Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Iowa City is a UNESCO City of Literature, The Burning Page by Genevieve Cogman, Crown of Midnight, Heir of Fire and Queen of Shadow by Sarah J Maas

I am so proud of my home state's literary acumen, and that they've been chosen as the host city for this major meeting.
Iowa City to Host 2018 UNESCO Cities of Literature Meeting

Iowa City has been selected as the host
for the UNESCO Cities of Literature's 2018 annual meeting, which will be
part of the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the city's
designation as the third City of Literature in the world. At the 2017
meeting in Barcelona, member cities selected Iowa City, which is home to
legendary independent bookstore Prairie Lights

"Given the growth trends of the network, we could have representatives
from 30 or more cities with us in Iowa City next April," said City of
Literature executive director John Kenyon. "This will offer our area a
wonderful opportunity to show the rest of the world the things that make
us a City of Literature, and a great way to celebrate our 10th year with
the designation."

Iowa City is one of 20 UNESCO-designated Cities of Literature. Kenyon
told Iowa Public Radio: "We are seen internationally
as kind of a bright star in the literary sky. People are genuinely
interested in coming to Iowa City and learning about what we have here."
I recently read this book about Doc Holliday, who was not an actual medical doctor, but a dentist, and I was thrilled to hear that it's being made into a movie, though I can't imagine Jeremy Renner, who has portrayed Hawkeye in the movies so many times that I find it hard to see him without a bow and arrow, enacting a dissolute dentist. Still, I imagine it will be wonderful to see Russell's take on Doc on the big screen.

Movies: Doc Holliday

Palmstar Media (The Catcher Was a Spy) has optioned rights to Mary Doria
Russell's novels Doc and Epitaph: A Novel of the O.K. Corral
Deadline reported. Jeremy Renner will play Doc Holliday in the movie and
co-produce with PalmStar's Kevin Frakes and the Combine's Don Handfield.

"We are excited to re-introduce this classic American character to a
whole new audience by chronicling Doc Holliday's incredible
transformation from Average Joe dentist to a man who Wyatt Earp called
the 'nerviest, speediest, deadliest man with a six-gun [he] ever knew,'
" Renner and Handfield said in a joint statement.

The Burning Page by Genevieve Cogman is the third book in the Invisible Library series, and, while I was a bit disappointed in the second book, Burning Page allayed my fears about the series by laying out a spectacular story and tying up loose ends at the same time. Here's the blurb: Never judge a book by its cover...
Due to her involvement in an unfortunate set of mishaps between the dragons and the Fae, Librarian spy Irene is stuck on probation, doing what should be simple fetch-and-retrieve projects for the mysterious Library. But trouble has a tendency to find both Irene and her apprentice, Kai—a dragon prince—and, before they know it, they are entangled in more danger than they can handle...

Irene’s longtime nemesis, Alberich, has once again been making waves across multiple worlds, and, this time, his goals are much larger than obtaining a single book or wreaking vengeance upon a single Librarian. He aims to destroy the entire Library—and make sure Irene goes down with it.

With so much at stake, Irene will need every tool at her disposal to stay alive. But even as she draws her allies close around her, the greatest danger might be lurking from somewhere close—someone she never expected to betray her... 

Though she still seemed somewhat ignorant or willfully naive, I found Irene's adventures much more interesting in this book than in the last one. Once again, however, the "love triangle" between Kai and Vale and Irene seems ridiculous, especially after Irene throws herself at Vale, only to be rejected outright. That she doesn't seem to countenance Kai's possessiveness and love of her is something of a head-scratcher, in that it makes little sense. I know that she doesn't want to get involved with her apprentice for a variety of reasons, but she should make it clear to him that trying to protect or control her isn't going to work in their favor as partners within the library. Vale's horrible drug habit and his cold misanthropy should have clued her in to how he'd take her invitation to sex. He's not a man to get involved with someone like her, though I think if he did Kai would probably turn into a dragon and rip his throat out. Still, there were a number of great things I liked about this book, not the least of which was the strong prose and the breakneck speed of the plot. The characters grow and change and learn new things about the great evil Alberich, who wants to destroy the library, and has to be foiled at all costs. The characters are well drawn, and the story itself engrossing. I'd give this book a B+, and recommend it to anyone who has read the first two books in the series.

