her cleaning and errand-running service, she pays little attention to the town around her. So when she spots a dead body being dumped in the town green, she's inclined to stay well away. But she was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and despite her best efforts, she's dragged into the murder case. Lily doesn't care who did it, but when the police and local community start pointing fingers in her direction, she realizes that proving her innocence will depend on finding the real killer in quiet, secretive Shakespeare.
Shakespeare's Landlord is the first book in Charlaine Harris's Lily Bard mysterious series.
The three "Shakespeare" mystery paperbacks that I have are all short and fast-paced novels that seem to be designed to be a quick distraction, like an airport book, or one that you carry in your purse and read in your spare time while waiting in line at the supermarket. Fortunately, Harris is an expert at drawing the most out of each quirky character with no nonsense prose and swift plots that draw to a nice HEA conclusion. Though I empathized with Lily, I found her falling into the arms of a "separated but still married" man somewhat disturbing.  Because she's only 4 years out from her horrific assault, I couldn't quite reconcile her blithe attitude about sex with her sensei and the resulting backlash from his wife, who is a real piece of work. Still, the misogynistic attitudes and sexism toward women who are raped is discussed here, and is shown for all its hypocrisy by Harris. And Lily doesn't fail to prosecute a local man who attempts to harm her, only to find that she's more than his equal when it comes time to fight. Hence I think I will enjoy reading the next couple of Shakespeare mysteries, and I'd give this one an A, with a trigger warning for survivors of rape and assault, and a recommendation to those who like fierce phoenix-like heroines.

Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson is a memoir by the author of the famed "Bloggess" blog, and the first in what has become a series of books by Lawson about her troubled life with physical and mental health issues, told in a witty and weird prose style that will have readers laughing one minute and crying the next.
Here's the blurb:
From the New York Times bestselling author of Furiously Happy...
When Jenny Lawson was little, all she ever wanted was to fit in. That dream was cut short by her fantastically unbalanced father and a morbidly eccentric childhood. It did, however, open up an opportunity for Lawson to find the humor in the strange shame-spiral that is her life, and we are all the better for it.
In the irreverent Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Lawson’s long-suffering husband and sweet daughter help her uncover the surprising discovery that the most terribly human moments—the ones we want to pretend never happened—are the very same moments that make us the people we are today. For every intellectual misfit who thought they were the only ones to think the things that Lawson dares to say out loud, this is a poignant and hysterical look at the dark, disturbing, yet wonderful moments of our lives.
This is our June book for my Tuesday night book group at the library, and though it was recommended by the head librarian for KCLS, I was not aware that there was so much foul language and horrific, disgusting scenarios in this book, or I would have never allowed it to be on the list at all. I am certain that at least 4 of the older women in the group and 1 of the younger ones (she's a Charismatic Christian) will be so offended by the language alone that they won't finish the book, or if they do, I am sure they will be angry with me and full of disapproval for having had this as one of our books. That said, there are some truly hilarious moments in Let's Pretend, among them Jenny's post it notes to her long suffering husband Victor, who manages to put up with her insanity and still love Jenny and their daughter, and care for them with patience and lots of jaw clenching (and the occasional shouting match). Jenny, who grew up very poor in rural Texas, is well-matched with Victor, who grew up in wealthy suburban Texas to a much more normal family. Jenny has a social anxiety disorder and PTSD, as well as depression and rheumatoid arthritis, and a rare blood clotting disorder. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, Jenny's a huge mess anywhere outside of her home, especially in groups of people or at parties. What bothered me most about this is that Jenny took any given situation and blew it up with hysterical hyperbole that was both funny and pathetic. An example, when Jenny says she has been "stabbed in the face by a serial killer" what that really boils down to is that she was scratched by a cat. When she says she was "mauled by wild dogs" what she means is that she was bitten and scratched and bruised by some neighbors old dogs that heard her child making squeaking noises and assumed there was a rat or other prey available, so they mauled Jenny while she calmly walked her babe in arms back into the house. Personally, I think it is wrong to not put said dogs down, considering the amount of stitches and removal of a tooth from her side that she had to bear, but Lawson, for some bizarre reason, blames herself for the attack (she's not even slightly at fault, however). Though there is a lot of salty language and humor to leaven the continually awkward/bad situations, I got tired of Lawson's hysteria over everything, and her mean treatment of her husband, who deserves better (as does her daughter). Still, I would give this memoir a B+, and recommend it to those who have a high tolerance for bizarre situations, hysteria and bad language.

