30 in 30: Day 20 (good porn has kissing in it)

First edition cover
Image via Wikipedia

Favorite kiss

Kushiel’s Avatar.

Ok, there’s a lot of kissing in the Kushiel Series. The series is pretty much porn, with hefty amounts of romance and mysticism thrown in (any wonder why I love it so much?), and it’s fantastically written.

Anyway.

[SPOILER ALERT]

Later on in the book, Joscelin and Phedre (and Imriel) are on their way to find the Name of God so Phedre can save Hyacinth from his fate. She and Joscelin are having issues in their relationship because of their experience in Daršanga. When Joscelin and Imriel are fishing, Joscelin catches a large fish and drops it at Phedre’s feet. Something changes in that moment, and Phedre steps right over the fish and kisses Joscelin full on the lips. They find a secluded area and make love, blessed by Elua as they find solace and healing in each other’s caresses.

It was a very sweet kiss.

30 in 30: Day 19 (more talking about porn–I mean, the Kushiel series)

First edition cover
Image via Wikipedia

Favorite book cover (bonus points for posting an image!)

Kushiel’s Chosen.

The second book in the series, it’s the one where we get to see Phedre’s marque in full on the cover. The previous cover showed a profile shot of her, which had only part of the marque. (Also…I’m not too fond of her face in the first cover (and the third). They don’t fit with what my head came up with, and there’s a certain amount of cognitive dissonance there. In general I prefer when the main character’s faces are not depicted at all — or at least only partially — on book covers, because it leaves more to the imagination.)

As is probably well known, Carey’s Kushiel series has an entire fanbase who have gotten book-inspired tattoos, most notably the marque. The marque is a huge part of the series, and it was nice to see it shown on the bookcover.

(Also, awesome to see her Longest Night costume.)

30 in 30: Day 18 (Wiccans in Space, female-dominated societies, and the family Jewels)

Cover of "Daughter of the Blood (Black Je...
Cover via Amazon

Favourite Opening Scene to a Book

This is honestly something I haven’t given a lot of thought. Either the opening scene of a book is interesting enough grip me and I read the rest of the book, or it’s not and I don’t. I don’t rank the opening scenes as “favourites”.

A few books’ opening scenes that stand out are Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop, The Fifth Sacred Thing by Starhawk, and an as-of-yet unpublished work the name of which I can’t remember by Kara Smith, an old friend of mine from high school. It was science fiction — Wiccans in space, basically, except way better than that phrase would lead you to believe. I need to find my copy back and reread it — Kara is an excellent storyteller, and the work is unfinished (well, the copy I have is), so it’s really the biggest clit-tease in the world to read the story over and over again. I should try and look up Kara again. Haven’t spoken to her in ages.

I digress. Aside from those opening scenes, I don’t know. Like I said, it either grips me or it doesn’t, and beyond that I really don’t think about it.

30 in 30: Day 17 (wolf-dogs, whiskey, and badass women)

Favorite story or collection of stories (short stories, novellas, novelettes, etc.)

Cover photo for How to Keep a Human

My favourite collection of short stories is How to Keep a Human (as told by Amaruq), written by Kaimana Wolff.

The stories are ghost-written by Amaruq the wolf dog, and tell of his adventures in Yukon with his pack leader, Kaimana Wolff. Kaimana lived up in Yukon with Amaruq in her 20s, and all these stories are true. (And the truth about stories is — that’s all we are. But I’ve already talked about Thomas King on this blog.)

My favourite story is The King of Dawson City, wherein Amaruq and Kaimana defend their thrones from interlopers from the south. It’s my favourite because in it, Kaimana ends up beating up a guy for making one unwanted sexual advance on her too many (and for siccing his dog on Ruq), in the middle of a cheering crowd in Dawson City, while Ruq holds his own against the other dog. Why does this make me so happy? Kaimana Wolff is my mother, and this story illustrates just how badass she is — and that badass blood runs in my veins.

I come from a long line of badass Dutch women, all the way back to the Viking age. We wear combat boots, chug sourtoe cocktails, run with the wolves, and don’t take any crap from any man.

And our dogs write about our exploits in short story collections.

30 in 30: Day 16 (democracy has miles to go before we can sleep)

Favourite Poem or Collection of Poetry

This is a difficult one. I don’t have many favourite poems as I have favourite poets, and when I look at their works there are a few poems that jump out at me.

So I have two.

The first is by Langston Hughes.

Democracy

Democracy will not come
Today, this year
Nor ever
Through compromise and fear.

I have as much right
As the other fellow has
To stand
On my two feet
And own the land.

I tire so of hearing people say,
Let things take their course.
Tomorrow is another day.
I do not need my freedom when I’m dead.
I cannot live on tomorrow’s bread.

Freedom
Is a strong seed
Planted
In a great need.

I live here, too.
I want freedom
Just as you.

The second is by Robert Frost.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

These two poets are not my only favourites — I’m also very fond of Emily Dickinson — but they are the ones whose poems came to mind for this post. They are definitely masters of the craft. These poems are so simple, and yet so poignant. They do not waste breath with unnecessary chatter.

The art of poetry lies within the ability to prune.

Within the ability to stop.

30 in 30: Day 15 (in which I am fairly whimsical about the Rootabaga Country)

Cover of 1922 edition of Rootabaga Stories, by...
Image via Wikipedia

Your “comfort” book

Rootabaga Stories by Carl Sandberg.

I first read this book when I was fairly young. The stories ‘were born of Sandburg’s desire for “American fairy tales” to match American childhood. He felt that the European stories involving royalty and knights were inappropriate, and so set his stories in a fictionalized American Midwest called “the Rootabaga country” filled with farms, trains, and corn fairies.’ [1]

Alongside the traditional fairy tales brought over to North America from Europe, I grew up in Canada reading Rootabaga Stories, and they spoke to me much more strongly than the Brothers Grimm. There was a sense of adventure alongside a definite level of ridiculousness in the stories; they were crazy enough that you could believe they were true.

You get to the Rootabaga Country by train, and I’m sure it’s this book that created my childhood love of trains (that, and travelling by train from Vancouver to LA and across to Albuquerque and back again in an awesome trip that involved Disney Land and Universal Studios).

There’s something very reassuring about the idea that you can get to a mythical land if you just go far enough in a train, or on a bike, or by bus.  The idea that escape is always an option, if life gets too bad.

That is why we read fiction, after all. To escape into another world, if only for a few hours. I’ve spent my life finding new ways to escape every situation — so is it any wonder the books that bring me comfort are the ones where that fantastic land is just around the corner, and I’ll see it if I just squint my eyes the right way?

Time and time again I pick up this book and read through it, and find myself content in the knowledge that if it is so far, so early, and so soon, that I can get a long slick yellow leather slab ticket with a blue spanch across it and I will ride where the railroad tracks run off into the sky and never come back. [2]

30 in 30: Day 14 (in which I briefly talk about the Chaotic Canine, as portrayed by Thomas King)

Favorite character in a book (of any sex or gender)

This is kind of a difficult question. I mean, I’ve read like a thousand books (I wish life had achievement trackers like WoW does) so choosing one character out of all those stories is sort of a monumental task.

But, eh, what the hell. Coyote from Green Grass, Running Water, by Thomas King. First of all, I love the book, highly recommend it — it’s funny, poignant, and succinct. King is a master storyteller and humble, too (I recommend listening to his CBC Massey Lecture, The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative), and after having the aforementioned novel assigned last semester in class I’m pretty excited to read his other works.

Coyote is the Chaotic Canine. He’s referred to as Coyote, but it never actually says that he appears as such — he could be human too. He’s always getting into trouble, or causing it. In Green Grass, Running Water his thread runs throughout all the stories, but mainly the creation story that pops in every few chapters and blends both Native and Christian imagery (it is even hinted at that Coyote is responsible for Mary’s “virgin” birth, which is pretty funny).

The main idea behind Coyote is that if there is Order, he will introduce Chaos to disrupt things. Because Order left alone lets things stagnate, and then we never grow. It is only Chaos that allows things to flourish — and as Chaos naturally gives rise to Order, it’s a self-perpetuating cycle. Order appears, Coyote disrupts it, Chaos reigns, Order appears again.

I think it’s obvious why he’s my favorite character. He’s an agent of chaos (like me) and he’s hilarious about it. To paraphrase from the book:

Talks-to-Coyote: “Where were you when the Rangers were shot, Coyote?”

Coyote: “I was in Toronto.”

Talks-to-Coyote: “When was that?”

Coyote: “…when were the Rangers shot?”

It’s like the Eddie Izzard sketch about how we lie about everything as kids: “I was dead at the time! I was on the moon, with Steve!” That’s Coyote.

 

30 in 30: Day 13 (in which I talk about ducks and how Chris Weitz is a complete fucking ass and should suffer for destroying The Golden Compass)

Favorite childhood book OR current favorite YA book (or both!)

My favorite book as a child was Drakestail, which is an old French folk tale. Mom would read it with me, and we’d sing out the repeating chorus of Quack! Quack! Quack! When shall I get my money back? together with great relish and glee. I especially liked that the duck was dating the river. Seemed rather apropos.

