Sunday, September 18, 2016

Two TV Shows Based on Books, Ankeny's Bookstore, A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, Once Broken Faith by Seanan McGuire, How Not to Fall by Emily Foster and The Masked City by Genevieve Cogman

I'm excited that two books that I've read are coming to the small screen, soon. I've been a fan of Margaret Atwood's since the 1970s, and I have recently read Maas' series.

TV: Alias Grace, Queen of Shadows

David Cronenberg will join the cast of Alias Grace
the six-part Netflix miniseries that Sarah Polley (Stories We Tell, Take
This Waltz) is adapting and producing from Margaret Atwood's novel,
Indiewire reported. Directed by Mary Harron, the project also stars
Sarah Gadon, Anna Paquin and Paul Gross. It will shoot in Ontario.

Hulu is developing Queen of Shadows
an epic fantasy adventure TV series based on the bestselling Throne of
Glass book series by Sarah J. Maas. Deadline reported that the Mark
Gordon Company "will serve as a studio on the project. Kira Snyder (The
100, The Handmaid's Tale) will write the adaptation, with Anna Foerster
(Underworld: Blood Wars) set to direct the potential pilot episode."

I am amazed that there is a bookstore in Ankeny, Iowa, where I went to school from 5th through 12th grade, but it's even more astonishing that Ankeny is still a growing city, when I though it would become just another sleepy bedroom town. I would have loved having a local bookstore when I lived there, but I managed to feed my book habit from the Kirkendahl library instead.

Plot Twist Bookstore: A Hidden Treasure in Des Moines Suburbs
Plot Twist Bookstore, Ankeny, Iowa,
is one of "10 hidden treasures in the Des Moines suburbs
according to the Register, which noted that the bookseller's opening
"this past year in Ankeny was the perfect gift for a hustling, bustling
town that seemingly already had everything. After all, Ankeny is the
third-fastest growing city in America, according to the U.S. Census
Bureau. But until Mary Rork-Watson opened for business in April, it
didn't have a locally owned, independent bookstore. Now it does and I
can tell you from personal experience that Mary is a pleasure to do
business with. Her business model follows in the odds-beating footsteps
of Alice Meyer at Beaverdale Books
support for local authors and providing a home for small groups like
book clubs. Don't judge by its strip mall cover. Inside, it stands alone
in Ankeny. Check it out."
I could have told you this! I travel to Powells at least once a year, as a bibliophile's pilgrimage, to trade in my old books for the fruits of my wish list. It's utter bliss to shop there, among my fellow readers!

Powell's Books 'Is Its Own Travel Destination'
"I just got back from a week's vacation up north. Where? The City of
wrote David Allen in an Inland Valley Daily Bulletin piece headlined
"Word up! Powell's Books in Portland is its
own travel destination."

Allen observed that "if you like to read, this is a place to which a
pilgrimage is required at least once in a lifetime, a book lover's
Camino de Santiago. It's a travel destination with a Travel section....
Like a golfer who longs to play just once at St. Andrews, a reader can't
help but want to roam the aisles at Powell's.... How was my vacation at
Powell's? It's lovely there any time of year."

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman is the October pick for my library book group. I will say that I was trepidatious about this book because I had heard there was a controversy surrounding it, and that it was about a curmudgeon who lives in Sweden, and having known a grumpy old curmudgeon (my stepfather Lloyd was as grumpy as they come, may he rest in peace), I wasn't sure I would enjoy a book with a negative main character.
I couldn't have been more wrong, thankfully!
Ove is a hilarious grumpy old coot, whose wife (the love and light of his life, and his polar opposite) has died and left him trying to commit suicide so he can be with her, and leave behind all the irritating and annoying people he lives near in his housing complex. 
Fortunately for Ove, his pregnant neighbor (whom he refers to as "pregnant foreign woman") and her idiot husband and two children intervene at his first attempt, and soon circumstances and other neighbors, a journalist and a couple of teenagers and a scrofulous cat all keep Ove from going to the great beyond before his time. Here's the blurb:
In this bestselling and “charming debut” (People) from one of Sweden’s most successful authors, a grumpy yet lovable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.
Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon—the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him “the bitter neighbor from hell.” But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?
Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.
A feel-good story in the spirit of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Fredrik Backman’s novel about the angry old man next door is a thoughtful exploration of the profound impact one life has on countless others. 
This really is a charming and profound story, and I couldn't put it down once I started reading it. Like most really good reads, it seemed much too short, but it ended just as it should, and it made me laugh, cry, and realize how interconnected we all are, even if we think that we are not. A well deserved A, and I'd recommend this book to anyone who has ever known a grumpy old guy with a heart of gold. 

