Month: May 2008

Tag! I’m it!

I’ve been tagged by Carey over at The Tome Traveller’s Weblog, so here are my answers (and this is a good one!):

1. Who is your all-time favorite author, and why?

I have to pick just one? Wow, that’s harsh! I guess the author that has meant the most to me has been J.R.R. Tolkien. There are many reasons for this, but the most important one is his obvious passion for his work. I’ve never read anything by any author that involved so much depth of detail. He is the only author I’ve researched independently because of my overwhelming interest in his or her work. Tolkien believed in his work and felt that it was important, and that comes through very clearly in his writing.

2. Who was your first favorite author, and why? Do you still consider him or her among your favorites?

The first author I was ever really into was horror author John Saul. I picked up his book Creature in the 6th grade because I boy I liked was reading it. (I know, a pathetic reason to read anything.) Fortunately, I loved the book and began collecting all of them. I read his books all through middle school and high school, and I still have them today. A few of them have remained among my favorites, so yes, I still consider him one of my favorite authors. The fact that he was from Seattle also made me admire him!

3. Who’s the most recent addition to your list of favorite authors, and why?

That’s an easy one. My most recent addition to this list is Marion Zimmer Bradley, the author of the Avalon fantasy/historical fiction series. I’ve only yet read Lady of Avalon, but as you can see from my review of it below, I responded to it on a deep, emotional level. She focuses her books on powerful female characters and their place in their society and religions, something that I have seen lacking in real life. Her writing has prompted me to look beyond the life I am used to and to explore alternative ways of thinking about the world, and is another author I am starting to research on my own. She will soon be competing with Tolkien for the top spot!

4. If someone asked you who your favorite authors were right now, which authors would first pop out of your mouth? Are there any you’d add on a moment of further reflection?

Here are the ones I would immediately list: Tolkien, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child, Stephen King, and Marion Zimmer Bradley. Upon further reflection, I would add Clive Barker, Anne Rice (her old stuff, not her new Christian stuff), Charlotte Bronte, Amy Tan, Michael Crichton, John Sandford, Laren Stover, and W.M. Thackeray.

5. Tagged

Rules: Link to the person that tagged you, post the rules somewhere in your meme, answer the Author questions, tag some people in your post, let the tagees know they’ve been chosen by leaving a comment on their blog, let the tagger know your entry is posted.

Here are my victims:

Karen at Fresh as a Daisy

Kylie at Kylie’s Book Nook

Kell at On the Shelf

Have fun, ladies!

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Booking Through Thursday: What is Reading?

What is reading, anyway? Novels, comics, graphic novels, manga, e-books, audiobooks — which of these is reading these days? Are they all reading? Only some of them? What are your personal qualifications for something to be “reading” — why? If something isn’t reading, why not? Does it matter? Does it impact your desire to sample a source if you find out a premise you liked the sound of is in a format you don’t consider to be reading? Share your personal definition of reading, and how you came to have that stance. ( 5/29/08 )

My answer: To me, reading is reading a book. A novel, graphic or not (although I don’t read graphic novels), a non-fiction book about anything under the moon, a newspaper or magazine, or an e-book; anything that involves reading words on a page (or screen). I don’t consider audiobooks to be reading in its strictest sense, and they are not something I use, but I do consider them to be just another alternative way to experience a book. It’s just not a way that I’m comfortable with.

Comics, however, are a more complicated thing for me. I often read collections of popular comics, like For Better or For Worse by Lynn Johnston, Bloom County by Berkeley Breathed, and Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterston. But I don’t really consider them to be reading. It feels like a separate activity, one that I greatly enjoy, but it seems to engage a different part of my brain. I think this separation comes from the fact that I will often read this comic collections by chance, when they happen to be near at hand. They’re more about instant gratification: a quiet chuckle as I’m waiting for a pot of water to boil on the stove. When I sit down to read a book, it is much more of a deliberate decision and I am prepared to sit for a long time and let myself become a part of the story.

Booking Through Thursday: Books vs. Movies

Books and films both tell stories, but what we want from a book can be different from what we want from a movie. Is this true for you? If so, what’s the difference between a book and a movie?

My answer: I want very different things from movies and books. In movies, I prefer to see images and have a lot of action show me what’s going on. There’s usually not a lot of time for character development, anyway. In books, I like to get to know characters and have them really develop. I don’t like being “shown” too many things…I like to use my imagination. Whenever there is a book that has been turned into a movie, I have always preferred the book.

Lady of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Date of Publication: 1998

Number of Pages: 456

Synopsis (from back cover): Journey to a time before King Arthur as Marion Zimmer Bradley brings the mesmerizing world of Avalon brilliantly to life in this spellbinding novel of epic grandeur – the story of three remarkable women who alter the fortunes of Roman Britain as they fight to reclaim the magic and traditions of a once-glorious past….

Caillean, the young priestess fated to become Lady of Avalon, who rescues and raises the orphaned Gawen – heir to a mystic and dangerous royal line…Dierna, who must use all her strength, wisdom, and love to guide Avalon through treacherous political waters and veil the island from a hostile world…Viviane, Lady of the Lake and keeper of the Grail, destined for true greatness as she prepares Avalon for the coming of a legendary king…

Review: This is the first book of the Avalon series that I have read, and I’m glad I started with it. Although there are events referred to that obviously occur in other books, it’s not done in a way that takes away from the story. This is the book that sets up the events in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s popular masterpiece, The Mists of Avalon, so I felt fortunate to be beginning here.

