Saturday, June 03, 2017

HRC at BookExpo in NYC, Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day by Seanan McGuire, The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler, King's Cage by Victoria Aveyard and The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell

While I can't, due to space considerations, put the whole article from Shelf Awareness here on my blog, I highly recommend that anyone who is interested check out this interview with HRC. She's still a strong, smart woman who is doing her best to help women, children and the poor of this nation, while the current administration is trying to eradicate those who aren't rich, white, Christian and male. Below are some of her thoughts on books and libraries. 

BookExpo 2017: An Evening with Hillary Rodham Clinton

"I have to tell you--as booksellers, I hope you know how much you mean
to me," said Hillary Clinton Thursday evening at BookExpo in New York
City, where she was in conversation with author Cheryl Strayed,
discussing her upcoming books, her life as a reader and her plans for
the future. "It has been a central part of my life for as long as I can
remember. Libraries and bookstores are right at the top of my favorite
things to do, so thank you."
When asked about her reading habits as a child, Clinton answered that
she read every Nancy Drew mystery growing up and found the character to
be something of a role model. After her electoral loss last November,
Clinton said she read plenty of mysteries, and described herself as a
"very devoted mystery reader"; some of her favorites include Jacqueline
Winspear, Donna Leon and Louise Penny. She remarked that mysteries were
"very comforting because it was somebody else's problem." And when it
came to reading during the campaign, Clinton said she had no time for
reading anything other than "reams of briefing papers," because she and
her staff had the "old-fashioned idea that the policies you proposed
would actually be important in governing your country."
For her final question of the evening, Strayed asked Clinton what her
next chapter would be, to which Clinton answered that she had no idea,
except that she would "do everything I can to support the resistance...
we're going to have to continue to find ways to work together and make
progress together, and to fend off whatever damage may be coming from
Washington. I'm not going anywhere. I'm going to be as active as I can."

Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day by Seanan McGuire is a slender, yet poignant urban fantasy novel about ghosts, witches and what ties us to a specific place and people. It's a stand-alone novel from the author of the October Day fantasy series, which I've recently binge-read and enjoyed, for the most part. McGuire also wrote a YA dark fantasy (which I considered horror fantasy) called Every Heart a Doorway that I read and didn't like, but I felt as if that series was too far into the horror genre for my taste anyway. Dusk or Dark, etc, surprised me because the prose was more lyrical and poetic than in her other books, and though she had fewer words to get it moving, the plot never felt rushed. Here's the blurb:
When her sister Patty died, Jenna blamed herself. When Jenna died, she blamed herself for that, too. Unfortunately Jenna died too soon. Living or dead, every soul is promised a certain amount of time, and when Jenna passed she found a heavy debt of time in her record. Unwilling to simply steal that time from the living, Jenna earns every day she leeches with volunteer work at a suicide prevention hotline.
But something has come for the ghosts of New York, something beyond reason, beyond death, beyond hope; something that can bind ghosts to mirrors and make them do its bidding. Only Jenna stands in its way. Publisher's Weekly: Prolific Hugo-winner and bestseller McGuire (Once Broken Faith) displays her typical mix of endearing characters inside a world constructed with thoughtfully deployed speculative elements in this standalone meditation on ghosts and time. After accidentally dying in the wake of her big sister’s suicide, native Kentuckian Jenna decides that she must earn the right to pass on. Working at a Manhattan suicide prevention hotline and becoming a regular at a quirky diner that is the haunt of ghosts and witches, Jenna exists in the world without feeling like she has a life. But when the ghosts of New York, many of whom are her friends and acquaintances, begin to disappear, she must brazenly overcome her fear of witches and reluctance to form attachments in order to defend the home she left and the one she found only after she died. This tightly paced adventure will win hearts with a charming protagonist and a well-earned ending.
The human greed for immortality and lust for eternal youth play a big part in the book, which I found thought-provoking. I enjoyed Jenna's kindness and compassion and her desire to help those who want to die to rethink their choice via a suicide hotline. Somehow it makes sense that a ghost would man the phones on the "graveyard" shift. I also loved Delia, the landlord ghost and the corn witch Brenda, whose very existence (I'm an Iowan, keep in mind, so I know a thing or two about corn) filled me with delight, just as the cornfield of ghosts did in the movie Field of Dreams. I'd give this book a well-deserved A, and, though it is somewhat sad, I'd recommend it to anyone who wonders about what happens to our souls after we die. An odd coincidence with this book was that my reading coincided with the birthday (June 1) of my best friend Rosemarie Muff Larson, who passed away 9 years ago. I'd like to think this was the universe's way of helping me grieve.

