Dragons and Warrior Daughters – Ed. Jessica Yates , a collection of short stories all featuring prominent female characters or protagonists, some of which have dragons.
I picked this book up for two reasons. It has a story from Robin McKinley, one of my most beloved authors, and I am trying to populate my daughter’s bookshelf with positive stories about women and girls.
I got exactly what I was hoping to find. The stories were varied in tone and the role that each woman played. What did not vary was that each protagonist was faced with difficult choices that had no pat answers. Even more than their being women, I enjoyed that each heroine had to choose from imperfect solutions to their problems. Some of the stories had slightly improbable, happily ever after conclusions, others were ambiguous, and others downright depressing.
Some stories had more of a moral than others. The last story, a very dark revenge tale, is a caution to be careful, let we get what we wish for. A story set just after the fall of the Roman Empire illustrates that glory follows those who seek it and true heroes act out of righteous purpose, not a desire for fame. McKinley’s story, which led me to the book in the first place, is about the power of love but also shows how our greatest proponent and and also our greatest critic lies within and that your life will follow on which you choose to listen to.
I’m happy I picked this up and I will be setting it on the shelf for my daughter to investigate in another 10-12 years. Heck, I might even read it again!
The Curse of Chalion & Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold.
The Curse of Chalion and its follow up novel, Paladin of Souls, are explorations of the human relationship with the divine wrapped in a pair of eminently readable fantasy novels. Continue reading Cannonball Read #5 & 6 – The Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. Dystopia, classic, disturbing.
This review contains spoilers.
Winston Smith is dead. He is dead because he has committed thoughtcrime and thoughtcrime is death. In his dead but not-dead state he becomes free to act in a manner that disregards his personal safety. He falls in love with Julia and they have an affair. They know the affair is doomed but they pursue it anyway. Julia and Winston are caught by the Thought Police. They are tortured and made to confess all their crimes. They are afraid to die but the goal of the Thought Police, in fact, the whole government of Airstrip One is not to kill people; it is to control them. To control the circumstances of their entire existence not through exterior means, through force or extortion or the threat of physical pain. They want to control people by completely shaping and knowing their thoughts. To inculcate doublethink into the populace so firmly that a person cannot even think of rebelling against the system. Complete hegemonic control is the goal, effected through the manipulation of culture, information and language. Winston and Julia are not tortured to death, they are tortured into complete submission. They give up every secret place inside their souls and in the end they become the property of the Party.
After I finished reading Nineteen Eighty-Four I read the news. I wanted to scream “It’s doublethink!!!” The cognitive dissonance on display was suddenly transparent to me. I was able to see through to the motivation of “culture warriors” who speak without logic. They seemed to be purposefully obtuse. The purpose is to avoid logical interpretation, to breed frustration to the point that people stop trying to interpret or argue and give in to illogic because they are too tired to try and make sense of the messages anymore. The end goal is not temporal power or even political ascendancy. The goal is control. Control is not imposed but flows from within a culture. When a group can take control of the language of a culture they don’t have to fight for power any more. They own the consciousness of the culture.
I used to wonder when my father would be incredibly offended when he thought someone was engaging in revisionist history. Now I know. When public figures espouse an opinion and a month or a year later espouse a completely different one without explanation or acknowledgement they are trying to say that the past doesn’t matter. Now I know why The Daily Show continuously exposes these incidents. This sort of exposure shouldn’t get old. The contradictions, the desire to own the narrative of history, to try to recast, revise or just erase history, these are all facets of the control that Orwell plays out to a possible conclusion.
Ninety Eight-Four is a classic novel for a reason. It is frightening because it is possible. I feel like I am watching people try to implement Newspeak in the present day. Would public figures utilizing the tools of the Party in the novel be so adept in their use of these concepts if he had not written this? Would the populace be more vulnerable if he had never written about what he saw happening?
Forewarned is forearmed, as far as I’m concerned.
The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett. Snarky Fantasy.
The Colour of Magic is the first Discworld novel. It is a send up of fantasy, a genre ripe for mocking. The heroes are a wizard who failed out of magic school and a tourist from the other side of the world, which is a disc that rests on the back of four elephants who are riding on a celestial turtle.
Rincewind, the wizard, is tasked with showing Twoflower, the tourist, around the continent. Twoflower is the first tourist from his side of the world to visit the main continent. He is extremely naive as to the culture on the continent he is visiting. Most of the hijinks that ensue do so because of his ignorance and polly annaish nature.
Absurdism abounds and is quite diverting. Eventually it became distracting. The satire is forced and relies heavily on puns. The tourist, Twoflower, brings modern day concepts into the story but they are sometimes hidden behind impenetrable veils of punnery. It just broke the frame. In the end the point was the absurdism rather than the plot, which in the end meant absolutely nothing. Definitely not escapist fantasy. This book was so self aware that it is hard to get into.
….aaaaaand we’re back! The last quarter of 2010 (and the first quarter of 2011) was way too exciting in real life for us to post here. Now that life is more boring we’ll be posting more. On to the trashy novels!
Crave by J.R. Ward – Fallen Angels #2. Paranormal Romance/Thriller.
Jim Heron is back. He is the catalyst in the struggle between heaven and hell. Seven souls are in play and whoever gets the most, wins. If four of the chosen humans choose virtue, Heaven will triumph. If they fall to sin the world will be subsumed into Hell.
In play is Jim’s old Covert Operations buddy, Isaac. Isaac is trying to get out of Covert Ops. As the usual way to exit the business is in a body bag, Isaac is taking the path less traveled and has gone AWOL. He’s tired of killing people for a living. He uses an underground, bare knuckle boxing ring in Boston as a vehicle for raising money to stay on the run. He gets arrested during a match and lands pro-bono defense attorney Grier Childe – how awesome is that name? She’s a high class, blue blood lawyer trying to somehow work off the guilt she feels over not being able to save her brother from heroin addiction.
Aside from the ass kicking, hot sex and “boy tries to give girl up for her own good but is fated to be with her” plot, there is a moral to the story. In the end, the soul that is in play is not judged on the consequences of its actions but on its intent. It’s a disappointment to the characters in the book but it resonated with me. For all one’s pontificating and protesting about a righteous life, when we go to our final judgment it will be our hearts that our judged. A lot of people put on a front to make people think they are good or righteous. They are forgetting that it is not people who will be weighing their lives in the end. An odd place to find that message but welcome nevertheless.
Fantasy Lover by Sherrilyn Kenyon. Slightly paranormal romance with contemporary setting.
An Unforgettable Lady by J.R. Ward writing as Jessica Bird. Contemporary romance.
I found myself in the position of having read back to back two romance novels wherein the protagonists spent most of the book trying not to sleep together.
Continue reading Fantasy Lover & An Unforgettable Lady- Cannonball Read #37 & 38
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy. Adventure novel of derring-do in Revolutionary France.
Highly reminiscent of The Lady in the Lake, Orczy gets things off with a bang. Two pages in and the milieu is set: A teeming bloodthirsty mass against the lone, hidden hero.
Continue reading The Scarlet Pimpernel – Cannonball Read #39
A Dark Adapted Eye by Ruth Rendell writing as Barbara Vine. Psychological thriller.
About fifteen years ago I watched half of the TV adaptation of this novel with my mother. We never got to watch the second half. It has been long enough that I remembered nothing of the plot, only flashes of Helena Bonham-Carter looking distraught. I finally got around to reading the book and I was not disappointed.
Continue reading A Dark Adapted Eye – Cannonball Read #34