March 31, 2017

Laini Taylor Book Signing


Laini Taylor with Tamara Ireland Stone
 I was ecstatic at catching Laini Taylor at A Great Good Place for Books earlier this week. Although it was standing room only in the cozy bookstore, I had a magical time breathing the same air as her and gaining some insights into that pink-haired, fantastical imagination.  Readers were also treated to an evening with local author Tamara Ireland Stone, who was in the lucky seat next to Laini, asking her detailed questions about her writing process and inspirations.  
Long line of fans
Laini spent 8 months trying to figure out what her new novel was going to be about.  She was particularly keen about a "muse of nightmares" as the protagonist.  However, as soon as thought of a character whose nose was broken by a falling book of fairy tales, she knew that this book was going to be about Lazlo Strange and not the "muse of nightmares."

She is working on the sequel, which will be titled Muse of Nightmares.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is no longer in film development :(  However, she did mention that she was given conceptual art for the movie at one point that looked amazing yet different from what she had pictured in her head.

Strange the Dreamer was supposed to have been published by September 2016 but she (obviously) did not meet the deadline.  {As eager I am for any of her books to be published STAT, I trust that she knows when it's ready for publication.  The quality of her craft is what made me fall in love with her books - so I would never want her to rush it.}

The narrator for the audio book, Steve West, got raves from her and others in the audience so I believe I will have to get the audio book and listen to Lazlo's sexy voice. 

All attendees receive a button and a sticker of the fearsome Minya.
WRITING:

Sometimes when she has to meet a writing deadline, she'll rent a hotel room in Portland (she lives in Oregon) or by the beach and just write.  For Dreams of Gods and Monsters, she wrote 25,000 words in six days and once wrote for 23 hours straight. 

Writer's block does exist for her.

She almost never outlines her books because she doesn't know what's going to happen.  The only time she had ever outlined was for this coming sequel, which she sent to the publisher.

Patrick Rothfuss gave her the best unpublishable blurb ever:  "Your new book is fucking awesome!"  As well as this advice regarding publishing deadlines:  "It can be late once but it'll suck forever."


SAGE LIFE ADVICE FROM LAINI:

In real life, stay clear of the brooding anti-hero.  {Hence, the nice guy/fantasy nerd Lazlo Strange.}

Laini and Tamara autographed my Pride and Prejudice book bag.  Never gonna wash it.
RANDOM FACTS:

Laini got sorted intro Gryffindor but admits that she gamed the system.

She went to my alma mater, UC Berkeley, as well!  Go Bears!

Besides her natural hair color, her hair has only ever been pink.  It was supposed to be temporary, but 10 years later...

The book tour is just beginning.  Laini's traveling to the rest of the country and to the UK!


March 27, 2017

Book Review: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor



Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Publication Date: March 28, 2017

Source: Vine

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he's been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance to lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo's dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? and if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

In this sweeping and breathtaking new novel by National Book Award finalist Laini Taylor, author of the New York Times bestselling Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy, the shadow of the past is as real as the ghosts who haunt the citadel of murdered gods. Fall into a mythical world of dread and wonder, moths and nightmares, love and carnage.

Welcome to Weep.

At last Laini Taylor returns with a young adult fantasy novel as alluring and heartbreaking as Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Although Strange the Dreamer is a brand new series, there was something familiar and assured about entering this new world she created. Simply put - no one else writes like her. Having read her other books, I expected lyrical prose, a world as dazzling and terrifying as a dream, and characters that would make me laugh as well as ... weep.  And Strange the Dreamer delivers all of it.

A foundling librarian who is bewitched by a mythical place only found in books
A fabled city whose true name has been stolen
A blue-skinned, flame-haired Muse of Nightmares
An ongoing war between humans and gods

Bottom line to Taylor fans breathlessly awaiting a verdict: Prepare to fall in love with Lazlo Strange and the Unseen City of Weep. Prepare for your heart to swell with wonder at all the unique and unforgettable magic that Taylor has conjured and also for it to break because of an impossible, star-crossed love.  Then break once again because you have to wait for the next book to find out what happens next...

“You’re a storyteller. Dream up something wild and improbable,"she pleaded. "Something beautiful and full of monsters."

“Beautiful and full of monsters?"

“All the best stories are.”

March 20, 2017

Book Review: Baby Doll by Hollie Overton



Baby Doll by Hollie Overton

Source: Netgalley

Escape was just the beginning.

Held captive for eight years, Lily has grown from a teenager to an adult in a small basement prison. Her daughter Sky has been a captive her whole life. But one day their captor leaves the deadbolt unlocked.

This is what happens next... to Lily, to her twin sister, to her mother, to her daughter -- and to her captor.

The tantalizing description for this book reminded me of Room by Emma Donoghue, which captivated me, even as it broke my heart.  Baby Doll starts immediately with heart palpitations, as Lily and her daughter make their daring escape from their captor. To say I was riveted from then on is an understatement. Baby Doll hooked me and would not let go, with surprise twist after twist, from who Lily’s kidnapper turns out to be to how her disappearance shattered her family.  Lily struggles to reconcile with how everything has changed during the eight years she had been held captive. The dark and troubled present contrasts painfully with the golden and promising future Lily and her twin, Abby, used to have before the tragedy that changed all their lives.  

