Thursday, July 28, 2016

RIP Jerry Doyle, Harry Potter Muggle Mob, Street Books, Handmaids Tale Mini Series, Envy of Angels by Matt Wallace, A Red Rose Chain by Seanan McGuire, Seventh Heaven by Alice Hoffman, and The Memory of Us by Camille Di Maio

Today we (as in the fans of beloved science fiction TV show Babylon 5) lost another great actor from that show, Jerry Doyle, who played Michael Garibaldi, chief of security. He was handsome, funny and cynical, and he turned a character who could easily have been two dimensional into a fully-realized being. Go with God, Mr Doyle, we will meet you beyond the Rim. As a side note, Doyle was only 5 years older than I am, at 60.

I think this is a brilliant idea, to have a "muggle mob" in celebration of the new Harry Potter play and book.

Harry Potter on Broadway: Scholastic's 'Muggle Mob'

In anticipation of this Sunday's release of Harry Potter and the Cursed
Child Parts One and Two, more than 300 Potter fans gathered last
Thursday for a massive flash mob, or "Muggle Mob
Scholastic's Manhattan headquarters building. The fans, all Scholastic
employees and their children, flooded into the street reading from a
favorite Harry Potter book and stopping traffic in the busy SoHo area.

"What better way to celebrate the release of the eighth story and start
the countdown to the biggest publishing event of the summer than to
gather a flash mob of dedicated Harry Potter fans eager to share their
love of books and reading," said Ellie Berger, president, Scholastic
Trade. "We could feel the excitement and anticipation as hundreds of
people were reading and one of the busiest streets in Manhattan came to
a standstill. It was an incredible moment and we can't wait until July

I love this idea of bringing books to the homeless, who have so little to look forward to.

Street Books 'Brings Great Reads to People Living Outside'

"For the past five years, Laura Moulton has spent her days in
underserved areas of Portland, Ore., lending books to people living on
the fringes of society
the Huffington Post reported in a profile of Moulton's Street Books, a bike-powered, mobile library she launched
in 2011 "to ensure the homeless communities have access to literature."

"Being recognized and spoken to on the street and offered a book for
someone who has really been struggling can be a really powerful thing,"
Moulton said. "Books have the power to have us feel empathy and have us
experience the thrill of a journey of someone else."

 I am thrilled that they are making a mini series of the classic Handmaids Tale. Atwood's book has themes that are more important than ever.

Samira Wiley (Orange Is the New Black) has joined the cast of The
Handmaid's Tale
Hulu's adaptation of Margaret Atwood's novel, according to the Hollywood
Reporter. The 10-episode drama stars Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men). Bruce
Miller (The 100) wrote the script and will executive produce with Daniel
Wilson, Fran Sears, Warren Littlefield and Ilene Chaiken. Atwood is a
consulting producer on the project, which was previously adapted as a
feature film in 1990 starring Natasha Richardson, Faye Dunaway and
Robert Duvall. The Handmaid's Tale will premiere in 2017.

Envy of Angels (A Sin Du Jour Affair) by Matt Wallace was a book that I'd read about on Shelf Awareness and other publishing FB websites, and with it's reputation for snarky humor and fantasy, I have to say that I was intrigued. Though it's a short book (only a bit over 220 pages) it's jam-packed with hilarity, action and cameos by everyone from angels to the almighty.  Here's the blurbs:
In New York, eating out can be hell.
Everyone loves a well-catered event, and the supernatural community is no different, but where do demons go to satisfy their culinary cravings?
Welcome to Sin du Jour - where devils on horseback are the clients, not the dish. Publisher's Weekly:Culinary hijinks are taken to the extreme in this entertaining novella by Wallace (the Slingers Saga). Lena and Darren are chefs who have been blackballed in the high-end restaurant community, so when they get a call from Byron Luck, the executive chef of catering company Sin du Jour, requesting their services, they jump at the chance. They soon find out, however, that Sin du Jour is no ordinary catering company, and their clients are downright devilish. They’ve been hired to help cater an event for some very dangerous entities, and the main course is fittingly over-the-top. Quite a bit is packed into this short read, including warring demon clans, angels, zombie clowns, and even some sneaky commentary on consumer culture, topped with a healthy helping of satire. The fast pace and quirky characters make for a zippy read, and there’s a clever twist at the end that will leave readers grinning and hoping for more stories featuring the Sin du Jour gang.
Though there was a lot of swearing and cursing, I still laughed my rump off during this roller-coaster ride of a novel. Lena was a real kick-arse cook, and Darren was more of a wimpy wuss than I expected, but Byron and his crew were fascinating and somehow very real, though they were in an unrealistic atmosphere. I am looking forward to the next couple of books in the series. This one deserves an A, and a recommendation to anyone who loves cynical, snarky urban fantasy.
A Red Rose Chain by Seanan McGuire is the 9th book in the October Daye series, with the next book not available for a month or two. Here's the blurb:
Things are looking up.
For the first time in what feels like years, October "Toby" Daye has been able to pause long enough to take a breath and look at her life -- and she likes what she sees. She has friends. She has allies. She has a squire to train and a King of Cats to love, and maybe, just maybe, she can let her guard down for a change.
Or not. When Queen Windermere's seneschal is elf-shot and thrown into an enchanted sleep by agents from the neighboring Kingdom of Silences, Toby finds herself in a role she never expected to play: that of a diplomat. She must travel to Portland, Oregon, to convince King Rhys of Silences not to go to war against the Mists. But nothing is that simple, and what October finds in Silences is worse than she would ever have imagined.
How far will Toby go when lives are on the line, and when allies both old and new are threatened by a force she had never expected to face again? How much is October willing to give up, and how much is she willing to change? In Faerie, what's past is never really gone.
It's just waiting for an opportunity to pounce.
I was surprised that in this novel, McGuire chose to deal with some of the questions that I posed about the entire series in my last review, though the answers weren't always satisfactory. And this time, Toby didn't get bloody and nearly dead until the last 60 pages of the book! So, progress! What I'm still unclear on is why Toby was allowed to break Oberon's law to kill Blind Michael, who was kidnapping, abusing and murdering children, and not allowed to kill the two insane rulers who are trying to chop her up and kill her this time around. I mean seriously, one of them should have died two books back. And I'm also still uncertain as to why more of the changelings don't form an underground resistance movement and work to overthrow the rulers who consider them disposable slaves. Why is Toby the only one who seems willing to fight for their rights as individuals worthy of humane treatment? I realize she's a hero and all, but once again she has to literally pull the knife from her own chest and save herself while everyone else is conveniently busy elsewhere. You'd think the King of Cats would be more on the ball than that, especially when he has plans to marry Toby. That said, this was one of my favorite of the series, right up there with the first book, Rosemary and Rue. There was also considerably less vomiting than in the previous books, so I'd call that a plus as well. I'd give it a B+ and recommend it to anyone who has read the other books in this urban fantasy series.