The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler is a YA mystery novel about Samurais and feudal Japan in the 18th century. A young boy named Seikei yearns to become a samurai, but is only allowed to be an apprentice to his merchant father. One night at an Inn, a jewel is stolen from a boorish samurai while he slept, and Seikei is the only witness to a "ghost" prowling about that night. So he teams up with the local magistrate, who is also an old samurai, and together they unravel a tale of dishonor and revenge. 
Here's the blurb: Kirkus Reviews: The Hooblers (The Cuban American Family Album, 1996, etc.) employ suspense, action, superstition, and mystery to entrance readers with this tale of 18th-century Japan and a boy's search for honor. Seikei, 14, is embarrassed to have been born into the merchant class and dreams of becoming a samurai. While on a business trip with his father, he witnesses the theft of a valuable ruby from a haughty samurai. Drawn into the case by Judge Ooka, a real historical figure, Seikei plunges into the chase. He finds himself in the company of Tomomi, a brilliant Kabuki actor and master of acrobatics and swordsmanship. Seikei begins to admire him, even though he knows that Tomomi is the thief and a Kirishitan, a member of a banned religious sect. But Tomomi plans much more than theft. He intends to expose and dishonor the man who destroyed his family; Seikei unwittingly becomes part of his plot, and gets the chance to fulfill his dream. The climatic scene of a play that exposes the real villain echoes the plot of Hamlet, and may work as an introduction to Shakespeare's play. Full of adventure, offering a vivid portrait of Shogun-era Japan, this is a remarkable novel. 
Because I'm a big fan of Chinese and Japanese history (I focused on European and Asian history when studying for my history degree), this novel really resonated with me, and while I found the role of women/girls being sidelined (the women's parts in theater are even played by men, and Seikei notes that Tomomi enacts women almost better than an actual woman) annoying, I understood that it was appropriate for the era. The prose was delicate and the plot full of twists and turns, so I'd give this novel an A, and recommend it to anyone interested in Samurais and Japan in the 18th century.

King's Cage by Victoria Aveyard is the third book in her Red Queen series of epic YA fantasy. Having hewed my way through the first two long tomes (I don't think Aveyard can write a book with fewer than 500 pages) I was anxious to find out what happened to our heroine Mare Barrow after the cruel, ruthless and insane King finally captured and tortured her. Mare made a deal with the King that in exchange for her, he wouldn't kill all her friends and relatives in the resistance. Though the King keeps his word, he still uses and tortures Mare every day, and the first half of the book is riddled with gruesome and depressing descriptions of Mare's imprisonment and the dampening of her powers, while sadistic "whispers" are allowed to mind-rape her for information about the resistance and their whereabouts. Mare does fight back in a limited way, but it is only when her enemy from the battlefield, Evangeline, lets her go free (because Evangeline doesn't want to marry the Kings brother Cal, who is part of a coup) that Mare can truly make a difference in bringing down evil King Maven and his cohorts. Here's the blurb:
In this breathless third installment to Victoria Aveyard’s bestselling Red Queen series, allegiances are tested on every side. And when the Lightning Girl's spark is gone, who will light the way for the rebellion?
Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightning, tormented by her lethal mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal. Now a king, Maven Calore continues weaving his dead mother's web in an attempt to maintain control over his country—and his prisoner.
As Mare bears the weight of Silent Stone in the palace, her once-ragtag band of newbloods and Reds continue organizing, training, and expanding. They prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows. And Cal, the exiled prince with his own claim on Mare's heart, will stop at nothing to bring her back. When blood turns on blood, and ability on ability, there may be no one left to put out the fire—leaving Norta as Mare knows it to burn all the way down. Publisher's Weekly: Leashed like an animal and trotted out as a trophy of war, Mare Barrow passes her 18th birthday imprisoned by King Maven and turned into a puppet of a propaganda machine bent on destroying the Scarlet Guard. In this third installment of the Red Queen series, Aveyard’s frenetic action sequences initially take a backseat to the patient study of Mare’s captivity. But there are still plenty of schemes amid royal fissures and ill-fated rescues, an assassination attempt, and raging battles on multiple fronts to help this story keep pace with the previous installments. A newblood struggling with her deadly abilities and a princess begrudgingly betrothed to Maven narrate a few chapters of their own, but the majority of the tale is again seen through the eyes of Aveyard’s “little lightning girl,” who remains a relatable and deeply flawed heroine. Concluding as hope dwindles that the Reds will ever be free of the Silver crown, Aveyard adeptly sets the scene for a fourth book to follow, amid a war not yet won.
After all she's been through, Mare's love of Cal isn't enough to keep him from choosing power over their relationship, and readers are left wondering what will happen next at the end of the book. While Aveyard's prose is, as always, sterling, her plot sags under its own weight, and drags nearly to a complete stop several times. I'd give it a B, and recommend this novel to anyone who has read the first two, with the warning that you will need some strong coffee or tea to make it through to the unsatisfying end. 

