In which, in short, I conclude the following: Jon is a whiny bitch (but I sort of like him anyway?), Arya & Tyrion are awesome, the Lannisters in general make me cackle, and I experience my first instance of ‘omg wat no’ almost-heartbreak. Also I hadn’t realized how much I missed people with a sense of humour or at least sarcasm of any flavour in even those first 50 pages.
I covered Jon’s first chapter up to the end of Jon’s second. So pages 49 to 98, featuring Jon, more Catelyn (!!), Arya, more Bran (!!), Tyrion, and Jon again.
So, first up was Jon’s chapter. As I mentioned yesterday, I was sort of looking to this with a bit of trepidation in regards to my own reaction. Was quite prepared to have irrational distaste for him simply out of contrariness. Luckily, that did not seem to happen! The fact that he was introduced with ‘lower sorts’ having a good laugh at getting one of their lord’s son quite drunk probably helped. Can’t help but grin at a 14-year-old getting wasted!
And yet again we see the beginning of me attempting some sort of project. I have completely awful carry-through on things like this but I’m hoping a combination of my disgruntled pride, assiduous dog-earing, and public posting will keep me on track this time.
Before I begin, some background. I haven’t watched the HBO series – don’t know if I will ever bother. And I have a habit of contrariness that makes me react to bandwagons by – generally – running the other way. In the case of ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’, I had heard of it some before it became absolutely huge. Had picked up a book in a bookstore and glanced at it now and again. For whatever reason, the blurbs never convinced me to do more than that. Then, when it became big at the promise of the TV series (or whatever the impetus was), I read a few critical reviews that had some sharp things to say about various Serious Issues (i.e. sexism, race, etc.) and that combined with my contrariness cemented a resolve to not, in fact, become interested in this series.
That last a year or so, I guess. A good friend of mine ended up reading them, and is somewhat prone to drunken ramblings about the series which are actually interesting to listen to. Plus I was sort of seduced by the awesomeness that is Peter Dinklage and if I ever do watch the TV show, it will be because of him. So, having little else to do this summer, I’ve finally given in and bought the first four books. (It was a box-set that cost only $25 on Chapters-Indigo online. What can I say? Not a price to pass up!) And partially as a way to maintain my wounded pride and salve my dignity and partially as a mental exercise for the fun of it, I’ve decided to read these books – or the first one, at least – with pencil in hand.
That is, read it rather more critically and consciously – and slowly – than I usually read. My usual pace is a bit more on the ‘devour it whole in one sitting’ side. So. Change is good, yes? Plus, annotations are fun. So, with that in mind, I’ve divided the first book up into roughly 50 page segments, ending each on the nearest chapter-end. I was going to do a post after every chapter, but then I realized how short the chapters are. So without further ado… I present my reaction post to the first 48 pages of <i>A Game of Thrones</i>.
Obviously massive spoilers underneath, if you, like me, have yet to read these books. Also a bit on the long side. Hopefully future posts will be shorter. But I don’t hold my breath.
I spotted this book in a Tumblr post about some assorted queer / LGBTQ+ books, that had a photoset of different covers. The cover on this book does rather stand out – the title is written on “buttons” in the art.
And the title sounded (sounds) interesting/promising. So when, not even a few minutes ago, I spotted this book on the shelf at my university’s library, I had to pick it up. I’m going to take it home and read – but I think I’ll also annotate while writing (yay stickynotes!) and post at the end of each chapter/section on here. I sort of didn’t stick with my book review posts long, after all!
I’ve actually already read through the preface once, so there will be (hopefully) a second post once I’ve been home. But at the moment I have a few thoughts/reservations I’d like to share.
For one, it should be noted that I’m not a queer studies/gender studies student. Though I have often cast an interested glance at such courses, I have never actually taken one. I have quite literally learned all my feminism from the internet, from reading non-academic resources. I prefer my feminism as intersectional as possible, and ivory tower theory – while I certainly think it has its place (I am a history major, after all) – doesn’t really interest me. It isn’t accessible enough, for my liking, nor is it as responsive.
