Sunday, September 04, 2016

Luminaries and In Dubious Battle Make it onto the Screen, Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard, Carrier of the Mark and Shadow of the Mark by Leigh Fallon and Last Writes by Laura Levine

I've had a copy of the Luminaries in one of my TBR stacks/piles for about a year, and I've just not gotten around to it yet. It looks like the TV series will come out before I do, which is sad, because I always like to read the book and get the real story before producers and directors and scriptwriters hack it up into maliable bits. Still, Catton herself is the one doing the hacking, so I can only assume this series will be faithful to her original vision.

TV: The Luminaries

BBC will adapt Eleanor Catton's Man Booker Prize-winning novel The
six-part drama series, which will also be written by the author. Filming
of the hour-long episodes, produced by Working Title Television for BBC
Two, begins in 2017 in New Zealand.

"Learning to write for television has been a bit like learning a new
musical instrument: The melody is more or less the same, but absolutely
everything else is different," Catton said. "I'm having enormous fun,
learning every day, and just so excited to see the world of the novel
created in the flesh."

I have read In Dubious Battle, however, but I read it a long time ago.
Still, I hope that it will do justice to Steinbecks great storytelling.

Movies: In Dubious Battle
The first trailer has been released for In Dubious Battle
adapted from the novel by John Steinbeck. Deadline reported that "James
Franco directs and stars alongside Nat Wolff and an impressive ensemble
cast," which includes Vincent D'Onofrio, Bryan Cranston, Ed Harris, Sam
Shepard, Selena Gomez, Josh Hutcherson, Ashley Greene, John Savage and
Zach Braff. Matt Rager (The Sound and the Fury) wrote the script.

I bought a copy of Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard in all due haste, after reading the first book in her series, Red Queen, because it ended on a cliffhanger and I was anxious to see how it all turned out. Mare Barrow is one of those compelling protagonists who throws herself into danger so often that, though readers know she can't be killed (at least until the last book) you're still on the edge of your seat to see how close to death she becomes, and how many of her friends and family will have to be sacrificed to keep her alive and moving toward her goal. Here's the blurb:
The electrifying next installment in the Red Queen series escalates the struggle between the growing rebel army and the blood-segregated world they've always known—and pits Mare against the darkness that has grown in her soul.
Mare Barrow's blood is red—the color of common folk—but her Silver ability, the power to control lightning, has turned her into a weapon that the royal court tries to control. The crown calls her an impossibility, a fake, but as she makes her escape from Maven, the prince—the friend—who betrayed her, Mare uncovers something startling: she is not the only one of her kind.
Pursued by Maven, now a vindictive king, Mare sets out to find and recruit other Red-and-Silver fighters to join in the struggle against her oppressors. But Mare finds herself on a deadly path, at risk of becoming exactly the kind of monster she is trying to defeat.Will she shatter under the weight of the lives that are the cost of rebellion? Or have treachery and betrayal hardened her forever? Publisher's Weekly:In this startling follow-up to her debut, Aveyard sends readers hurtling back into the world of Red Queen with a fierce battle scene, reunions with old friends, and a story arc fraught with deception and betrayal. The powerful Silvers continue their reign, but the Red rebellion is rising, led by Mare Barrow. She plans to track down other mutant "newbloods" like herself to form an army capable of defeating the crown. Collecting newbloods is dangerous work, and the death toll mounts in a race against King Maven, a manipulative man who is slaughtering the mutants in a bid to force Mare back under his control. The story exposes painful truths about real-life bias and bigotry as well as the brutal costs of war, and children are not always spared gruesome fates. At the epicenter, Mare is an exquisitely flawed heroine who at times gives into her basest desires for revenge, raising questions about her own morality and revealing striking similarities to Queen Elara, whom she so despises. A cliffhanger finale should leave fans anxiously awaiting the next installment.
Though this book was just as much of an exciting, fast-paced read as the first book, I was taken aback by the escalation in violence and death. I'm reminded of the words of another author of YA fantasy who once said, in response to my query as to why things seem to go to heck in a hand basket in sequels, said "The middle book is where sh*t gets real, yo." In other words, things have to get worse before they can get better in the final novel of the trilogy. Accepting that is hard, however, when (SPOILER) the protagonist sacrifices herself to the mad king in order to save her friends and stop the slaughter of innocents. I have serious doubts that King Maven will keep his word, and not wipe out everyone Mare knows and loves as soon as he can get his blood-soaked hands on them. But I have to wait until next year to read what happens to our heroine while she's on Maven's leash, literally. Aveyard's prose is sterling, and her plots move on wings, they're that swift. Along with her storytelling chops, this is what makes her 450 page tomes seem like 200 pages that leave you yearning for more.That more won't happen until next year, sadly. A solid A, with the recommendation, barely needed, for those who read Red Queen to continue the journey here.

Carrier of the Mark and Shadow of the Mark by Leigh Fallon are the first two books of a supposed YA romance fantasy trilogy that has its roots in Twilight (only much better written, of course), with a bit of the Discovery of Witches and more than a bit of Cassandra Clare's Shadow Hunters series thrown in for good measure. The author apparently started these books on an online writing community, and it was popular enough to be discovered by a real publisher, HarperTeen, though they seem to have missed passing it by a copy editor before putting it out on the shelves.  Though there are signs that Carrier of the Mark was originally an amateur production, Shadow of the Mark is much tighter and has fewer plot holes and problems than the first book. Here are the blurbs:
When Megan Rosenberg moves to Ireland, everything in her life seems to fall into place. After growing up in America, she's surprised to find herself feeling at home in her new school. She connects with a group of friends, and she is instantly drawn to darkly handsome Adam DeRís.
But Megan is about to discover that her feelings for Adam are tied to a fate that was sealed long ago—and that the passion and power that brought them together could be their ultimate destruction.
Publisher's Weekly:Fallon’s debut novel, first published on the HarperCollins online writing community and then selected for print, is a better-than-average offering that occasionally betrays its amateur roots with some uneven pacing. The setup is familiar and briskly handled: 17-year-old Megan Rosenberg has moved to Kinsale, Ireland, with her father after several unsettled years following the death of Megan’s mother. Megan fits right in with the popular crowd at her new school, but a broodingly handsome boy, Adam DeRís, keeps staring at her, and Megan stares right back, despite her friends’ warnings. Several chapters of teenage day-in-the-life narration ensue before Fallon suddenly dumps mysterious marks, elemental forces, and the Celtic goddess Danu into the mix, and the story takes off in a paranormal direction that the first third of the book has only hinted at. The intense, immediate romance between Megan and Adam remains the focus and the main draw. It’s an engaging story, heavy on the “snogging” and light on the mystical perils, from an author likely to improve with time.
Shadow of the Mark, Kirkus Reviews:In this sequel to her debut, Carrier of the Mark (2011), Fallon assumes readers have nearly complete knowledge of her previous book, but if new readers can figure out its basic premise, they'll muddle through. Four teens gathered in a small town in Ireland have control of the elements: earth, air, fire and water. Druids and knights who protect the elements, but not necessarily their human carriers, help when they're not fighting with one another, and members of the evil Knox family try to thwart everything. Protagonist Megan, the carrier of air, is permanently and completely in love with handsome Adam, the carrier of water, except when she's almost irresistibly attracted to Rían, the carrier of fire. However, whenever Megan and Adam kiss, she inadvertently draws his element from him, coming close to killing him, except for the times that doesn't happen. It's quite a dilemma for poor Megan, who only wants to be young and in love. Young she certainly is. Whenever someone tells Megan not to do something, be sure that she will do it as soon as the whim strikes. As thin as the air Megan controls, the book's major entertainment value lies in various suspenseful episodes, and the author handles these fairly well. Characterizations, emotional encounters and dialogue plumb all the depths of the common TV soap opera. Light--very light--entertainment for the Twilight crowd.
I agree with the reviewers that these two books are very light entertainment, however, when they weren't falling into the dire romance tropes that most of us dread (that the female protagonist can't live without the male, that she needs saving all the time, that she cowers behind him in times of stress, that all the men/boys are devastatingly handsome and the girls find them totally irresistible, and of course the men are in charge of everything) there is some fun to be had here in the paranormal fantasy aspect of the books. Unfortunately, it appears that the author is MIA, and since it has been three years since Shadow of the Mark hit the shelves, one can only assume that the final book of the trilogy won't be forthcoming, which is a shame. I enjoyed the background of the stories being in Ireland, because I've been there, and I developed a love of the landscape and the people of that beautiful country. However, I'd still only give these books a C+, and recommend them to anyone looking for something that is more of a distraction than a serious read.

Last Writes by Laura Levine is the second book in her Jaine Austen mystery series. I enjoyed the first book in the series, mainly because the dialog was hilarious and the characters engaging. Unfortunately, it would appear that Levine has decided to make her novels follow a set pattern or guideline, and the second book becomes flip and silly, where the first was earnest and charming. Here's the blurb:
Wisecracking pen-for-hire Jaine Austen is back—and she's about to discover that working on the set of a Hollywood sitcom is no laughing matter. . .
Jaine still hasn't found a good man—or a way to keep all those sugary snacks from going straight to her hips. But—with a little help from her best friend Kandi—she's finally landed a gig as a sitcom writer! True, Muffy 'n Me (aka "Bewitched with Tits") isn't going to win any Emmys. And her office at Miracle Studios needs a little sprucing up, and a few dozen rat traps. But it sure beats writing boring brochures and bad resumes, so Jaine's not complaining. Until the plot thickens—with murder.
Jaine figures the trouble all started when Muffy 'n Me's hottest star, gorgeous Quinn Kirkland, seduced the head writer—whose husband also works on the show. But when Quinn's caught in bed with the barely-legal actress who plays his niece, things really heat up—and his many jealous girlfriends start to figure things out. . .
So when the no-good heartthrob drops dead after nibbling a poisoned doughnut, Jaine isn't terribly surprised. But who could have done it? A competitive co-star and a couple of scorned lovers top Jaine's list of suspects, but the police have zeroed in on her man-crazy pal Kandi. She fell hard for Quinn—and nearly fell apart when she learned of all his other women. Now Jaine has to figure out who finally stopped Quinn's cheatin' heart—before her best friend ends up behind bars. . .
Who actually "dunnit" becomes obvious in the first half of the novel, and Jaine's best friend, who comes off as a whiny, self absorbed jerk, doesn't really seem worth saving from jail. Why she relies on Jaine, who barely seems able to care for herself and keep herself out of trouble for all of five seconds, is the real mystery here. Cops, as usual, come off as stupid louts who can't run an investigation to save their lives (or anyone elses). I found my interest flagging long before the end of this tedious tale. I'd give it a C, and only recommend it to those looking for a fast and silly, somewhat satisfying read.

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