Stephenie Meyer’s first thriller, THE CHEMIST, to be published in November

ChemistBig news, book lovers! Bestselling author Stephenie Meyer’s first thriller, The Chemist, will be published worldwide on November 15, 2016.

According to Meyer, “The Chemist is the love child created from the union of my romantic sensibilities and my obsession with Jason Bourne/Aaron Cross. I very much enjoyed spending time with a different kind of action hero, one whose primary weapon isn’t a gun or a knife or bulging muscles, but rather her brain.”

As for the official blurb:

In this gripping page-turner, an ex-agent on the run from her former employers must take one more case to clear her name and save her life. She used to work for the U.S. government, but very few people ever knew that. An expert in her field, she was one of the darkest secrets of an agency so clandestine it doesn’t even have a name. And when they decided she was a liability, they came for her without warning. Now she rarely stays in the same place or uses the same name for long. They’ve killed the only other person she trusted, but something she knows still poses a threat. They want her dead, and soon. When her former handler offers her a way out, she realizes it’s her only chance to erase the giant target on her back. But it means taking one last job for her ex-employers. To her horror, the in-formation she acquires only makes her situation more dangerous. Resolving to meet the threat head-on, she prepares for the toughest fight of her life but finds her-self falling for a man who can only complicate her likelihood of survival. As she sees her choices being rapidly whittled down, she must apply her unique talents in ways she never dreamed of.

In this tautly plotted novel, Meyer creates a fierce and fascinating new heroine with a very specialized skill set. And she shows once again why she’s one of the world’s bestselling authors.

Sounds like blockbuster material! Will you be reading it?

Breaking Dawn and We Need To Talk About Kevin (Part 1)

Breaking DawnAs a big reader, it’s rare for me to catch two films in a year much less two in 24 hours. But that’s what I managed last Thursday, sacrificing sleep in order to see two films I’ve long, long been waiting to see: Breaking Dawn and We Need To Talk About Kevin.

Both were much-anticipated adaptations of bestselling books. Both were films I knew would be, for vastly different but no less complex reasons, difficult to translate to the silver screen.

I’ll tackle each in this two-part blog, starting with Breaking Dawn, which is part one of a two-part film adaptation of Stephanie Meyer’s final vampire-romance hit series. I’ll start tackling it by saying: OMG is was bad but gold.

Part 1

Fans of Meyer’s series will admit that Breaking Dawn the book bordered on—if not tipped over into—the ridiculous. Critics of it will say that the whole series did. Nevertheless, the pregnancy with the half-human, half-vampire baby, the uber-juvenile ‘Renesmee’ naming (seriously, that’s the kind of name you make up when you’re 12), and the imprinting took it to a whole new, previously inconceivable level. I think it was a case of an author becoming too successful and no editor being game to reign her in.

Nor was I sure how the film would handle what had been silly enough on paper, especially as its lead actors weren’t known for their strong performances. Oh, and I was desperate to see Bella’s wedding dress.

It’s become something of a tradition that I go to the midnight screening by myself and I loved that the cinema broke into spontaneous applause when the film started. And I laughed out loud when Jacob took his shirt off less than 20 seconds in. Seriously, that’s faster than even in the trailer we’ve all obsessively been watching for months and made the price of the ticket worth it there and then.

Even better, it continued to be good in its traditional, so-bad-it’s-good, laughing-at-itself way. The wedding was done well. Bella and Edward both looked hot. I didn’t hate the dress, although I’ll admit I didn’t like the front of it—‘frontally offensive’ was how my friend Carody later described it.

The honeymoon was romantic, even if it was slightly too long—truthfully, though, after three books/movies of no action and bucketloads of sexual tension, had they skimped on that there might well have been an in-cinema riot.

Bella looked suitably gaunt and anorexic during the pregnancy and the aspects of the baby breaking her from the inside out were cleverly and correctly underplayed. Even the imprinting part wasn’t too corny and, in fact, the naming part, which they cleverly took the p*ss out of, warranted a wry smile and a sigh of relief—they showed that they too know how stupid the name is.

Sure, there were some OTT moments. The CGI werewolves, which haven’t worked at the best of times, had a serious, heckle-raised showdown that was so lame all dramatic tension was rendered completely undone.

The dummy they used during the whole CPR scene was quite obviously a dummy. And Bella’s concave stomach was never going to pass for pregnant—I think every girl in the universe secretly despised Kirsten Stewart in that ‘oh look at how impossibly perfect my body is, but I’m going to pretend I’m pregnant’ scene.

Mostly, though, the film took us through the book with a nod and a wink. It even included a great scene and a joke after the final credits that editors or sticklers for spelling, punctuation, and grammar would enjoy. I can’t wait for Part 2.

Does Your Local Library Deserve to Survive?

Come on a hypothetical journey with me. Imagine a future where ebooks are the dominant format of books. It’s a world many people don’t think will ever exist. Boomerang’s own Aimee Burton is one of them (I’ve challenged her to a blargument, but until she picks up the gauntlet I threw down this will just have to be hypothetical). But let’s just imagine dead tree books are now the poor cousin of ebooks. Kind of like CDs already are to MP3s. In this world, there are still rabid collectors out there who buy every antique Stephenie Meyer out there, but for the most part, most people do their book reading electronically. In this world is your local library something you want your tax money spent on?

Before the mouth-breather with the orthopaedic shoes starts throwing the kids’ books around in the quiet corner, just think about it. I love local libraries. I love how empty they are. I love how many books are there. I love the crazy old cat lady who works there two out of every four days. But in the world I’ve just mentioned, what role does a local library have that cannot be fulfilled by every person’s internet connection in their own home?

The answer, at least for now, seems to be free access. Try as they might (read: they are not trying) the publishing industry is yet to come up with a way to make the full range of ebooks that are out there commercially available to government subsidised libraries. John Sargent, CEO of Macmillan US, recently described libraries in the digital age as a “thorny problem”. As the excellent Eric Hellman paraphrases:

In the past, getting a book from libraries has had a tremendous amount of friction. You have to go to the library, maybe the book has been checked out and you have to come back another time. If it’s a popular book, maybe it gets lent ten times, there’s a lot of wear and tear, and the library will then put in a reorder. With ebooks, you sit on your couch in your living room and go to the library website, see if the library has it, maybe you check libraries in three other states. You get the book, read it, return it and get another, all without paying a thing.

It’s hard to see a sound business reason why a publisher would ever want a workable system for library ebooks. And yet, as it stands, it’s up to publishing companies to come up with a solution to this problem. Ultimately, however, when you look at the depth and breadth of knowledge available for free on the internet nowadays, it’s hard to make an argument that every person needs free access to books. Many libraries are already shifting their focus away from merely being repositories of dead trees. Knowledge is no longer contained solely within paper covers. But, of course, knowledge was only one reason I used to go to libraries. Without my local library, there are a number of dodgy fantasy writers I never would have read.

So my questions today are these: Does your local library deserve to be saved? If so, how? If not, will you mourn the passing of the local library? If so, why? Share your library stories in the comments below.

Book To Film To Book

EclipseDebates rage about whether film adaptations of books ever cut the mustard (most people argue no), but perhaps the less-acknowledged, less-celebrated upside to any silver-screen translation is that it sends us rushing back to the book.

I’m going to fess up upfront that I was one of those dedicated fans who turned out for the midnight release of the film version of Eclipse, the third book in Stephenie Meyer’s runaway bestselling quadrilogy. And I’m going to admit that I was more than a little excited about it. Had I had time in the preceding days, I would have both re-watched the first two films and—and here’s the most important bit—re-read the first three books. Sadly, my clients and their deadlines weren’t quite so understanding, so instead I turned up to the cinema cold.

It’s been a while since I’ve read the books (I read them twice—but even the second time was a while ago now), and my memory was a little hazy. I knew that Eclipse was my favourite of the three, that it involved Victoria creating an army of newborns to chop suey Bella, and that within its pages the Edward-Bella-Jacob love-triangle really hit its straps. But could I recall specific lines of dialogue or guffaw-worthy paragraphs of clunky prose that somehow didn’t put me off reading it? No.

The joy I felt effectively rediscovering the book through the film on Wednesday night was nothing short of immense. Yes, I spent half the film admiring Taylor Lautner’s upper body (although, for the record, I think he’s less buff in this latest instalment than he was in New Moon). Yes, I laughed out loud at the girly run he does when picks up Bella to carry her across the field in a test to mask her scent with his own wolf one. I laughed even louder at the tongue-in-cheek ‘Doesn’t he own a shirt’ and ‘We both know I’m hotter’ lines that we know the actors would have had trouble delivering with a straight face.

But I also spent half the film comparing and marvelling and making mental notes to—yep—go back and check how the condensed film handled the story arcs and key scenes compared with the lengthier book. And I was unashamedly euphoric as I left the cinema at 2am and was determined to go home and stay up reading Eclipse again—that would invariably have led me to re-read Breaking Dawn too because you can’t leave yourself hanging.

The Twilight quadrilogy might not be your series of choice, but the example extends to all other books. A film adaptation either reminds us of, and reignites, our love for previously read books and sends us back to rediscover the minutiae, the scenes, and the excitement that a necessarily-condensed film cannot deliver but may complement. Personally, I’m ok with any film adaptation, because the book to film journey leads us back to the book. If we’re lucky, it might include some spectacular eye candy visuals that we can recall while envisaging the characters during re-reading, such as Lautner’s impeccable abs.

Angels in YA Literature (Part 1)

In continuing with my angel and devil-themed posts, I wanted to take a closer look at Young Adult literature, which has recently heralded a host of books on dark or “fallen” angels, in particular.

These are no mere cherubs – they’re winged beings with a dangerous edge. The male lead in current YA angel novels still tend to be Edward Cullen-esque, with their possessiveness and their secretive nature, but lately, things have been getting a wee bit darker.

Hush Hush, by Becca Fitzpatrick (released 2009) has Patch, a fallen angel who is Bad News. Yet Nora Grey, our requisite damsel-in-distress protagonist, can’t stay away from him. When this book was first released, bloggers were split clean down the middle. On one side, YA romantics loved the forbidden love and compared the book favourably to Twilight, calling it “thrilling” and “seductive”. On the other side were YA bloggers who were disturbed by the physical interaction between Patch and Nora, considering Patch’s actions to be less seductive and more ‘abusive’. What example is it setting for young adults, to have a protagonist drawn to a bad boy who slams her against a bench, when she has a sinking feeling that he wants to kill her and yet still yearns to trust him?
I’ve read the book, and find myself somewhere in the middle: yes, there are a couple of questionable scenes in the novel, but I figure most girls are smart enough to draw a crooked (okay, sometimes very crooked) line between fantasy and reality, and can enjoy Hush, Hush for what it is: a forbidden romance between a paranormal guy and a human girl, testing the boundaries of hormonal attraction.

I must say, though, I prefer the idea behind Lauren Kate’s Fallen, released just after Hush, Hush. In Fallen, Lucinda falls in love with Daniel, a guy at her new school. Life gets a little more difficult for Lucinda after she finds out Daniel is actually a fallen angel, and that they’ve had a history (ie. many previous lives) where they’ve fallen in love and lost each other each time, thanks to good and evil forces trying to keep them apart. What I like about this scenario is that Lucinda isn’t a passive character – she has responsibility from the experience of her previous lives, and she plays a more active role in attempting to combat fate and the forces, rather than be prone to them. There’re some nice mythology references as well.

Having a dark and tortured celestial being for a boyfriend is a pretty seductive scenario to me – no wonder these kinds of books are so popular. But what I’m really looking forward to is the YA novel where the FEMALE is the fallen angel and the male is the human – would put quite a spin on things, no?

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Angels in YA Literature, which focuses on angels existing in a world populated with other sorts of paranormal beings.

Angels in Literature: Who Dares Disturb Their Slumber?

I noticed recently that Boomerang Books had twittered about a book trailer for The Gargoyle, by Andrew Davidson. Released back in 2008, I read the book as soon as I could get my hands on it because the blurb just sounded so damn good:

The nameless narrator of The Gargoyle is driving along a dark road when he is distracted by what seems to be a flight of arrows. He crashes into a ravine and wakes up in a burns ward, undergoing the tortures of the damned. His life is over – he is now a monster. One day, Marianne Engel, a wild and compelling sculptress of gargoyles, enters his life and tells him that they were once lovers in medieval Germany. As she spins her tale, Scheherazade fashion, and relates equally mesmerising stories of deathless love in Japan, Greenland, Italy and England, he finds himself drawn back to life – and, finally, to love.

This strange debut offering – which had such a high-falutin’ storyline – turned out to be compulsively readable. From the first sentence the book leapt free of the Gothic Classic narrative I’d been banking on, and was testing its wings in an entirely more modern context. And it may have been more of a shock, because the narrator wasn’t some damsel-in-distress wooed by a chance at love, it was a Hollywood heartthrob with a face of ash, being wooed by an excaped patient from the psychiatric ward next door. So yeah, romance can happen in all places, to all types of people. And this message gave The Gargoyle its ability to enter massmarket fiction for adults. Indeed, it was the first time since the 90s (when angels were popular for the ‘Hard Rock Goths’), that I sensed the concept of a winged being had embarked on a dark road: one to commercial success (excess).

Gargoyles; vampires; angels; demons; concepts of heaven and hell, have all experienced a resurgence in literature. Gothic is all the rage right now, for some reason. You could perhaps, credit Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Gothic poem Christabel (one of me faves) as the stirring of vampires in the 1800s. From there, friend and contemporary Mary Shelley produced Frankenstein, Sheridan Le Fanu was inspired to write a cracking novella titled ‘Carmilla’, and this in turn is said to have partly influenced a book you may know: Dracula, by Bram Stoker.

While Twilight may have awoken the sleeping dead for teenagers and starry-eyed 20- and 30-something women, word around the book blog traps has been that angels, riding on the coattails of the humanised vampire, are ready for a descent themselves. Not only a descent into the world of teens, mind you, but with a plan for fantasy fiction world takeover (including all its subgenre cities).

I don’t know just yet if angels are indeed the new vampires, but the whole religious idea and how it has been translated into popular culture definitely deserves some further investigation. Why are they popular again? How do they differ from their original concept? Religious connotations of heaven and hell, as alluded to in The Gargoyle, also requires some exploration.

Grab a shovel, and get ready to do some digging. Stay tuned for future angelic/demonic posts – it’s a heaven/hell extravaganza!

For the Love of the Chunkster

Dear Readers:

I have a confession to make. It is a confession that is so monstrous, so remarkably horrid, that your view of me will forever be marred.

*Takes deep breath*

I have never read The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

[I know what you’re thinking: “and here she is, this imposter, purporting to be a FANTASY blogger, no less!”]

Before you pass too hasty a judgment, let it be known that I have watched the Peter Jackson movies and loved them to bits, over and over again. And I read The Hobbit, so really, I feel like I know Bilbo Baggins PRETTY well. It’s not the same, I know. But it’s a start.

On three separate attempts I have made it, at best, about halfway through The Fellowship of the Ring. My excuse for not finishing it? It was TOO DARNED LONG. Too much valuable reading time had to be spent on the series, whereas I could read 15 or so smaller books in the same time bracket! But in my heart of hearts, I know this is a lie.
In truth, if you look at which books I love and have enjoyed the most, refusing to read a book because it is “too long” is laughable. For my very reading existence is almost completely dependent on my love for a particular type of book: for the love of the CHUNKSTER!

I define a chunkster as a book that has at least 500-600 pages, average size font.

Why do I love them? Well, there is something deliciously satisfying about reading a book that gives me the proper amount of time to immerse myself in the story, wallow about in its glorious filth. To know the characters through an intense description of a frock worn, to know a world as it is built, brick by brick around me. And, of course, I feel pretty awesome when I finish something that requires so much time and effort to get through.

Some of my fave chunksters:

Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett is a magnificent choice in the chunkster realm. To understand the passion and architectural skill of building a Gothic cathedral, while all these people’s lives are carrying on around it, is just mesmerising to me. After reading that book, I felt like I had built the church myself – ’tis a great feeling of accomplishment;
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke, is 1000 pages or so of mind-numbing faerie Victoriana brilliance;
Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell, sends me into a spin just thinking about it;
And I have just read Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin, and been absolutely blown away by its intricate content, its romantic Sci Fi, its literary awesomeness. No wonder it won the Booker Prize.

I am also super pleased to report that the fashion of the chunkster doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere fast. The obsession with mass fantasy reads like Harry Potter and Twilight meant that each book in the series had to be larger than the last, to satisfy the starving fans. And you only have to look at 2009’s Booker shortlist to see that chunksters are still considered worthy literary reads (I’m currently digging my way through Wolf Hall with mounting enthusiasm). So, to come full circle – I don’t know why I can’t get through Lord of the Rings. I’m going to try again, mid-year, and let you know the results. As long as another chunkster doesn’t steal my attention… (here’s hoping!)

How do you feel about chunksters? To me, you’re in one of two camps: you adore the chunkster and all that it stands for, or you fear them to the depths of your soul and avoid them like the plague.

Which is it for you? Team Love? Or Team Fear?