Sunday, June 12, 2016

Hillary Clinton reads Find A Way, Howard's End reboot, A Study in Sable by Mercedes Lackey, A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah Maas, and Lilith Saintcrow's The Ripper Affair

It's no secret that I am thrilled that Hillary Clinton could become our first female president. For those of us who are feminists (and grew up as the daughters of the feminists of the 60s and 70s) this is the best news we've had since they put an African American in the White House 8 years ago. Diversity ROCKS! Anyway, Hillary is a smart, funny and brilliant politician, and I am loving the fact that she's a reader, too.

Hillary Clinton Recommends:  Find a Way

"I'll finally have a break where I'll have some time. I love to wander
around bookstores and see what strikes my fancy.... When you're facing
big challenges in your life, you can think about Diana Nyad getting
attacked by the lethal sting of box jellyfishes. And nearly anything
else seems doable in comparison."

--Presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton
long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad's memoir, Find a Way, in an interview
with the New York Times

I loved the 90s version of Howard's End, so I am sure I will love this new BBC reboot as well. I think I am probably one of the few people who actually binge-watched Fortitude for its whole run. 
 Hettie Macdonald (Fortitude) will direct the BBC's miniseries adaptation
based on the classic E.M. Forster novel that was also an Oscar-winning
Merchant Ivory film in 1992, Deadline reported. Kenneth Lonergan (You
Can Count on Me, Gangs of New York) is writing the series.

I'm a huge fan of Mercedes Lackey's Elemental Masters series, which are wonderful fantasy/fairy tale revisions, and the latest book, A Study in Sable, was just as delightful as the previous 12 novels. In each book, Lackey takes some fairy tale or fabled creature/legendary figure and weaves them into the world of magic and mayhem with her elemental mage characters. In this instance, the legend was Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson (and his wife Mary), plus a murderous siren and a spiritual elemental master whom we've not met before. Here's the blurb:
Psychic Nan Killian and Medium Sarah Lyon-White—along with their clever birds, the raven Neville and the parrot Grey—have been agents of Lord Alderscroft, the Elemental Fire Master known as the Wizard of London, since leaving school. Now, Lord Alderscroft assigns them another commission: to work with the famous man living at 221 Baker Street—but not the one in flat B. They are to assist the man living in flat C. Dr. John Watson and his wife Mary, themselves Elemental Masters of Water and Air, take the occult cases John’s more famous friend disdains, and they will need every skill the girls and their birds can muster!
Nan and Sarah’s first task: to confront and eliminate the mysterious and deadly entity that nearly killed them as children: the infamous Haunt of Number 10 Berkeley Square. But the next task divides the girls for the first time since they were children. A German opera star begs Sarah for help, seeking a Medium’s aid against not just a single spirit, but a multitude. As Sarah becomes more deeply entwined with the Prima Donna, Nan continues to assist John and Mary Watson alone, only to discover that Sarah’s case is far more sinister than it seems. It threatens to destroy not only a lifelong friendship, but much, much more.
I found Nan to be a bit whiny and pathetic, as her jealousy of her friends success seems to turn her into a raging Celtic warrior who wants to cut a swath through everyone with a sword. Instead of using her time wisely to enlist others to help get Sarah out of Magdalena's clutches, she spends an inordinate amount of time just seething on the inside. This seemed ridiculous to be, as Nan's a grown woman who should know better. At any rate, Sarah doesn't seem to realize she's being bamboozled, and she also reacts to her change in stature in a somewhat immature fashion. But their interactions with their ward Suki, who is hilarious and more mature than most of the adults, makes up for what those adults lack tenfold.  Suki, a former street urchin with a cockney accent, is the real star of the book, along with John and Mary Watson, who are also unflappable. Though I knew the answer to the mystery a third of the way through the book, the interactions with Holmes and the Watsons, made the journey interesting, even knowing the eventual destination. I'd give "Study" an A, and recommend it to those who are interested in the Victorian era, and those Steampunk fans who aren't too attached to the machinery of the genre, but do appreciate good characters and stories of that time period.

The Ripper Affair by Lilith Saintcrow is the third and final book in the Bannon and Clare Steampunk trilogy. Of the three, it was by far the darkest and most painful for the characters we've come to know and love, mainly Emma Bannon and Archibald Clare. Here's the blurb: 
A shattering accident places Archibald Clare, mentath in the service of Britannia, in the care of Emma Bannon, sorceress Prime. Clare needs a measure of calm to repair his faculties of Logic and Reason. Without them, he is not his best. At all.
Unfortunately, calm and rest will not be found. There is a killer hiding in the sorcerous steam-hells of Londinium, murdering poor women of a certain reputation. A handful of frails murdered on cold autumn nights would make no difference...but the killings echo in the highest circles, and threaten to bring the Empire down in smoking ruins.
Once more Emma Bannon is pressed into service; once more Archibald Clare is determined to aid her. The secrets between these two old friends may give an ambitious sorcerer the means to bring down the Crown. And there is still no way to reliably find a hansom when one needs it most.
The game is afoot... 
Publisher's Weekly:
Sorceress Emma Bannon and mentath Archibald Clare face a truly dastardly foe in their intricate third pseudo-Victorian adventure (after The Red Plague Affair). When the Queen herself comes to ask Bannon to investigate a series of murders in the Whitchapel area, the sorceress reluctantly agrees to come out of her self-imposed retirement. With the ever-faithful Clare aiding her, though he's still recovering from a near-fatal explosion, she delves into the bloody heart of the matter. Together and separately, they learn that a renegade Prime sorcerer has raised a spirit that could undermine the fabric of all Britannia. Part history, part steampunk, laced with magic and a healthy dose of Manners, this fantasy may evoke a certain bloody Jack, but Saintcrow takes as many liberties with that story as she does with the rest of her uniquely fascinating setting. The layers of subtext run deep as the heroes say everything but what's truly on their minds, but at times the complicated dance of emotions and restraint feels too leisurely and indirect.

