Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Ermahgerd, how is November almost over?!

Hello readers! I can’t believe it’s almost Thanksgiving. Things have been a little slow around here due to the inescapable reality of things being busy in life, but I wanted to get one post in before the holiday madness begins. I haven’t been finishing many books lately (again with the busy), but I thought I’d do the review-in-progress thing for a couple that I’m flailing about in the middle of, note a few upcoming ones I’m looking forward to reading, and other sundry book-related stuff. I’m also very excited for Entertainment Weekly’s holiday shopping guide! It’ll have a section dedicated to books, so you can expect me to prattle on about that for a while whenever it arrives in my mailbox. So, what have I oh-so-valiantly been trying work my way through?

Books I’m Reading

Look! A pretty cover! And a biography of Cleopatra!

I’ve been stuck in the first hundred pages of this one for a couple weeks, and I just don’t understand. When this one was sitting on the library stack in the corner of my room, I would cheat on the books I was actually reading by going over and flipping through its pages, and the passages I opened up to would be really absorbing and I’d have to tear myself away to go finish the books I was focusing on. But strangely enough, now that it’s time for me to focus on this one, I can’t. It’s not that it’s boring—it’s just very slow going for me for some reason, which is so confusing considering how I got sucked in before. Ten pages is about my limit before I starting thinking to myself, I’ll just rest my eyes for a minute, and then read some more… before nodding off.

I’ve learned a lot, though—for instance, I somehow completely missed in my years of education that the Ptolemies of Egypt were not actually Egyptian at all, but Macedonian Greek. Pharaohs who weren’t Egyptian?! I feel a little betrayed! The writing somehow dances a line between feeling academic and popular history-ish, which I’m mostly okay with. But I do keep wanting the footnotes to provide deeper explanation of things mentioned in passing in the text above, rather than tangents with little to do with the thing they’re footnoting. And that’s another thing I’m having trouble with: The author, though writing a biography for general consumption, presupposes a lot of knowledge on the part of the reader, and mentions esoterica in passing with a feeling of, “Oh, everyone knows about that!”, or will refer to interesting things obliquely and then not provide further information. For example, there’ll be something like, “Though Cleopatra made terrible snickerdoodles, there was in fact an ancient king in the middle east who made the most scrumptious cookies around,” and then move on to talk about Cleopatra and Marc Antony’s home life WITHOUT TELLING US WHO MADE AWESOME COOKIES. So…we’ll see. This one might be going back to the library without me finishing it, but I’ll try a little more first.

I’ve only read one of the short stories in this anthology, but I’m enjoying it so far. It’s a book of retro sci-fi stories about “Old Mars,” a.k.a the Mars of aliens and canals and Edgar Rice Burroughs, compiled by longtime partners-in-editing, George R. R. Martin (of A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones fame) and Gardner Dozois. I like the idea of taking the older, pre-space exploration sci-fi ideas and bringing them back and revisiting them in an era after the discovery that the reality of Mars is not completely in line with the imaginations of those early sci-fi writers. There’s an element of fantasy to it (which I guess can be said of all sci-fi, when you get down to it), and it’s really fun. More thoughts to come after I’ve digested more stories! It’s hard to go wrong with GRRM. Which bring us to…

Books I’m Excited to Read

I know a lot of book blogs do the “Waiting on Wednesday” meme where each week on Wednesday they highlight an upcoming book that they’re excited to get their hands on, but…I’m not sure memes are my thing. And I don’t know if I could keep it up every week. AND it’s Tuesday, so I choose to be the salmon swimming against the meme current. I do what I want!!

Anyway, I am very much looking forward to the fantasy anthology Dangerous Women, edited (again) by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, out on December 3rd. Many of the stories appear to be set in fictional worlds with which I’m not terribly familiar (Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden books, to name a few), but many seem to be standalones, too. And, of course, the main reason for my interest is GRRM’s A Song of Ice and Fire novella “The Princess and the Queen,” which while sadly doesn’t feature Dunk and Egg, covers the tumultuous period of the Targaryen civil war 200 years or so before the events of the ASoIaF cycle proper. I am definitely one of those OH MY GOD GAME OF THRONES BOOKS WESTEROS I LOVE YOU I WILL READ ANYTHING YOU WRITE ABOUT IT GEORGE people, so this is a wonderful thing to be published right around the holidays (say, you think they did that on purpose?). You can read an excerpt of GRRM’s story here, and find excerpts of the other stories via Tor.com as well. Entertainment Weekly gave the overall collection a B and George’s story a B+, so I’m excited to read and see how my own evaluation holds up against theirs. Oh, here’s the not-particularly-inspiring cover:

What books are you reading? What are you looking forward to picking up soon? Let us know!


LadySol said...

GRRM actually wrote something, albeit a story in a collection? Wonders never cease. :P

Alyssa L. said...

I read it! My cousin kidnapped the book and managed to read all 800 pages in 2 days, but I only got through the GRRM story. It was pretty good, in a fictional-world-history sort of way, but the number of typos and continuity thingies was distracting. A dragon changed gender within a single paragraph!

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