Monday, January 16, 2012

Reading Journal | 1-16-2012

So continues my sojourn into keeping up with my goals this year, and paying attention to what I read (and watch). As with the other (writing journal), I'm not exactly sure what I want to do with the format just yet, so we'll just keep this nice and simple.

Reading Journal:

Finished Conqueror by Conn Iggulden. LibraryThing Early Reviewers program. Review posted. (Historical Fiction, New Author (to me), Male)

Finished From Dead to Worse by Charlaine Harris. Loved it. Harris' skill continues to grow with each book in the series, as well as the evolution from a series of stand alone stories to a growing epic urban fantasy. Also, a female protagonist who is neither a super hero nor utterly weak, Sookie increasingly makes tough emotional decisions and stands her ground and has to live with the decisions she's made. Is this series as dramatic or complex as most of the fantasy I read? Absolutely not. It's light, it's fun, it's part mystery, part paranormal romance, part urban fantasy. It's certainly escapist - but it's well done - and I believe that to be the point. I am certain to continue with the series. (Urban Fantasy, Female Author)

Next: Marquis de Sade, one of his stories in the anthology I have.

Viewing Journal:

Barbarians - The Mongols.  Was surprised to find this whole History channel documentary on YouTube. It was informative, of course, and more content than I expected. For me, it went hand in hand with Mongol (2007), in my collection, and Conqueror, above. Research wise, the Mongols intrigue me tremendously due to their nomadic lifestyle and effective war strategy - there's at least one or two tribes in Zherlios that will eventually parallel the Mongols, one way or the other (although not entirely).

History's Turning Points - BC 31, Battle of Actium. This was a historical documentary, reflected in Season Two of HBO's Rome. The interesting facts from this were that Octavius wasn't a member of the household (as the fiction suggested), and the slightly less romantic tale of Antony and Cleopatra. However, historically accurate or not, both of those arcs, as well as the warfare involved, make for fantastic fiction.

History's Turning Points - BC 480 - Battle of Salamis. Everyone knows the infamous Battle of Thermopylae, but what is lesser known is that the Persians continued to advance after defeating the Spartans. Ultimately, the Persians were beaten at sea, then again on land by a larger Greek force. This documentary covered those events, with the focus on the naval battle in the Bay of Salamis.

What's fascinating to me, in watching the documentaries, is the level of technology present 2,000 years ago. So often genre readers complain about how all fantasies are set in "medieval" or "Renaissance" settings - but most of the technologies that are considered medieval were actually developed in classical times, in the reign of the ancient Egyptian, Roman, Greek and Persian Empires.

The Fellowship of the Ring (extended version), The Two Towers (extended version), and The Return of the King (extended version). With The Hobbit (Part 1) coming out in December, I thought it was reasonable to rewatch the trilogy. Watching the modernization of Tolkien is refreshing and inspiring. In many ways, I respect and appreciate his tropes, his world-building, his bestiary. (Truly, for a good time, look up "do Dwarven women have beards" on the internet. Hilarious.) In this way, I think the established tropes should be left alone, and accepted as they are.

However, I couldn't help but notice that the Hobbits as a race aren't particularly believable - and with what I've seen of The Hobbit so far - Dwarves are comedy relief. In my own writings, Halflings are more functional and organized as a tribe, and Dwarves take themselves a little more seriously. And, yes, Dwarven women do have beards. Even in real life, one culture's definition of beauty is not the same as the next. In terms of moral ambiguity (Tolkien is too black and white, it is said), I don't think there's wrong with GOOD vs EVIL. It has a place and it's escapist and entertaining and clean. But I also enjoy shades of grey. If you look close enough, even in Peter Jackson's telling, it's not all "super good" versus "super bad", it's a great deal of "mostly good" versus "mostly bad". This is another post altogether, for another time.


Anything that I've read or seen that you are curious about? Do ask! Otherwise, have a great week!

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