April 27th, 2015

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Book 13- Texts from Jane Eyre

13. Texts from Jane Eyre, by Mallory Ortberg. The concept of this book is interesting: Literary characters (and even a couple authors) text each other. Of course we see texts from Jane to Rochester, but fictional texters include Medea, Scarlett O'Hara, Nancy Drew, Pride and Predjudice, Edgar Allen Poe, and characters from the Babysitters Club. The funniest were the ones from Medea, The Great Gatsby and Nancy Drew. Many of the text were pretty amusing but a problem with this book is that if you are not familiar with the original source material, you probably aren't going to get the jokes. I know there were a couple that went over my head. That's problem one. Problem two is that the source material that inspired the text exchanges run from classical to gradeschool serial. Nancy Drew is one thing, she's fairly universal. But unless the reader is/was a hardcore Babysitters Club or Sweet Valley High, you probably aren't going to get the humor there (I remember reading those books eons ago, but only perhaps three or four from each series). Also, current readers of these books probably aren't going to be steeped in the classics. I think this book either needed to go all contemporary or all classics, and pick an audience. Also, while whom was texting whom could usually be gleaned from the context, sometimes it was tough- having names would have helped. Indeed, the made-up handles the fictional characters created could have been its own source for hilarity.

Currently reading: The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan, The Romanov Sisters, by Helen Rappaport, and Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson.
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Book #19: A Storm of Swords, Part 2: Blood and Gold by George R. R. Martin



Number of pages: 608

Part Two of A Storm of Swords is my favourite instalment in the Song of Ice and Fire series so far. This is the book that has managed to get me hooked and having gotten to understand the series and characters, I found this one the easiest in terms of being able to follow the action.

I noticed that the second part of the third book mostly consisted of scenes that got dramatized in the show's third and fourth seasons, with a few moments from the fifth. I also noticed how much the show's writers changed the order of events, with episodes from the end of the fourth season coming shortly after incidents that were shown as part of the third season.

I also noticed that Bran Stark hardly appeared in this book, and there was no Theon Greyjoy. I'm guessing that their storylines from the third and fourth seasons are largely from the later books in the series, and were included earlier so that the actors continued to get work on the show! I also noticed how the fourth season took Danaerys Targaraen's storyline a lot further into the books, and this one ends with her having conquered another kingdom, set herself up as Queen and freed all the slaves. So, I've not yet storyline involving her dragons that featured in the show's fourth season; the dragons themselves hardly feature. I think again, it's maybe not surprising, possibly because she is a popular character, so it's good for the show to give her a lot of screen time.

This book has a lot of enjoyable plot threads, with my favourites revolving around Tyrion Lannister and his trial after becoming a murder suspect, and also Jon Snow, who is stationed in the night's watch, separate from Ygritte (it is fairly obvious the two of them still love each other). It doesn't exactly end happily, but it was written very well.

The one scene I was looking forward to was the notorious "Red Wedding", with its huge levels of violence broadcast on the TV show. It comes a quarter of the way into the book, and reading it, I realised that the television had embellished nothing - it followed the book exactly.

The next bit contains major spoilers for the book, possibly even for the TV series for anyone who's not been reading the books.

[Massive spoilers for Episode 3x09: The Rains of Castermere and maybe later in the series]

The red wedding takes place as an attempt by Robb Stark to appease the house of Frey after he reneges on a deal to marry Walder Frey's daughter and marries another woman. Of course, it turns out it is too late and Walder Frey is in allegiance with Jaime Lannister. The wedding erupts into a massacre, where Robb and his pregnant wife are both killed. In both the book and the TV show, the scene ends with Catelyn Stark having her throat slit.

So, surely that means Catelyn is now dead, right? Turns out, I was wrong!

The book's epilogue is a scene that to my knowledge has not yet aired on the show. As I write this, only two episodes of the fifth season have officially aired in the UK (although I'm told that all ten are available online somewhere).

I had to go back and re-read the last few pages again, I was so surprised when Catelyn showed up alive, albeit horribly scarred and mute. It's a scene I'd like to see on the TV show; it probably depends on whether Michelle Fairley (who played Catelyn) would be willing/available.



Overall, a great book, and the ending really did have me wanting more.

Next book: Vanity Fair (William Makepeace Thackeray)
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Book 43

Wheel of StarsWheel of Stars by Andre Norton

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


I've been dragging this around since I bought it back in high school when I was reading everything by Andre Norton. Thirty years later I finally read it to a) get it off my shelf and do what a book is meant to do and b) I needed something for my 'something on the TBR pile forever' challenge. Thirty years qualifies...only now I'm disappointed I've been carrying this around so long. It is definitely one of Ms. Norton's minor works. It took me weeks of setting it aside then bulling through it to make it to the end. It's dull and confusing and really not that interesting.

To be fair the opening and the closing were interesting but even they have problems. Gwennan Daggert, librarian in a small library in New England, has an interest in the standing stones (yes, there are some up there that resemble those in the UK). She gets the interest of Tor Lyle, an arrogant man and his elderly relative, Saris who owns the large house where the stones are. Saris invites Gwennan to dinner much to Tor's dismay. They appear to be into some mystical things but really, Gwennan's not that interested in that. However, a sense of dread falls over her when she's out at night looking at the stones. Soon a stinky creature with red eyes begins to stalk her at her remote house that used to be her aunt's.

So it had the makings of a decent urban fantasy or horror but then it completely derails and wallows around almost all the way to the end. Saris disappears. Gwennan spends far too much time whining and worrying about the fact that Saris seems to have given her a magical amulet and a duty to protect the stones and how weak and untrained she is. How could she ever do this? Tor, who seems to be her enemy, is so much better trained and stronger and how oh how could she stand against him?

Part of this really has to be Norton's age. She was writing for what, nearly 50 years by the time she wrote this. She was born in the nineteen teens and I get that back in those days women weren't that independent but I know she wrote more independent women than Gwennan. I really just wanted to slap this woman and have her get on with it.

But the other part of the derailing was the sudden intrusion of another reality when Gwennan becomes (or was in another life or I'm not even sure what the heck happened to be honest) another woman for a brief period. This is where the story really goes off the tracks. The idea that she is somehow part of this rebirth and protection family is central but the idea never gels. Who were these people? What is their power? Why does Tor covet it so? It just never comes together.

The ending makes an attempt but it feels rushed and half done and nothing much gets answered. I guess what I'm saying is go find something else of Andre Norton's to read. The Witch World Series, The Forerunner, something anything but this. She was the only woman named Grand Master by the SF writers of America (and may still be the only one. I'm not sure on that account). There are better stories than this one. This can now leave my shelf after thirty years. I wont' be rereading it.



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