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.

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