Saturday, June 10, 2017

Book to Movie Adaptations, Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes, Magic of Blood and Sea by Cassandra Rose Clarke, Mrs Houdini by Victoria Kelly and Our Lady of the Ice by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Though I've not read Windfall, I adore Lauren Graham as any devoted fan of Gilmore Girls would, natch, so I am looking forward to seeing her movie and I wish I could see the Someday, Someday Maybe adaptation that she did for the CW (I did read that book, BTW). I have also read Corneila Funke's books, and would love to see this animated feature that they're producing.

Movies: Windfall, Dragon Rider

Actress and bestselling author Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls: A Year in
the Life) has optioned the novel Windfall
by Jennifer E. Smith and will adapt the book into a feature-length
screenplay for her production company, Good Game Productions. Deadline
reported that Graham previously "adapted the novel The Royal We for CBS
Films, for which she is also producing, and she adapted her first novel
Someday, Someday Maybe for the CW in 2014. She also is developing
Wedding for One, which she wrote with Jennie Snyder Urman, for Lakeshore
Entertainment." Last year, Graham released her second book, Talking as
Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls (and Everything in

Production has begun on Constantin Film's animated feature Dragon Rider,
based on the bestselling children's fantasy novel by Cornelia Funke.
Animation director Tomer Eshed is bringing the world of Firedrake the
silver dragon to life with teams from Cyborn and Rise FX South Studios.
The screenplay was written by Johnny Smith, with input from Tomer Eshed.
Dragon Rider is produced by Martin Moszkowicz and Oliver Berben. It is a
German-Belgian coproduction. Constantin Film distributes in Germany,
Austria and Switzerland, with world sales are handled by Ralph Kamp's
Timeless Film.
Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes is a book I bought last year during my annual trip to Powells City of Books in Portland, OR. I've put off reading it for almost an entire year because I tend to be a bit skittish about celebrity autobiographies or memoirs. Depending on the star, they can be utterly dreadful and full of posturing. But I as a huge fan of Rhime's "Scandal," and "Private Practice," (though I am not a fan of her longest running show, Grey's Anatomy, my mother loves the show and has watched it from the pilot) I still felt compelled to give it a shot. And I was glad that I did. Rhimes is warm, funny, down to earth and full of flaws and fears just like the rest of us, and though she is a Hollywood powerhouse who rules Thursday nights on TV, she still worries about her weight and whether or not she's spending enough time with her children and gets tongue-tied with stage fright around Oprah (and who wouldn't?). Here's the blurb:  
The instant New York Times bestseller from the creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal and executive producer of How to Get Away With Murder shares how saying YES changed her life. “As fun to read as Rhimes’s TV series are to watch” (Los Angeles Times).
She’s the creator and producer of some of the most groundbreaking and audacious shows on television today. Her iconic characters live boldly and speak their minds. So who would suspect that Shonda Rhimes is an introvert? That she hired a publicist so she could avoid public appearances? That she suffered panic attacks before media interviews?
With three children at home and three hit television shows, it was easy for Shonda to say she was simply too busy. But in truth, she was also afraid. And then, over Thanksgiving dinner, her sister muttered something that was both a wake up and a call to arms: You never say yes to anything. Shonda knew she had to embrace the challenge: for one year, she would say YES to everything that scared her.
This poignant, intimate, and hilarious memoir explores Shonda’s life before her Year of Yes—from her nerdy, book-loving childhood to her devotion to creating television characters who reflected the world she saw around her. The book chronicles her life after her Year of Yes had begun—when Shonda forced herself out of the house and onto the stage; when she learned to explore, empower, applaud, and love her truest self. Yes.
I suspect I am not the only woman who could identify with Rhimes stage-fright, or her need to "eat her feelings" and sneak away at parties to read a good book. Though I am not an introvert, I still had terrible stage fright every time I walked on stage throughout high school and college as a theater major. And I always had that strange sensation that Rhimes describes of being out of my own body, of being someone else when I was on stage, so I barely remembered anything that happened to me while I was up there performing. I thought it was relatively uncommon and never really spoke of it to anyone, but when I read Rhimes description of being on camera with Oprah and not having any idea what she said to her afterwards, something clicked, and I knew that she experienced the same thing that I had. I admire, as a journalist and a reader, Rhimes ability to write with such fluid and clean prose, and her ability to create a narrative arc is, of course, unmatched. An inspirational text that deserves an A, I'd recommend this small volume to anyone who wonders about the life of a woman who seems to "have it all" and what price she has to pay to keep all those balls in the air. 