Wild Wood by Posie Graeme-Evans is a paranormal romance novel with a bit of mystery attached, and a lot of great Scottish scenery and history. I generally get impatient with books that go back and forth between POVs and centuries, but PGE manages to do a decent job of making a coherent plot out of Borderlands wars and modern day problems. Here's the blurb:
For fans of Diana Galbaldon’s Outlander series comes a gripping and passionate new historical novel. Intrigue, ancient secrets, fairy tales, and the glorious scenery of the Scottish borders drive the story of a woman who must find out who she really is.
Jesse Marley calls herself a realist; she’s all about the here and now. But in the month before Charles and Diana’s wedding in 1981 all her certainties are blown aside by events she cannot control. First she finds out she’s adopted. Then she’s run down by a motor bike. In a London hospital, unable to speak, she must use her left hand to write. But Jesse’s right-handed. And as if her fingers have a will of their own, she begins to draw places she’s never been, people from another time—a castle, a man in armor. And a woman’s face.
Rory Brandon, Jesse’s neurologist, is intrigued. Maybe his patient’s head trauma has brought out latent abilities. But wait. He knows the castle. He’s been there.
So begins an extraordinary journey across borders and beyond time, a chase that takes Jesse to Hundredfield, a Scottish stronghold built a thousand years ago by a brutal Norman warlord. What’s more, Jesse Marley holds the key to the castle’s secret and its sacred history. And Hundredfield, with its grim Keep, will help Jesse find her true lineage. But what does the legend of the Lady of the Forest have to do with her? That’s the question at the heart of Wild Wood. There are no accidents. There is only fate.
Jesse comes off, more than once, as immature, whiny and stupid. While I can only assume that the author meant this to show her innocence and charm, what it does is make her seem like a little girl, instead of a full grown woman in her 20s. In between her sulks and her weird forays into her past life as a forest spirit while under hypnosis, Jesse learns that she and the Doctor treating her and the current impoverished owner of Hundredfield are all half-siblings. Apparently every generation of the male owners of Hundredfield have an encounter in the woods with a winsome and beautiful woman who beguiles them into getting her pregnant. Once this woman, who appears out of nowhere, gives birth, she dies and her body disappears. This is what happened to Jesse's mother, though she was adopted out of Hundredfield because her father, the Earl, was a cad. I wasn't sure that Jesse was any better off knowing who her biological parents were, since both were dead, but she managed to find several ancient relics from the time of the Normans that will help Hundredfield stay in the family, and she also finds love with her Doctor's brother, who runs a local pub. It was a rather confusing and abrupt HEA, but it was there. I'd give this book a B-, and recommend it to those who like their heroines a bit on the wimpy side, but who also enjoy a good mystic historical romance.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

RIP Father Berrigan, What Darkness Brings by C.S. Harris, Firecracker by David Iserson and Blush by Cherry Adair

Independent Bookstores fight the good fight every day. I have nothing but respect and love for them all!
"To all the bookstores around the world--We're all pieces of the same
puzzle, working everyday to accomplish what we deem to be the

"We have to be reminded every once in awhile that what we're doing
changes actual lives, even though we may not see it right now. Every
book you sell to a child, a new reader, a soul looking for solace, is a
voice that travels through time to meet them where they're at. And we're
the messengers.

"So Happy belated Independent Bookstore Day to all you who are still
fighting the good fight. #independentbookstoreday."

bookstore, Singapore, in a Facebook post

When I was an undergrad at Clarke College in Dubuque, Iowa, I had several professors who were progressive, social activist nuns. They all admired Father Berrigan and his brothers, and often spoke of his bravery in protesting the war and his love of words in creating poetry. One of my history professors, Sister Helen Humeston, was particularly fond of the Berrigans, and, having met them, often reminded us that religious people could change the world through peaceful protests and speaking out on social issues. I was disheartened to learn that Father Berrigan is gone, but his legacy of activism lives on.