And my “queer theory”. I don’t do queer studies. I just don’t. I identify as queer, however, and have been navigating what that means, or can mean, for a few years now. Queer, for me, is something far more intimate and personal than just theory – and as with feminism, any exposure I’ve had to “theory” or “definition” comes from online or meatspace community. Personally, I am very leery OF Ivory Tower usage of “queer” as in queer theory. Queer, to me, begs an identification or solidarity with the under- or non-privileged and (White, anglophone) academia is sort of ridiculously privileged. They ARE the elite. And my experience with the elite, when it combines with sexual/gender identiy, is that it becomes White Cis Gay Men. (Or, at its worst, White Cis Straight Men talking about queer folk from an outside, through-the-microscope explain-those-weirdos perspective. Hopefully we have left that behind, though.)
Mimi isn’t that, which is good, in my books. Nothing against WCGM, of course – I’m sure they’re quite as capable of ‘objectivity’ such as may be reached as anyone else. But something about me feels very uncomfortable with the whole idea of ‘queer studies’ and I can’t really explain why. It’s a confusing mess, and I’m trying to sort out my feelings on it.
Such as why I’m currently hung up on figuring out if Marinucci herself identifies as queer. And if she is heterosexual or not. This seems really important, and I can’t figure out why – or, rather, the ramifications of the reasons why I feel that way. (See: wannabe historian.)
I was glad to see, though, towards the end of the preface, her acknowledgement of some degree of intersectionality and of privilege. That makes me a lot more comfortable, and hopeful, to read this book.
Age of Fire Book One: Dragon Champion by E. E. Knight
Goodreads Rating: 5/5 – “it was amazing”
Where I Got This Book: I bought this book at the local Chapters-Indigo store up in the mall. I had a couple of gift cards for the chain (which is headed by Indigo but out here we only get Chapters stores and the smaller Coles stores), so I went on a book buying spree a few weeks ago, to load up on books for coming weeks. It was hard to finally limit myself down to what I could buy with the gift cards! But one of the books that made the cut was this one, by E. E. Knight with some gorgeous covert art of a dragon (I suggest following the link above to see it).
The Book and Me: Aaah, dragons! I have a more than minor obsession with them. I adore any incarnation, from classic maiden-eating knight-fighting unintelligent (or at least, not sentient) beasts to the talking, immortal magical beings of High Fantasy. But there is always a special place in my heart for versions of dragons that are different from the normal tropes. And the promise of not just intelligent, sentient being-dragons in this series, but the fact that it is from their own point of view had me hooked the moment I read the back-cover blurb. I have never, as far as I know, read anything by E. E. Knight before though I know I have heard the name somewhere.
My Rating: My first 5 out of 5 on Goodreads for the year! I would have loved it anyway, being dragons and all, but like all the best books it was addictive and nigh impossible to put down. The writing is excellent, the characters are well-written and interesting, and I was completely absorbed by the depths of the Drakine culture, indeed, the presence of background to all the various cultures the reader comes across. And it proved to be a version of dragons as novel as I was expecting – in other words, a very refreshing take on old tropes with wonderful new aspects thrown in, such as the importance of song to dragons.
Why You Should Read It: Because dragons! No, seriously, if you’re a dragon aficionado like me, this is a series you must read. I certainly plan on buying the rest of the books in the series, in lovely paperback matching this one so they can sit on my shelf in place of honour with my beloved Naomi Novik and Tolkien and Tamora Pierce, their spines creased with love and appreciation. But it is not a gimmicky book, it is solidly plotted, fascinating, engaging, and features interesting, likable characters set in a well-developed fantasy world.
Potential Spoilers Beneath Cut
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The Hero and The Crown by Robin McKinley
Goodreads Rating: 4/5 – “really liked it”
Where I Got This Book: If you remember last week’s post, I got this book the same place as I purchased the first book in the Damar series: the used bookstore in my hometown. It’s in a bit better condition than TBS, though – no tape on the spine! I am such a sucker for the very 80’s paperback book cover art. Raised gold lettering and all.
The Book and Me: So, remember how I kept saying “never read this one before, really looking forward to it!”? Well, I was wrong! I had read this before. When or where, I have no clue, but I definitely have. It was less familiar and less well-remembered in my mind though, and I’m assuming it was around the same time as reading TBS.
My Rating: Again, a 4 out of 5 on Goodreads. I almost put it as a 5/5, because I really, really love this book. But not quite! It is engrossing and fascinating and thoroughly delightful. TBS was still fresh, of course, which made it doubly interesting to spot bits that are of importance in that book… and at moments the knowledge I had from TBS made it so that I could predict something coming up (such as meeting Luthe), which was particularly interesting! It wasn’t spoiler-y, really, but with this book as a prequel, not a first book, it is quite elegantly done, I think.