Magic of Blood and Sea by Cassandra Rose Clarke is an omnibus of two books, The Assassin's Curse and The Pirate's Wish. I'd heard good things about the female protagonist of this series, and though I don't generally pick up a book for the ethnic background of the protagonist, I loved the fact that Ananna is a dark skinned gal who is repeatedly told that she is plain at best and ugly at worst. And that always sends my "good story herein" senses tingling, because any female lead who isn't petite, blonde and gorgeous is bound to be a whole lot of fun and trouble during the journey of a fantasy novel. Here's the blurb:
A pirate princess and a cursed assassin find their fates intertwined in this gorgeous and thrilling adventure.
Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to an ally pirate clan. She wants to captain her own boat, not serve as second-in-command to a handsome and clueless man. But her escape has dire consequences when she learns that her fiancĂ©’s clan has sent an assassin after her.
And when this assassin, Naji, finally finds her, things get even worse. Ananna inadvertently triggers a nasty curse—with a life-altering result. Now, Ananna and Naji are forced to become uneasy allies as they work to complete three impossible tasks that will cure the curse.
Unfortunately, Naji has enemies from the shadowy world known as the Mists, and Ananna must face the repercussions of betraying her engagement that set her off on her adventures. Together, the two must break the curse, escape their enemies, and come to terms with their growing romantic attraction. Publisher's Weekly:This high-seas picaresque, an omnibus of two previously published novels, is replete with assassins, blood magic, manticores, talking sharks, and pretty much anything else a reader might imagine. While fighting for her life, Ananna, a young pirate woman, accidentally saves Naji, the man sent to kill her. This act triggers a curse laid on him years before: Naji has to protect her life at all costs, and knowing Ananna’s in danger causes him incapacitating pain. After battles on land and sea, a wizard on a floating island tells Naji and Ananna that the curse can only be broken by completing three impossible tasks. Naji and Ananna’s relationship grows fraught as they get nearer to completing the tasks—one of which, of course, is to experience true love’s kiss. Missteps and miscommunications dog their slow-burn romance at every turn. Clarke’s world is a hodgepodge of genre tropes, and the plot is similarly jumbled, resolved by an unlikely deus ex machina.
I didn't find it so much a "hodgepodge" of genre tropes so much as a fun romp through them, and I loved that Ananna manages to save Naji from death purely by accident, as she reflexively kills a huge snake in the desert, more because it was a threat to her than to him. She seems almost too naive to live, and while I gather that was necessary to show her youth and innocence, I found her mooning over the handsome assassin, who was also a vain and shallow jerk, to be annoying and also amusing. The fact is that he doesn't find her attractive for a majority of the two books, and only in the end is he finally swayed to love her by her heroism, toughness and intelligence. By that time, I felt that he wasn't good enough for her. But she redeems the scarred assassin in the end, and they decide on a somewhat long distance relationship. For the finely tuned prose that sings in the sails of a fast-moving ship of a plot, this book gets an A, and a recommendation to any woman, aged 14 and up, who wants to read about a realist girl's adventures and romance.

Mrs Houdini by Victoria Kelly is an odd sort of historical romantic fiction. It focuses on Bess and Harry Houdini's relationship, and the sexism of the times they were living in that didn't allow women their due in performance or in taking care of their loved ones. But it is also supposed to be a "ghost" story that asks questions about the spiritualist movement of the Victorian era and beyond, while also humanizing a man who was a mystery to everyone who knew him. It succeeds on some fronts and fails on others. Here's the blurb:
Before escape artist Harry Houdini died, he vowed he would find a way to speak to his beloved wife, Bess, from beyond the grave using a coded message known only to the two of them. But when a widowed Bess begins seeing this code in seemingly impossible places, it becomes clear that Harry has an urgent message to convey. Unlocking the puzzle will set Bess on a course back through the pair’s extraordinary romance, which swept the illusionist and his bride from the beaches of Coney Island, to the palaces of Budapest, to the back lots of Hollywood. When the mystery finally leads Bess to the doorstep of a mysterious young photographer, she realizes that her husband’s magic may have been more than just illusion.
Publisher's Weekly: Poet Kelly’s splendid debut novel is about Bess, the wife of Harry Houdini, and explores the human longing “to know what is beyond” (to quote Harry) as well as the bittersweet gifts of love. After Harry dies suddenly in 1926, Bess must reimagine her existence without its star player, cope with his debts, and fulfill a private mission. Though his lengthy investigations of spiritualism disproved its claims, Harry has promised Bess that he will contact her after death through codes only she can know. Hungry to reconnect with him, Bess suffers crushing disappointments before glimpsing one code in a photograph by newspaperman Charles Radley. When she meets the young photographer in Atlantic City, more coded messages appear in his work; as they seek explanations together, the pair journey through Bess’s deepest wounds, Houdini’s secrets, and life’s most enduring mysteries. Kelly vividly captures the Houdinis’ public rise, from their impoverished beginnings in Coney Island to worldwide celebrity, and private lives shaped by a deep marital bond, childlessness, and the death of Houdini’s beloved mother, which fueled his obsession with the afterlife. Moving effortlessly beyond mere fictionalized biography, Kelly delivers a richly lyrical and thought-provoking novel with closing twists that feel as impossible, inevitable, and satisfying—as magical, in short—as one of Houdini’s own illusions.
The fictionalizing comes into the novel when Bess sees codes in the photos of Charles Radley and then meets up with him and discovers that he is the love child of Houdini and a circus performer who died, so Charles was an orphan before he was adopted by a couple from Iowa. It strained my credulity that Houdini wouldn't have known of the existence of a son, and that once he did, he would keep this information from his beloved wife Bess. I also found it unbelievable that he would make Bess solve some puzzles in order to find some gold that he'd left her and Charles so long after his death. Leaving Bess with all this debt and so many unanswered questions just seems cruel. But Houdini himself comes across as very immature, capricious and cruel, expecting utter loyalty and fidelity from Bess when he himself had already had an affair and gotten his circus mistress pregnant. And his constant need to shower his mother with riches and be seen as her favorite child was infantile and ridiculous. Still, the prose was clean and clear, and the plot, though it had many ups and downs, was worth most of time spent untangling it. I'd give it a B+ and recommend it to anyone who is fascinated by the Houdinis as a couple. 