Obituary Note: Daniel Berrigan

The Rev. Daniel J. Berrigan
a Jesuit priest, writer and lifelong activist "whose defiant protests
helped shape the tactics of opposition to the Vietnam War and landed him
in prison," died April 30, the New York Times reported. He was 94.
"While he was known for his wry wit, there was a darkness in much of
what Father Berrigan wrote and said, the burden of which was that one
had to keep trying to do the right thing regardless of the near
certainty that it would make no difference," the Times wrote.

Father Berrigan published more than 50 books, including 15 volumes of
poetry, an autobiography, "social criticism, commentaries on the Old
Testament prophets and indictments of the established order, both
secular and ecclesiastic." Included among these are Daniel Berrigan:
Essential Writings, To Dwell in Peace: An Autobiography, No Gods But
One, The Kings and Their Gods: The Pathology of Power, The Dark Night of
Resistance, A Sunday in Hell: Fables & Poems, Prison Poems and The Trial
of the Catonsville Nine.

The Times noted that Father Berrigan "also had a way of popping up in
the wider culture: as the 'radical priest' in Paul Simon's song 'Me and
Julio Down by the Schoolyard'; as inspiration for the character Father
Corrigan in Colum McCann's 2009 novel, Let the Great World Spin. He even
had a small movie role, appearing as a Jesuit priest in The Mission in

While he and his late brothers Philip and Jerry were still alive, Daniel
Berrigan wrote in "The Wolf and the Child":

My brothers and I stand like the fences
of abandoned farms, changed times
too loosely webbed against
deicide homicide
A really powerful blow
would bring us down like scarecrows.
Nature, knowing this, finding us mildly useful
indulging also
her backhanded love of freakishness
allows us to stand.
What Darkness Brings by C.S. Harris is apparently one in a series of "Sebastian St Cyr Mysteries." I've heard of them, but don't recall ever reading one before, but my husband found this and several other promising hardback books on sale for a dollar at a local store, and couldn't resist getting them for me. Because it's an historical mystery/thriller, I wasn't expecting too much from the novel, but I was pleasantly surprised by how well written it was, and how smoothly the plot unfolded. Here is the blurb:
The death of a notorious London diamond merchant draws aristocratic investigator Sebastian St. Cyr and his new wife, Hero, into a sordid world of greed, desperation, and the occult, when the husband of Sebastian’s former lover Kat Boleyn is accused of the murder.
Regency England, September 1812: After a long night spent dealing with the tragic death of a former military comrade, a heart-sick Sebastian learns of a new calamity: Russell Yates, the dashing, one-time privateer who married Kat a year ago, has been found standing over the corpse of Benjamin Eisler, a wealthy gem dealer. Yates insists he is innocent, but he will surely hang unless Sebastian can unmask the real killer.
For the sake of Kat, the woman he once loved and lost, Sebastian plunges into a treacherous circle of intrigue. Although Eisler’s clients included the Prince Regent and the Emperor Napoleon, he was a despicable man with many enemies and a number of dangerous, well-kept secrets—including a passion for arcane texts and black magic. Central to the case is a magnificent blue diamond, believed to have once formed part of the French crown jewels, which disappeared on the night of Eisler’s death. As Sebastian traces the diamond’s ownership, he uncovers links that implicate an eccentric, powerful financier named Hope and stretch back into the darkest days of the French Revolution.
When the killer grows ever more desperate and vicious, Sebastian finds his new marriage to Hero tested by the shadows of his first love, especially when he begins to suspect that Kat is keeping secrets of her own. And as matters rise to a crisis, Sebastian must face a bitter truth—that he has been less than open with the fearless woman who is now his wife.
Though it's number 8 in the series, I had no trouble following the characters and the plot lines throughout this engaging novel. I found it interesting that the fate and lives of homosexual men in Regency England was outlined and discussed via several of the characters, and I was also surprised by the independence of the wife of the main character, who is blatantly called Hero, and who spends a lot of time helping the starving street children of London. Of course the tale of the Hope Diamond that is intertwined with the mystery is fascinating as well. I'd give this novel a solid A, and recommend it to anyone who finds real historical mysteries interesting.