The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell was recommended to me by Book Page, which is a monthly tabloid style newspaper for book lovers that is free at the local library. Sam Whipple is a direct descendant of the Bronte family, and more than a bit of an oddball. She was raised by her very eccentric father, who has now passed on and left her with a mystery to solve as to her "inheritance," which may or may not be items owned by the Bronte family that were supposedly passed down, generation after generation for safekeeping. Sam is now attending Oxford University, where she encounters a variety of weird characters and people with secrets who seem willing to cause her harm for reasons unknown. Here's the blurb:
In Catherine Lowell’s smart and original debut novel—“an enjoyable academic romp that successfully combines romance and intrigue” (Publishers Weekly)—the only remaining descendant of the Brontë family embarks on a modern-day literary treasure hunt to find the family’s long-rumored secret estate, using only the clues her father left behind and the Brontës’ own novels.
Samantha Whipple is used to stirring up speculation wherever she goes. Since her eccentric father’s untimely death, she is the presumed heir to a long-rumored trove of diaries, paintings, letters, and early novel drafts passed down from the Brontë family—a hidden fortune never revealed to anyone outside of the family, but endlessly speculated about by Brontë scholars and fanatics. Samantha, however, has never seen this alleged estate and for all she knows, it’s just as fictional as Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights.
But everything changes when Samantha enrolls at Oxford University and long lost objects from the past begin rematerializing in her life, beginning with an old novel annotated in her father’s handwriting. With the help of a handsome but inscrutable professor, Samantha plunges into a vast literary mystery and an untold family legacy, one that can only be solved by decoding the clues hidden within the Brontës’ own works.
A fast-paced adventure from start to finish, The Madwoman Upstairs is a smart and original novel and a moving exploration of what happens when the greatest truth is, in fact, fiction.
Sam comes off as almost autistic to me, if not someone with Asbergers, as she frantically tries to find answers to the mystery her father left behind, while pushing everyone away from her and skulking around in the rain. She also develops a huge crush on her academic advisor/professor James Orville, who is many years older than she is, and who has been reprimanded for having had a sexual relationship with another student and a fellow teacher. When she's told that to be involved with him would destroy both of their careers at Oxford, Sam totally ignores that and proceeds to get them both canned, and then is insufferable because Orville won't run away with her. I honestly didn't see any real spark between them to begin with, it just seemed all one-sided on Sam's part, so when the author decides to say that they married years later in a tiny little epilogue, it seems out of place and ridiculous. Though I liked insights into the Bronte sister's books, and the tidbits about their lives, there were too many exasperating moments that had nothing to do with anything that slowed down the plot and provided some red herrings for the mystery of the lost Bronte artifact. For someone enrolled at Oxford, Sam doesn't come off as smart enough to get a degree there, and she is too naive and quirky and weird to be likable as a protagonist. That said, I think this novel deserves a B-, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in the Bronte sisters and their famous books. 

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