October 9th, 2013

kitty, reading

Books #33-34

Book #33 was "Imago," the third in the "Lilith's Brood" trilogy by Octavia Butler. I read this before in my early 20s but have been re-reading the series with my husband over the last few months. While book one was from a female human's viewpoint and book two was from a male "construct" - or alien/human hybrid - the third book is told from the viewpoint of a construct who is "ooloi" or bi-gendered/no gender. They are the third sex of the Oankali who specialize in storing and manipulating genetic material. The main character goes through adolescence and mating and watches its mate struggle to find mates as well. It's weird to feel yourself on the side of such unhuman protagonists but you do end up hoping the best for them. I like that the book and the trilogy end with some tantalizing hints that the Oankali might not have done as good a job of suppressing human nature as they thought they did. Highly recommended, but then, I recommend anything by Butler. She is definitely a favorite author.

Book #34 was "Escaping into the Open: The Art of Writing True" by Elizabeth Berg. My mother gave this to me as a gift, and said she thought it might be too much of a "beginner" book on writing. It is, in some ways, a book for a less experienced writer than I am. She's assuming the average reader is brand new to writing, has never been in a writing class (in fact I majored in creative writing in college and have taken many classes) or to a writing group (I've been part of three or four) or attempted publication (I've been published several times). However, I also find that *any* book on the craft of writing is a good read if it gives me at least a little inspiration, and this did provide that, along with lots of practical hands-on "homework" and writing prompts. It even includes some recipes for nourishing yourself or members of your writing group! I thought some of her writing prompts were inane, but she says you don't have to do all of them, just the ones that catch your interest. Though I've finished the book, I imagine I will keep coming back to it for a few weeks, using the prompts to get my creative juices flowing. I would recommend this to those interested in writing who aren't very far along the path or a refresher for someone who is coming back to creative writing after some time away.

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Book #53: The Locked Ward: Memoirs of a Psychiatric Orderly by Dennis O'Donnell

Number of pages: 352

Author Dennis O'Donnell worked in the "Locked Ward", a psychiatric institution, for seven years. This book tells of how he was invited to work there while he was caring for elderly patients, and of his experiences.

Not surprisingly, O'Donnell has a very good knowledge of mental illness and the different forms it can take, as he talks about various patients he has dealt with, ranging from people with schizophrenia to even nymphomania. Most of the individual chapters talk about different patients, but you can tell there is a linear progression through the book as his time in the ward is charted.

Inevitably, this book is quite harrowing and very gritty in its realistic portrayal of mental illness, and although it felt a bit repetitive (how many accounts of patients taking their clothes off and attempting to have sex with others did the book need?), I found the book to be compelling. Surprisingly, there were some very humourous moments, for example O'Donnell noting that he was so alarmed he might have dashed through the wall leaving a cartoon-like hole that was shaped like him, and there are some occasional depictions of the absurd conversations that he and his colleagues have had. To be honest, I think if you're working in a place like this you need to have a good laugh at times, or you'd go crazy yourself!

Next book: Earthbound by Paul Morley
Sleeping Beauty

Books 38-39: Les Rois Maudits / The Accursed Kings books 5 and 6

Originally posted by audrey_e at Books 38-39: Les Rois Maudits / The Accursed Kings books 5 and 6
Following the popularity of Game of Thrones on television  and George R. R. Martin calling The Accursed Kings series "the original Game of Thrones", new editions of the English translation have been published and are available on Amazon. I read them in French, but have included the titles of the official translations below. Here's a review of book 5 and 6. There are seven total, but only six in the original series.

38 LA LOUVE DE FRANCE / THE SHE-WOLF OF FRANCE Maurice Druon (France, 1959)
Druon (France, 1960)

The series opens with the reign of Philippe IV of France (known as Philippe le Bel which means Philippe the Fair) and follows the events that lead to the Hundred Years' War. In the middle of great political turmoil, a man and a woman - Robert d'Artois and Mahaut d'Artois- fight for the same earldom.

The sixth installment is where I decided "The Accursed Kings" would end for me, and that's because the seventh one was published much later and is supposed to be radically different. When I can smell that a series is longer than it should be, I stop before the rest is spoiled for me.
What I respect the most about  this series is that Druon's writing style improves with time. We start with some unnecessary comparisons (The Iron King (Book 1)) and end with ones that are more memorable and some effective repetitions. Maurice Druon's style is not amazing but I really appreciate the improvement.
The plot itself  focuses more on the two main protagonists as the end is near, and my interest doubled.
I think it is important to mention I had already seen one of the two television mini-series that have been produced in France prior to reading the books, and I was still engrossed in the story from beginning to end.

The She-Wolf of France: 4/5
The Lily and the Lion: 4/5