Firecracker by David Iserson is a YA novel that reads like a cross between Youth in Revolt and Artemis Fowl, with a female instead of male protagonist. The author has written for Saturday Night Live and the sarcastic TV show New Girl with Zoey Deschanel, so the smart-arse dialog that punctuates every paragraph was inevitable. But what surprised me about the book was the fact that, though she's a "poor little rich girl" who seeks to be something like her sociopathic grandfather, I actually liked Astrid from the moment I met her, and I found myself rooting for her, though I knew she was up to no good. Here's the blurb:
Being Astrid Krieger is absolutely all it's cracked up to be.
She lives in a rocket ship in the backyard of her parents' estate.
She was kicked out of the elite Bristol Academy and she's intent on her own special kind of revenge to whomever betrayed her. 
She only loves her grandfather, an incredibly rich politician who makes his money building nuclear warheads.
It's all good until...
"We think you should go to the public school," Dad said. 
 This was just a horrible, mean thing to say. Just hearing the words "public school" out loud made my mouth taste like urine (which, not coincidentally, is exactly how the public school smells).  
Will Astrid finally meet her match in the form of public school? Will she find out who betrayed her and got her expelled from Bristol? Is Noah, the sweet and awkward boy she just met, hiding something? Publisher's Weekly: Film and TV writer Iserson debuts with the story of privileged, caustic 17-year-old Astrid Krieger, whose recent expulsion from preppy Bristol Academy has forced her to enroll in public school. Astrid will do anything to be readmitted to Bristol, and she hatches a deal with the school's therapist: if she successfully completes a series of selfless acts, the school might reconsider her suspension. For this chauffeur-driven master manipulator—who's learned everything she knows from her ethically dubious ex-senator grandfather—altruism is a foreign concept. As Astrid strikes up a friendship with a hair-chewing misfit and a modest boy who is intrigued by her, she begins to understand the source of her own isolation. Astrid's narrative vacillates between moments of wicked hilarity and details that shoot into bombastic territory (Astrid casually mentions that JFK once shot her grandfather during a game of Russian roulette and that she has robbed several convenience stores). Iserson doesn't ask readers to feel sorry for his spoiled and outlandish heroine, but urges them to trust that beneath her explosive tendencies is a kernel of compassion.
Astrid, it turns out, has more than a kernel of good beneath all the cruel vengence, and this unlikely heroine manages to turn her bizarre life around and have an HEA in the bargain. I wish that I'd had Astrid's moxie when I was in high school, I would certainly have been much less miserable. I also wish I'd had her confidence and self esteem. Astrid never doubts herself as a person, and never feels that she's less of a person because she's a girl, or because she is different. There are some laugh-out-loud moments in this novel, and some moments where profound truths about being a teenager are revealed. Though there is swearing and bad behavior in this A-level book, I'd still recommend it to any teenager over the age of 14. 

