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It’s taken me a few days after finishing Jacqueline Carey’s second trilogy to process precisely how I feel about it. On its surface, it’s…fine. It follows the legacy of her original “Kushiel’s Dart” trilogy, and therefore is full of daring deeds, passionate romance, and travels and adventure that fling her characters across her fictional Europe and into the Middle East.
It’s all fascinating, as far as that sort of thing goes. The story is that Imriel de la Courcel, Prince of the Blood and foster-son of the main characters in Kushiel’s Dart, falls in love with the heir to the throne, who also happens to be his cousin (apparently this isn’t relevant, though he does make creepy comments regarding being turned on by their shared eyebrows). The problem is, Imriel has already promised to marry a princess of another realm to solidify some diplomatic ties, and besides, his mother tried to seize the throne in a violent coup about 15 years prior, so the people of this kingdom are pretty doubtful about his motives. The trilogy finds Imriel traveling through this world’s equivalent of England, Ireland, France, Northern Africa, Greece, Italy and even into Germany, Russia and (I think) Scandinavia to win the hand of his beloved.
Imriel is, like many romantic heroes, a man written by a woman for other women to fall in love with. He’s gorgeous, sensitive, damaged and broken, a figure — as his lover somewhat ironically calls him — “of great and terrible romance.” There are scars, brands, emotional damage, induced madness. He’s a valiant swordsman, a pretty impressive spy, practically a pirate, and has this vague twist of sadism that somehow makes him more attractive.
But despite it being crafted almost solely to please women, this trilogy ultimately fails them. (more…)
My first Stephen King novel was The Shining, which I probably would not have read if I had been left to my own devices. But it was one of those books that I either had to read for a course at school or one of my friends had to read it and wanted to discuss it — I can’t remember exactly which it was, but I do remember being surprised by how much I enjoyed it. That novel is the epitome of everything a person feels when they are in a big house alone, that in fact, you’re not alone, and the thing that’s with you wants to hurt you.
I was fascinated by King’s ability to delve into the human psyche and find the things that scare us, precisely putting his finger not only on what scares us, but why. Really, people in masks shouldn’t be scary, right? But they are…because you can’t see their faces. Why are we scared of large, empty buildings? Because we secretly feel like they’re not empty, they’re haunted by something we can’t see. I devoured this book, watched the movie, found myself annoyed by the mom, but ultimately pretty satisfied by the experience.
Since that reading, I hadn’t thought much about King. I read a lot right before bed, so you can see why horror stories would not necessarily be appealing. I read Carrie at some point for school, watched The Green Mile with my dad, and otherwise just didn’t think much about King’s work.
Then, I stumbled on 11/22/63, a story of a man who stumbles on a wormhole back into 1958 and has to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination. I was immediately hooked. I love alternate histories, and this had all of the makings of a great book.
It’s hard to discuss the plot without spoilers, but let me first say that this book was absolutely charming. (more…)
Scene: A fancy-schmancy bedroom in a palace. There is a canopy bed and tons of lace, but few personal effects lying around. America Singer, a lovely young girl with fiery red hair, is sleeping soundly when, slowly, the door opens and Aspen, a young man with pitch-black hair and stunning green eyes, enters the room. He shakes her awake.
AMERICA: Aspen! You shouldn’t be here! They’ll kill you!
ASPEN: I can’t take it anymore, Mer. I’ll die if I have to be apart from you for another second.
AMERICA: Oh, Aspen.
A throat clears. Aspen and America visibly start as they see me, the reader, standing in the doorway with a disapproving look on my face. Aspen, true to form, immediately leaps up and draws a sword (I assume?) as America freezes in terror.
APEN: Who are you? How did you get in here?
ME: Just the reader, young man. Just the reader. I’m having trouble believing this scene. (more…)
I’m pretty sure JoJo Moyes wrote Me Before You with a movie deal in mind. It’s very Bridget Jones-esque, but with a few twists here and there, a la Nicholas Sparks or John Green, that are sure to provoke some tears.
Here’s the general idea: Louisa Clark, who is somewhat eccentric and who possesses the unflappable good humor required of a long-time waitress, loses her job when the cafe she works for shuts down. After a humorous short series of bad jobs, she’s hired as a companion for Will Traynor, a young man who became a quadriplegic after a traumatic accident. Will is quite miserable with the state of his life, especially when he finds out that his ex-girlfriend is going to marry his former best friend, and Louisa’s job is to bring spark back to his life.
The stakes are raised when Louisa realizes that she has only been hired for six months because Will and his parents have come to an agreement: he won’t attempt suicide (again) if, after six months, they agree to take him to an assisted suicide facility in Switzerland. So Louisa’s job become convincing Will that suicide is not appealing.
It’s embarrassing that I chose to follow Light in August with Eyes on You by Kate White, but that’s the way it happened. What do you even read after that? It’s a book I couldn’t even do justice to part of, a book so complex you could spend years thinking and talking about it. And yet…I had to move on. So I chose a book recommended by Id8, the e-book service I use through my public library.
Eyes on You tells the story of Robin, the co-anchor of a television show called Pulse, which appears to be an entertainment/news type show. Her co-anchor, Carter something, is a hottie. But someone is scaring Robin in a way that calls up a past she’d rather forget!
Seriously. I mean, Robin is fine. She seems nice, if a little dim. She works hard, and she wants to be good at what she does. This is a book populated by women, written for women, and it passes the Bechdel test on its most basic level. But I think the book suffers from and even perpetuates the mistaken perception that, in a professional (or even personal) setting, women cannot rely on one another — ever.
A school district in Coeur d’Alene, a town in northern Idaho, is currently considering removing Of Mice and Men from its ninth grade curriculum. Members of the curriculum review committee have cited several reasons: the book contains profanity, the plot is “too dark,” and the book is “neither a quality story nor a page turner.”
Let’s put aside for the moment the fact that the most vocal review board member, Mary Jo Finney, is challenging the status of an American classic without any apparent literary credentials. She’s a taxpayer, a mom, and a school board member, and she has a right to express her opinion. Mostly, she seems to feel that teenagers should not be exposed to crudity and forced to read profanities out loud in class. (Also, one assumes she finds the dead cheating wife distasteful, though this is never mentioned.)
She’s not alone. Concerned parents in the Highland Park Independent School District in Texas made national news last year when they tried to remove seven books from the curriculum for similar reasons. Among those banned were Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle, which depicts alcoholism and homelessness, and The Art of Racing in the Rain, which contains a brief sex scene as viewed by a dog. A conservative parent will argue that these things threaten “family values” — as contemporary fiction often does. Parents, understandably, may not want their children exposed to these things in a classroom.
It took me ages to start my full reread of the A Song of Ice and Fire series, better known as the inspiration for HBO’s A Game of Thrones. The series is nothing short of epic, five books and 4,272 pages of battle scenes, incognito heirs, queens in exile, twincest, secret shadows, knights on the run, and a mysterious supernatural threat to the Seven Kingdoms. Winter is coming.
This is not an easy series to wrap one’s head around. It is complex in the best possible way, and author George R. R. Martin demands a lot from his reader. You are meant to keep track of how one bannerman associated with one character in one storyline connects with a boy associated with another character in another plot; to remember hair colors and eye colors and what they can mean when they appear in unexpected places; to retain dozens of exotic-sounding names and peoples in a storyline happening half a world away from the rest of the tale; and to remember enough of what you are told about this world’s history to recognize the impact of it on the events currently unfolding. You’re meant to understand the rudiments of at least three religious belief systems, and evaluate and potentially accept the presence of various sorts of magic potentially derived from various sources. (more…)