Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Jessica Jones Binge Watch, Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine, Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire and Radio Girls by Sarah Jane Stratford

I don't normally do movie or TV reviews on my book blog, but yesterday I had just finished a book, and I was in that zone bibliophiles sometimes enter, where you have to mourn the end of a good tale and get your mind and heart ready for a new volume. Sometimes, that's the work of a few hours, and sometimes it takes days to get over an intense, well written story.
I'd heard a lot of good things last year about a Netflix show called Jessica Jones, and when I heard that my favorite Doctor Who, Doctor number 10, played by David Tennant, was in it, that piqued my interest. I never got around to investigating further, however, and because I had also heard that it was violent, gory and had rape in the story arc, so I put it on the back burner and focused on more positive entertainment options. All of this lead me to yesterday, when I was browsing on Netflix and saw Jessica Jones, and decided to just watch one episode to see if I wanted to risk continuing to view the program, as I am not a fan of "gritty, dark drama" or "horror" genre films, TV shows, graphic novels or books.
Fast forward to 6 hours later, when I suddenly realize that it's evening, and I've been so engrossed in Jessica Jones and her plight, that I've not moved from in front of my computer all afternoon. After taking a short break to use the restroom and eat and talk to my family, so they'd know I was still alive, I resumed watching the show, all the way through to the final 13th episode at 5 AM.
I was riveted by the bizarre nature of Jessica's journey, from abused orphan to alcoholic PI with super strength and jumping powers, whose ability to break free from Kilgrave, a man whose power is to mentally manipulate and mesmerize people into doing whatever he wants them to do, including kill themselves or others, was used on Jessica until he had her kill a young woman, after which point she was immune to his mental manipulation virus.
Jessica has nightmares and PTSD from her time with Kilgrave, who raped her and used her powers for his own ends. Kilgrave, played masterfully by Tennant, has become obsessed with Jessica since she left him, and now he's using other women and people around Jessica to spy on her and to get her involved with him again. Jessica, meanwhile, has started an affair with another man with powers, Luke Cage, who is best described as HOT chocolate. The two can't keep their hands off one another whenever they're in the same zip code, and unfortunately, Jessica discovers that Luke's wife was the woman that Kilgrave had her kill when she was under his influence. Luke finds out about this, and, once he's under Kilgrave's influence, he tries to kill Jessica for revenge.
What was unclear to me about this whole story was why Jessica didn't kill Kilgrave when she has the chance, and why Kilgrave seems to want her dead, but he also wants to have her under his influence once again so that she will "love" him, because she's the only woman he considers his equal in terms of power.  It takes Jessica forever to figure out what every other character has been telling her in nearly every episode, that the only way to get rid of Kilgrave's influence and to stop the killing is for him to die. I won't spoil the ending, but it was slightly anticlimactic, though I have to say that the woman playing Patsy was one lucky gal, being able to snog David Tennant. What I liked about the show was it's fast paced plot and the kick butt female protagonists. What I didn't like was the self-loathing of so many of those hard core female protagonists, (they regularly refer to themselves as being full of sh*t) and the anorexia of Jessica, who apparently, like Seanan McGuire's female protagonists, can live on liquids, either alcohol or coffee, and not end up in the hospital, like most people. I also didn't like all the gore and violence and death,  but I loved the casting of Trinity from the Matrix movies as a vile lesbian lawyer. There were questions left unanswered by the end, such as what happens to Luke once he's no longer under Kilgrave's influence (it has a time limit, once you're out of range of him). What happens to Simmons, and will Jessica's neighbor, who is now her sidekick/secretary, be able to get Jessica dried out and back in action as a PI? I'd give this one-season graphic novel adaptation a A, and only recommend it to those over the age of 18 who aren't bothered by blood, gore and cruelty.

Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine is book two in her "Great Library" series, after the wonderful Ink and Bone, which I read as an ARC from the publishers. The tag line on the book is "Let the world burn," and that is, in essence, what happens to many of the rare and valuable libraries in this novel. But first, the blurb: In Ink and Bone, author Rachel Caine introduced a world where knowledge is power, and power corrupts absolutely. Now, she continues the story of those who dare to defy the Great Library—and rewrite history...
With an iron fist, The Great Library controls the knowledge of the world, ruthlessly stamping out all rebellion, forbidding the personal ownership of books in the name of the greater good.
Jess Brightwell has survived his introduction to the sinister, seductive world of the Library, but serving in its army is nothing like he envisioned. His life and the lives of those he cares for have been altered forever. His best friend is lost, and Morgan, the girl he loves, is locked away in the Iron Tower and doomed to a life apart.

Embarking on a mission to save one of their own, Jess and his band of allies make one wrong move and suddenly find themselves hunted by the Library’s deadly automata and forced to flee Alexandria, all the way to London.

But Jess’s home isn't safe anymore. The Welsh army is coming, London is burning, and soon, Jess must choose between his friends, his family, or the Library willing to sacrifice anything and anyone in the search for ultimate control...

Jess and the gang spend most of this book on the run from library enforcers and from the head librarian, who is a horribly corrupt despot/dictator who will do anything to keep his power over knowledge.  Fortunately, at least they are able to rescue Thomas and Morgan, who is freed of her slave collar by Wolfe's mother. Unfortunately, we are left with something of a cliffhanger by the last chapter, in which our library rebels are forced to enter burner territory in America. I loved that Jess found a way to turn off the lions, sphinx and spartan automata and that the gang saved some books from the black library. The prose was clean and bright, and the plot was fast paced and intricate without being over written. I'd give this book an A, and recommend it to anyone who read Ink and Bone.

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire is not, to my knowledge, part of any of her series of paranormal fantasies. Instead, this was somewhat like Alice in Wonderland/Narnia crossed with Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children by Ransome Riggs. Unfortunately, there's too much of a horror element to the storyline, and McGuire glamorizes anorexia in her female protagonist, Nancy, much as she glamorizes bulemia in her October Daye series of paranormal urban fantasy. What made me finish this short novel was the interesting concept and world building that surrounds these stolen children and adults. Here's the blurb:
Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Quests

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere... else.
But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.
Nancy tumbled once, but now she's back. The things she's experienced... they change a person. The children under Miss West's care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.
But Nancy's arrival marks a change at the Home. There's a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it's up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of things.
No matter the cost.
McGuire divides the fantasy worlds that the children enter into sections and sub sections, from "nonsense" worlds to "logical" worlds, and it is by those lights that these misfits are able to put their experiences into context, while mourning the loss of their lives there and yearning to return. Of course, the major mystery is who is killing people in the home, and why, so Nancy and her transgender friend Kade, along with cross-dresser Jack (whom we assume is gay) do their best to hunt down the perp while hoping for a doorway into their fantasy worlds. The prose was nice and tidy, as usual, and the plot never lagged, but I still didn't care for the horrific theme and the fascination with death and starvation/stillness that makes Nancy invisible, as this sends a message to young women that they shouldn't exist. Hence, I'd give the book a B, and recommend it only to those with healthy self esteem and no eating disorders.

Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford is a hidden gem of a book that covers the early years of the British Broadcasting Company in the 1920s-30. Here's the blurb: 
The Great War is over, and change is in the air, in this novel that brings to life the exciting days of early British radio…and one woman who finds her voice while working alongside the brilliant women and men of the BBC.

London, 1926. American-raised Maisie Musgrave is thrilled to land a job as a secretary at the upstart British Broadcasting Corporation, whose use of radio—still new, strange, and electrifying—is captivating the nation. But the hectic pace, smart young staff, and intimidating bosses only add to Maisie’s insecurity.

Soon, she is seduced by the work—gaining confidence as she arranges broadcasts by the most famous writers, scientists, and politicians in Britain. She is also caught up in a growing conflict between her two bosses, John Reith, the formidable Director-General of the BBC, and Hilda Matheson, the extraordinary director of the hugely popular Talks programming, who each have very different visions of what radio should be. Under Hilda’s tutelage, Maisie discovers her talent, passion, and ambition. But when she unearths a shocking conspiracy, she and Hilda join forces to make their voices heard both on and off the air…and then face the dangerous consequences of telling the truth for a living. 

This is historical fiction, and the fact that they used the life of a real woman, Hilda Matheson, as the basis for most of the tale is truly amazing. Though she's fictional, I loved Maisie's rise from mouse to lioness, and I was fascinated to learn that radio hasn't changed much in the last 80-90 years, because my husband, who worked as a producer and board operator in radio for over 20 years, had many of the same issues that Maisie and Hilda face at the BBC, when trying to produce quality programming that appeals to listeners from several demographics. Politics in management never changes, apparently, no matter which side of the pond you live on. Stratford's prose is dense by elegant and lithe as it propels her complex plot to a very satisfying conclusion. I'd give this novel an A, and recommend it to anyone who is interested in the history of broadcasting and especially of women in broadcasting. Nicely done, Ms Stratford.

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