I've not read an actual romance novel in quite awhile, especially one like Blush by Cherry Adair, that is unabashedly erotic and makes no apologies for the appetites of its main characters. I've actually met and spoken to Ms Adair, (whose name is a non de plume for a gal who never thought she'd be a successful writer) and I read several of her spy thriller/romances about 20 years ago. I bought this particular novel, however, because it was in the bargain bin of Barnes and Noble, and because, as I've said, it's been awhile since I read a romance genre book. Romance novels, back when I was a teenager in the 70s, were formulaic Harlequin books that were very chaste and unoriginal. Yet I loved reading them because they were hopeful, and when I was 13 and 14 years old, that hope, that every girl could find a boyfriend, no matter how different she was, was something that I clung to, for whatever ridiculous reasons. I've learned a lot about men in the ensuing years, of course, and when my son was a toddler and used my old Harlequins as teething toys, I wasn't too wreaked about it. I've since read all kinds of modern romances, and though I think many of them are still horribly formulaic, I have a fondness for science fiction/romance and paranormal romance hybrids, and I've even enjoyed YA and Steampunk romance novels, particularly well written ones by authors like Maria V Snyder and Devon Monk. Blush, however, had no real agenda, other than the main characters getting plenty of chances to have sex that was described in excruciating detail. Of course they fall in love, and the mystery of who ordered the hit on the wealthy beautiful protagonist must be addressed, as well as a small subplot about an abusive alcoholic scumbag beating up his wife and child (and yes, he gets what is coming to him), but it seems like the main characters can't keep their hands (or other body parts) off of each other for more than a few pages before its back in the saddle again. Here's the blurb:
In the same pulse-pounding style as Maya Banks and Kresley Cole, New York Times bestselling author Cherry Adair delivers a sizzling erotic romance about a sexy billionaire who’s on the run—and the hit-man-turned-handyman who’s supposed to kill her.
Sex with a stranger. Learn to drive. Learn to cook. Learn to pole dance. Sex under the stars. Buy a truck. These are just a few of the things on Amelia Wentworth’s bucket list, but as the CEO and face of a multi-billion-dollar cosmetic empire, she’s never quite found the time to do them.
Until, after a series of accidents, Amelia discovers that someone wants her dead. But who? And why? She has no time for questions as she changes her name to Mia, buys a secluded fixer-upper near the Louisiana bayou where no one will recognize her, and starts checking things off her bucket list like there’s no tomorrow—which there might not be.
Meanwhile, Cruz Barcelona is a hit man who’s promised himself this will be his last job. Then he’ll take the money and move to a warm, sunny place where he doesn’t have to hide anymore. But when Cruz goes undercover to Mia’s ramshackle house, he starts to realize there’s far more to this poor-little-rich-girl than he thought—and he starts to fall for her. Which is going to make his job a whole lot harder…
I appreciate that Adair doesn't use a lot of cutesy euphemisms for body parts, and she's not afraid of the f-word, either. I also appreciate her easy, breezy prose style and straightforward plot. That said, I still don't get the contemporary romance trope of mind-blowing sex every single time. Or women who scream and faint after that fifth orgasm of the night. Or the idea that the only kind of sexy woman is one who is petite and doll-like, with perfect skin who always looks ravishing without any makeup, even after she's been shot at or fighting off a drunken abuser. Because none of that is realistic. 62 percent of the women in this country are a size 14 or larger. That's a majority. Why aren't there more pudgy protagonists? Sexy fat daring women over 40? Women who are mature enough and smart enough to protect themselves? Why aren't these women represented in contemporary romance novels? At any rate, I'd give this romance a B, and recommend it to those who want some sexy escapism and don't mind the resultant sexism and stereotypes. 

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Ancient Chained Book Libraries, Journey to Munich by Jacqueline Winspear, The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer, and the Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

What fascinates me most about these hundreds of years old libraries is their chained volumes that have been kept intact all these years later. It is hard for us to imagine, in this modern era, that books were so valuable and rare that stealing them was of great concern. Hence the chains wrought into their spines so that you'd have to read and utilize them for research only for as long as you were willing to sit on the hard wooden benches under daylight or candlelight. 

'The Oldest Libraries Around the World'

"It's no secret around here that we're a little bit obsessed with
libraries--their collections, stunning designs and sometimes playful
interiors," Flavorwire noted in taking "a trip around the world to
highlight some of the oldest libraries in existence
of ancient art and architecture, history and prized books. Here are ten
of our favorites."