Potential Spoilers Beneath Cut
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We all know the story. After months or years of living in heart-wrenching, gut-twisting, mind-numbing dread, of living with this dread that even when buried down will reappear time and time again, each and every time you are confronted with the idea… after months or years (or even weeks, or days – it is a dread as deep as your bones and as long as your limbs, not as long the time you live with it), you finally wrangle up the courage to Come Out. To your parents.
No, I haven’t yet. Not quite. I’m getting there (I think). But we know the story.
You finally stutter out, standing in the kitchen clutching your fear into your heart, or scrawl in a trembling hand across the paper that has become that fear, your story, your truth. Mom, Dad, Aunt, Gran… I’m gay. I’m bi. I’m trans. I’m poly, ace, non-binary… And they say “I know.”
They dare to say, to your face, to you, “Yes, I know. I have known. I have always suspected. I was waiting for you.”
They. Fucking. Dare.
For some people, it is perhaps not as enraging, not as infuriating, not as much of a betrayal. For some people, their parents/guardians WERE explicit, to some degree, in acknowledging support for those who are not of typical sexuality or gender experience. All it takes is even one sentence, one comment of “Oh, I’m glad the government has supported [sexuality or gender rights issue here].”
This is not about that. This is about those whose parents, like mine, have never given a single fucking hint, not a single damn clue, that they could be supportive. That they could be not homophobic. They have kept their silence, maybe thinking that silence is better than explicit hate.
Maybe it is better.
But in a society that is heterosexist, that is not good enough. As with any other axis of oppression or discrimination (sexism, racism, classism, cissexism, insert -ism here), the onus is on them, is on everyone to prove that they are not. To prove that they are not heterosexist, or not homophobic, or are at the very damn least working towards the point of not being so.
The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
Goodreads Rating: 4/5 – “really liked it”
Where I Got This Book: I picked up The Blue Sword at the used bookstore back in my hometown when I was there over winter holidays. I hadn’t gone looking for it, but was just browsing the shop for anything that looked interesting – and I spotted this. A delightfully well-used paperback copy of TBS with some gorgeous cover art in classic fantasy paperback style. The front cover is held on, low down on the spine, by strategically layered Scotch tape, the edges of the pages have gone slightly yellow and creases mar the spine and covers, white showing through where the colour has peeled off. I’m something of a sucker for used books… particularly the scent of them. And this copy of TBS is a prime example of that. I love taking in used books and giving them, at least for a time, a new home.
The Book and Me: I’ve actually read TBS once before, many years ago. Enough years ago that it meets my rules for “must not have read in past 5 years”. I remember loving it, but not a lot more. I did remember the title, however, for a very long time, which is unusual. I’m usually quite crap at remembering titles of books I own, let alone ones I just borrow from libraries (which is how I read this, the first time). As you may notice, its taken me longer than usual to get around to finishing this book. I suspect part of that is because it is, for all that more than 5 years are past, a reread and so there is less urgency in me to finish it. But mostly I’ve been delayed by busyness in school and life.
My Rating: I have yet to rate a book 5/5 on Goodreads this year, if I recall correctly. TBS comes quite close to deserving the “it was amazing”. Really, if I could give half-points this would be a 4.5, because I more than “really liked it” – I love this book. Loved it the first time and still in love with it now. It is a sheer delight to read and not at all for nostalgic reasons – although I do suspect this is one of those books which has had significant influence on me in my tastes, beliefs, and writing.
Potential Spoilers Beneath Cut
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Gather Together In My Name by Maya Angelou
4 stars out of 5 on Goodreads
Posting a day late, but I had very lazy Saturday followed by a night out!
Unlike the previous two books I have read this year, this one is not a work of fiction. It’s the second book in Maya Angelou’s autobiographical series. The first book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is probably much more well-known. I read Caged Bird in high school, so the memory of that book is a few years distant now. (It still seems so odd to think of high school as something that happened two+ years ago. Hell, I turn twenty this year which is just baffling! But I digress.)
Over the winter holidays I was back in my hometown staying with my parents for a few weeks and just before I left in early January I decided to pay the local used bookstore a visit. My original purpose was to find a used copy of The Silmarillion, but as I mention in last week’s post I was unsuccessful in that. I did manage to acquire, however, Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword and The Hero and The Crown, along with this book, Gather.
Now, I’ll freely admit it: until I had to read Caged Bird in high school, I had never heard of Maya Angelou before in my life. Even now, I really don’t know all that much about her – although I did finally take the initiative to go read her Wikipedia page. Her fame and importance seems to stem from her series of autobiographical books, with Angelou being one of the first African-American women to tell her story in such a way. She also has had what seems to be a certain prominence and importance in the civil rights movement and so forth.
The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien, is the edition I read. It was my father’s book, which he purchased in 2000 along with the matching editions of The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Unfinished Tales. As those editions of The Hobbit and LotR were the ones I had first read, before purchasing my own, I decided I wanted to read that edition of The Silm as well.
Just yesterday I went and bought my own copy of The Silm which is this beautiful edition. It is illustrated by Ted Nasmith, with 4 sets of colour plates through the book. It’s the same printing, I think, as the previous edition, just slightly larger in measurements and with the artwork. Alongside my 50th anniversary trade paperback copy of The Hobbit and a very slightly mismatched set of Lord of the Rings in three volumes (all the same editions/cover art, but RotK was printed larger), it looks comfortably unique. I had hoped to buy a used copy of Silm, but this was too beautiful to pass up.
I had previously attempted to read The Silmarillion some years ago, after reading Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. But I was only about 8 or 9 years old at the time, and so it is no wonder that I never got very far in, despite being a fairly precocious reader. (I did also attempt The Unfinished Tales which I had more success with, but I’m not sure if I did read all that.) I am a great lover of LotR and Tolkien, and consider both the books and the movies done by Peter Jackson & Co. highly influential as stories that shaped me as a person, a reader, and a (hopefully some day published) writer. This is quite relevant, as The Silm is most definitely a book that will only appeal to specific audiences. For avid Tolkien fans who wish to know, understand, and appreciate the great man’s work as much as possible, it is a must-read. I imagine anyone who is a fan of classic mythology a la the Iliad or Beowulf or such things would also appreciate it.
The book, for those not familiar with it, does not just contain the Quenta Silmarillion, the title epic, but also holds the Ainulindalë, the Valaquenta, the Akallabêth, and Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age, along with some genealogical tables and appendices. The edition I read (and the one I own) also includes an excerpt from a letter written by Tolkien to Milton Waldman in 1951 which forms a “brilliant exposition of his conception of the earlier Ages” (the letter ends with a summary of the events of LotR and that part is not included). The letter alone is brilliant and provides great insight into Tolkien’s purposes and intentions in creating his world of Middle-earth. I will treat each section separately, as they are all different stories, and due to the format of the book, even the Quenta Silmarillion is rather more like a compilation of tales of varying historicity and from various sources than a single cohesive tale. Which is something I find rather wonderful, but won’t dwell on overmuch – Christopher Tolkien’s forward covers it quite well though.
Some spoilers for the chapter Of Beren and Luthien, but other than that, spoiler free. Also a bit on the long side.
Leviathans of Jupiter by Ben Bova
I picked this book up at Coles bookstore in my hometown, the second day of this year, simply because I’d entered a bookstore with money in my pocket and thought I’d get something new to read. I have something of a weakness – though it isn’t often indulged – for science fiction of this sort. ‘This sort’ being, of course, sci-fi that uses the premise that Earth is not the only place of intelligent life on the solar system. I find it particularly enjoyable when it features what we know as gas giant planets. As soon as I spotted the title of this book, I thought of Missing Men of Saturn – an old book which I read some years ago and enjoyed greatly, despite its science being rather out of date nowadays.
So I picked this book up with the expectation of indulging in some fun, adventurous sci-fi of a rather classic twist, and the blurb did nothing to disabuse me of this notion. The fact that Leviathans was written in 2011 by a notable sci-fi writer just made me more eager, as I hoped for a more modern – and thus more aware of the problematic writing that has afflicted science fiction through the years – perspective. It is still, I believe, the only book by Ben Bova I have read, and it wasn’t until just now that I was aware that Leviathans was a sequel to Jupiter, a previously published book featuring some characters that also appear in this one.
SPOILER WARNING: Character spoilers and hints of plot spoilers