I can’t tell you how happy I am it’s December. Sure, finals season is upon me, but I always get antsy on the last one or two days of a month. I like having a fresh calendar and new wallpapers. But November still lingers, in the best of ways: last month, Lu tagged me with a short reading questionnaire. Why don’t we get started?
One of the best parts about book blogging is the exposure to books and authors you might never have heard of before. Pimp the book you think needs more recognition on this day. Get creative! Maybe share snippets from other bloggers who have reviewed it or make some fun art to get your message across.
When I’m pressed to recommend amazing books, I have two go-tos: the first, The Magician’s Book, is pretty well-loved in the book blogging community. The second boasts four reviews when plugged into the book blogger search engine, and three of those are mine or my fault. The winner is clear: ladies and gentlemen, I give you Banewreaker.
Jacqueline Carey is one of my favorite writers, but jumping into her Kushiel novels can be a bit daunting—while they’re split up into trilogies, there’s nine of them, not to mention their high page count. There’s also her Santa Olivia series, which I haven’t read yet, but they’re her foray into science fiction and Carey, from my limited experience, is best with a world she can fully manipulate. There’s a lot of reasons to start with Banewreaker when approaching Carey, but the biggest one is that you have to respect a woman who takes on The Lord of the Rings.
As you may have guessed, I am a huge The Lord of the Rings freak. (A distant relative once teased me for the fact that my blog’s tag cloud features Tolkien’s name more prominently than Austen; I cannot imagine why she thought the reverse would be true.) I’m also a huge fan of fantasy deconstructions, as it’s a genre whose formulas are ripe for the taking—think Lev Grossman’s The Magicians and Mike Carey’s brilliant comic The Unwritten. Bringing the two together was music to my ears. So I was already up for what Carey was dishing out before I picked up the book.
Banewreaker is actually part of the duet The Sundering; essentially, a novel in two parts, Banewreaker and Godslayer. Even put together, the page count barely touches one of her Kushiel novels, but it’s deceptively slim. By taking the world of The Lord of the Rings (deconstructions require similar conditions in order to go about their business) and giving it a moral depth I’ve only seen in A Song of Ice and Fire, Carey comes up with a human and heartbreaking deconstruction of Tolkien’s novel, focused on individual agency and the tragedy of it all.
I do recommend having read The Lord of the Rings beforehand in order to fully appreciate what Carey does here, but other than that, get thee to the library and introduce yourself to the wonderful writing of Jacqueline Carey.
Merry Christmas, to those who celebrate it—but it’s also the last Sunday of the year, which means it’s time for my top ten list. As usual, these are my top reads of 2011, not the top published books of 2011. But I’ve also added my favorite film adaptation and my favorite audiobook of the year, since I’ve started really keeping those posts up. I was lucky enough to have a good handful of five star books, but that meant leaving off a lot of four and a half star books that I honestly loved off the list. I invite you to rifle through those categories to your right. And here’s 2010 in review and 2009 in review, if you’re so inclined. I think that’s all the housekeeping, so let’s get started.
What book or author are you most thankful to have discovered?
Have you read everything they’ve written? Reread them?
Why do you appreciate them so much?
Well, that’s quite a question! The author that instantly springs to mind is Jacqueline Carey, whom I discovered via Brandon Sanderson’s recommendation of The Sundering, a duet that deconstructs The Lord of the Rings beautifully.
I haven’t read everything she’s written; I’m saving them up, like I’m doing with A Song of Ice and Fire. I think what I love most about her writing is how thoughtful, creative, and inclusive it is. Her characters feel like real people, her writing is beautiful, and she’s one of those writers who can make you read anything. Her work makes you think and re-examine things. It’s, quite simply, lovely.
Two years ago last Thursday, I started The Literary Omnivore, consolidating book reviews I’d previously posted in a fannish outlet after being encouraged to start an e-portfolio at school. I can’t believe it’s been two years, in the same way that I can’t believe I’m a junior in college. This blog has become such an important part of my life—not only as a reading journal (which will always be its main purpose), but as a way of expressing myself, connecting with other readers, and making me more visible in an industry I’m trying to break into. So, like last year, I thought I’d take this opportunity to share how this blog has changed and grown over the last year, as well as getting your feedback on what you’d like to see in the future from The Literary Omnivore.
Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey
As you may have gathered from the fact that I press The Sundering onto any fantasy fan I encounter, I love Jacqueline Carey. But while I started with her brilliant deconstruction of The Lord of the Rings, Carey is most known for the Kushiel’s Legacy series and its companion trilogy. Kushiel’s Dart (and then the rest of the series!) was the logical step from The Sundering, but a problem cropped up—you see, it is apparently so good people have stolen all the copies from my local library at school. I could only get it at my local library at home, and as the end of summer crept up on me, I made sure to pick it up and read it before I went back to school. And, of course, I devoured it.
What’s the last book you were really EXCITED to read?
And, were you excited about it in advance? Or did the excitement bloom while you were reading it?
Are there any books you’re excited about right NOW?
It was definitely A Storm of Swords; you cannot imagine the self-control it’s taking me not to just tear through A Feast for Crows and A Dance of Dragons right now. I’m usually excited beforehand; I think In Great Waters was the last book where I got to the point where I wanted to read it when I wasn’t reading it.
At the moment, I’m excited to start on The Silmarillion today—I finished Hard Times last night—and Kushiel’s Dart, because my hold on it came in yesterday and only the library at home has a copy of it. Also, I love and adore Jacqueline Carey.
There’s no two ways around it—today’s selections from my reading list are two dark, sensuous fantasies written by women about women. Bring it on.
And now for something a little different—a video rant about “literary fiction” and “genre fiction” (both literally meaningless labels). Emo!Ten, our cardboard cut-out of the Tenth Doctor (he survived a near collision between Sasha, the small Honda Civic, and a MARTA bus; his sadness attracts disaster), looms over my shoulder, Demora Pasha’s fan is really loud, and our window of dramatic lighting, well, lights dramatically.
Series? Or Stand-alone books?
Oh, series. I was organizing my Review Directory by series yesterday, and I’d just like to take a moment to tell non-speculative fiction authors that a snappy title for a series works wonders; compare and contrast His Dark Materials and The Karen Vail Novels. If it has an internal chronology, it’s a series; own it! Love it!
But the thing is, series are hard to do, and many authors screw it up. Ideally, each installment in a series ought to be a standalone novel—yeah, it makes more sense and works better when read as part as the series, but you should be able to pick up Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and be able to follow along and enjoy that novel’s story. The novel is the basic unit of a series, and it irritates me to no end to see authors think that splitting manuscripts in two is how you do it. It’s not—the only author I’ve see pull this off successfully is Jacqueline Carey in The Sundering, and she paid attention to pacing and structure to pull it off. I was hugely disappointed when The Innocent Mage and Pegasus pulled this. On her website, Robin McKinley called the sequel to Pegasus “a sequel like THE RETURN OF THE KING is a sequel to THE TWO TOWERS“, which I’ve always found flippant, considering The Lord of the Rings is a single novel. In fact, with The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien does a series right—they’re richer in tandem, but aren’t required to understand each other.
I guess I do prefer standalone novels—in series or one-shots.