Journey to Munich is the 12th Maisie Dobbs mystery written by the redoubtable Jacqueline Winspear. I've read all the Maisie Dobbs novels, and adored them, but this latest slender volume was exciting, as it marks a new beginning for Maisie at the start of the second World War. Here's the blurb:
Working with the British Secret Service on an undercover mission, Maisie Dobbs is sent to Hitler’s Germany in this thrilling tale of danger and intrigue—the twelfth novel in Jacqueline Winspear’s New York Times bestselling “series that seems to get better with each entry” (Wall Street Journal).
It’s early 1938, and Maisie Dobbs is back in England. On a fine yet chilly morning, as she walks towards Fitzroy Square—a place of many memories—she is intercepted by Brian Huntley and Robert MacFarlane of the Secret Service. The German government has agreed to release a British subject from prison, but only if he is handed over to a family member. Because the man’s wife is bedridden and his daughter has been killed in an accident, the Secret Service wants Maisie—who bears a striking resemblance to the daughter—to retrieve the man from Dachau, on the outskirts of Munich.
The British government is not alone in its interest in Maisie’s travel plans. Her nemesis—the man she holds responsible for her husband’s death—has learned of her journey, and is also desperate for her help.
Traveling into the heart of Nazi Germany, Maisie encounters unexpected dangers—and finds herself questioning whether it’s time to return to the work she loved. But the Secret Service may have other ideas. . . .
I thoroughly enjoyed this latest installment, because Maisie is finally getting her groove back after the death of her husband and miscarriage of her child. My only concerns were that Maisie seemed way too nice to John and Lorraine Otterburn, who were responsible for the death of her husband in an airplane crash. Why she would search for their adult daughter Elaine, who abandoned her husband and child and ran off to Germany is completely beyond me. Elaine made her choice, and the Otterburns should have respected that and not tried to force Maisie into yet more danger by having her try to find a way out of Germany for their daughter. Elaine is a spoiled wealthy woman who has acted as a prostitute for a Nazi officer and is under suspicion of being a spy. The fact that Maisie tries several times to get her to see the light and leave is, again, beyond me, because who really cares about this awful woman and her terrible choices? Maisie ends up giving her plane seat to Elaine so she can escape, and it then is harder and more dangerous for Maisie to leave by other means. She also discovers that Donat is not in Dachau, but is in hiding, and is able to get him out of the country with Elaine, whom it turns out is his daughter from an affair that Lorraine had with Donat because John Otterburn is such a creep. At any rate, Maisie finally decides to open up her private investigations business again and hire back Billy and the office girl, so I look forward to further adventures with the three of them during WW2 in England. I'd give this satisfying read an A, and recommend it to those who enjoy historical mysteries with female sleuths.

