Back in the saddle again: My A Song of Ice and Fire reread

I finished up Game of Thrones over the previous weekend. Amazing what a four-hour boat trip and two hour-long ferry rides will do for your TBR pile, huh?

But blowing through a fantasy novel the size of a kitten in less than a week made me realize something.

Between the ongoing controversies of the show (which I’m not going to get into here), I had completely forgot how enormously enjoyable this book is, despite some criticisms.

It’s long, yes. It’s  violent, sure.  And some of the language choice is anachronistic, to say the least (see Ser Alliser Thorne having a “stick up his butt”; I think “knife thrust up his backside” would have worked better).

Sure, you could say that it explores politics, religion, shifting family loyalties, and real historical precedents (if you feel the need to justify what you read).

But I honestly don’t see the point.

For me, A Song of Ice and Fire is and always has been entertainment, pure and simple.

And it is glorious.

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Oh my blog, I knew I forgot something

So, you may have noticed that I’ve let this blogging thing slide for a few of months. I could offer a couple of good reasons, but I’d rather not get into that here. Let’s just say it amounts to general exhaustion and my give-a-damn being temporarily broken.

New stuff should be coming in the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned.

Stay literary, my friends.

cat

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A quick word on Fifty Shades of Grey

While I haven’t read the books (although I have had a look at a few snippets) and I’m not likely to see the movie, I’d like to say something about Fifty Shades of Grey.

On the one hand, I’m happy that an author has had such phenomenal success, albeit with poorly written Twilight fan fiction. (Not that I mean to censure anyone from reading it. Far from it. If that is your literary bag, then have at it. It’s just not my particular brand of candy.)

However, I do think it is dangerous because it a) glorifies what boils down to a very abusive relationship and b) takes elements of the BDSM lifestyle out of their original context, with none of the safeguards and attendant culture.

Although you really have to hand it to the marketing genius who decided to release the film on Valentine’s Day weekend. I almost feel sorry for the staff who will have to hose down the theatre seats and floors.

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Chapters, I hardly knew ye

As many of you might have already heard, the Chapters bookstore at the corner of Robson and Howe in downtown Vancouver is shutting its doors as of June 30 of this year. Citing a probably monstrous rent increase as a reason for the closure, the company indicates that they *might* be looking at opening up another store in the Robson shopping district.

I can’t say I’m entirely surprised at the closure. It was a massive store (with, one imagines, a stratospheric rent in the hundreds of thousands per month), it was REALLY hard to find anything unless they had stacks of whatever it was you were looking for, and (although this is true of pretty much every Chapters/Indigo) the merchandise was slated less and less toward books and more toward expensive gift items.

As a former employee of the Broadway/Granville location (and the current spouse of a former employee of the Robson/Howe location), I think I know what I’m talking about when I say that, by the end of my tenure there, it wasn’t a great place to work and employees weren’t being treated particularly well. That being said, I sincerely hope that all store employees can find other work and emerge with their love of books intact.

However, this does leave me wondering if the age of department-style bookstores is gradually waning. With many excellent independent bookstores around Vancouver (Paper Hound, Pulp Fiction, Kidsbooks) open and, more importantly, thriving, the point is certainly raised that there are many models for a successful bookstore.

So, is the bookstore dead? No, but perhaps it certainly IS undergoing a transitional period.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some reading to do.

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Top five books I got this Christmas

Because you know I’m all about the books, ‘bout the books, no trouble. (Sorry)

Cats Are Weird (Jeffrey Brown)

-I am one step closer to owning every cat book ever! But seriously, it’s a series of cartoon insights into cat behaviour that I’m pretty sure most fur parents can relate to.

The Table of Less Valued Knights (Marie Phillips)

-A funny take on the Arthurian quest, starring a disgraced knight, his half-giant squire bastard son, an elephant, and a not-s0-pure maiden. Also, a real wanker of a prince.

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars trilogy (Ian Doescher)

-My sister was so proud that my husband and I hadn’t already read or bought this series. It’s Shakespeare and Star Wars, so it’s really natural fit for us.

Tudor Monastery Farm: Life in Rural England 500 Years Ago (Peter Ginn, Ruth Goodman, and Tom Pinfold)

-Perfect companion to the BBC miniseries, which is on YouTube, but the audio is mercurial, to say the least. Lovely job of presenting information to the average reader, with lots of pictures!

Dark Currents (Jacqueline Carey)

-Bought as a pure indulgence. This is my kind of fluff and I look forward to thoroughly enjoying it.

Granted, the last two I bought myself with a giftcard I received from my brother in law, but I’m still counting them.

Not a bad haul at all this year!

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Yuletide reading progress report!

My holiday reading plans having gone somewhat awry, at this point in December I’ve only plowed my way through Krampus and Hogfather.

Krampus, as always, was a delightful antidote to the overwhelming array of syrupy schlock we tend to get bombarded with in December. Good to see the pagan roots of the season celebrated too. And, as always, there’s something so viscerally satisfying about seeing baddies get their comeuppance.

