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. 

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