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer was listed on one of those Best Books of the 21st Century, or Books Everyone Should Read, or are often overlooked kind of lists. So I got a copy, along with the Goldfinch by Donna Tartt because I'd been meaning to read that one, too. Come to find out they are both books that should only be read by insufferably smug New York City dwellers who also happen to be Jewish. I truly have no problems with Jewish people, my stepfather was Jewish, and I thought he was a kind and gentleman who treated my mother very well for 30 years during her second marriage. I also worked on Mercer Island, which has several different synagogues and a healthy Jewish population. For some reason, though, the Interestings seems to use a lot of cliches about neurotic Jewish people who are jealous of everyone elses success throughout the novel. Here's the blurb:
The summer that Nixon resigns, six teenagers at a summer camp for the arts become inseparable. Decades later the bond remains powerful, but so much else has changed. In The Interestings, Wolitzer follows these characters from the height of youth through middle age, as their talents, fortunes, and degrees of satisfaction diverge.
The kind of creativity that is rewarded at age fifteen is not always enough to propel someone through life at age thirty; not everyone can sustain, in adulthood, what seemed so special in adolescence. Jules Jacobson, an aspiring comic actress, eventually resigns herself to a more practical occupation and lifestyle. Her friend Jonah, a gifted musician, stops playing the guitar and becomes an engineer. But Ethan and Ash, Jules’s now-married best friends, become shockingly successful—true to their initial artistic dreams, with the wealth and access that allow those dreams to keep expanding. The friendships endure and even prosper, but also underscore the differences in their fates, in what their talents have become and the shapes their lives have taken.
Wide in scope, ambitious, and populated by complex characters who come together and apart in a changing New York City, The Interestings explores the meaning of talent; the nature of envy; the roles of class, art, money, and power; and how all of it can shift and tilt precipitously over the course of a friendship and a life.
 The reason I finished this book is that the six main characters are only a year older than I am, so when they are at summer camp at the start of the book in 1974, I knew just what they were talking about when they discussed politics and pot, and TV and movies of that time. Their stories diverge from mine rather sharply when they get out of high school and start college, however. Even before that, there seems to be something of a class divide between the characters whose parents are "cool" because they have money and foster their children's talents and make excuses for the child who is a sociopathic narcissist. In Iowa, where I was raised, there wasn't as much of a class divide because most of the kids I grew up with were middle class suburban kids whose parents worked as teachers or doctors or whatever. Of course there were some whose parents were lawyers or the mayor or were wealthy, but that never held as much cache as being good looking, thin and popular, or good at sports and good looking if you were a guy. The old "jocks and cheerleaders" vs "smart nerds and ugly/fat/gay kids" thing. Of course there were also the "stoners" and the "juvie" kids who were also outcasts, and often those kids came from poor households, often with crappy parents or divorced parents who paid little attention to their kids. Still, there weren't the kind of parents who, in this novel, have an elaborate household full of every kind of creative thing their children could want, plus parents who were great cooks and able to take care of their teenage children's friends as well as look the other way when they smoked pot. Jules, the main narrator, lives outside of NYC with her dreadfully normal and poor mother and sister, and once she becomes friends with the cool kids at camp, Ethan Figman, who is ugly but a genius animator, and Ash and Goodman, brother and sister who live in the aforementioned elaborate household (and Jonah, the beautiful gay son of a hippie folk singer) and Cathy Kiplinger, the busty beautiful blonde who wants to be a ballerina but is too voluptuous to continue on in that profession, she spends the rest of the book being envious, jealous and sarcastic/rude to these people she supposedly cares about, because they have things that she doesn't. One of the themes that runs throughout the novel is that Ethan, who becomes rich and famous through his animated TV show Figland, fell in love with Jules when they were at camp together, but she doesn't feel any sexual spark for him and just wants to remain friends. Though she claims that she isn't at all good looking herself, somehow Ethan, who is described as doughy, fat and ugly-featured, isn't good enough for Jules, who aspires to a relationship with Goodman, who is older than the rest of them and is a real jerk. Ethan is a truly nice guy, though he seemed very immature to me, in his obsession with Jules, whom he always thinks will somehow come around to falling in love and having sex with him (she never does), and his disgust and dislike of his autistic son, whose imperfection seems to freak him out, though he himself is imperfect. Jules was just a horrible bitchy sour person whom I came to loathe because she could never seem to enjoy anything in her life because she wasn't rich or famous. Goodman, who rapes Cathy and gets away with it because he flees, with the help of his parents, to Sweden, becomes just another sleazy junkie slimeball, and Ash and her parents always seem to believe everything he says, even though it's obvious he's a liar, cheat and grifter. Ash marries Ethan and they have two children together, yet Ash, who doesn't seem to have a whole lot of talent, seemed to me to just be using Ethan as someone who would fund her art/theater projects and keep her in the style to which she had become accustomed. Jonah, after a stint with the Moonies cult, finally decides he is gay and comes out, but is thwarted in his musical career by having been fed drugs by a folk singer friend of his mothers when he was a child, and then ripped off when said folk singer stole whatever lyrics and song snippets Jonah sang while under the influence. Why Jonah never tells his mother or brings this jerk up on charges is beyond me. Jonah's mother, in a pathetic attempt to remain popular and have an audience for her work becomes a Moonie and marries a guy that the cult leader chooses for her.  