A week ago I read the first book, Throne of Glass, in the Throne of Glass series, and became hooked into this fantastic world where a half fae girl assassin becomes champion to a demon-possessed King bent on destroying and enslaving the world. So I got the next four books in the series from the library, and I've read three of them in the past week. I would have read the latest book, but the next three were huge tomes, especially the last one, which was over 650 pages long. So I write this with the ensuing eyestrain of not lifting myself out of this authors world for very long during the past week. So, to the reviews.

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J Maas is the second book of the Throne of Glass series, and it begins right where the first book left off. Here's the blurb:
Celaena Sardothien is the king's Champion-yet she is far from loyal to the crown, for the man she serves is bent on evil. But working against her master in secret is no easy task. As Celaena tries to untangle the mysteries buried within the glass castle, she can trust no one, not even her supposed allies Crown Prince Dorian, Captain of the Guard Chaol, and foreign princess Nehemia.
Then, an unspeakable tragedy shatters Celaena's world. She must decide once and for all where her loyalties lie . . . and whom she will fight for.
An action-packed and romantic adventure that readers “will never want to leave” (Kirkus Reviews), the next chapter in this smash hit New York Times best-selling series is sure to please Sarah Maas's enormous and ever-growing fan-base–and to set the stage for an explosive third book. Kirkus Reviews: If the king catches Celaena disobeying his orders, he will execute her closest friends. However, she can't stomach advancing his agenda, especially if it means murdering innocents in cold blood. When the king uncovers traitors in the city, the first name on his hit list is Archer Finn, a popular courtesan and Celaena's old friend. Plotting Archer's escape, Celaena takes the opportunity to make him her personal informant about the rebellion, which Celaena hopes will help her infer the king's plans--plans she is thoroughly conflicted about challenging, for as much as she hates the king, she thinks opposing him would only get her killed. Secrets damage her nuanced relationships with Chaol and Nehemia. (The complex friendship between these two formidable women is a particular treasure.) Meanwhile, Celaena unravels the mystery of Adarlan's sudden strength, a magical subplot that intersects with Dorian's dangerous self-exploration. Vivid Celaena, loving and brutally violent in turn, is a fully realized heroine. The ending comes at the right time--at the close of one storyline and prologue of another--to leave readers impatient for the next installment. An epic fantasy readers will immerse themselves in and never want to leave.
Though this was an engrossing page-turner, I was still surprised that Celaena didn't see that Archer was bad news from the get-go. I did love that she managed to pretend to carry out the kings gruesome assignments, all while trying to work with the resistance, but she still seems to not know who to trust and who is her actual enemy. A fascinating build up to the next book in the series, with solid prose and a juggernaut of a plot, I'd give this book an A, and recommend it to anyone who read Throne of Glass.