Once Broken Faith, by Seanan McGuire is the 10th book in the October Daye urban fantasy series. It is also the first of her Toby books that I have read where our heroine doesn't barf her way through the plot, though she does, inevitably, die and become steeped in blood several times. Also still on tap are her 'friends and family' who, other than the Luidaeg (pronounced Looshak), are completely worthless at protecting Toby or saving her from being murdered by the ubiquitous forces of evil (it still seems like everyone other than her friends and family totally loathe Toby merely for existing). Even the Looshak makes a comment midway through the book that everyone, including the queen, has Toby pay the price for any help or salvation from the firstborn, instead of taking responsibility themselves, and it's gotten old several books ago. So the queen, who is a big whiny baby, finally agrees to pay the price herself, though she resents Toby and pouts about it throughout the book. This from a fae who is at least 100 years old! Here's the blurb:
Politics have never been October “Toby” Daye’s strong suit. When she traveled to the Kingdom of Silences to prevent them from going to war with her home, the Kingdom of the Mists, she wasn’t expecting to return with a cure for elf-shot and a whole new set of political headaches.
Now the events she unwittingly set in motion could change the balance of modern Faerie forever, and she has been ordered to appear before a historic convocation of monarchs, hosted by Queen Windermere in the Mists and overseen by the High King and Queen themselves.
Naturally, things have barely gotten underway when the first dead body shows up. As the only changeling in attendance, Toby is already the target of suspicion and hostility. Now she needs to find a killer before they can strike again—and with the doors locked to keep the guilty from escaping, no one is safe.
As danger draws ever closer to her allies and the people she loves best, Toby will have to race against time to prevent the total political destabilization of the West Coast and to get the convocation back on track…and if she fails, the cure for elf-shot may be buried forever, along with the victims she was too slow to save.
Because there are worse fates than sleeping for a hundred years.
I realize that it is part of the Hero's gig to always be the one to solve the Big Problem at the center of the plot. However, I still don't see why Toby's friends and family are always conveniently out of commission when shit gets real, so to speak. Her "squire" never seems to learn much except how to be rescued, and her fiance, the King of Cats, once again gets himself nearly killed, when he's got to be on the last of his 9 lives by now. Come on, McGuire, can't we have anything other than Toby dies while taking out evil aristocrat/queen and saves all her friends in the process? After reading all the other books in this series, I feel like I could write an October Daye story myself, I'm so familiar with the plot outline. Why is the Looshak the only competent character in these novels? I'd give this unsurprising story a B, and only recommend it to those who have read all the other books in the series, and don't mind more of the same.