Jules has a career has a psychotherapist and marries a guy who becomes extremely depressed and has a child. Even after Ethan gives her and her husband money to buy an apartment, and she tries to revive the summer camp, she's still unhappy. Ethan dies, and poor Cathy ends up with a better life than Goodman, who is an insane homeless bum. I'd give this novel a B, and recommend it to anyone who can't enjoy life because other people have more than they do. BTW, this book could have used an editor to cut about 100 pages of whining out.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt was hailed by just about every major newspaper, especially the NY Times, as being a great American novel. This weighty tome is almost 800 pages long (200 pages too long, in my opinion) and, like the Interestings, full of New Yorkers who think that they only place on earth that you can be a real human being is in New York. Because, of course, anywhere else lacks culture and refinement and intelligent people (said with sarcasm). Here's the blurb:
The Goldfinch is a rarity that comes along perhaps half a dozen times per decade, a smartly written literary novel that connects with the heart as well as the mind....Donna Tartt has delivered an extraordinary work of fiction."—Stephen King, The New York Times Book Review
Theo Decker, a 13-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don't know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his longing for his mother, he clings to the one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.
As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love—and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.
The Goldfinch is a mesmerizing, stay-up-all-night and tell-all-your-friends triumph, an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate.
First of all, I felt that this novel should not have won the Pulitzer Prize. It was snobbish, insular and the protagonist was a sniveling coward and a liar, thief and murderer, in addition to being a junkie and nihilist. He is thrown clear when a bomb goes off in a museum and kills his mother, and he takes the ring off of a man who is dying, who tells him to take the Goldfinch painting off the wall and go to his antique shop. Theo encounters the girl who was with this man at the shop, and also encounters Hobie, who is the business partner of the dead man, and a furniture repair and restoration expert. Theo develops an obsession with the girl, though she doesn't feel quite the same about him, but instead of trying to develop a relationship with her he just whines about her and mopes around. Theo is taken in by a wealthy family whose son Andy is a fellow smart geek and his friend, in that both of them were beaten up by the same people in middle school. Unfortunately, Theo's crappy father, a one time actor turned gambler and drug addict/alcoholic who abandoned his wife and son, shows up when he thinks he can get money from Theo's college fund for his gambling debts. He's living in Las Vegas with a sleazy casino worker and her little fluffy dog, and neither can be bothered to make sure that Theo has enough to eat or clean clothes to wear, though to be fair, Theo is too afraid of his physically abusive father to actually ask him for food or help with the laundry. Instead, Theo befriends a drug and alcohol addict kid from the Ukraine whose abusive father works in mining. Boris is very open about his theft of food and dealing drugs, and he manages to keep Theo drunk, fed and high for a few years before Theo's father is killed in a car accident (which was probably actually planned because he owed money to the local mobsters). Theo, who has been hiding the painting this whole time, returns to New York and sets about ripping people off by selling them antiques that are not actually real, but fakes restored by the expert hand of Hobie, who has no idea what is going on (it strains credulity that a full grown man doesn't know that suddenly all the money coming in isn't from the legit antiques that never leave the showroom). After about 10 years, Boris returns to tell Theo that he stole the Goldfinch painting off of him years ago, and substituted a high school textbook, and has been using the painting to fund drug cartels ever since. But, suddenly realizing his mistake (why he feels guilty after so long, is never explained) he demands that Theo, who is a coward, go to Amsterdam with him and retrieve the painting from some other drug mobsters, and he swears that Theo won't be in any danger (yeah, right). At this point, all Theo wants is to marry Andy's sister (Andy and his insane father die in a boating accident) and have the painting returned to the museum in such a way that he won't be held accountable for taking it in the first place. He of course also still obsesses over Pippa, but she claims they are too much alike to ever become a couple (that's a head-scratcher). Of course, Boris's plans go sideways and again, Theo is in danger and ends up shooting a drug kingpin. Boris decides to turn in the guy who took the painting for the reward money, which he then splits with Theo, who returns to NY and finally tells Hobie the whole sad tale. Hobie insists that he buy all the fake furniture back, which he does, but readers aren't certain whether or not Theo ever manages to kick his drug and alcohol habit. End of story. Lots of boring discussions of taking too many drugs and drinking and vomiting, having hangovers, being deathly sick and the beauty and wonder of art. I'd give this book a B-, and only recommend it to people who don't mind reading about sleazy junkies and con artists and abusive parents. There is very little to like in terms of characters in this book, so be prepared to choke down your own bile as you read.