The Golden Compass is my current favorite YA book. I haven’t yet read the rest of the trilogy, but the first book is top notch. It is a response to The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis and the not-so-subtle Christianity embedded in that story and world. (Seriously, re-reading it as an adult I’m like “Oh, so THAT’S where all those dominant Christian tropes in my brain that I’ve had to train myself out of came from! The obvious sexism in Narnia (“War is ugly when women fight!” um dude war is usually ugly, and tell that to the Morrigan JUST SAYIN), and that children’s Bible some neighbour gave to me when I was a kid which is honestly pretty creepy now that I think about it.” I mean, in general I don’t have a problem with Christianity OR the Bible, but there are very strong tropes of misogyny, racism, etc, within both book (especially when it’s been simplified for kids, like in my children’s Bible) and Church and it takes a thinking Christian to put aside the “This is how things were back then” and see it as an interesting look at history/a repository of facts, myth, religious meaning, etc. Like, it’s possible to read the Bible and take beauty and meaning from it and not hatred and bigotry (especially internalized self-hatred), just like it’s possible to be a Christian and not be racist/misogynist/classist/etc. I’ve seen it happen. Anyway, I digress.)

Continue reading “30 in 30: Day 13 (in which I talk about ducks and how Chris Weitz is a complete fucking ass and should suffer for destroying The Golden Compass)”

30 in 30: Day 12 (in which I pick apart Anne McCaffrey’s “feminism” and tell you why ten year olds really should not read her books (or my posts, truthfully))

A book or series of books you’ve read more than five times

Ugh. I really really really wish I could say The Black Jewels Trilogy for this one, but unfortunately I keep on losing my copy of that one and haven’t replaced enough times to have read it more than five times (I have read it four times). So in the interest of full disclosure…Freedom’s Landing, by Anne McCaffrey.

Don’t judge me! I was young! I did it for the money sex scene!

To be fair, though, Freedom’s Landing is a pretty good book, even if it is a prime example of some of Ms McCaffrey’s Favorite Tropes (that sounds like it should be a holiday dish of some sort: Favorite Tropes! Made of tears and repetition!).

She does ease up on the RACE A GOOD, RACE B EVIL (because A is for Aryan and B is for Black, see?) thing a little bit, but then puts all the blame on RACE C (for…cookies. They are a NEVER food!). To wit: book starts off with the Catteni established as the Bad Guys (with the exception of one, Zanial, who’s “good” even though he did try to rape the main character within the first 10 or so pages of the book) and the Terrans, Rugarians, Deski, and…some other alien races I’m forgetting the names of being the Good Guys. Catteni go around subjugating planets and taking slaves. One of the uses for slaves: making them colonize less-than-friendly planets for the Catteni, who will then move in and take advantage of all the slaves’ hard work. Apparently this works very well for them, and is important, as it is the basis of the entire book.

So, Kris Bjornsen and her fellow slaves get dropped on this planet…along with Zanial (it’s her fault she’s there, by the way, because when he made a move to grab her and rip her clothing off, she hit him over the head with a blunt object and then went to toss him in a deserted street of the main town of Barevi, only to get gassed because of the slave riots), whose life she saves by convincing the self-established leader of the slave-colonizers that Z would be useful.

By the end of the book it’s revealed that the Catteni are being controlled by a greater, EVILLER race, the Eosi (so I suppose they’d be Race E), who possess Catteni and make them do really gross things (like vote Republican). It is also revealed that Zanial has an amazing cock.

Because oh yes. Kris falls in love with him. And they totally do it. And it’s actually pretty hot, granted, but perhaps not the best thing for an impressionable 10 year old to be reading. Not because of the sex scene — I’m fully sex positive, and think kids can learn about sex and know about it a lot earlier than we give them credit for  — but because of the relationship dynamic.

Continue reading “30 in 30: Day 12 (in which I pick apart Anne McCaffrey’s “feminism” and tell you why ten year olds really should not read her books (or my posts, truthfully))”

30 in 30: Day 11 (where I talk about the Duke’s flat soda)

A book that disappointed you

The Duke’s Ballad, by Andre Norton.

It was just fucking crap is what it was. I started reading it and it seemed to be starting a bit slow, but I persevered. I was on vacation after all, and it was one of the three books I had. I wasn’t going to NOT read it on account of it starting slow.

Worst. decision. ever.

There was the point in the book, this magical point, where I realized how crap the book was and how much better off I’d be if I just lit it on fire and threw it in Lago Atitlan. This magical point was also just past the point where I couldn’t stop reading it because it would drive me crazy if I didn’t finish it.

I finished it. It was flat like old soda. The characters were flat, the story was flat, the romance was flat, the tension was flat. I felt nothing for the main character, aside a wish she would die at some point. I sort of wished for them all to die. The protagonists were vaguely good as the antagonists were vaguely bad. Wasn’t much reason for either. I think there was some magic in it at some point, but I can’t be sure because it was 5 years ago and it was fucking terrible and there’s only so much therapy can block out.

So. My recommendation? DON’T FUCKING READ IT OMG MY EYEEEEESSSS.

Just saying.

 

Oh, and by the way? The duke? WAS THE BAD GUY. The book is about how he’s not really that bad, just misunderstood, or something, and the protagonist writes him a ballad when he dies. It made no sense because there was no clear motivation for anyone’s actions. It was a giant pile of WTF.