This is the first book I have thoroughly enjoyed in a long time, and it’s turned me into a devoted fan of this author. There are elements of several genres in this book: historical fiction, fantasy, and romance, making it appealing to many different kinds of readers. But what will really appeal to people is the superb story-telling and the realistic and complex characters. There are few characters, even among the leading Ladies of Avalon, who could be called wholly good or bad. Some make good decisions and some make such bad decisions that they adversely alter the course of history. The women portrayed are completely believable, with human foibles that all of us have, but at the same time they possess a power that infuses the story with magic. This is a book that celebrates womanhood in all its forms, from the innocent virgin to the croaking hag. If you’re a woman, you will find yourself somewhere in this book. And if you’re a man, well, there’s plenty of fighting going on to keep even you interested!

Rating: 10/10

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Date of Publication: 1937

Number of Pages (including maps): 275

Synopsis (from Amazon.com): “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”

The hobbit-hole in question belongs to one Bilbo Baggins, an upstanding member of a “little people, about half our height, and smaller than the bearded dwarves.” He is, like most of his kind, well off, well fed, and best pleased when sitting by his own fire with a pipe, a glass of good beer, and a meal to look forward to. Certainly this particular hobbit is the last person one would expect to see set off on a hazardous journey; indeed, when Gandalf the Grey stops by one morning, “looking for someone to share in an adventure,” Baggins fervently wishes the wizard elsewhere. No such luck, however; soon 13 fortune-seeking dwarves have arrived on the hobbit’s doorstep in search of a burglar, and before he can even grab his hat or an umbrella, Bilbo Baggins is swept out his door and into a dangerous adventure.

Review: The Hobbit is a prelude to the epic The Lord of the Rings, but it still stands quite well on its own. This story tells of the finding of the Ring of Power, though at the time it seems a mere piece of luck and comes in quite handy for Bilbo during his adventure. More important to this story is the journey of Bilbo and the dwarves toward their ancient home, the Lonely Mountain, where Smaug the dragon sits atop their hoard of treasure. Always, the goal of reaching the mountain and reclaiming the gold (somehow) is foremost in their minds, even though they become sidetracked several times along the way. This is a perfect adventure story, ideal for reading to children or for anyone of any age. Bilbo, a seemingly insignificant person of a seemingly insignificant race of people, is a wonderful hero, as he finds that he possesses more courage and wits than he ever imagined. This is one of those books that everyone should read, if not for its relevance to the Middle-earth saga, but also because it’s simply a wonderful story.

Rating: 10/10

The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower, Book 1) by Stephen King

Date of Publication: 1982

Number of Pages: 304

Synopsis (from back cover): This heroic fantasy is set in a world of ominous landscape and macabre menace that is a dark mirror of our own. A spellbinding tale of good versus evil, it features once of Stephen King’s most powerful creations – The Gunslinger, a haunting figure who embodies the qualities of the lone hero through the ages from ancient myth to frontier western legend. His pursuit of The Man in Black, his liaison with sexually ravenous Alice, his friendship with the kid from Earth called Jake, are part of the drama that is both grippingly realistic and eerily dreamlike, an alchemy of storytelling sorcery.

Review: After months of hearing about The Dark Tower series, and since I’m already a big Stephen King fan, I decided to finally read the first book in the series, just to see what it was all about. It took me until the last page to decide what I thought of it. All I can say really is that I liked it, and I’m planning to read the next one, but of all the Stephen King books I’ve read, this was the most difficult and unusual. The problems I had with this book were not stylistic; the book is very well written, and the characters, though mysteriously aloof from the reader, are well developed. The title character, known throughout most of the book simply as the gunslinger, is not easily identifiable as a hero and is deeply complex. There are mysteries surrounding his past, as well as the lives of most of the characters and the reality in which they live. I think it was these very mysteries that I didn’t really love. They distressed me unexpectedly. However, being the first book in a series, it’s understandable that there will be unanswered questions. Anyone who ventures to read this book should be prepared to read the rest of the series! I certainly will.

Rating: 8/10

La Vagabonde by Colette

Date of Publication: 1910

Number of Pages: 239

Synopsis (from back cover): Largely autobiographical, La Vagabonde recalls Colette’s own years spent touring Paris music halls, taking the reader backstage and into the demimonde of Renée Néré, and aging dancer, mime, and failed writer. Around this extraordinary heroine Colette spins the first of her masterpieces, a novel that brings forth the sensual, unexpurgated perspective of a woman who struggles to choose between freedom and love.

The recently divorced Renée describes the sights, sounds, and excitement of the dance hall, the greasepaint and silk kimonos she wears as she rehearses with her burly partner, Brague, and the downward slide of a young Piaf-like singer named Jadin. And in the ensuing romance between Renée and her admirer, Maxime, Colette – in 1910 – explores male-female relationships from a startlingly contemporary point of view.

Review: This is the first full-length novel by Colette that I have read, and I was pleasantly surprised by just how lyrical and beautiful her writing is. Every passage is like a song, from the heroine’s wanderings in the park, to her laments and agonies over loving a man. One could read this book as an example of an early women’s liberation story, but I think it’s really deeper than that. In a time when women were meant to be submissive toward their husbands, Renée, having been deeply hurt and humiliated by her ex-husband, refuses to give any part of herself to a man ever again. Colette delves deep into the psychological torment that a broken heart can cause, and Renée understands that to love a man again means that she must allow him into her heart and mind, something she feels she simply cannot do. This book asks very important questions, considering the era in which it was written: Can a woman retain her freedom after marriage? Can she even pursue her own career and interests? Must she give up her whole heart to her lover? Renée is a woman who has been wounded too deeply to easily give up the freedom and independence she has cloaked herself in. The life she leads is not the typical life of a Parisian woman, but she clings to it desperately, knowing that without it she is vulnerable again, a terrifying prospect.

La Vagabonde is definitely a story about a wandering soul, searching for her place in the world, and for love’s place in her life. I would recommend this book to any fan of romance fiction, or to anyone who is, like me, wondering about their own place in the world.

Rating: 9/10