BOOK & BLOG
April 19, 2010
Books of the Week:
I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, but I’m really loving Wendy Moore’s Wedlock. It’s an account of the 18th century marriage of Mary Eleanor Bowes to an Irish adventurer, and what happened before and after this disaster. Mary Eleanor, by turns intelligent and naïve, rash and prudent, is a fascinating product of her time. And those who think the papparazzi of this age are the worst leeches should see the cartoons published about Mary Eleanor in her own time.
Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth is a cross between M. Knight Shyamalan’s “The Village” and “Night of the Living Dead.” But better. Ryan’s heroine Mary gosh, this was a week for passionate women named Mary in my fiction yearns for the world outside the fence that separates her village from the forest of the title, a forest full of zombies. Mary’s village is ruled by The Sisterhood, a band of nuns who almost claim Mary as one of their own. But ultimately, Mary is too curious and intelligent to either become a Sister or to marry the man she’s supposed to marry. Mary’s character veers around in a disconcerting way, but considering her age and her experiences, that’s not a terrible flaw in a remarkable book.
Black Magic Sanction is Kim Harrison’s latest Rachel Morgan book. I’d read an unfavorable review of this eighth installment, and I was braced for disappointment, but I was enthralled as always with Harrison’s brave (but not always wise) witch (and looking back, I see that mix in the characters of all three protagonists in this week’s books, both fiction and nonfiction!) and her adventures. True, Rachel always seems to be reacting instead of planning in the first two thirds of this entry, but by the end she’s become more proactive. By the way, I’m ready for a safe to fall on Nick.
I never finished my commentary on my trip to Europe. Gentle Readers, I left you at Portugal. I’m sorry! Last week was just incredibly busy, and I’m sandwiching this in between phone interviews.
I had no expectations of Portugal, because I’d never even seen many pictures of this country. Well, it’s beautiful. Lisbon is gorgeous. In the old part of Lisbon, where Paula and I stayed, the streets are steep because the city rises up from the ocean. They’re steep . . . and they’re narrow. I think I can safely say that Paula and I both have a few more gray hairs after being in cars navigating those streets. Oh, gosh. With parking at a premium and cars packed in on both sides of the street, with only a narrow lane between them, and pedestrians . . . truly, the tour bus missed a woman getting out of car by a very very small margin. I advise you to take a blindfold. It will spare you some bad moments.
I had three signings in Lisbon, a lot for one city. One signing, the most lightly attended, took place in the only department store in Lisbon. Yes, there’s ONE. But believe me, there’s plenty of shopping, there are some spectacular parks, and the people are chic and friendly and English speaking. Portugal is very nearly tropical. There are large palm trees everywhere in Lisbon.
Our hosts, our Portuguese mass market publishers (Grupo Saida de Emergencia), met us at the airport and transported our massive luggage into the city to Hotel do Chiado, which had a spectacular view of the old fortress that dominates the city. The panoramic view included the ocean. While we stayed at the hotel, there was a terrace photoshoot for wedding dresses against the beautiful background.
Antonio and Luis, the brothers who head my Portuguese publishing house, gave me a wonderful signing at a nightclub, Maxime, which was super goth! I think it went well. I had two signings at FNAC stores, which went fairly well, too. As always, the fans were great. To my embarrassment, there were questions I wasn’t able to respond to, since book five was just coming out in Portuguese and it had been so long since I read it that I couldn’t remember the answers!
My publishers treated Paula and me to a day in Sintra, a mountain town that is the center of all things mystical. The drive up there and back was terrifying enough, but the scenery was magnificent and the town really charming. We toured Quinta da Reguleira, a huge garden and house which was designed in the early 1900s by a most eccentric man. It’s hard walking, but well worth it. Google it to see pictures! You’ll be amazed. Paula took about a million photos, and our tour guide was the Portuguese horror writer David Soares. He knew EVERYTHING about Quinta da Reguleira, and he and his wife were nice enough to join our party and explain the place to us.
Portugal: great gardens, delicious bread, and wonderful clothes. You’d love it! And as we discovered in other countries, almost every speaks English (to our shame, but it was sure a pleasure).
Portugal was the last country we visited on our European trip, and next week I leave on another trip; I’m going to Romantic Times convention in Columbus, Ohio, and then to New York to start my tour for DITF. I’ll try to write another Book and Blog before I go, but I have so much to do! I hope I see you somewhere on the road.
© 2010 Charlaine Harris