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Another Wednesday, Another Reading Meme

What I've Just Finished Reading

I've been catching up slightly on things I'd started reading before I fell into the murderbog, with moderate success.

Dragons of Time - one of the fantasy recs from my sister-in-law from the Dragonlance series. The other Dragonlance item, the trilogy beginning with Dragons of Autumn Twilight, I've given up on. The endless introductions were too dreary and the footnotes made it worse, not better. Dragons of Time benefits enormously from being a short story collection with multiple authors writing in a variety of styles. There's nothing really amazing, but it's a decent mix of stories about dragons (except for one regrettable piece that wasn't about dragons at all) and I enjoyed most of it. I don't think I'll be seeking out any more Dragonlance books for now, though I may follow up on some of the authors in Dragons of Time.

Jane's Fame: How Jane Austen Conqered the World by Claire Harman - very light, bright and sparkling history of Jane Austen fandom and critical reception. I enjoyed it a lot, thought I would have liked it to be about 100 pages longer, a little more focused, and less rushed in spots.

What I'm Reading Now

"No sight so sad as that of a naughty child," he began, "especially a naughty little girl. Do you know where the wicked go after death?"
"They go to hell," was my ready and orthodox answer.
"And what is hell? Can you tell me that?"
"A pit full of fire."
"And should you like to fall into that pit, and to be burning there forever?"
"No, sir."
"What must you do to avoid it?"
I deliberated a moment: my answer, when it did come, was objectionable: "I must keep in good health, and not die."

The first four chapters of Jane Eyre are still some of the best chapters of anything anywhere. It remains to be seen what the next 32 chapters will bring, but I have every confidence in Charolotte Bronte even if she does think Jane Austen is boring. Jane Eyre was one of my first favorite books; I read it when I was just a little younger than Jane is at the beginning and I don't really know how to describe how astonishingly vivid and real Jane was to me. It was like making friends with a telepath. Ramona the Pest had a similar effect a little earlier in my life, but it wasn't at the library, so I am reading Jane first. I'm semi-planning to start a "100 important books" post schedule after the new year (another innovation stolen from osprey_archer), but first I have to figure out what my 100 books are. Jane Eyre will definitely be on the list.

I've also started reading The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin, another fantasy rec and another first-person narrator, but one who seems more interested in explaining the worldbuilding than in anything else. There are some really interesting concepts being introduced, but the narrator is still a blank. I think things may pick up in the next chapter, though.

What I Plan to Read Next

Too many choices. I just ran into a quote from Margaret Powell's memoir of domestic service, Below Stairs, and it looks excellent, but since I won't have any money for another month, I can only read it if it's available at the library. The Well of Loneliness, The Gambler and An Alphabetical Life (a memoir of bookselling c. 1960s-1990s) are all sitting around in my room plying their separate temptations. I also have another Ngaio Marsh book to try, but I've gone 30 hours murder-free and I'd like to make it 72 before I step out onto that road again.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 10th, 2014 08:45 pm (UTC)
An Alphabetical Life is an awesome title.

And I am so looking forward to your review of Jane Eyre!
Dec. 14th, 2014 12:04 am (UTC)
It's a great title! The book is tending to underwhelm me a little, but I might just have been spoiled by too many murders.

I'm looking forward to writing it, I think! 100 Important Books seems like just the sort of thing I should be doing right now. I am probably going to have to write 10 pages just about how much I love Jane before I get to a point where I can make reasonably clear sentences, though.
Dec. 12th, 2014 01:31 pm (UTC)
I was a huge fan of Dragonlance for a while, though I kind of feel if you don't get into it as a teenager then it's too late: Raistlin is such a perfect canon villain woobie.
I didn't like most of the short stories much, as far as I remember, though they were individual ones I loved. Not sure if there are any of my favourite ones in this volume. Does it have the one where there's this woman who's friends with a dragon interested in fashion? Or something like that.

I have Opinions about The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, but maybe I should wait until you've finished it. xD

Jane's Fame sounds fun.
Dec. 14th, 2014 12:16 am (UTC)
Opinions -- I love opinions! Did you. . . love it? (I haven't gotten much further due to commitments, but it is picking up a little).

The first and only other Dragonlance novel I read was called Dark Heart, and it was a later "backstory" novel about Raistlin's -- sister, I think? Kitiara, who is mentioned in Dragons of Autumn Twilight but had not appeared when I dropped it.

I had some qualms about the writing and the worldbuilding with that book, but I think I enjoyed it a little more because it was a later book that presumed some knowledge of the Dragonlance fauna, cultures, landscape, etc., and thereby avoided the approach of DoAT which was to have an interminable introduction section in which each member of a very large party has to walk slowly into the tavern trailing a separate cloud of exposition and demographic notes.

When I was twelve, I might have been up for it, but I couldn't turn off my Inner Editor and I just lost patience.

There was no dragon fashionista in my short-story collection, alas.

Edited at 2014-12-14 12:18 am (UTC)
Dec. 14th, 2014 01:38 pm (UTC)
Sadly, no. Imo, it doesn't get better. I loved the mythology, enough that I figure the book is worth it for that, but it seems clear that this is also the one element the author really cares about, and all the mortal characters, Yeine included, feel kind of lifeless to me, and the plot rather weak (not in that I didn't like what was happening, but in that I didn't really see the internal logic).
...I do hope you won't feel that way, though. I know other people did warm up to Yeine later on.

I meant to read Dark Heart, and the other one of that series (with Raistlin as the main character).
I remember a review site saying "the reader hears dice rolling in the background", and I think that's true. I liked the Legends series (the second one, with "Twins" in the titles) better, and I still think it's more original than the Chronicles (which Dragons of Autumn Twilight is part of), because they don't have such an obvious RPG-campaign plot, but, again, I'm not sure they have the same appeal to an adult.

Aw. Did it have the one with the draconians as main characters?
Dec. 15th, 2014 05:08 am (UTC)
It's been a while since I read the earliest stories, so I'm not sure -- I can check tomorrow.

"the reader hears dice rolling in the background"

. . . is the perfect way to put it. Though I don't know that I'd even mind the dice-rolling if it were handled a little differently. I love it when fictional detectives get all self-aware about their genre conventions, or when Shakespeare's characters talk about how good or bad the play version of their life is going to be. Hickman et al. could have done a little more to cover up the sound of rolling dice, OR they could have lampshaded it more (idk, maybe the Dragonlance gods DO play dice with the universe) -- I could have been happy either way, I think.

As for The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. . . we'll see!
Dec. 12th, 2014 07:53 pm (UTC)
Jane Eyre is fantastic! She's so odd and grumpy and independent, I just love her. I have some small quibbles with some of the other parts of the book, but Jane herself is definitely my favorite female character of literature from the 1800s.
Dec. 14th, 2014 12:24 am (UTC)
She is so great. I don't love the rest of the book quite as much as the opening chapters before she meets Rochester and kicks off The Really Gothic Mystery of the Mysterious House of Mystery, though I still love it a lot all the way through. I don't know if I'd say she's my favorite (favorite sounds so final) but she's definitely on the shortlist.

Though I did try to make a list of "best first-person narrators" earlier and noticed that most of them were male. I guess this means I need to read more.
Dec. 17th, 2014 03:03 am (UTC)
Yeah, Jane Eyre does kinda suffer from that "amazing beginning, less-amazing majority of the book" problem. It's always disappointing when that happens, but it's still a pretty great book.

That's an interesting list! I feel like really great first-person narrators are fairly rare.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )


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