Hogfather, however, got rather a more mixed reaction. Although I really liked the sections in which Death was portraying Santa Claus, I felt the book dragged in most of the other parts. I think I would have gotten more out of this if I had read some previous Discworld novels. I honestly got a little lost with all of the characters and minutiae.

I’m planning on tackling the other two history-of-Christmas books in a little bit. They’re both rereads, so it shouldn’t take too long. I’ve read them so many times, the information’s a little old hat, but they’re so much fun I don’t really mind.

Anyway, here’s a recording of Dylan Thomas reading A Child’s Christmas in Wales, one of my favourite holiday classics. If you can manage it, I highly recommend catching the BBC’s A Child’s Christmases in Wales, which updates the story to the 1980s (one of the characters even has a pretty righteous Flock of Seagulls hairdo). It perfectly captures the agony and the ecstasy of spending the holidays with your family.

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Delayed literary gratification and me

To put a fine point on it, delayed gratification has never been a strong suit of mine. Unless it’s something I want with the fire of a million wish lists which necessitates waiting, I’ll usually go for the closer, more immediate reward.

However, the other day I picked up two books I’m planning to read on my trip to England next March. That’s a little over three months. That I will have books in my vicinity. That I’m not allowing myself to read. For three months.

I’ve decided to put them in my closet underneath some pleather hooker books because a) if reading isn’t sexy, what is? and b) if I can’t see them on a daily basis, I won’t be tempted by them. Hopefully.

Thankfully my local library is reopening this week after some much-needed refurbishing, so I’ll have that lifeline.

This is going to be tough!

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Holiday Reading Preview

books

In case you’ve been hiding in a hole somewhere (if it’s a Hobbit hole, let me know, ‘cause how awesome would that be), you know that the season of tinsel and peppermint EVERYTHING is almost upon us.

Here at Semperlibris, we’re not immune to the odd bit of holiday spirit. And if it’s attached to some top-notch literature, so much the better!

So in the Yuletide spirit, here’s a rough list of some of the festive books I’ll be reading throughout December.

Krampus: The Yule Lord (Brom)

-Twisted fairy tale featuring Krampus, the Scandinavian trickster demon and, of course, Santa Claus. Lovely illustrations really help create nuanced characters.

The Englishman’s Christmas: A Social History (J.A.R. Pimlott)

-Explores the origins (from the Middle Ages onward) of many facets of a traditional English Christmas, with an emphasis on the mixing of Christian and Pagan influences.

The Reader’s Digest Book of Christmas (various)

-A holiday favourite of mine, this book presents the story of the birth of Christ, the history of Christmas, selections of Christmas literature, and examples of Christmas traditions from around the world.

Hogfather (Terry Pratchett)

-Delightfully zany ode to all things Yuletide (especially Santa Claus). This will be my first Discworld novel!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I hear that carton of eggnog in the fridge calling my name.

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A Quick Word on The Narrative of John Smith

JohnSmith

One of the numerous books I picked up on my honeymoon in Britain, The Narrative of John Smith is Arthur Conan Doyle’s unpublished (well, at least until now, that is) first novel.

As a first novel from an emerging writer (who would go on to become a literary heavyweight), it’s actually not bad. It’s interesting enough and doesn’t have any glaring flaws. It is, in a very real sense of the word, ok.

However, it’s not really a novel in the popular sense. It’s more of a linked series of dissertations on various subjects, which, incidentally, would seem more appropriate coming from a young man’s mouth than a 50-year-old man who is laid up with a vicious case of gout.

But, in the end, this must-read for any die-hard Doyle fan provides invaluable insight into the mind of the author and so is worth the read, although what is on offer isn’t quite what is advertised.

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Recommendation Corner: Rivers of London

Set in London, this light urban fantasy series by Ben Aaronovitch follows the adventures of Peter Grant, a biracial police constable who discovers not only that magic is real but also that he is one of a few practitioners.

I love this series for so many reasons (too many to list here, really), but one of the biggies is that the narrator and protagonist is a person of colour. So refreshing to see!

A must read for any budding or established Anglophile, I especially enjoyed rereading this series after returning from my honeymoon in England. And at about 300 pages each, they’re super quick to whip through.

Best read in order, the books out now are Rivers of London (printed as Midnight Riot in the U.S.), Moon Over Soho, Whispers Under Ground, and Broken Homes.  Fifth book Foxglove Summer is due out early January 2015 (with a rumoured sixth book on the way) and you better believe I’m going to preorder that bad boy.

A word of caution though. Be sure to get the British version with the funky, hand-drawn map-style covers. The American covers are absolutely horrendous.

*A bit of a short post this week, I know, but as I’m currently recovering from a stuffy head cold, slicing my hand open on a cat-food-tin lid, and one heck of a Halloween party, I think I’m entitled to slack off just a little bit.*

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