Heir Of Fire by Sarah J Maas is the third book in the Throne of Glass series, and, at nearly 570 pages, it's a long journey of a novel that is something of a proving ground for the characters set up in the first two novels. Here's the blurb: Celaena has survived deadly contests and shattering heartbreak-but at an unspeakable cost. Now, she must travel to a new land to confront her darkest truth…a truth about her heritage that could change her life-and her future-forever. Meanwhile, brutal and monstrous forces are gathering on the horizon, intent on enslaving her world. Will Celaena find the strength to not only fight her inner demons, but to take on the evil that is about to be unleashed? Kirkus Reviews: Magic, painful truths and dangerous military escalations characterize this series continuation. Celaena Sardothien's in Wendlyn, ordered by the villainous king of Adarlan to assassinate Wendlyn's royals, or he'll execute her ex and the family of her dead best friend, Nehemia. Celaena—the presumed-dead rightful queen of the conquered Terrasen—plans on finding a way to destroy the king of Adarlan's sources of power, in fulfillment of a vow made on Nehemia's grave. Celaena seeks out the Fae Queen Maeve for information; cunning Maeve refuses until Celaena proves herself (with the help of a prickly, elite warrior Fae trainer) by embracing her hated demi-Fae heritage and magic. Celaena, grieving, goes through dark emotional times and must confront her scarred psyche in order to return to the unapologetically awesome heroine readers know and love. Meanwhile, there's a lot going on: A witch deals with clan politics (Adarlan's king makes them his wyvern-riding airborne cavalry), Chaol attempts to protect Dorian from his own magic, a healer falls for Dorian and more. The jumps from narrative to narrative initially detract from the story's momentum, but multiple perspectives on Adarlan's grotesque schemes and tactics eventually pay off. Despite the slow beginning, tension snowballs into devastating twists and an absolutely riveting ending. Maas' usual hallmarks—an epic fantasy setting and the little-exploited truth that platonic relationships can be more intense and compelling than romantic—are present in force. Will leave readers ravenous for more. 
In this dense volume we start meeting the Witches of the realm, who are a brutal and nasty lot, lead by sociopathic, cruel and abusive "grandmothers" who rule by beating their subordinates into submission and threatening them with death at their iron-claws and iron-shod teeth. I honestly didn't like any of the chapters about Monan, the wing leader of the blackbeak clan, who chooses a handicapped but fierce wyvern as her steed. Abraxos, the wyvern, loves flowers and begins to teach Monan compassion, though it seems impossible to penetrate years of cruel conditioning. Meanwhile, Celaena is off with Rowan, an ancient fae warrior who trains her in magic, but also, of course, falls in love with her, as does every significant male in these novels. Even her cousin, Aedion, who is supposedly like a brother to her, is in love with the idea of Queen Aelin, who is supposed to reclaim the throne of Terrasen. Chaol, who was her paramour, is now disenchanted with her because Dorian, the heir to the throne of the main kingdom, has been forced into demon possession by his father the King and now Celaena/Aelin knows that the demon will eat Dorians soul and that he won't be redeemable and must be killed soon. Chaol can't handle Aelin's burgeoning fae powers or her unwillingness to "save" Dorian, so instead of dealing with reality, he blames everything that has gone wrong on her, instead of on the demon King and his evil minions who are experimenting on humans and killing/suppressing all good magic in favor of their dark evil overlords.  I liked Lord Chaol in the first book, but he soon proved to be a weak and stupid jerk, and I lost all respect for him fairly quickly. Aedion doesn't come off a whole lot better, and Rowan seems like some kind of ancient stalker who abuses Celaena so often that I couldn't really see how either could fall in love with the other. But Celaena/Aelin spends a lot of time with guilt and self recriminations, as does Rowan, so I suppose their mutual hatred of themselves gives them something in common. I'd give this book a B+, and recommend it to readers of the first couple of books in the series.