With the narrative switching from Lily to Abby and even her kidnapper, I was kept on my toes, furiously turning the pages to see what would happen next. Just when I thought I knew where it was going, Overton flipped everything around with a shocking ending. 

March 19, 2017

Beauty and the Beast Review

I know that the first full trailer made it seem like this live action version was take for take identical to the original - but that was misleading.  There are enough changes to make this one enchanting movie for the ages!  If you don't want to know all the details - just know that this superfan of the first movie wholeheartedly recommends it.  I was ready to remain stubbornly loyal to the 1991 movie, thinking there was no way it could possibly be improved ... and yet from the first frame, I was captivated.  At one point, I sat on the edge of my seat so dazzled that I almost fell off.  I was expecting the lush cinematic magic (and the gorgeous results exceeded my expectations).  What I was not expecting was the soulful moments.  I don't remember crying this much during the first movie.

Verdict: Beauty and the Beast 2017 took my breath away and stole my heart; I fell in love all over again with this fairy tale.


Spoilers ahead ---


THE LIBRARY

Let's talk about one of the most important scenes - no, not the ballroom one, the one where the Beast first shows Belle the library, duh.  To be fair, the original, legendary library scene is hard to live up to - all light and color and books as far as the eye can see.  While the library in this one still left me salivating, it cannot compare to the the original.  The 2017 version is dark and dungeon-y, the books like dismal shadows in the background. What does a library need?  Light, of course, to read by.

THE BEAST

Dan Stevens' Beast is a reader too!  The sexiest scene by far was when Belle finds him reading in the garden by himself.  Hot dudes reading, indeed.  This Beast surpasses the original in that he and Belle have so much more in common. Although he was 99% CGI, there was enough depth and humanity in his features, especially his eyes, that it was easy to see how Belle could fall in love with him.  Was I sobbing when you could see his heart breaking as he lets Belle go? Having foolishly not brought tissues with me, I had to dab my face with my scarf.

And yes, like the original, the human prince is somewhat of a letdown, as handsome as Dan Stevens is. "How do you feel about growing a beard?" she asks him playfully in the end (no kidding!)


BELLE

No one could have played strong, independent, intelligent, adventure-yearning, and kind bookworm Belle BUT Emma Watson.

THE MUSIC (I wrote this review before I had seen the movie and as I suspected, all my quibbles with faded in the face of the stunning visuals.)


After listening to all the tracks at least twice, and the songs about 4 times each, this soundtrack has definitely grown on me. But after much reflection, it pains me to say that it doesn't rise to the perfection of the original nor the wicked fun of the Broadway version. I have a feeling that the songs will benefit when accompanied with what will undoubtedly be dazzling visuals (if the trailers are any indication). I have no problem with tinkering with the classic, as the Broadway show triumphantly accomplished. Especially since you do have the original composer on hand.

What I most hoped they'd get right out of all the songs is the most important one, Beauty and the Beast. Unfortunately, even with Emma Thompson (who most certainly can sing) and all the musical wizardry at Disney's disposal, this beautiful song emerged quite a bit scarred. To understand why, one must go back to the original sung by Angela Lansbury. The song itself is a wondrous wedding of tune and lyrics. But Lansbury sang it simply - she let the music and the words shine. It was understated. But Thompson (and I don't know if she was directed to do so) sings it like Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady. Too much! And then with the harpsichord crashing the party... If Thompson could have sung it with less Cockney and they got rid of the extra musical stylings then they would have had a worthy version. As it is ... perhaps it will come off better during the movie.

As for the new songs, I had hoped they'd include Human Again (cut from the original film but resurrected in the Broadway version) which is a wonderful MGM-style number. Instead they used a winsome song, "Days in the Sun," which I am slowly falling in love with. It's a lovely tune that lingers long after the last note. Evermore is the new "If I Can't Love Her," a much-needed solo from the Beast's point of view.

I'm hoping that someday Disney will come out will a surprise version of "Me" sung by Luke Evans (PLEASE!!! ) Evans and Gad somehow made "Gaston" even better and I keep laughing every time I listen to this song. Audra McDonald is phenomenal.

Unlike others, I thought Emma Watson's singing was fine - not horrible. I liked her phrasing and interpretation of lyrics. Dan Stevens's singing I think must have been computer enhanced to sound deeper and beastlier?
    


THE FURNITURE

All I will say is that when the little ottoman suddenly froze and landed upside down, never to move again, I just lost it.  My poor scarf will never be the same again.

THE DIVERSITY

Lastly, but not leastly, I thoroughly applaud Disney's trend of having a diverse cast in what were originally all-white stories.  How refreshing and amazing to see people of color in such big, destined-to-be classic movies!  

As for the exclusively gay scene causing such controversy - I only wish it had been longer and more apparent. It was a blink-and-you-miss-it moment.


P.S. FINAL LAMENT


They didn't use my favorite line from the original about architectural styles. :(