Friday, September 30, 2011

The Month in Review and of Things to Come

This month flew by; I don't say that often.  Lots of things falling apart and breaking down in my life and that combined with some crazy work hours left me with not a lot of reading time and not much read.  Worse still, much of what I tried to read wasn't of interest to me and I ended up not finishing.

I did read Wings of Fire Edited by Jonathan Strahan and Marianne S Jablon.  I'll have a 'not a commentary' on that whenever I have strength and energy.  It helped to highlight my changing reading preferences in fantasy and solidified my suspicion that I need to check out more science fiction.  Currently, I'm about half way through Trader by Charles de Lint.  Reading a book by de Lint was a New Year's resolution and I'm glad I finally got around to it.  I'll be looking into much more of his works.

My only reading goals for October will be to finish Trader and Kushiel's Dart, which I didn't touch this month.  I'm hoping that if I keep my goals super low there may actually be a chance of me achieving them.    

I bought three books this month, all of which I've very excited about.  The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters is ghost story-ish, Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson will most likely decide a lot of my future fantasy reading habits, and This is where I leave you by Jonathan Tropper.  I can't remember where I first heard Tropper was awesome, but a lot of people say so and the first few pages were great.  Waters was one of those books I heard so much about upon release that seeing it in the bargain bin was too hard to resist.  I'm hoping to love Warbreaker so I can say I'm not done with the kinda a fiction that initially made me fall in love with reading, but I have my doubts.  Time will tell.  

I could do a lot of complaining about various things here, but I'm honestly too tired.  And no one wants to read that kinda thing anyways...  I'll try to be more interesting next month.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Yet another DNF

This is not a good trend... this time it's Margaret Atwood's short story collection The Dancing Girls.   I read six of the stories: a little more than half the book.  The writing is perfect, some of the imagery is amazing and her ability to pick a catchy title is way strong.  The prose itself, the characters, nor the plot were interesting enough for me to keep reading.  I'm really surprised I stuck with it as long as I did.

I'll be adding this to the pile to go back to the used bookstore along with another short story collection I have of hers.  I'm a bit concerned as I have a few massive novels of Atwood's on my self, but then again, people I trust-ish have raved about the novels.  I've heard no mention of her short stories.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Sad Story of the DNF

I've been doing so well this year that it was bound to happen.  Previously in 2011, I've struggled with two books both of which I managed to get through, but finally I'm agreeing to throw in the towel.  I've gotten really good at knowing my taste and even broadening my reading interest but I couldn't find any reason to stay with The Firebrand by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

There was a powerful feminist element that had the subtlety of a freight train.  This did not bother me.  The story is of the fall of Troy primarily through the eyes of Kassandra.  As I crested the two-hundred page mark in this six-hundred page monster I began to feel she was trying to make up for many male writers complete disregard for women as men in The Firebrand are not only completely useless but also anything but desirable.  The delivery of this message is pretty heavy-handed to the point that I thought she was being as bigoted as the male writers that may have driven her to write the story as she did in the first place.

In the beginning of the book Kassandra's older sister Polyxena, was subject to many eye rolling comments because she liked 'pretty things' and indulged in gossip about city boys who sought her affections.  I felt like Bradley was making fun of my sister.  I like my sister.  I made up my mind to put the book down, when Andromache, Hector's promised bride, was first introduced.  She is summarily chided and chastised for wanting to be married, to have a husband.  Yet her character is so confused (read: Bradley didn't know what she wanted to do with her) that I couldn't even sympathize with her.  She has lived her life in a city ruled by a Queen where, not surprisingly men are completely useless, a nuisance, a pest at best.  The following is a bit from a conversation with Kassandra:    

     "What should she do with a husband?  Two or three times since my father died, she has taken a consort for a season and sent him away when she was tired of him.  That is what is right for a Queen to do if she has desire for a man--at least in our city."
     "And yet you are willing to marry my brother and be subject to him as our women are subject to their men?" 
     "I think I shall enjoy it," Andromache said with a giggle..." Page 128

So she can stand up for how things are done in her city and appreciate her mothers place of power, defend her entire culture and yet longs to give it up for what she sees as possibly being fun... Yeah, some real strong principles there...  Perhaps she is ironed out and made to make sense further in but I'll never know.  

All this harsh and bitter treatment towards men makes me want to write a book where men have a stronger place of power, and women are only after thoughts.  A book where negative attributes of women will be put in strong relief when contrast with the earthshaking power of a character like Conan.  Oh wait a minute... That's right...

I can't say any thing definitive as I didn't finish the book, but if there is a problem with a women's place in literature (which I confess ignorance as to whether or not there is) I certainly do not think Bradley is any part of a solution.  Ultimately, none of the issues stated were the reason I put this book down.  I love the story of the fall of Troy; it's heroes and heroines, but Bradley's storytelling couldn't hold my interest.  I'd make a recommendation, but the author is male and by this point I'd just feel dirty doing so.