Queen of Shadows by Sarah J Maas is the fourth book in the Throne of Glass series, and it's a whopping 645 pages long, so it's a marathon read. Maas brings all the characters into play for this novel, which leads up to the epic battle for the entire kingdom. Here's the blurb:
Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. But she's at last returned to the empire-for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past...
She has embraced her identity as Aelin Galathynius, Queen of Terrasen. But before she can reclaim her throne, she must fight.
She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die just to see her again. She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen's triumphant return.
Celaena's epic journey has captured the hearts and imaginations of millions across the globe. This fourth volume will hold readers rapt as Celaena's story builds to a passionate, agonizing crescendo that might just shatter her world. Kirkus Reviews: Having cast off her Celaena identity, Aelin returns to Adarlan to reclaim her crown. Leaving Rowan behind after Heir of Fire (2014), Aelin arrives determined to stop the king's deadly demons, the Valg. She seeks out her former master from her assassin days, the charismatic and devious Arobynn, and also finds Chaol, but there's no happy reunion between the two. (Chaol fans shouldn't worry—while he and Aelin may not see eye to eye, he has prominent storylines and character growth.) Aelin's most pressing priority is the rescue of her cousin Aedion, slated for execution at Prince Dorian's birthday as an obvious trap for her. As for Dorian, he's imprisoned in his own body by the Valg controlling him—Chaol holds hope that he can be saved; Aelin knows how unlikely that is. Meanwhile, Wing Leader Manon, head of Adarlan's wyvern-riding witch army, finds growing dissent at the commands she is given, leading to tough choices. At times believability is stretched (fugitives travel around the city freely, one or two heroes defeat large groups of enemies), but character motivations and interactions—friendships, romances, and others—are always nuanced and on point, especially as Aelin's growing maturity offers her new perspectives on old acquaintances. The ending leaves readers poised for the next installment.
Too much of the beginning and middle of this book is taken up with Aelin's love triangle with Aedion and Rowan, who are called "males" and who circle one another like large predatory cats who are vying for a mate. Aelin seems to find this state of affairs amusing, calls them "pissing matches" and calls Rowan "pissy" when he's being territorial and obsessive and possessive about her, and yet she's never had sex (and doesn't intend to) with either of them. Though even Prince Dorian was in love with her, he "let her go" to Chaol, who then dumped her and betrayed her once he learned of her fae powers and heritage, and Chaol is the only man she's bedded, as it were. Of course, her old teacher, the leader of the assassin's guild, Arobynn, who turned her over to the demon king and had her sent to the deadly labor camp/salt mines (out of jealousy for a fellow assassin she was in love with whom he then had killed) is still in love with her and wants her back under his control, because that seems to be all that the men in her life crave...control of her body and soul and heart. Shudder.
This possessiveness and controlling abuse is somehow seen as "love" in these novels, which seems bizarre and repulsive to me as a feminist and a woman. Arobynn's favored prostitute, though she's actually a shape shifter, has been enslaved to a cruel brothel owner for years, and is seen as weak and stupid because she's a sex worker. Fortunately, Aelin realizes that Arobynn has to die, but she allows herself to be used for specific missions for Arobynn in order to get the talisman that he stole from her as a child back. I honestly couldn't understand why she didn't just kill the bastard and take her necklace back, but she had to go through this whole convoluted series of jobs and plans first, and only then would she let the prostitute whom he'd had enslaved slit his throat. All this controlling and abusive behavior by the "males" of the novels made my stomach turn, and it got even worse when they revealed that the witches were to be sacrificed/raped as demon spawn-makers for the Kings evil lordly minions who are under the control of this ancient demon whom the first king and queen decided to leave for the next generations to deal with. Manon finally gets her conscience in order and realizes that she can't allow the grandmothers to have the witches killed off and used by the demons, so she fights back and makes a short alliance with Aelin, who saves Manon because her second in command loves her. 
But now that Aelin has gotten magic back into the kingdom and destroyed the evil king, and even managed to redeem Dorian, she will have to go to her home territory and try to piece it back together before the rest of the evil demon forces launch their final attack. Which side Manon will fight on, and how Aelin and Rowan and the others will defeat this ancient evil is still up in the air, and I assume it will be answered in the Empire of Storms, the fifth book in this enormous epic fantasy series. I am hoping that with this last book, Aelin will finally have sex with Rowan, or that one of them will be killed off, because the sexual teasing and tension over the course of the novels has grown tedious and more than a bit ridiculous. Their whole shtick about "not being worthy" of one another, and their guilt and whining over past lovers is just scene chewing melodrama that wastes the readers time, in my opinion. At any rate, the prose is just as staunch as it was in the first novel, though the plot is ridiculously convoluted, and someone should have edited out a lot of wasted chapters of swooning over Aelin. I'd give this book a B+, recommend it to anyone who has read the other books in the series, and note that I look forward to reading Empire of Storms.

No comments: