Monday, May 20, 2019

Game of Thrones Finale


In my opinion, this is the best shot from Season 8 of Game of Thrones. Somewhat underwhelmed by the finale, because it all felt so rushed, but I'm excited for what the novels will bring. Winds/Dream. :-)

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Devoured this scrumptious morsel in but a few hours and still left a little hungry.

Sharp ObjectsSharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sharp Objects is a solid first novel, to which I would have given a higher rating, were it not for the summary technique in the conclusion that robs the reader of the experience of that year of discovery. Flynn does everything else right. Her characters are evocative, and the setting of the town is lush and vivid. The murders percolate in the consciousness while the protagonist lurches absentmindedly forward into danger. You will find yourself screaming at her not to be so stupid, courting peril with such intimacy, and it's so in character. It's damn near a 5-star book until the last few chapters and I still enjoyed it a lot (3-stars means I liked it :-{) It's just not as good as it could have been, even though we are given a long, lovely tease. Sigh.

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Saturday, May 4, 2019

Robert Jordan (Wheel of Time) on Matriarchies in Finn

I'm just posting this so I don't lose it. --- For Anonymous-George, long ago I saw one of the first, I believe, novels about a young woman who wasn't allowed to use magic or whatever because she was a woman, and the thought occurred to me as to how it might go if men were the ones who were denied the right to do magic. Or whatever. I hate using the word magic. From that long ago thought grew the One Power divided into saidin and saidar with the male half tainted and the reasons for and results of it being tainted. Now in most of these societies...I did not and do not view them as matriarchal. I attempted to design societies that were as near gender balanced as to rights, responsibilities and power as I could manage. It doesn't all work perfectly. People have bellybuttons. If you want to see someone who always behaves logically, never tells small lies or conceals the truth in order to put the best face for themselves on events, and never, ever tries to take advantage of any situation whatsoever, then look for somebody without a bellybutton. The real surprise to me was that while I was designing these gender balanced societies, people were seeing matriarchies. --- Jordan is often criticized for his portrayal of women and how he overcompensates by creating matriarchies. His perspective is very interesting (to me.)

The History of White Onliness in America

Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American RacismSundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism by James W. Loewen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A long horrific account of America's deliberate segregation, its underlying current of white-onliness, born out of Loewen's personal journey of awakening to the fact he was surrounded by Sundown Towns, those locales so hostile to blacks that the communities orchestrate ways to keep them out. It's a long, hard slog, filled with disheartening stories, marks of shame of our past, of our present really, but books like this are so important both as eye-openers and motivators. Nobody conscious to American culture--again not just its history! We are talking about the present in many instances here--can deny these exclusionary practices, but Loewen focuses on the scale using census data and adds anecdotes that personalize the experience.

I read a lot of reviews here that mention how terrible reading this makes everyone feel, but for my part, I am overwhelmed by optimism, because it is clear how far we have come as a people. That we still have far to go is unquestionable, but great strides are being made, especially by the young. Books like this one are likely one of the factors. The history we teach is the one our children learn, so we should all thank Loewen for his huge effort.

THAT being said, yes, it's a slog, but it's a whole lot harder being one of the characters in the anecdotes than a reader in the 21st century.

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Thursday, May 2, 2019

When They Have Taken the Magic

Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha, #1)Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An important story written from a vantage point above a landscape of suffering and tears. Adeyemi does an excellent job with setting, painting a colorful mosaic rich in magical realism but grounded in pain and tragedy. I especially found compelling her use of West African religious motifs and language, much of which I recognized from my studies of Brazilian culture and its African roots.

Adeyemi uses 3rd person limited to great effect, allowing us to see the conflict of Orïsha-- essentially a violent suppression of the Divîners (a now-oppressed class who once practiced magic given by the gods) by the Kosidan, which are muggly-types--from three different angles. The first pov belongs to Zélie, an adolescent whose mother was a great Magi before King Saran crushed the power of the Divîners. She is the main protagonist and though a great warrior and able to draw from a deep well of magical power, her flaws and failures often dictate her actions. Her uncertainty and fear, both very realistic character features, are offset by an impulsive nature that so defies reason, that--given her age--lends even more belief. Her journey is a horror story that I could never do justice to. I have seen many ask if this is young adult fiction, if it is appropriate for children... It is, even with these horrors, because we as a society need to own them to move forward both as a people and as ourselves. Zélie's motivation is often pure survival, but the greatest depredations she suffers (and they are horrid) are merely magnifications of the daily experiences of real people. That's the story beneath this story, the one Adeyemi is telling us to great effect.

The other two povs are from the Kosidan oppressor class. One is Princess Amari, Saran's daughter, isolated from the world but with an endearing streak of devotion. She is the accidental iconoclast, spurred to rebellion by the death of her favorite slave. To me she represented a path of hope and sincerity, one of possibilities, but her journey is also fraught with pain. She bears the scars of an upbringing that sharpens her into a transformative weapon that is fell enough to effect change. I was cheering throughout the story to have Zélie and Amari realize they were made for each other and still remain hopeful despite the evidence to the contrary. Honestly, I felt deep frustration as the traditional relationships were plumbed instead. I get that it's a coming of age story, but really... Really? Really really? These budding relationships felt a little cringeworthy and forced.

Which leads me to the third pov, Amari's brother Inan, Saran's tool, who leads a conflicted life of self-hatred combined with bigotry and ignorance. He is the perfect villain and also an ideal tool for redemption. In him, I see all the flaws of our society articulated. I don't know if this was Adeyemi's intention, but it doesn't matter: a bullseye is a bullseye. I'm not going deeper into his character because though the plot is ostensibly about bringing magic back to Orïsha, it is mostly about the people and how they get all their sharp angles fitting together. Tragedy spills blood, and blood is a bad lubricant, especially old rusting blood for generations.

This book is a celebration of the brave, but it was also made for the meek. It's to shake us all from meekness. It's already a great story but it's not done working on those sharp angles. I'm so looking forward to what comes.

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