Monthly Archives: July 2014

Tough Travel- Princesses

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Every Thursday, the Fantasy Review Barn is taking us on a journey through Fantasyland with their Tough Travel Guide. I’ve been meaning to join in for awhile, but I can never seem to come up with a very interesting list. Princesses, though? Princesses I can handle.

PRINCESSES come in two main kinds:

1. Wimps.

2 Spirited and wilful. Spirited Princesses often disguise themselves as boys and invariably marry commoners of sterling worth.

With those constraints in mind…

742731. Princess Kila- the Nightrunner series by Lynn Flewelling

The youngest daughter of Queen Idrilain, Klia starts out as a pretty badass warrior, then she becomes a pretty badass ambassador, and THEN she has a wizard baby (who I’m assuming is also fairly badass because she’s the only wizard baby in the history of the Third Oreska.) I would love for Klia to have her own book or story some day, because she definitely deserves to be a central character for once. (and ok, that cover is totally Beka, but let’s pretend for a moment that it’s Klia)

2. Cimorene- the Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede

Cimorene is the perfect sort of heroine for the sort of girl who grows up to be a librarian.

3. Princess Buttercup- The Princess Bride by William Goldman

Neither a princess nor a bride, Buttercup is still the quintessential image of a princess, isn’t she?

4. Sidonie de la Courcel- The Kushiel books by Jaqueline Carey

So I kind of barely remember these books, at least the second trilogy where Sidonie is primarily present. But I’m still counting her.

5- Anne Dare- The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone series by Greg Keyes

This is a series that’s due for a reread, especially because I’m pretty sure I never made it to the last book! Anne Dare is your usual sort of spunky, rebellious princess, but as I remember it (admittedly not well) she grows into a great leader.

6. Harry (Princess Maud)- the Harry and Marlowe short stories by Carrie Vaughn

So far, I’ve only read one Harry and Marlowe story (I believe there are currently four? I could be wrong), but I quite enjoyed it. In an alternate Victorian London, Harry is a crossdressing scientist/adventurer. I can’t wait to see more of her.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Authors That I Own the Most Books From

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The topic of this Top Ten  Eleven Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is authors that I own the most books from. Eleven because there’s a four-way tie in there. These are my physical books only, as I didn’t feel like wading through the nook.

1. Jane Austen- 5. Everything but Emma.

2. Fyodor Dostoevsky- 5. What can I say, I love Russians.

3. N. K. Jemisin- 5. I’ve only read three, but that will be remedied soon.

4. David Mitchell- 5. I can’t wait for it to be six.

5. Neil Gaiman- 6. I’ve been kind of cold on Gaiman the past few years, I’m actually surprised it is so many.

6. Jo Nesbo- 6. I’m currently reading my way through all the Harry Hole books, slowly filling in the gaps.

7. George R. R. Martin- 6. A Song of Ice and Fire in paperback, and a hardcover of Dreamsongs that I snagged in a used bookstore for a buck.

8. Tamora Pierce- 8. The Alanna series and the Immortals series. Well, well, well read.

9. Patricia Briggs- 10. I just keep buying Mercy Thompson books for some reason.

10. Lynn Flewelling- 10. All the Nightrunner books and the Tamir books. If I could only keep ten books from my collection it would probably be these.

And, by far the most owned author in my collection:

11. Terry Pratchett- 31 (ish?) Until a few years ago, I was keeping up with the Discworld books. Somewhere at my parents’ house are all the books through Night Watch (or possibly Going Postal), along with the first three Tiffany Aching books. I keep meaning to get back to it one day, but who knows if I ever will. I’m unreasonably proud of owning those all in order, though.

Takeaways: My favorite authors don’t write nearly enough, and also I own way less Murakami than I thought I did.

 

 

 

 

 

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Review: Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

18079683Title: Boy, Snow, Bird

Author: Helen Oyeyemi

Rating: 5 stars

I read this book from the library.

I absolutely loved Boy, Snow, Bird.

I say that out the outset, because I’ve run across very polarizing reviews. It seems people either really, really love it, or really, really don’t.

What it comes down to, I think, is that you’ve got to push the “fairy tale retelling” out of your mind. Oyeyemi uses folklore and fairy tale to deepen her prose, but if you’re looking for a straight sendup of Snow White you’re looking in the wrong place. Fairy tale characters are, by definition, uncomplicated, archetypal. There’s nothing uncomplicated about the characters here.

In midcentury Manhattan, there lives a girl named Boy. She is beautiful, and certain moments in her life show her that beautiful is dangerous. She fears destroying anything that she comes to love, and so she escapes to Flax Hill, Massachusetts and marries a man that she does not love. His daughter, Snow, is a perfect, almost unreal child, and Boy loves her. But when her own daughter, Bird, is born, she sends Snow away–perhaps out of selfishness, perhaps for everyone’s safety, perhaps for all kinds of reasons at once.

Boy, Snow, Bird is a novel of passing–passing as white, passing as female, passing (or refusing to pass) as someone worthy of love. The repeating motifs–mirrors, sevens, vermin–pile on to make the narrative dense. It’s a novel that skews expectations of place, time, and voice. And it is beautifully written.

I have only recently learned of Oyeyemi, so I’ve only had a chance to read two of her books: this, and her first, The Icarus Girl. That one felt really uneven to me, and had some of the same problems as Boy, Snow, Bird (a tenuous sense of plot; a spiraling, unsatisfying ending that raised more questions than you want in a resolution). But Oyeyemi’s prose is undeniably powerful and evocative, and her characters are so strong. I loved Boy more than any other character I can think of in recent memory. She is cold. She is steel. She may or may not be evil (just as anyone, anywhere, can carry something evil inside of them). She’s determined to make the most of her own choices, and forge a life based on her own terms. Her voice was not pleasant and nice and feminine, but neither was she the cackling evil queen desperate for youth and beauty. And I liked that, enjoyed her hardness and coldness and aloofness. It was fascinating to see her character unfold.

The ending of the book kind of sucked, but I don’t care. At all.  While it came out of left field, it forced me to completely reevaluate the first section of the book, and suddenly it didn’t seem so odd. My main complaint is instead a structural thing that bugged the hell out of me. With the title being Boy, Snow, Bird, and it being split into three parts, I expected three narrators: Boy, Snow, and Bird. Instead it goes Boy, Bird, Boy, with a few letters thrown in from Snow every once in awhile. It drove the OCD part of my brain absolutely nuts. But that’s just the way I am.

Boy, Snow, Bird works better as a character study than as a novel. I think readers will find a lot to love in it, but be warned that those things may not be what you expect.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Characters I’d Want on a Deserted Island

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The Topic of this Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is Top Ten Characters I’d Want On a Deserted Island.

Katniss Everdeen– Duh

Seregil of Rhiminee– For eyecandy and amusement, sure, but he’s also quite the smart and resourceful character

Alec of Rhiminee– For the mad hunting skills, and also because he’s Alec. (Trust me, it’s reason enough)

Daine Sarrasri– She can speak with animals, so I figure that oughta be a valuable skill when stuck on an island

Tyrion Lannister– Just make sure there’s lots and lots of wine

Gandalf– A wizard would be helpful

Lisbeth Salander– badassest of badasses

Carrot Ironfoundersson– I haven’t read a Discworld book in years, but I remember being quite fond of Carrot, and he seems like he’d be good to have in a crisis. (I’m really reaching for this list, guys)

Sieh– Probably my favorite fictional trickster god

Cassie Maddox– That girl is messed up, but something about her truly charms me and I think she’d be good company

Whew. That was surprisingly difficult. Who’s on your list?

 

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Top Ten Tuesday: Other Media

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The topic of this Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is Top Ten Movies/TV shows.

I’m a total TV junkie, especially since the “TV Renaissance” of the last decade or so, where original programming on cable exploded. TV is consantly finding new and exciting ways to tell stories. I’ve started getting interested in things I never would have thought, like cinematography and costuming, because of the way stories are told through those mediums and not just through the actors and their lines. Every show I’m going to talk about had its flaws, sometimes spectacularly so, but on the whole they tell deep, layered stories about character and place.

The Oh-So-Serious Stuff

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Mad Men– Mad Men was the first show I watched on dvd, the first show I binge watched. I’ve seen it compared to great short story collections like the stories of John Cheever, and I have to agree. Each episode can be highly self-contained, and it can be hard to see the overarching narrative, until suddenly the season ends and it all comes into focus. It frequently appears to be a show where “nothing happens,” and yet so much is happening. And Peggy Olson is my spirit animal, so…

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Breaking Bad– The most beautifully shot, written, acted drama ever. I will brook no arguments. Also, and always, JESSE.

Battlestar Galactica

Battlestar Galactica- I never thought I would like BSG. I don’t really go in for hard scifi, and when they tried to go all mystical it really went off the rails. But the strength of this show is the amazing characters. The extremity of the premise helped strip characters to their essential elements and then play off each other. Also, Bear McCreary’s score is consistently amazing (I’d never even paid attention to the score of a TV show before I saw BSG).

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Orphan Black– I have yet to see season 2 because of life, the universe, and everything (everything in this case being the lack of BBC America) so please please please, I beg you, no spoilers. But Orphan Black has got to be the best scifi thriller I have ever seen on television. Tatiana Maslany is a godess.

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The Americans– Still working on finishing season 2, again because of life. But I adore The Americans. It doesn’t play dumb to its audience–half the time, its even subtitled. I love that it skews and reverses gender expectations (Elizabeth is most often the “hard” character while Phillip seems to more actively struggle with moral decisions and even comes across as more feminine) And there are a ton, a ton of amazing female characters of different shapes and sizes and stripes. Yes, they often have to use traditional objectification of their bodies to get what they want, but this is a show that examines why women are forced to play the honeypot, rather than just showing them doing so.

Just for Fun

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Sleepy Hollow– Sleepy Hollow was my favorite thing ever last year, and I can’t wait for it to come back. It’s cheesy as hell, but it acknowledges that cheesiness in refreshing ways, and I’m just lapping it up. Ichabod Crane is sex on two legs, the cast is incredibly diverse for a network show, the leads have awesome chemistry (that I hope never, ever, ever turns romantic because I love platonic soulmates, sorry not sorry) and to top it all off, it’s filmed just down the road from where I live (well, within a few hundred miles anyway).

Adventure-Time

Adventure Time– Yes, an 11 minute children’s cartoon is one of my favorite things ever. I first started watching Adventure Time because I loved the way they played around with language. They have their own sort of lexicon that is fluid and fascinating. Finn, the main character, actually grows and changes over the course of the series, which is unusual in cartoons like this. And again with the multiple, diverse female roles. Most of the female characters are “princesses,” but princesses here are gloriously diverse, non-Disneyfied people. Seriously, if you scoff at the idea of cartoons, try episodes like “The Hard Easy,” “Princess Cookie,” “Memory of a Memory,” “Hug Wolf,” “Princess Monster Wife,” “I Remember You,” or “The Vault,” some episodes that I think showcase how innovative, genrebending, funny, and deeply moving this show can be.

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Game of Thrones– Game of Thrones, you are a hot mess. And I love you. No other show out there gets so much right while simultaneously getting so much wrong omg.

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer– BtVS (how ya like that? Going old school 90s on ya.) was my first ever favorite TV show, and so it will be my last ever favorite TV show. It…has not aged well. And the post-high school years already made me groan more than they made me cheer even when they were airing. But so much of what I love is reflected in BtVS, and it’s been a huge part of my cultural makeup since I was 12 years old, so its pretty engrained in my DNA.

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When Books Break The Rules

16061734I’m a pretty orderly person. Some might even say obsessive compulsive. I like my routines, I like lists, I like life to follow logical patterns. This way of functioning applies to the way I read as much as anything else in my life. I keep lists. I have to read books in a certain, set order. I can generally only read one book at a time–or, at the most, one book of fiction and one book of nonfiction. I have trouble DNFing, even when I think a book is atrocious. And when it comes to the structure of books, how they are written, there are certain stylistic elements I absolutely despise. There are rules. And if you break those rules, I’m going to hate your book.

Except when I don’t.

Except when, somehow, you manage to break every reading rule in my arsenal and, despite myself, I enjoy it.

I’m writing this while in the middle of reading May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes. That breaks one of my blogging rules, never talk about a book until you’re done and have some distance from it. But since it breaks all of my reading rules, I figured that might be appropriate.

I picked up May We Be Forgiven for literally one reason: the cover. Didn’t even read the jacket copy (it was a library book, so I was ok with that). To understand why you must understand my enjoyment of–nay, obsession with–that culinary delight known as cranberry sauce shaped like the can. But that is another story for another day.

The novel is about Harry Silver, a rather boring, lackadaisical history professor whose life gets turned upside down when his brother George causes a fatal car accident and goes a little (a lot) nuts. In the aftermath of the crash, Harry starts sleeping with his sister-in-law, and when George finds out, he murders her. In a rapid series of increasingly absurd events, Harry becomes custodian to three tweens, two pets, and an elderly couple, starts sleeping with two very strange women, gains access to long-hidden Nixon papers, and travels through a series of hospitals and nursing homes, rehab centers, a survivalist prison camp, and an African village.

There are resons, plenty of them, why I should objectively not like this book, why I should have put it down in the first few pages.

First Person Present Tense. I despise first person present tense. (I think I’ve said it before- short stories, sometimes ok. Novels- aw, hell no not again). It seems to be the thing everyone is doing now, as if The Hunger Games is infecting every other book out there. And yet, I didn’t even notice it here until I was about twenty pages in. It tricked me! Ok, so I was stuck on it, POV put aside. (P.S. I like The Hunger Games. Really. But first person present tense is a trend that needs to die).

-No Chapter Breaks. This is a nearly 500 page book with no chapter breaks. There are scene breaks, sure, but otherwise it is an unrelenting Wall of Text. Yikes.

-Kids Who Don’t Act/Talk Like Kids.

It’s a fine line, because I don’t like sterotypical apple-cheeked, lisping child characters, either. But the kids here are so absurdly un-kidlike. The twelve year old is the founder of a South African village. The founder. The eleven year old is being seduced by an adult teacher, starts cutting “tribal” tattoos into her arms, and is writing what seems to be a college-level thesis about the intersection of soap opera and puppet theater. They are more perceptive than the adults, seemingly more poised and articulate, and very often completely creeped me out.

-A Year in the Life

Perhaps most potentially bothersome to me is that May We Be Forgiven is a year-in-the-life story, where in 365 days, the protagonist goes from sadsack loser to being full and alive with a patchwork family. It’s reeks of some dumb indie dramedy starring Steve Carrell. I should hate it. And yet.

Another day, another frame of mind, I absolutely would have hated May We Be Forgiven. There just happened to be something in the air the day I picked it up that let me overlook all the things that bothered me until I was so hooked that I couldn’t stop. The elements that usually turn me off instead made the book feel propulsive, vital, and absolutely stinkin’ hilarious. It makes me wonder, a bit, if there are other books I’ve missed out on because they broke my rules. (But that would mean I’d have to go back to never DNFing, which would mean I miss so many more books because, hey, you can’t read them all.)

Oh well. I think this is a dilemma that will not be solved. What are some of your reading rules? And what worthy books break them?

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Choose my next book

I’m kind of overwhelmed by my TBR shelf right now. It’s absolutely overflowing–not to mention all the books and magazines sitting on my nook. I have no clue what I really want to read next so you, lovely readers, get to help me out. Do I pick up:

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There are many, many (many) more books on my shelf, but these are what I’ve narrowed it down to for now. Thoughts?

 

 

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Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Classics

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The topic of this Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is Top Ten Favorite Classics.

I was well into college before I started enjoying “classics.” Where in high school books felt compulsory and out of touch, in college I was able to choose my own curriculum, to a degree, and I started to get deeper into books. There’s still some classic authors I’m never going to enjoy (here’s looking at you, Dickens). But here in no particular order are my top ten classics (which basically I’m defining as being written at any point before my birth).

1. Mary Shelley- Frankenstein

2. Fyodor Dostoevsky- Crime and Punishment

3. Jane Austen- Pride and Prejudice

4. William Faulkner- The Sound and the Fury

5. E.M. Forster- A Room With a View

6. Fyodor Dostoevsky- Demons/The Possessed

7. Vladimir Nabokov- Lolita

8. Geoffrey Chaucer- The Canterbury Tales

9. Frances Hodgson Burnett- The Secret Garden

10. Harper Lee- To Kill a Mockingbird

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