Our Lady of the Ice by Cassandra Rose Clarke is a stand-alone science fiction novel that I sought out after reading her Magic of Blood and Sea books (the sequel omnibus doesn't debut until October). This novel reminded me of a combination of the TV show "Fortitude" and "The Water Knife" by Paolo Bacigalupi and the TV show "The Dome," which was based on a Stephen King novel. Herein are all the gangster/mafia characters pitted against the evil politicians backed by terrorists and the underdogs of the androids/robots/cyborgs and the poor humans just trying to survive life inside a poorly functioning dome in Antarctica. Here's the blurb:
The Yiddish Policeman’s Union meets The Windup Girl when a female PI goes up against a ruthless gangster—just as both humans and robots agitate for independence in an Argentinian colony in Antarctica.
In Argentine Antarctica, Eliana Gomez is the only female PI in Hope City—a domed colony dependent on electricity (and maintenance robots) for heat, light, and survival in the icy deserts of the continent. At the center is an old amusement park—now home only to the androids once programmed to entertain—but Hope City’s days as a tourist destination are long over. Now the City produces atomic power for the mainland while local factions agitate for independence and a local mobster, Ignacio Cabrera, runs a brisk black-market trade in illegally imported food.
Eliana doesn’t care about politics. She doesn’t even care—much—that her boyfriend, Diego, works as muscle for Cabrera. She just wants to save enough money to escape Hope City. But when an aristocrat hires Eliana to protect an explosive personal secret, Eliana finds herself caught up in the political tensions threatening to tear Hope City apart. In the clash of backstabbing politicians, violent freedom fighters, a gangster who will stop at nothing to protect his interests, and a newly sentient robot underclass intent on a very different independence, Eliana finds her job coming into deadly conflict with Diego’s, just as the electricity that keeps Hope City from freezing begins to fail…
From the inner workings of the mob to the story of a revolution to the amazing settings, this story has got it all. Ultimately, however, Our Lady of the Ice questions what it means to be human, what it means to be free, and whether we’re ever able to transcend our pasts and our programming to find true independence.
Having read the Yiddish Policeman's Union (but not the Windup Girl, I am not a fan of Bacigalupi), I didn't really find that many parallels here, though there were several cynical gangsters causing murder and mayhem, which was the hallmark of Bacigalupi's Water Knife. My problem with the book was this, that the men were all thugs and murderers (with the exception of the male android, who couldn't go against his programming to harm humans), while the women seemed too stupid and naive to live, even the wealthy secret-cyborg Marianella. Of course there's one android who manages to overcome her programming (and of course she's the hooker/pleasure android, because she would inevitably want to rebel against being used like a sex toy), but cruel and vicious Sofia hates humans and wants them all to leave the dome so that androids and cyborgs can take over...and she'd honestly prefer that they all died, but due to her love of Marianella, she says she will just run them out of town and have them all flee via boat to the mainland. Eliana, the main female protagonist is an idiot who somehow manages to fall in love with a thug and murderer Diego, and she willfully believes his lies when he tells her he's only an errand boy for the local mob kingpin Cabrera. She cringes and cowers and melts against Diego, and is somehow powerless to break away from him though she has to know at some point that he's evil. When he tries to kill her and her friend more than once, she still moons over him and tries to save him when the cyborg and androids come for him and his evil boss. What an idiot, and a weepy weakling. I really came to despise Eliana, who was no heroine in the end, just a weak-kneed girl PI. I'd give this book a C+, mainly because the prose is good and the plot swift. Still, I'd only recommend it to those who like dark and ugly stories with no real heroes or heroines to root for, and who are cynical and bitter about humanity and human nature in general.

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