I was hoping for more of a resolution between Emma Bannon and Clare, but instead they spend most of the novel at odds, because Clare can't accept that Emma gave him the Philosopher's stone (wedged it into his heart) and made him a self-healing immortal. His logical mind can't accept the magic of this stone, and so he goes on a self destructive bender, all the while hating on Emma for restoring him when he would otherwise have died of the plague. Meanwhile, Emma's in a snit because the Queen insulted her, and she doesn't want to aid the crown anymore. Unfortunately, the Queen forces her to reconsider, and Emma goes forth one more time to vanquish the foe who wants to kill the Queen and take over the country. It was no surprise that it was the same foe who had been at the heart of the crisis in both of the previous novels, and that Emma insisted on using herself as bait to catch this insane sorcerer who seems to be impossible to kill. I was glad that Clare finally realized what an ass he was being to Emma, and yet I also grew tired of "petite, feisty" Emma never caring for herself and being so willing a sacrifice. Though there is a "Happy for Now" ending, I was surprised that Saintcrow never did explain exactly what Mikal is, and why he's got the power to save people that he loves from destruction, and why his eyes are yellow and glow, like a serpent or a dragon. The Victorian prose style takes a bit of getting used to, but in the end lends some authenticity to the tale, and the plot, as in the previous books, steams right along at a clip. I'd give this final novel a B+, and recommend it to anyone who has read the first two novels in the series.

I was hoping that the huge (over 600 pages) sequel to A Court of Thorn and Roses, A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas would be the end of this over-spun romance/ fairy tale. Alas, it was not. It was, instead, an over-written, over emotional mess of a rebooted fairy tale that has an "erotic" couple of chapters late in the book, and ends with a very unsatisfying cliffhanger. Our heroine, Feyre, who was a bulimic, insecure yet brave human being in the first book becomes a bulimic, ultra insecure fae in the second, who cowers for the first third of the book and allows herself to become a pet for the "beast" Tamlin, who uses a priestess to further cow her into marrying Tamlin and becoming his brood mare. The final straw comes when Tamlin and his cronies lock Feyre up "for her own good" to "keep her safe" and make her flash back to being a prisoner of Amarantha, the evil, insane fae queen who tortured and murdered Feyre, and was herself killed moments later by Feyre breaking the curse she'd placed on the Spring Court. Of course Rhys, the dark fae who turned to all the other lords of the fairy world to piece Feyre back together (and make her an immoirtal fairy), places his own bond on Feyre through a tattoo on her arm which allows him to know where she is and what she's feeling, in addition to forcing Feyre to spend one week a month with Rhys in his midnight world. Here's the blurb:
Feyre survived Amarantha's clutches to return to the Spring Court--but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can't forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.
Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms--and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future--and the future of a world cleaved in two.
Publisher's Weekly:Maas broadens the world she created in her bestselling A Court of Thorns and Roses with a new enemy that threatens both the seven Fae Courts and the mortal world her heroine left behind. After having escaped the sadistic Amarantha, Feyre’s return to the Spring Court isn’t the happily-ever-after she imagined. Feyre no longer knows who she is or where she belongs, and she is grappling with her body’s strange new powers after the seven High Lords resurrected her as a Fae. She and her lover, Tamlin, are wracked with nightmares from their time “Under the Mountain,” and Tamlin’s concern for Feyre’s safety has become stifling. Worse, she’s still beholden to the Night Court, and Rhysand, its High Lord, calls in their bargain at the most inconvenient time. Fans may be frustrated by Feyre’s shifting romantic allegiances, but Maas lets the relationship dynamics change organically, and her talent for creating chemistry between her characters (including some fiery sexual encounters) is as strong as ever. Maas gives Feyre the space to regain her agency and prove herself the equal of any High Lord, resulting in an immersive, satisfying read.
I found this book to be more frustrating than satisfying, as every little emotion that Feyre feels is gone over and over again, as well as the same insecurities and doubts recounted. I felt strongly that 250 pages could have been edited from this tome, and it would have helped the story's plot move along much more "organically" as the PW critic says. I also didn't understand why Feyre's sisters are still so stupid, weak and cruel. It seems that no matter what happens in their world, what happens to their sister (who kept them alive when their father wouldn't lift a finger to help feed them), their responses remain the same cliches, with one sweet and doe-like sister cowering and only being concerned with marriage, while the other sister is a nasty, prejudiced bitch who loathes the Fae and her sister Feyre in equal measure. Why are we still having to read about these despicable family members who seemingly have not the wit that God gave an ant, so they can't do anything but simper and be insulting? They can't protect themselves, or help themselves when they're captured and thrown into the cauldron, nor can they help Feyre. Why she cares about these two miserable sisters at all is a mystery. The romance between Rhys and Feyre finally culminates in some soft porn 2/3 of the way through the book, which happens, inevitably, just before their recapture and torture at the hands of another mad ruler, this time a king who wants to turn all of his sycophants into immortal fae and then use them to tear down the wall and murder all the humans.  So we are left wondering about the next book, and how Feyre's sacrifice in returning to Tamlin will work out. I can't imagine it will be easy, now that she is in love with Rhys, but presumably she will find a way to save everyone by killing herself once again. I would give this book a B-, and only recommend it to the most hard-core fan of the first book. You have to have a lot of patience to slog through all the emotional upheaval and stomach upheaval in this book.

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