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.

No comments: