Friday, January 31, 2014

Prelude to Camelot

#3 of the year (which I actually finished earlier than I'm getting around to writing this up) is Prelude to Camelot by Cynthia Breeding (and if that's not a name of someone born to write romance novels, I know not what is)

It's a servicable little Arthurian tale. This is only the first part, but as of yet it hasn't brought anything new and thought provoking to the tales, but neither has it made me go 'huh'?

I appreciate an Arthurian author who gives me a likable trio of Gwen, Arthur and Lance, because so often, at least one (if not all three) are quite abhorrent and I just don't GET the triangle. Although I guess, if all three are horrid, then that makes sense as to why they're together. But I digress...

Here we have a strong, smart, likable, easy to follow Arthur. Bit of a womanizer again, but that seems to be the trend in Arthurs lately. But here, we can see why he's going to be king, we can see why all the Companions think he's the bees knees, we can see that he is Arthur.

Lance is likewise good. He seems earnest and likeable and definitely wants to impress Arthur and you can see the friendship build between them. This Lance has that more mystical background that I like, and the author uses it quite well to explain his rather incredible success with the ladies.

This Guinevere is of the tom-boy sort, but smart and strong-willed and resourceful, so once again, at least she's someone you can understand both Lance and Arthur falling for (although Arthur does seem to reach his decision to marry her merely because he's being a dick).

Her Morgan is of the oversexualized female villain type that I usually grow quickly bored of, so I'm hoping she can do more with her here.

The triangle is well set up and I appreciate that enough to carry on and see how she does with the other aspects of the Legends in the follow up books.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Book #2 is Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.

I hadn't been... actively avoiding this series, but I also hadn't gone after it either. I knew a lot of people who adored it and recommended it, and it's not like I haven't read a romance novel or two, so I'm not sure what the reticence was...

Oh wait, it was the whole time travel thing.

I hate time travel. Hate it. Fortunately here, Gabaldon has it happen (due to magical, druid type means) and then pretty much dismisses it. I'm pretty much ok with that.

Overall, this book left me a little conflicted. A 'modern' (from 1945) woman in mid-1700s Scotland definitely has a different outlook on life, and so in someways, Claire wasn't a standard damsel in distress, she was tough and resourceful and didn't take shit from male dominated society...

Except she did.

She ended up in situations where she constantly needed to be rescued. Which is fine the first couple of times, not fine after it kept happening to the point of repetition. She was forced into a marriage. The saving grace here is that the main male character, Jamie (whoo... took three tries to not type that as 'Jaime') was also forced into the marriage. Jamie thrashes her at one point for disobeying his orders, and the whole thing just becomes annoying because it's kinda just dismissed later. If they had enjoyed it as play, then I would've had no problem with it, but as it was, it was portrayed as Claire being VERY against it, Jamie seeing it as his husbandly duty, but... I don't know, it just didn't work because Gabaldon didn't really commit one way or another. To me, it would've been the perfect catalyst for Claire to go home, realize she did love Jamie (still not certain why she did love him other than he kept rescuing her and they had great sex) and return again to this life that she had chosen under careful consideration and not just five minutes of debate before deciding NOT to return at all.

Maybe that's what really bugged me about this, is that Claire didn't return to her own time. I think I needed that, for her to put to rest her first marriage, have some closure there and then return to Jamie. We didn't need a big confrontation scene with her first husband, but perhaps to see that he had moved on with his life and so case closed.

The amount of violence and threatened sexual violence didn't bug me, comes with the historical territory really. The fact that the worst sexual violence happened to the male character was a bit of an interesting twist, but once again, I didn't like that the main bad guy ,Randall, was such an overdone caricature, AND once again, Claire and Jamie were robbed of any real closure with him as he died in a completely ridiculous manner. And what we're left to take away from it all, that since dude died before he had children (so basically the history Claire knew has been changed), Claire's modern husband might not be born now, so hey... no worries on that whole, weird bigamy thing that Claire's got going on. Perfect!

Sigh. There are interesting ideas in this book, and not bad characters, but it just never really gets anywhere for me.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Welcome to 2014!

First book of 2014 is Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. Yes, I will get to that controversy, but not immediately.

Y`know how, in the training of seeing eye-dogs or helper dogs in general, that, in order to be a help, much of the dog`s natural personality is completely trained out of it so that their training is the only thing left? That is exactly how I felt about Ender Wiggins.

This poor kid is so thoroughly trained that he is left with no personality. Is that a conscious decision on Card's part? Or is that just my interpretation? I don't know. But all I felt that I'm left with is a kid who, no matter how badly he wants to run off and be a normal kid (although he's not normal to begin with, he's a super, tactical genius), he can't because he's shown too much aptitude for this one thing that the world NEEDS, so he's manipulated and trained and bullied and until yes, he saves the world.

I dunno. I found this book as depressing as all get out. To the point where I did want Ender to rebel and say 'fuck you all, I'm not saving Earth, it doesn't deserve it'. I'm glad there was a little hope at the end. Except for the fact that Ender's sociopathic older brother is now one of those in power back on Earth. That sounds grand...

And basically, I didn't feel that there were any real narrative surprises along the way. I could see what was coming, which, given that I'm not a tactical genius, I felt it was rather unfortunate that I saw through the charade but Ender didn't. Perhaps the only thing that was a bit of  a surprise was the very end where Ender does make an important discovery.

(Ok, now for the controversial part. I did not buy a copy of this book, I read a pirated version of it, sent by a friend (thank you Y!). I feel ok about that. So... knowing what I know of Card's homophobia, did I see much of it in the book, or did I carry that with me as I read? Surprisingly not that much. Yes, there is some taunting that is homophobic, but I really didn't see it as much more than rotten little boys being rotten to one another in a Lord of the Flies kinda way. But otherwise, the only thing that stood out to me was the choice of the epithet 'buggers' to refer to the alien enemy. I either missed it at the beginning or it truly isn't explained until towards the end, that the aliens are an insectoid race. I mean, I had hoped they were and that Card was going with the 'bug' slang and wasn't just being homophobic, but I unfortunately couldn't be sure. Overall, I think I actually found this book slightly misogynist than anything else. I also doubt I will be going on to read any more of his books. For so many reasons, these are just not my cup of tea.)

Thursday, January 02, 2014

2013: The Year's End

My last high of new books read was 2012, with 36. Well this year, it was 39! 39 all new books! Go me! 

Yes, I did reread some Song of Ice and Fire books again,  but I only read as far as ASoS this year, trying to just read as far as GoT the series got, but I did read quite a few things that GRRM used as source material for his opus. My list includes 3 Canadian authors, one of whom won the Nobel Prize for Literature this year (Go Alice!), and a couple of French authors in translation. There's the usual genres of fantasy (and more fantasy), historical fiction, historical non-fiction, horror and of course, something on Shakespeare. 

So the list is: 

1) A Shadow in Summer by Daniel Abraham
2) A Betrayal in Winter by Daniel Abraham
3) An Autumn War by Daniel Abraham
4) The Camelot Papers by Peter David
5) The Price of Spring by Daniel Abraham
6) The Conquering Family by Thomas B. Costain
7) The Magnifienct Century by Thomas B. Costain
8) River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay
9) Open Secrets by Alice Munro
10) The Three Edwards by Thomas B. Costain
11) 1356 by Bernard Cornwell
12) Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
13) The Last Plantagenets 1377-1485 by Thomas B. Costain
14) Kingdom of the Grail by Judith Tarr
15) The Iron King by Maurice Duron
16) The Tyrant's Law by Daniel Abraham
17) Becoming Shakespeare by Jack Lynch
18) The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King
19) The Kingmaking by Helen Hollick
20) Pendragon's Banner by Helen Hollick
21) The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker 
22) Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell
23) In the Shadow of the King by Helen Hollick
24) Among Others by Jo Walton
25) Dance of the Happy Shades by Alice Munro
26) Captive Queen by Alison Weir
27) Darkness of the Light by Peter David
28) The Heights of the Depths by Peter David
29) The Strangled Queen by Maurice Duron
30) Lancaster and York: The Wars of the Roses by Alison Weir
31) Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch
32) Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey
33) Those Terrible Middle Ages by Regine Pernoud
34) Dear Life by Alice Munro
35) Kushiel's Chosen by Jacqueline Carey
36) Kushiel's Avatar by Jacqueline Carey
37) Kushiel's Scion by Jacqueline Carey
38) Dangerous Women by GRRM and assorted
39) Kushiel's Justice by Jacqueline Carey

My favourites? River of Stars, Among Others and my fav of the year, The Golem and the Jinni

Looking forward to a new year of reading. This year I pledge no more rereads of ASoIaF books, so maybe this year I'll hit 50 :) 

The last of 2013

As I type this, it's already 2014, but the last two books of 2013 were finished on NYE, and then we were out of town for a few days, so the write ups are only arriving now. So how did I round out a spectacularly shitty 2013? With some decent short stories and another Kushiel pop-corn book.

#38 is Dangerous Women, a collection of short stories written by numerous authors of different genres, but all female-centric. There were offerings by some authors I really enjoy, Joe Abercrombie, Lev Grossman, and of course, the crowning glory of this collection, a story detailing the history of the period of civil war in Westeros called the Dance of the Dragons by GRRM. It was written as a history and I loved it. The story I liked best though was actually by Brandon Sanderson, who I've actually managed to never read yet. I may finally have to change that.

#39 is Kushiel's Justice by Jacqueline Carey. Another of the Imriel books... I'm not buying the relationship between him and his (slightly distantly related) cousin. But I liked a lot of the celtic-themed stuff going on when Imriel lived in Alba, and I liked his revenge journey too. I've only got one more Imriel book to go, so guess I should just keep going at this point.