Seventh Heaven by Alice Hoffman was recommended by a website that seemed to be under the impression that this was her best work. I have read the Red Garden, Turtle Moon, Fortune's Daughter, Practical Magic, Aquamarine, Incantation, the Museum of Extraordinary Things, and the Dovekeepers, which comprises about 3/4 of her works. Therefore I had high expectations for Seventh Heaven that were, unfortunately, not met. Red Garden, Practical Magic and Dovekeepers were all much better books that this anemic offering. Set in the Long Island suburbs in 1959-60, I gather readers are supposed to see this as an indictment of middle class lives full of hypocrisy, sexism and racism. What happens, instead, is the book comes across as judgemental, preachy, cynical and ugly. Though her prose is lush and elegant, her characters are crass and stupid, repressed and pathetic. Here's the blurb: Nora Silk doesn’t really fit in on Hemlock Street, where every house looks the same. She's divorced. She wears a charm bracelet and high heels and red toreador pants. And the way she raises her kids is a scandal. But as time passes, the neighbors start having second thoughts about Nora. The women’s apprehension evolves into admiration. The men’s lust evolves into awe. The children are drawn to her in ways they can't explain. And everyone on this little street in 1959 Long Island seems to sense the possibilities and perils of a different kind of future when they look at Nora Silk...This extraordinary novel by the author of The River King and Local Girls takes us back to a time when the exotic both terrified and intrigued us, and despite our most desperate attempts, our passions and secrets remained as stubbornly alive as the weeds in our well-trimmed lawns. 
Unfortunately, I didn't like Nora Silk, who seemed clueless as to how to raise children and provide them with nutritious food and a clean environment. The fact that she'd have an affair with a teenager, instead of actually trying to find a mate who could help raise her children made no sense to me, especially in this era, when women had a hard enough time attempting a career, let alone being single parents. I also saw no evidence of the men's lust evolving into awe. In fact, I think that she was only saved from being raped by showing some of the wives how to buy nice underwear and how to give their husbands oral sex. I can't say that I liked any of the characters, (though I thought for awhile I was going to like one of the housewives who was fat, but she went on a liquid diet and abandoned her children and her husband, so I wasn't really fond of her or her cowardice. I'd give this book a C+, and recommend it only to die hard Hoffman fans who aren't averse to a bit of snobbery.

The Memory of Us by Camille Di Maio is that rare creature, a self published book (via Amazon) that doesn't suck. I was unaware, when I purchased this book, that it was self published, or I would not have bought it. My time as a professional reviewer for two services, wherein I was not paid well and was forced to read only self published fiction has left scars and a bad taste in my mouth for self pubbed works that I don't think will ever leave me.  Surprisingly, there were only three minor typos in the book, and a majority of the prose was clean and sensible. The plot moves along at a swift and martial pace, with just enough twists and turns to keep things interesting. Here is the blurb:
Julianne Westcott was living the kind of life that other Protestant girls in prewar Liverpool could only dream about: old money, silk ball gowns, and prominent young men lining up to escort her. But when she learns of a blind-and-deaf brother, institutionalized since birth, the illusion of her perfect life and family shatters around her.
While visiting her brother in secret, Julianne meets and befriends Kyle McCarthy, an Irish Catholic groundskeeper studying to become a priest. Caught between her family’s expectations, Kyle’s devotion to the Church, and the intense new feelings that the forbidden courtship has awakened in her, Julianne must make a choice: uphold the life she’s always known or follow the difficult path toward love.
But as war ripples through the world and the Blitz decimates England, a tragic accident forces Julianne to leave everything behind and forge a new life built on lies she’s told to protect the ones she loves. Now, after twenty years of hiding from her past, the truth finds her—will she be brave enough to face it?
Though I loved Julianne and Kyle's love story, I was saddened that it didn't actually come to fruition until the mid 1960s, when both were middle aged and nearing retirement. I also didn't understand why Julianne didn't tell her daughter who she was right away, instead of waiting for her to be married and start a family, and for Jane, her adoptive mother, to be at death's door. I also thought that Julianne's mother and father were horrible people who didn't deserve to have children, after abandoning their son to a home and then disowning their daughter because she was in love with someone who was Catholic and "beneath her station" in society. Nasty snobs like that don't deserve the joy of raising children. Still, Julianne's story and her evolution to being the scarred and timid Helen, was fascinating. I'd give this book an A, and recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical romances set in the WW2 era in England. 

No comments: