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"The Song of Rhiannon" is the third book in the Mabinogion series by Evangeline Walton. Manawydden, King Bran's brother and the last surviving child of Llyr, has no desire to return home and see his cousin on the throne, so he accepts Prince Pryderi's invitation to come home to Dyved with him. Once there he starts a romance with Pryderi's mother, Rhiannon. Pryderi and his wife Cigfa and Manawydden and Rhiannon live peaceably until one night a strange storm wipes out all of Dyved, leaving only the four of them living. They set out to find a new home, trying their hand at various occupations, having to leave town when they upset too many people. It had a happy ending, though, which was nice after the sadness of the second book.
"Faulkner and Film" mostly put me in the mood to read more Faulkner :) It was an interesting collection of essays from the 2010 Yoknapatawpha Conference, which is held annually in July. One day I'll get to go. At any rate, several of Faulkner's novels have been made into (mostly terrible) films, and he worked as a screenwriter in Hollywood for almost a decade. God, he was so brilliant. It's amazing to me that fifty some years after his death we still find things to discuss about his writing and his impact on culture.
And finally, "The Girls" by Emma Cline. There's been huge buzz about this book, Cline got a seven figure advance for her debut novel. So I was expecting brilliance. Instead what I got was...well, it wasn't bad. It was so *earnest*. I don't know how else to say it, she just seemed to be trying way too hard. And the similes! Oh my word, every sentence. "His mouth hung open like the trunk of a car". "Her hair was skanky like a hedgehog" (I'm paraphrasing, because I don't have the book right in front of me). She compared everything to *something*. After awhile I was just rolling my eyes.
The story itself was interesting enough: about a young girl who finds herself in a Manson like cult. Right off the bat, though, the protagonist claims that from the minute we're born, women are at a disadvantage merely by being women. That during the teenage years boys are busy learning how to be themselves while girls are busy learning how to be attractive to boys. She clearly doesn't like men (the main character, Evie, not Cline. I don't know how Cline feels about them). She talks about being leered at by older men when she was a teenager and being groped, touching inappropriately, and wearily explains that it's just the fate of being female, we all go through it. Um, no we don't. I've had some truly wonderful male friends, especially back when I was a teenager. So that definitely put me off. It was a bit disappointing. I probably would have enjoyed it more if it hadn't been hyped up so much. Oh well.

First up, a quick, laugh out loud read. Kate Siegel's mother is crazy. Quite literally. Luckily Kate has a good sense of humor about it, because I would be mortified. It reminded me of Justin Halperin's "Shit My Dad Says".
I enjoyed Jaycee's first book, "Stolen Life", and I was eager to hear about how she's been coping and adjusting to life after being held hostage by her kidnappers for 18 years. Jaycee is doing very well, enjoying life and having new experiences. She has developed a proclivity towards Starbucks, though, which makes me sad. Hopefully she'll get a Dunkin' near her soon and she can have better coffee :)
I always enjoy Philippa Gregory's books, and "Three Sisters, Three Queens" was no exception. It was written from Margaret Tudor's point of view. I honestly don't know much about Margaret, so it was fun. She starts off as a spoiled, whiny little brat who is constantly worried about outdoing her sister in law, Katherine of Aragon (whom she calls "Katherine of Arrogant" behind her back) and her little sister, Mary. At the age of thirteen, Margaret is married off to the much older King James of Scotland. Her father, King Henry VII, hopes the marriage will broker peace between the two warring kingdoms. James seems like a kind man who sincerely does want peace, but then when Henry VIII comes to power he struggles with his brother in law. While Henry is off warring against the French, James goes to defend his borders and, at Queen Katherine's command, is killed rather than taken prisoner.
I always knew that, but it never really occurred to me that James was Henry and Katherine's brother in law. That his wife, Margaret, was Henry's older sister. This book kind of rammed it home, how devastated Margaret was to lose her husband and how Scotland was left with a two year old boy King. Margaret does the best she can to hold the country together and keep the peace with her younger brother, but when she marries a second time, beneath her, for love, war breaks out in Scotland. Her second husband, Archibald Douglas, is not well liked by half of the population, and everyone's taking sides. Margaret and Archibald fight quite a lot, and he seems to have been married beforehand, rendering their marriage invalid. When Margaret seeks a divorce, her brother is outraged. Until, of course, he wants a divorce of his own.
Honestly, Margaret doesn't come off as very likable. She's constantly harping about how much better off her sisters are treated and respected and delights in their misery. I kind of didn't feel too sorry for her when bad things happened to her.

And a couple of fun Stephanie Plum rereads by Janet Evanovich (I needed something light for out by the pool). "Four to Score" finds Stephanie looking for waitress Maxine Norwicki after she steals her pig boyfriend Eddie's car (Eddie deserved everything he got in this book, by the way). Vinnie hires Joyce Barnhardt, Stephanie's arch-rival (the one she caught her husband cheating with back in the day) to go after Maxine because he feels Stephanie's not taking her job seriously. Sally Sweet, the transvestite, makes his first appearance in this one as a code cracker helping Steph decipher Maxine's coded messages to Eddie. When Stephanie's apartment is firebombed, she has to move in with Joe Morelli. A total hardship :)
"Hard Eight" has Stephanie in real danger. She's looking for a woman who disappeared with her daughter. The problem is, Evelyn is in the middle of a nasty divorce and her soon to be ex-husband, Steven, forced Evelyn to take out a custody bond and if she doesn't turn up with their daughter soon Evelyn's mom is going to lose her house. Steven is mixed up with a real nasty character named Abruzzi, who comes after Stephanie with both barrels, not believing she doesn't know where Evelyn is hiding Annie. Apparently Annie took something of his he wants back. I think three cars bit the dust in this one, and Stephanie comes home one day to find a dead man on her couch. Ranger is prominent in this one, so it was fun.

I love the cover of this book. I love picnics and sunflowers and the blue hat. It is seriously the only reason I decided to read it, since it's a genre I normally eschew: romance. While I like the Regency era romance, I haven't really read too many others. This one wasn't terrible, but it was completely predictable. Cute, though, and a quick read. It's set in Indiana in the 1950s. Gwen comes home to small town Buckton with her boyfriend Kent in tow. Kent is everything she and her parents dreamed she'd end up with: rich and good looking, successful. But Kent isn't supportive of Gwen's dream of being a writer. So when he just announces they are getting married without actually proposing (or letting Gwen have a say in her future), they fight and she runs off in the middle of a raging storm and ends up nearly drowning in a nearby river. Luckily town pariah Hank manages to rescue her. Six months earlier, Hank's beloved little brother Pete died in a car wreck while Hank was behind the wheel, drunk. No one in town has spoken to him since. Well, you can see how this one ends :)

The second book of Evangeline Walton's Mobingion's series was really sad and very bloody, lots of fighting and battles. Britain is ruled by a giant named King Bran, and Irish king Matholuch sails across the sea to ask for Bran's sister Branwen in marriage. Bran and his brothers are reluctant to let their little sister go so far away, but Branwen falls for the handsome King and begs her brother to let her. So Branwen and Matholuch are married and she goes back to Ireland with him. Before they leave, though, Branwen's evil brother Evnissyen gravely insults the Irish. Matholuch assures Branwen he's over it, and they have a son, Gwern. But Matholuch's advisers drip poison in his ear about Evnissyen and Matholuch is talked into putting his wife aside, banishing her to the kitchens where she is roundly abused. Branwen is able to get word to her brother Bran by sending a bird she has taught to speak, and when Bran hears how his sister is being treated he rounds up and army and descends on Ireland to seek vengeance. I'm hoping the next book is a little less depressing. Still, the story is very interesting, I'm having a hard time putting these books down, even though I have library books with due dates :)

I really enjoyed Linda Fairstein's latest Alex Cooper novel, "Killer Look". Now that Alex and Mike are dating, their bantering doesn't seem as downright mean as it used to. Perhaps Mike is still going easy on her after her kidnapping. Alex is trying to recuperate from the kidnapping and having a rough go of it--she's having nightmares, drinking too much. She's on leave from work and Mike is working a case of a fashion icon who was murdered and made to look like a suicide. Alex wants to help but Mike keeps begging her not to get involved. Of course Alex gets involved. They were able to solve the murder, and the book ended on a wicked good cliffhanger. Can't wait for the next one!
I wasn't expecting much from "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child". I was tempted to not even read it, but I did. Luckily, since it's a script it went fast. I don't want to spoil anything, but I just didn't care for it. An adult Harry Potter is, honestly, a pretty boring Harry Potter. It doesn't capture the magic of the books.
One good thing came out of reading Danny Goldberg's book a few weeks ago, and in it he mentioned how Stevie Nicks optioned Evangeline Walton's Mabinogion series for a movie. I love mythology, I used to devour books from the library when I was a kid on all sorts of myths and legends. They don't stick, though. I took classes in college on Greek and Roman mythology and I don't remember any of the gods and goddesses. Oh well. Walton wrote about Welsh mythology. In the first book of the series, "Prince of Annwn", Pwyll, Prince of Dvyed, is tricked into helping Arawn defeat his enemy Havgan. Pwyll accomplishes this, and meets Rhiannon. He wants to marry her, but she's been promised to another, Gwawl (I have to keep looking up how to spell all these names!). It was a fun read and kept my interest, which is hard with fantasy, it's always been kind of hit or miss for me. Maybe someday I'll finish the Arthur legend by Sir Thomas Malory. I keep starting it and getting part of the way through...

"Katherine of Aragon: the True Queen" by Alison Weir was so good, it made me cry, even though it's fiction. Katherine was a loyal queen to Henry VIII, who brutally put her aside and turned Christianity in Europe on its head, all to marry Anne Boleyn. Katherine never backed down from her steadfast belief that she was the one and only true queen, even though Henry made her life very unpleasant. She never gave up her faith. She was brave and true and it's a damn shame that Henry couldn't see that. Oh well. He suffered for it, although not nearly enough.
I enjoyed Philip Norman's biography on Paul McCartney so much I decided I had to read the one he did on John Lennon, and I was equally impressed.  Norman writes like he's right there next to his subject the whole time. He had some interesting insights into his complicated relationships with his parents and his Aunt Mimi, who raised him. I wish Norman would write a biography on Dave Grohl. That would be a lot more interesting than the ones currently out there! I also hope he's planning on covering George and Ringo, too. That would be very fun.
"Bumping Into Geniuses" by Danny Goldberg was a fairly interesting look at what goes on behind the scenes in the music industry. Goldberg has been in music since the late 1960s, and managed Led Zeppelin, Stevie Nicks' solo career, Bonnie Raitt, and of course Nirvana (three guesses as to why I wanted to read this one, and the first two don't count...)
Goldberg claims he failed Kurt Cobain as a friend, and I totally agree, but not in the same way he thinks he did. He was quite dismissive of Tom Grant, saying the only evidence his wife Rosemary gave him was that Kurt was planning on divorcing his wife. Well, when this book was published first back in 2008, maybe Goldberg didn't think Grant's evidence would be as widespread as it is now. Thanks to Soaked in Bleach, we now know just how valuable Rosemary Carroll's evidence was: she gave Grant the widow's backpack, which she left at Carroll's house, and it contained handwriting practice sheets. Practice sheets that Grant has had several handwriting experts evaluate and they have concluded that the same person who wrote those sheets wrote the last few lines of the "suicide" note, the only bit of the note that actually sounds like a suicide note and not just a retirement letter. So Goldberg was being just a *touch* disingenuous when he claimed his wife gave Grant nothing substantial. Hopefully, someday, if he really wants to make it up to Kurt, he and his wife will come forward with all they really know.

 I really enjoyed Jim McDoniel's "An Unattractive Vampire", it was witty and snarky and fun. Yulric is a thousand year old vampire, trapped for the last three hundred years underground. A young woman named Amanda releases him. Amanda wants to be a vampire, she's bought into the modern day vampire mythos: the beautiful, people friendly vampire who has superpowers and can live forever (yes, he's dissing "Twilight". Which is fine, I get it). Yulric is horrified to learn how far his kind have fallen, people aren't even scared of vampires anymore! He decides to fix the situation by rounding up a gang of old-school vampires and showing these pathetic newcomers what a *real* vampire is like.
After reading "Dave Grohl: Times Like His" and not really liking it, I thought maybe I'd try this one instead to see if it was more about his personal life and less about the obscure musicians he cites as influences. It was slightly better, but still skimpy on the personal stuff, which I get. Grohl is a notoriously private person, and who can blame him? I enjoyed the story of how he met his second wife (he gave her his number in a bar and told her she was going to be his ex-wife someday...charming). All in all he's a lucky guy who has the freedom to basically do whatever in the hell he wants to creatively, and gets paid a bloody fortune for it. It's nice that he realizes how lucky he is, he says it over and over again, he's grateful. It was also pretty funny to read how he doesn't find himself attractive. Silly man. At any rate, it was a lot easier to get through the the other book and more interesting.

"Old Before My Time" by Hayley Okines was really heartbreaking. Hayley was born with progeria, which is an extremely rare genetic disorder that causes the sufferer to age seven times faster than normal. Most children who have progeria don't make it past the age of thirteen. Hayley's parents did a lot to raise awareness of the disease and Hayley participated in some drug trials that may have help extend her life (she died last year at the age of 17). She was a positive, upbeat little girl who had a lot of adventures packed into her short life.  
I've read a few other things by Suzannah Dunn and enjoyed them, and since this one was about Lady Jane Grey, who is really fascinating, I was eager to read it. It was pretty good. After Jane's nine day rule as England's Queen, she is taken to the Tower and imprisoned by Queen Mary. Mary most likely would have let her live, if not for the Wyatt rebellion. After that she had to appear strong and put down any would be pretenders to the throne. This book was about Elizabeth, a young Catholic girl who attended Jane during her captivity. Elizabeth doesn't expect to like Jane, but after spending time alone with her she comes to admire her commitment to the Protestantism she believes so strongly in. The thing that really surprised me about this book was how she portrayed Jane's husband, Guildford Dudley. Everything else I've ever read about him makes him out to be a spoiled, obnoxious little brat who no one had much use for. Dunn portrays him in a sympathetic light, a boy who had no say in his own fate but was determined to stand by Jane because he didn't think she'd been treated very fairly, either. Elizabeth finds herself falling for Guildford, since Jane won't go see him she goes instead and they strike up an unlikely friendship, so it's doubly heartbreaking for her when they are both executed.

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