July 30th, 2013

Dead Dog Cat

(no subject)

Just this morning, I finished reading the George RR Martin novel, A Dance with Dragons. More doom, death and destruction! Dragons! I hate to give spoilers, but if you want to discuss it, reply...

And now I wait for the next novel sometime in the upcoming three years!

Books #25-26

Book #25 was "Black Magic Sanction" by Kim Harrison, as an unabridged audiobook. This entire series is brain candy, but I do feel that the author has gotten better over time at weaving strands from past books into future plotlines. I don't care for the character of Pierce and really wish Harrison would kill him off, but otherwise, I enjoyed this book a lot. The main character shows some emotional growth, and the revelations about the way the various non-humans are related to one another get even more interesting in this book.

Book #26 was "George Sand: A Woman's Life Writ Large" by Belinda Jack. I've never actually read any of Sand's books - they fell out of fashion somewhat after her death and only a fraction are translated into English. However, I've known about the author and her interesting "pre-feminist" life for a long time. Sand (aka the Baroness Aurore Dudevant) came from mixed aristocratic blood and working class blood, and cross-class relationships figure into both her life and her writing. She was hugely prolific, full of contradictions and had many famous lovers and friends, from musicians Franz Liszt and Frederic Chopin to author Gustave Flaubert and artist Eugene Delacroix. Her reputation is that of both a "frigid lesbian" and a "nymphomaniac," of a man-eater and also a tender mother figure. These apparent contradictions are not entirely due to the gossip about her at the time; it appears the woman herself knew she was full of contradictions and came to embrace them in later life. This biography was well told and kept me turning the pages. I liked all the photos and illustrations as well. My only criticism is that it seemed some sections of the book and of Sand's life were rushed - 7 years with Chopin pass in just a few pages, for instance. But there's plenty of information about Sand's life, including from her own memoirs, and I understand the author had to pick and choose details and scenes or else this book would have been monstrously long. I enjoyed it and would recommend it to those who like French literature and/or strong women/early feminists or those who just generally enjoy well-written biographies.

Collapse )


Book Review No. 18 is Michael Kazin's American Dreamers: How the Left Changed a Nation.  It's by an academician, and it's well-documented.  It's also readable, and, although sympathetic to the aspirations of the Left, not tendentious.  It's in the concluding passages, however, that the main message of the book, whether as a charge to traditional leftists, or as food for thought for people who err on the side of emergent order, appears.  That's after we've explored abolition, and Class Struggle, and Vanguardism, and Civil Rights, and The Counterculture.  At page 275, "The left was certainly more successful when it sought to expand personal liberty than when it struggled to advance the collective might of workers and the poor."  Collective might is an illusion.  Discuss.

Turn to page 276.

A world of freebooting capitalism has delivered neither material abundance nor social harmony to most of the world's people.  Failed states, religious wars, environmental disasters, clashes between immigrants and the native-born are common features of current history, as they were in earlier times.  But the perception that there is no alternative to chronic crisis except to somehow muddle through exacerbates the problem.

On the other hand, to hope for a vanguard to lead the masses, or to apply pressure from below to leaders, hasn't done so well.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)

exotic, turkish woman

Book 137: The Sultan's Wife by Jane Johnson

Book 137: The Sultan's Wife.
Author: Jane Johnson, 2012.
Genre: Historical Fiction. Morocco and England 17th Century.
Other Details: Paperback. 384 pages.

Morocco, 1677. The tyrannical King Ismail resides over the palace of Meknes. Through the sweltering heat of the palace streets, Nus Nus, slave to the King and forced into his live of servitude as court scribe, is sent to the apothecary. There he discovers the bloody corpse of the herb man, and becomes entangled in a plot to frame him for the murder. Juggling the tempestuous Moroccan king, sorceress queen Zidana and the malicious Grand Vizier is his only hope to escape the blame.

Meanwhile, young, fair Alys Swann is captured during her crossing to England, where she is due to be wed. Sold into Ismail’s harem, she is forced to choose: renounce her faith or die.An unlikely alliance develops between Alys and Nus Nus, one that will help them to survive the horrifying ordeals of the Moroccan court.
- synopsis from author's website.

Jane Johnson has once again written a sumptuous novel that captures the extravagances and dangers of Morocco during the 17th Century. When the action moves to Restoration London Nus Nus' narration provides a sense of the differences and similarities that he experiences as a stranger in a strange land.

Though not a sequel to her earlier work 'The Tenth Gift' (aka Crossed Bones in UK) the 17th century heroine of that novel, Catherine Tregenna, does make a cameo appearance as a fellow Englishwoman who provides advice to Alys Swann when she is first captured.

While Nus Nus and Alys are fictional characters the text is peppered with historical figures both in Morocco and London. Johnson provides a useful historical note, a glossary and a bibliography of some of her sources.

Overall I enjoyed this novel very much though I did find that there were some disturbing scenes during battle and especially the Sultan's tendency to lash out with deadly intent at the slightest provocation.

Jane Johnson's page on 'The Sultan's Wife' - includes excerpt to download or listen to.

How a painting inspired 'The Sultan's Wife' - interview about genesis of the novel.
  • cat63

Book 47 for 2013

Dead Streets by Tim Waggoner. 248 pages

This sequel to Nekropolis chronicles another adventure for zombie detective Matt Richter and his friends - and enemies.

I found a few spots where the prose could have been polished a little more (the author has a tendency to repeat words in what I consider too close proximity) but he can write a jolly good plot and interesting characters - and Matt's zombie state is actually used to drive the plot rather than just being a gimmick.

I'll be getting book three from the library shortly and hoping there will be more after that.