Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Book Club and Wrinkle in Time Movies, A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Maas, Goodnight from London by Jennifer Robson and Gods and Ends by Devon Monk

This sounds like an excellent film, even though they're reading a book I found truly awful. 

Book Club Movie

Mary Steenburgen is joining Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda and Candice Bergen
for the film Book Club
which "revolves around four lifelong friends who read 50 Shades of Grey
in their monthly book club and have their lives changed forever,"
Deadline reported. The project marks the directorial debut of A Walk in
the Woods writer-producer Bill Holderman and is based on an original
script by Holderman and Erin Simms. It is in pre-production.

Another movie that looks exciting! I read a Wrinkle In Time back when I was a kid, and then I read it again as an adult in my 20s. It stands the test of time as a science fiction classic.

Movies: A Wrinkle in Time

"The clock ticks, time bends, space shifts, and Oprah is your
planet-hopping tour guide through all of it," Entertainment Weekly noted
in showcasing a first look at director Ava DuVernay's (Selma, 13th) film
adaptation of Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time
Oscar winner Jennifer Lee (Frozen) wrote the script for the project. In
addition to Oprah Winfrey as Mrs. Which, the film's cast includes Mindy
Kaling (Mrs. Who), Reese Witherspoon (Mrs. Whatsit), Storm Reid (Meg),
Chris Pine and Gugu Mbatha-Raw.

DuVernay said she discovered the novel as an adult: "I went to school in
Compton and it wasn't on my reading list. I saw so much beauty in it,
but also so much meaning. She's a very radical thinker and she embedded
her sense of what society should and could be in this piece, and a lot
of it I agree with. And through that, the story of this girl saving the
world and being out there in the universe slaying the darkness, it also
says a lot about slaying our own dragons."

She added that the first image she had "was to place a brown girl in
that role of Meg, a girl traveling to different planets and encountering
beings and situations that I'd never seen a girl of color in. All of
those scenes struck my fancy, and then it was also something that
[Disney v-p of production] Tendo Nagenda said to me, which I'll never
forget. One of the things that really made me want to read it was when
he said, 'Ava, imagine what you would do with the worlds.' Worlds!
'Planets no one's ever seen or heard of,' he said. There aren't any
other black women who have been invited to imagine what other planets in
the universe might look and feel like. I was interested in that and in a
heroine that looked like the girls I grew up with."

DuVernay also observed: "My whole process with this film was, what if?
With these women, I wondered, could we make them women of different
ages, body types, races? Could we bring in culture, bring in history in
their costumes? And in the women themselves, could we just reflect a
fuller breadth of femininity?"
 A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Maas wasn't the YA novel I was expecting. I had assumed it would be more about a cat and her relationship with her person, in this case, a teenage girl. But the book isn't really about Mango the cat, it's about a girl named Tia Winchell who has Synesthesia, which is the ability to see colors in music, numbers or other everyday things. Here's the blurb:
Thirteen-year-old Mia Winchell is far from ordinary: she suffers from a rare condition called synesthesia, the mingling of perceptions whereby a person can see sounds, smell colors, or taste shapes. But because she has kept it a secret from everyone, she appears to be the most normal kid in her family. Her younger brother Zack keeps a chart of all the McDonald's hamburgers he's eaten in his lifetime. Her older sister Beth dyes her hair a different color every week and might be a witch.
When trouble in the school finally convinces Mia to reveal her secret, she feels like a freak; and as she embarks on an intense journey of self-discovery, her family and friends have trouble relating to her. By the time she realizes she has isolated herself from all the people who care about her, it is almost too late. Mia has to lose something very special in order to understand and appreciate her special gift in this coming-of-age novel. Publisher's Weekly:In an intriguing first novel, Mass introduces a 13-year-old heroine with an unusual perspective. Mia Winchell is a synesthete; her visual and hearing senses are connected so that numbers, letters, words, sounds and even some people's auras appear to her as colors. The letter "a," for instance, is the shade of a "faded sunflower," screeching chalk "makes red jagged lines in the air," and Mia's beloved cat, Mango, is surrounded by an orange cloud. Mia's unique view proves to be both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, she enjoys having heightened senses ("If I couldn't use my colors, the world would seem so bland-like vanilla ice cream without the gummy bears on top," she says). On the other hand, sometimes it's hard for her being reminded that she is different, like when her brother, Zack, calls her "the Missing Link." Although the story line, at times, seems cluttered with underdeveloped subplots about Mia's friendships, potential romances and conflicts at school, the novel's premise is interesting enough to keep pages turning. The author successfully brings abstract ideas down to earth. Her well-defined characterizations, natural-sounding dialogue, and concrete imagery allow readers to feel Mia's emotions and see through her eyes a kaleidoscopic world, which is at once confusing and beautiful.
I agree with Publisher's Weekly that the plot/storyline are somewhat cluttered and confusing, however, the prose and well drawn dialogue really keeps you turning pages, and hoping that Mia gets things figured out also kept me engrossed. This book helped me remember what it was like being different in my early teens, and how desperate I was to fit in and be "normal" like the other kids. Eventually, you figure out that your differences, what makes you unique, are your strength and the best part of you as you grow into your gifts. Though it was a bit uneven, I would still give this book a B+ and recommend it to any young girl who is trying to find out where she fits in.
Goodnight From London by Jennifer Robson was the 4th book of hers I've read, and enjoyed them all. Robson has a strong sense of place in her books, and though they're basically historical romances, she still keeps the prose imbued with a literary luminosity that makes you feel like you're reading a book from the classic canon of literature. Here's the blurb:
From USA Today bestselling author Jennifer Robson—author of Moonlight Over Paris and Somewhere in France—comes a lush historical novel that tells the fascinating story of Ruby Sutton, an ambitious American journalist who moves to London in 1940 to report on the Second World War, and to start a new life an ocean away from her past.
In the summer of 1940, ambitious young American journalist Ruby Sutton gets her big break: the chance to report on the European war as a staff writer for Picture Weekly newsmagazine in London. She jumps at the chance, for it's an opportunity not only to prove herself, but also to start fresh in a city and country that know nothing of her humble origins. But life in besieged Britain tests Ruby in ways she never imagined.
Although most of Ruby's new colleagues welcome her, a few resent her presence, not only as an American but also as a woman. She is just beginning to find her feet, to feel at home in a country that is so familiar yet so foreign, when the bombs begin to fall.
As the nightly horror of the Blitz stretches unbroken into weeks and months, Ruby must set aside her determination to remain an objective observer. When she loses everything but her life, and must depend upon the kindness of strangers, she learns for the first time the depth and measure of true friendship—and what it is to love a man who is burdened by secrets that aren’t his to share.
Every Time We Say Goodbye, inspired in part by the wartime experiences of the author’s own grandmother, is a captivating, heartfelt, and historically immersive story that readers are sure to embrace.
Please note that I believe "Every Time We Say Goodbye" was the original title of the book, which was changed to Goodnight From London later on. It's not just because I was once a magazine writer who became a magazine editor (and eventually a newsroom journalist on the lifestyle beat, which meant a lot of personality profiles in which I interviewed people, just like Ruby did) that this novel "spoke" to me, it's also the clean and elegant prose with the graceful and swift plot and truly engaging characters that kept me up late into the night turning pages!  Robson has a way with emotional moments that keep you feeling for the characters as they make do and go about their business during the London Blitz in 1940, and the events that lead up to the US entering WWII in 1941. Ruby was so scrappy and dedicated to being a great journalist, I understood her decisions and her travails and fears in terms of the magazine really well. While I didn't grow up an impoverished orphan, I found her issues with growing up with no one to rely on, completely understandable. I just wish she'd adopted an orphan from the British orphanage that she visits, because she understood what it was like to not have a family or be wanted, and those children were longing for a home. Though it might not have been feasible during the war, afterwards, when she marries her beau, I would think she'd be ready and willing to adopt a child to give him or her the childhood that she was denied. That said, there's a great HEA with the handsome Bennett, and his family has become her family, so I felt that we left Ruby in a good place at the end. This is a book that's so good, it's too short! I'd give it an A, and recommend it to anyone who enjoys WWII stories about journalists and romance across the pond.

Gods and Ends by Devon Monk is book three in the Ordinary Magic series. I've read everything that Monk has written, because I am addicted to her deliciously witty prose, fascinating characters and wind-tunnel plots that blow me away. She's written SIX series (I don't know when that woman has time to sleep) and all of them were stellar page turners that had me desperate to read the next book the minute it came out. Oddly enough, though she lives in Portland, Oregon, when I made my annual pilgrimage to the City of Books, they didn't have one copy of Gods and Ends on hand! I was astonished, so I mentioned this to Monk on Facebook, and I hope that by now she's rectified the situation, so others who love her work will be able to get copies of it at Powells in the Fantasy section. At any rate, when last we saw our brave protagonist Delaney Reed, things were going from bad to worse in Ordinary, as an ancient vampire kidnapped a firefighter and bit Delaney on the neck. Here's the blurb:
Keep your gods close and your monsters closer...
Police Chief Delaney Reed thinks she knows all of Ordinary, Oregon's secrets. Gods on vacation, lovelorn ghosts, friendly neighborhood monsters? Check.
But some secrets run deeper than even she knows. To take down an ancient vampire hell-bent on revenge, she will have to make the hardest decision of her life: give up the book of dark magic that can destroy them all, or surrender her mortal soul.
As she weighs her options, Delaney discovers she can no longer tell the difference between allies keeping secrets and enemies telling the truth. Questioning loyalties and running out of time, Delaney must choose sides before a kidnapping turns into murder, before rival crochet and knit gangs start a war, and before the full moon rises to signal the beginning of Ordinary's end.
I love that Ordinary, as a town, is completely misnamed, and is, in fact, the most extraordinary town in America, as gods and demi-gods and monsters of all stripe play out their lives and loves within its borders. I also love that Delaney and her sisters all fight and scrap and love each other so fiercely. I wasn't too happy about Delaney giving up her soul so quickly in exchange for Ben and the release of her father's soul. But I did know that, with all her family and friends around her, they would manage to pull her out of each deadly situation that she gets herself into.
I also find it more than a bit creepy that her boyfriend Ryder has a god of contracts, Mithras (who just happens to hate Delaney because he wants her job) in possession of his soul, or at least his body. How could you sleep with someone who might be taken over by a murderous god at any moment? Yikes!  That said, this book is full of intense moments and epic battles. I gather that Monk was considering this her last book in the "Ordinary" series, but then got the idea for three short stories and two more books. Hurrah! I can hardly wait to read the short stories later this year, and the books next year. A well deserved A for this delightful urban fantasy, with a recommendation to anyone who likes magic grounded in myths and 'real' life.

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