Ages 18+.

Run Run Shaw, movie director, has died

Run Run Shaw, creator of a mammoth movie empire in China and Hong Kong and considered the father of martial arts movies, died Tuesday in Hong Kong.

He and his brother, Run Me Shaw made their first successful film in 1924 in China. Three years later, the political strife in China forced the brothers to move to Singapore, where they continued to produce one money-making film after another.

Next stop, thanks to the invasion of the Malay Peninsula by the Japanese, was Hong Kong where they established their martial arts movie street cred, first with the 'dragon lady' genre, and then with Five Fingers of Death, 1973 (on order)

The Shaw Brothers' movie house empire expanded to the U.S. where their fortunes continued to grow until a serious miscalculation. They rejected Bruce Lee's offer of a contract for several films. Raymond Chow a former Shaw employee, jumped at the chance to work with Lee and the rest is history.

In 1977, Queen Elizabeth knighted him for his philanthropy which benefited orphanages, hospitals, and universities in England, Singapore, and China.

One of his biggest successes was the 1982 science fiction hit, Blade Runner, directed by Ridley Scott, and starring Harrison Ford and Sean Young.

Mr. Shaw was 106.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #445 - Dead man scheming

You really ought to start with Dead Anyway * * * (2012), the first in the Arthur Cathcart series by Chris Knopf. The BOCD was perfect for a recent family road trip. Don't let that scary-looking cover fool you.

A hit man shows up at the Cathcarts' Stamford, Conn. home and shoot them both in the head after he forces Florencia, owner of an insurance-brokerage firm to sign a piece of paper. His wife is dead but Arthur Cathcart survives, barely. With the help of his physician sister, he is declared dead. A crackerjack market researcher skilled with electronics, Arthur is able to create a series of new identities to stay out of sight while he plots and schemes to track down the "who" and the "why".

"Knopf's tale is suspenseful from the get-go, with an intellectual, yet visceral, vigilantism coursing through the pages,... (he) never misses an angle and manages to weave a bit of humor into a storyline that could have been purely dark. "

"(R)eminiscent of Richard Stark's (aka Donald Westlake) Parker novels with a dose of Grosse Pointe Blank", the Arthur Cathcart caper continues with Cries of the Lost * * (2013).

Readers who enjoy their mystery mixed with comedy would want to check out the author's "reflective, quietly loopy" Hamptons-based series featuring Sam Acquillo and Jackie Swaitkowski.

* * * = 3 starred reviews
* * = 2 starred reviews

Jump into a good book...and then try to survive it!

Spending time inside the worlds of your favorite books sounds like a dream come true, doesn't it? But every good plot has an element of danger, a fact that Namesakes know all too well! Thrown into famous fictional lands, Namesakes are forced to live out the story of the protagonist in order to make it back home - in one piece, if they're lucky. But usually it's an Alice who falls into Wonderland, a Jack who climbs the beanstalk, a Wendy who flies off to Neverland...why, then, is Emma Crewes tossed into the Wizard of Oz, expected to play the roll of Dorothy? Emma doesn't know, but one thing is for certain: with shadowy organizations Calliope and the Rippers vying to add Emma to their ranks, wicked witches and warlocks everywhere she turns, and a sister who is developing strange abilities of her own, the power of the page has shattered the quiet of Emma's settled life.

Join her on her unwitting adventure through literature in Namesake Vol. 1 - and then find out the rest of the story at namesakecomic.com!

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #444

The World Noir imprint first came to my attention with this gritty and cinematic procedural - The Crocodile * by Maurizio De Giovanni, put out by Europa Editions.

Those of you with a soft-spot for the disgraced lone-wolf detectives would not want to miss this one.

A cold, methodical killer the newspapers are calling "The Crocodile", commits murders largely undisturbed around Naples' diverse neighborhoods. Like a crocodile he waits and watches until his prey is within range, and then he strikes. So far he targets only the very young, and the only clue found is a paper tissue left at each site with the murderer's tears on it.

Inspector Giuseppe Lojacono, a recent transfer from Sicily who spends his days playing games on his computer, senses that this might be his chance for redemption while his colleagues dismiss the murders as Mafia shenanigan.

The beautiful Laura Piras, a young prosecutor, aware of his preternatural skills and his incredible powers of observation, charges him with finding the link between the victims. In the process, he also finds another potential victim: a 6-month-old infant.

"The Crocodile offers an elegant narrative and vividly rendered characters. It's genuinely seductive."

"In this crisply translated (by Antony Shugaar) novel, De Giovanni explores Lojacono's loneliness and vulnerability while simultaneously revealing his brilliance as a detective." Check out the Commissario Ricciardi series by this winning team of author and translator.

* = starred review

New Year's Resolutions: Making & Keeping Them!

It’s time to say goodbye to 2013 and hello to 2014. As part of a fresh start many of us will make New Year's resolutions. Sadly, few will actually stick to them. One of the biggest set ups for failure is creating resolutions that are not reasonably attainable or lack a solid game plan. In the book Changeology : 5 Steps to Realizing your Goals and Resolutions, author John Norcross reveals a 90 day plan with 5 simple steps: Psych (get ready), Prep (prepare before leaping), Perspire (take action), Persevere (manage slips), and Persist (maintain change). Backed by self-assessments, a free interactive website for customizing plans, and cases featuring the most popular goals, this is the ultimate tool for realizing any New Year’s resolution—and sticking to it.
Author John C. Norcross, PhD, ABPP, is an internationally recognized expert on behavior change. He is Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of Scranton, Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry at SUNY Upstate Medical College, and a board-certified clinical psychologist in part-time practice.

Queen to Play

Chess is a very popular pastime these days. We even have a large chess board in the youth department Downtown at which families can challenge their skills. This resurgence in interest has spawned a number of movies, and I think the French language film, Queen to Play, is one of the best.

On the island of Corsica, Helene is a hotel chambermaid. She becomes interested in, and then obsessed by the game, and wants to learn more. Enter Kevin Kline, as a retired American doctor (and speaking flawless French), who employs Helene as his house-cleaner, and is as cultured and skilled as Helene is naïve and unaccomplished. He is reclusive and sad and relishes the opportunity to tutor this bright, untested student of chess. No one can believe that Helene’s passion and natural ability for the game will amount to anything.

Oh, they are so wrong!

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #443

The Hive*, debut of British Gill Hornby (sister to Nick and wife to Robert Harris) is inspired by Rosalind Wiseman’s Queen Bees and Wannabes, a nonfiction book that Tina Fey used as the basis for her hit movie Mean Girls.

It is a new school year at the privileged St. Ambrose Church Primary School where (Queen) Bea Stuart reigns over the school-mom clique as Rachel Mason looks on from afar. Her former best friend and confidante, Rachel has been relegated to the hinterland when her husband dumps her.

"... (A) delectable comedy of manners about mothers who congregate during drop-off and pickup, hold fundraisers," over the course of a year at St. Ambrose as they navigate a new headmaster, financial disasters, power shifts, and personal drama.

"Alternately touching and satirical but consistently entertaining. "

"(A)n enjoyably acerbic social commentary on mean girls of all ages, lightened by touches of hen lit."

A worthy addition to the pantheon of Mean Girls in Literature, and Rachel's outsider plight will remind readers of the heroine in Maria Semple's Where'd You Go, Bernadette.

* = starred review

An Award Winner For Teens - Tragedy, Humor, and Hope

I checked out a copy of The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen when I heard it had won the 2013 Canadian Library Association Book of the Year for Children Award as well as the Michigan Library Association's 2013 "Thumbs Up" Award. As the jacket states, "Thirteen-year-old Henry's happy, ordinary life comes to an abrupt halt when his older brother, Jesse, picks up their father's hunting rifle and leaves the house one morning. What follows shatters Henry's family, who are forced to resume their lives in a new city, where no one knows their past. When Henry's therapist suggests he keep a journal, at first he is resistant. But soon he confides in it at all hours of the day and night."

Inspired by a line in Wally Lamb's The Hour I First Believed, and based around bullying and school violence, this was not as gloomy as I expected it to be. The author, Susan Nielsen, creates a unique, fresh perspective on a topic that is all too common in the news. The story is told from Henry's point of view through journal entries, and his narrative voice has all of the sweet, awkward, goofiness of a 13 year old boy. Although the subject matter is an unthinkable tragedy, the book is written with healthy layers of humor and joy mixed in. I read the whole thing in one sitting, and the characters are lingering with me days later. This young adult novel is worth reading, no matter what your age.

Janet Dailey, romance novelist, has died

Janet Dailey, credited with revolutionizing formulaic romance novels in the late 1970s, died December 15th.

While traveling around the country with her husband in the 1970s, Ms. Dailey entertained herself reading the typical romance novel of the time -- European settings, submissive women, tame physicality. Determined to meet a challenge from her husband to do something about it, she published her first romance in 1974 that had caught the attention of Harlequin. In Ms. Dailey's world of love, the protagonists were American working women with a healthy libido. While many of her more than 100 novels were set out West, she did pen a 50-book series that covered each of the 50 states, a feat that earned her a nomination in the Guinness Book of World Records. Enemy in Camp, 1988, was her Michigan entry. It is now out of print.

Her career soared. Dailey love stories sold in the 100s of millions of copies; more than 20 of them made the New York Times Bestseller list.

Then in 1997, her reputation took a beating when Nora Roberts, another mega-successful romance writer, sued Ms. Dailey for plagiarism. Undeniable evidence was found in Dailey's novel, Notorious. among other titles. Citing family tragedies (two of her brothers died and her husband was diagnosed with cancer) and an undisclosed ailment, Dailey took a break to repair the damage after the case was settled out of court. Her publisher Harper Collins dropped Ms. Dailey. Once the dust settled, publishing house Kensington Publishing Corp. picked her up and she resumed writing once again.

Her last book, Merry Christmas, Cowboy (on order), came out in October and was #13 on the Publishers Weekly mass market bestseller list.

Ms. Dailey, who was 69, died of complications following heart surgery.

Discovery of a Short Story by Teenaged Zelda Fitzgerald

The New Yorker has just published a recently discovered story by Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of F. Scott Fiztgerald, famed author of The Great Gatsby, Tender is the Night and several other novels and short stories. Zelda wrote this story when she was just a teenager and was still known as Zelda Sayre. She would meet F. Scott soon after the publication of the story in her high school’s literary journal. The story, called The Iceberg, is a piece about the fictional Cornelia, who enrolls in a typing class and abruptly marries a man she meets at the business college where the course takes place.
The New Yorker writes that the Fitzgerald estate was surprised and pleased to discover the story, having had no idea that Zelda was interested in writing before meeting F. Scott. You can read The Iceberg in full here, and read more about its discovery as well as other book news on The Two-Way from NPR.

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