How Not to Fall by Emily Foster is, I think, a semi-self published novel that sounded interesting from the first chapter that I read online. It seemed like a modern romance, and the prose  was clean, clear and bubbling with fun. I realize that most current romance novels have  more than a little erotica interwoven through the plot as a matter of course. Hot sex seems to be what sells in romance these days. Still, I always hope that the story is strong enough that it isn't subsumed by the erotica, making any given romance book just a shell for pornography, which I despise. 
Thankfully, Foster has written a hilarious tale that holds up quite well to the weight of the sex scenes that dominate the second half of the novel. Here's the blurb:
In her witty and breathtakingly sexy novel, Emily Foster introduces a story of lust, friendship, and other unpredictable experiments. . .
Data, research, scientific formulae—Annabelle Coffey is completely at ease with all of them. Men, not so much. But that's all going to change after she asks Dr. Charles Douglas, the postdoctoral fellow in her lab, to have sex with her. Charles is not only beautiful, he is also adorably awkward, British, brilliant, and nice. What are the odds he'd turn her down?
Very high, as it happens. Something to do with that whole student/teacher/ethics thing. But in a few weeks, Annie will graduate. As soon as she does, the unlikely friendship that's developing between them can turn physical—just until Annie leaves for graduate school. Yet nothing could have prepared either Annie or Charles for chemistry like this, or for what happens when a simple exercise in mutual pleasure turns into something as exhilarating and infernally complicated as love. Publisher's Weekly: Foster uses her professional sex-educator expertise as a basis for her debut novel; unfortunately, the reader ends up feeling like a lagging student stuck in a lecture hall. Brilliant Annie Coffey, a senior in psychophysiology at Indiana University, has an enormous crush on postdoctoral fellow Charles Douglas, who runs her lab class. Instead of flirting with him, she asks him directly whether he’d like to have sex. Charles worries about losing his job, but they agree that when she finishes her last class and is no longer his student, they will enjoy a no-strings fling until she leaves for Harvard Medical School. Clinical terms add a humorous tone to the erotic scenes. Foster painstakingly describes one-base-at-a-time sex before moving on to bondage and fantasies and finally investigating the difference between lust and love. The minutiae of Charles’s rock climbing and Annie’s ballet classes further slow the plot.
I don't agree with PW that all the sexual descriptions slowed the plot, though I do think the rock climbing scenes went on too long, and got fairly boring. I skimmed those sections easily, though, and just moved on to the good stuff between Annie and Charles. Though Charles seems like a great guy, I had two qualms about him, one, that he seemed to find it highly erotic to have sex with Annie when she was nearly unconscious and unable to respond (which makes him seem like some kind of creepy rapist) and two, using his childhood abuse as an excuse for "not being able to fall in love" was a stereotype and a cliche of Englishmen (all of whom seem to have had terrible parents and nightmare childhoods) and of men in general ("Oh I can't commit because I was abused so I've walled away my heart" said every guy in every romance novel ever.) Of course our plucky heroine will FIX him and then they will be able to live happily ever after, because that is what plucky young heroines do in romance novels, they make emotionally unavailable man-children fall for them, even though that is totally unrealistic, insert eye rolling here. Despite these faux pas, I liked this novel, and I'd give it a B+, and recommend it to anyone looking for a smart and fun romance novel with a heroine who isn't a complete idiot. 

The Masked City by Genevieve Cogman is the sequel to the exciting Invisible Library, which I got as an ARC sometime last year. I loved the Invisible Library, so I had high expectations for the sequel and, for the most part, I was not disappointed. Here's the blurb: The written word is mightier than the sword—most of the time...
Working in an alternate version of Victorian London, Librarian-spy Irene has settled into a routine, collecting important fiction for the mysterious Library and blending in nicely with the local culture. But when her apprentice, Kai—a dragon of royal descent—is kidnapped by the Fae, her carefully crafted undercover operation begins to crumble.

Kai’s abduction could incite a conflict between the forces of chaos and order that would devastate all worlds and all dimensions. To keep humanity from getting caught in the crossfire, Irene will have to team up with a local Fae leader to travel deep into a version of Venice filled with dark magic, strange coincidences, and a perpetual celebration of Carnival—and save her friend before he becomes the first casualty of a catastrophic war.

But navigating the tumultuous landscape of Fae politics will take more than Irene’s book-smarts and fast-talking—to ward off Armageddon, she might have to sacrifice everything she holds dear....

Cogman's prose is crisp and bright, and her characters are, as they were before, first rate. I am a big fan of Irene and her take-charge attitude. The fact that this book takes place in an alternate, opulent, masquerade-riddled Italy makes the world she's built seem even richer and more fascinating. But once again, Irene has to deal with some very rude and cruel dragons who claim that they will destroy her world should she not rescue Kai. Though she obviously has something of a crush on Kai, I think it's obvious that he's more of a liability to the library and to her work than he is a help or an asset. A smart heroine would send him packing, and tell his royal uncle and family that they can keep him, because the world shouldn't have to hang in the balance every time he's too stupid to live and gets himself kidnapped. I also think the Vale/Sherlock Holmes character is a bit of an ass. He treats Irene, who is clearly his superior, as if she's a fragile and stupid school girl, and once he blunders into her case, he always starts ordering her around and being bossy and arrogant, which is highly inappropriate for someone with Irene's talents as a librarian. Once again, I'd tell him to take a long walk on a short pier and go on about my business, if I were Irene.
She has no need of these men, who only complicate her life, as she goes about finding books for the Invisible Library.
Still, this was a rollicking good read, a page turner with a fast-moving plot and lots of beautiful world-building. A well deserved A, with the recommendation that anyone who has read The Invisible Library should dive right into the Masked City. You won't be disappointed.

No comments: