The Tycoon’s Daughter (Treadwell Academy Novels), by Caitlyn Duffy (2014)

Before the first word of this story, there are voluminous resources as to how and when and where to get help for eating disorders. There’s encouragement. There’s potentially life-saving information.

This is one thing that I love about Caitlyn Duffy’s novels: her protagonists have big-time problems, but she always provides resources as to how to deal with them (one character ran away; Ms Duffy provided numerous hotlines to  help runaways).

Another thing I adore about the Treadwell Novels is the interlinking characters and plots. Think of the Olympic rings. You get the picture. A character barely mentioned in book #1 may be the protagonist in book 2. You never know who will relate to whom. Better yet, she doesn’t make a big deal out of it.

Treadwell Academy is the link. It’s the glue that binds all these stories together.

In “The Tycoon’s Daughter,” a clothing impresario’s daughter, Emma, ends up on the Christmas catalog one year. The next year, the clothes don’t fit, and she hears catty comments. She goes on a massive starving binge. The skinnier she got, the more successful her modeling career became. To a point.

I’ve known two women with anorexia, and it’s frightening. My problem was always with grain-based liquid substances, but they kept seeing themselves as too fat. Why??

So many models look like pipe cleaner figures–boobless bamboo stalks. Real women have curves. Real women eat. Real women are comfortable being themselves. It’s such a pity Emma–despite all her success–can’t…yet.

Posted in Books, General Fiction, Memoir or Biography, Short Stories/Novella, Young Adult | Leave a comment

Watch Thorsdaze for the first glimpse of The Stag Lord full cover (It is gorgeous)

 

Bannerman “Bann” Boru is in serious trouble. He’s fleeing across America. What makes things treacherous for Bann is that he’s being chased by a shape-shifter, Cernunos, who wants nothing more than to see Bann die, slowly and painfully.
Bann is not alone, though. He’s traveling with his young son, Cor, and Bann trusts nobody.
On their journey, Cor is hurt. Bann meets a healer, Shaye Doyle, one of a group of ancient Celtic warriors, the Tuatha de Danaan. Their secrets are ancient, but they live sub rosa in modern day Colorado. Shaye heals Cor, but Bann’s old nemesis, Cernunos, has tracked him down. And this time he brings friends: Fir Bolgs, nasty creatures with a particular taste for children.

Shaye, Bann, and their band of ancient Celtic warriors have to find some way—ANY way—to survive the fierce attack they know is coming.

And Bann knows the shape-shifter has a special place in his cold, shriveled heart for him. The battle will be fierce as the fighting rages between the vicious Fir Bolgs and the Tuatha de Danaan. A young boy’s life hangs in the balance, as does so much more.

Is ancient, Celtic pride enough to handle the Fir Bolgs or will the Bronze Age monsters prevail; in short, whose blood will drench the Colorado ground?

DON’T MISS THE STAG LORD THIS OCTOBER FROM AUTHOR DARBY KAYE

 

Posted in Books, Fantasy or Sci-Fi, Young Adult | 2 Comments

The Summer of Letting Go, by Gae Polisner (2014)

The Summer of Letting GoThis book killed me. Not only is it unputdownable, I received a review copy from the publisher last November. It was one of my favorite books of the year, and yet I COULDN’T PUT IT IN MY TOP TEN! FINALLY, it’s released for Kindle, et alia, and hard copies should be in all the book stores soon (If the weather cooperates), and I can talk about my reaction more than my original review.

This is a story of pain and loss, where people implode into themselves, and it takes something–or someone–special to plant the seeds of healing. (non an innuendo)

There’s romance, sure, but the main theme is Francine–Frankie–a teenaged girl realizing she wasn’t at fault for a tragedy, and finding her personality and patience tried by a little boy she babysits, a boy much like her little brother. Her brother and Frankie–the babysittee–were nearly identical in their behavior. “Don’t go into the deep end of the pool.” Fifteen seconds later, the kid was in the deep end of the pool.

This is a book about redemption and self-forgiveness. In many Twelve Step groups, in fact, the most common answer to the question “Who do you blame?” is “Myself.” Frankie believed the accident was her fault. Then she found herself letting go of the guilt. She’ll never stop loving nor missing her brother, but the events that summer–Frankie, her BFF, her BFF’s boyfriend–drew Frankie out of her self-imposed exile. It was time to get on with life.

It was the summer of letting go.

Grade: A

(http://booksandmoviesandcrap.com/2014/03/10/the-summer-of-letting-go-by-gae-polisner-2014/ is the original review I wrote last fall, just in case you’re curious. Either way, READ THIS BOOK!)

Posted in Best Books of the Year, Books, Books Read in 2014, Young Adult | Tagged , | 7 Comments

We Are Wizards (2008)

wearewizards1

You might remember that a  few years ago, there was a series of books featuring Harry Potter and his friends, who were all witches and wizards, and even though Harry failed every class he was in pretty much, they kept him there, because he was supposed to kill Voldemort, who was the supreme bad wizard of all time—the devil incarnate—and he’d killed Harry’s parents, and took a shot at Harry, but it didn’t work—there was this reaction, and some part of Voldemort was lost, and Harry got this lightning bolt scar on his forehead, which people thought was cool, and Harry turned out to be a great quidditch player, too, until he and his BFF Ron lost their house—Grryfindor—250 points for beating the shit out of Draco Malfoy, who was just weird and into the dark arts, but Harry and Ron were personae non grata for a while, until they and their friend-girl, Hermione Granger, went through a bunch of traps to find the Sorceror’s stone, which could make you rich and immortal, although neither Ron nor Harry noticed that Hermione was hot as balls, and they should have let Professor Quirreel—the nervous one with Voldemort on the back of his head, take the damned stone, and be in Professor McGonnagil’s room, trying to get a piece of Hermione—smart, hot, cool under pressure, what’s not to love, right?—but no, the asexual Harry gets the stone, and ends up in Madame Pomfrey’s hospital for three weeks, where even DUMBLEDORE, the great good wizard, comes to check on Harry…

That’s a 280 word sentence about Harry Potter, an example of the book series that seemed to go on forever (And I’ve read them all at least twice, so I’m not bein’ a hater).

“We Are Wizards” took me by surprise. It’s a serious, yet light-hearted movie (remember: we’re talking about magic here). There was a lady talking about how the Harry Potter series would lead children into e-ville and—I swear this is true—body piercing.

The main focus of “We Are Wizards” was on music inspired by the movie. Most of it is terrible, an unconscionable assault on the ears, but most of it is supposed to be that way.

One guy wrote his own dialog to the first film, and reads it with the sound turned down. It’s funny, with a few more f-bombs than the Potter series, which had none.

A girl runs a fan site, and Warner Brothers tells her to take it down, or else. She got pissed. There are few animals more petulant than a pissed-off teenaged girl. On her fansite, she asked that her readers boycott Warner’s Harry Potter products.The books were okay, but figurines, you name it, everyone on earth stopped buying them

Warner acquiesced.

“We Are Wizards” is a neat movie. I was expecting a fan film where people show up in Harry Potter costumes and sing the Hogwarts theme song. Thank God, this was not that kind of film. Otherwise, I’d have avada kedavra me some punks.

Grade B+ (I didn’t find any MPAA rating, but I’m sure it’d be an R—lots of naughty, naughty language; thing is, if your kid can handle the word “fuck” without turning into a psychopath, he might enjoy the film; your call; on HuluPlus streaming)

Posted in Documentaries, Films, Films Watched in 2014 | Leave a comment

When Billie Beat Bobby (2001)

b v b

Just about any sports fan today has at least heard of the famous tennis match between women’s champion Billie Jean King and the 55-year-old hustler and former champion Bobby Riggs. Few know about the build up to the match: the money, the sponsorships, the agreements and disagreements. That this match even happened is a miracle.

Bobby Riggs’s idea was that he could beat any woman player in the world. He wanted Billie Jean King, one of the best on the women’s circuit. She told him to go backhand himself. (note: I made that up. She SHOULD have said “Go backhand yourself”. Sorry.)

In Billie’s place went Margaret Court, a tough Australian, who was expected to give Bobby a good match.

He slaughtered her.

To avenge her gender, Billie Jean King threw herself into the proverbial arena—The Houston Astrodome, in this case. Riggs is a shameless self-promoter, trying to live just a little bit longer off of his glory days. King is  a feminist, one of the reason women make huge amounts of money today. She and Chris Evert really started women’s tennis fandom back in the 1970’s.

The hype for the match was huge. We see Riggs (Ron Silver) schmoozing, trying to squeeze out more money here and there.; Silver disappears amazingly into Bobby Riggs. Then we see King (Holly Hunter) practicing till she wears out her practice partner.

A man, by the way.

I didn’t see that much physical resemblance between Hunter and King, but that doesn’t matter as much as Hunter capturing King’s feisty spirit, and showing some serious tennis chops. I know about editing and all, but I have no doubt Ms. Hunter could kick my ass in tennis. (For that matter, I have no doubt the editor could as well)

All in all, this is a cool little movie for a rainy day. I’ll leave you caveat:

Bet on the underdog.

Grade: B+   Available on Nextbook Streaming; wholesome, non-objectional family fun. (I was as surprised as y’all were. I need to go watch porn to balance out my brain ;-)

Posted in Academy Award Nominees, Based on a True Story, Films, Films Watched in 2014, Sports, Television | Leave a comment

William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back, by Ian Doescher (2014)

William Shakespeare’s

The Empire Striketh Back

By

Ian Doescher

When first I read Ian Doescher’s Shakespearean twist on the “Star Wars” saga, I spent more time laughing than thinking about why I was laughing. I think it’s because it’s a simple western: good guys beat bad guys, though overmatched and outgunned. It was like a bunch of Gary Coopers in “High Noon.”

Of the first three films released, true “Star Wars” fans usually consider “The Empire Strikes Back” as the best and most intelligent. (nb: I like the first one best, myself) Still, I’ve seen the entire trilogy (meaning the first three films released, technically volumes IV-VI) at least a couple times through, and this time I realized why this series is so damned hilarious: I know exactly what’s going to happen! There are no surprises. Luke doesn’t miss when he blows up the Death Star in the first installment, nor are there any plot changes in “The Empire Striketh Back.” I could picture Billy Dee Williams—fresh from a Colt 45 ad—as Lando of Calrissian. Harrison Ford was still arrogant as Han Solo, even though he fell for princess Leia.

I knew the story! Every plot line, every event, every treachery and heroic act—they were all there.

What makes these books so funny is the language, like when R2D2 gives an aside, saying “I wish that gold menace would shut his pie-hole.” It’s all in iambic pentameter—a truly daunting literary undertaking—but there are a couple of times where characters speak in different rhythms.  The Ugnaughts sing in gleeful, Irish pub style, or like the underpants gnomes in the “South Park” Tweak Coffee ad. Too funny.

So what to do with Yoda. To say Yoda’s speech patterns are already weird is like saying Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is tall. Yoda talks 7’4” weird. NORMALLY. So what do you do with him? You clearly can’t put him in iambic pentameter like the rest of the novel, because he was so sui generis in the film.

What Ian Doescher does with Yoda is very funny and very fitting, and I’ll let you discover it yourself.

The biggest complaint I have about this series thus far is that we have to wait till fall for the third installment.

I know Doescher has stayed dead-true to the films thus far, but if he burst a few of those damned Ewoks into flames for no reason, I’d find some way to recommend him further.

Most Highly Recommended

Here’s a trailer for you:

(I received a review copy from the publisher)
Posted in Best Books of the Year, Books, Fantasy or Sci-Fi, Humorous, series | Leave a comment

The Summer of Letting Go, by Gae Polisner (2014)

The Summer of Letting Go(nb: I received an Advance Review Copy from the publisher via NetGalley)

It’s summertime, to paraphrase the song, and the livin’ ain’t easy, not for Francesca “Frankie” Schnell. It’s the summer she turns sixteen, and it’s supposed to be filled with frivolity and magic, but Frankie is sullen. She’s healthy, yes. She’s reasonably pretty, in a string-bean, not-busty way, and she has her best friend, Lizette Sutter to share adventures.

The first problem is named Bradley Stephenson. He’s hot, and he’s Lizette’s boyfriend. This means Lizette is always busy. It’s even worse, because Frankie has always had a huge crush on Brad. The situation—even when the three go out as friends—is nigh on untenable.

Problem two is that Frankie is convinced her father is having an affair with the sexy woman across the street.

Problem three…problem three is the killer. During a family beach outing four years ago, Frankie’s little brother, Simon, was swept away in a strong current when Frankie was supposed to be watching him. She just walked back to the family beach blanket to get snacks, and when she turned back around, Simon was out in the water. She did her best to save him, but it was for naught. Ever since that horrible afternoon, Frankie has felt crushing guilt that it was her fault, and that her mother has ever since blamed her for Simon’s death.

The bright spot in Frankie’s life is the part-time job she falls into. She takes on a role as a mother’s helper. The little boy is also named Frankie, which amuses him to no end. Young Frankie is a handful. He loves living dangerously, climbing trees, diving into the deep end of the pool, swinging impossibly high on the playground swing set. He’s an energetic and smart little boy, and he looks exactly like Simon. He’s even the age Simon was when he died.

As if juggling all the drama of her best friend, her best friend’s lusted-after boyfriend, her father’s apparent affair, and the ever-present guilt about Simon’s death weren’t enough tsuris for one girl, Francesca begins to wonder if there isn’t some sort of connection between Frankie and Simon, something beyond her comprehension. As she investigates, her world becomes an Etch-a-Sketch, with clearly demarcated lines and forms, which disappear as her summer moves toward its ending, as if The Universe shakes it. Then new lines and forms appear, and Francesca’s world changes.

This book is totally addictive; I read it in one sitting. In Francesca—who narrates—Gae Polisner has created a young woman who can’t seem to catch a break. Circumstance torments her, and all she wants is normalcy in her life, the normalcy she used to have. She needs it in order that she can grieve properly, then let go of her guilt. She needs it now.

I also like that Ms. Polisner gave Francesca the surname “Schnell,” which means “quickly” in German. She’s suffered enough, and Francesca wants the status quo with her mother to change quickly. She wants her grief to resolve itself quickly. She wants a boyfriend quickly. She wants answers to difficult questions quickly.

And by the book’s end, things do change. The ending isn’t necessarily what I expected or wanted, but by damn, it’s the ending that fits. The malleability of the human soul—and the innocent spark of a little kid—bring that ending to fruition. “The Summer of Letting Go” is the perfect title for this book. It’s a gem, filled with the mixed emotions we all feel: joy and pain, hope and despair, all contrapuntal, and the relief we feel when we let go the negative. Francesca finds her place on The Universe’s Etch-a-Sketch. Here’s hoping we all do.

Most Highly Recommended

Posted in Best Books of the Year, Books, General Fiction, Young Adult | 2 Comments