August– a great month for reading! Since moving, I have treated myself to a wondrous library card which I intend to take full advantage of. (Did she just end a sentence with a preposition? Yes she did!) There is an excellent library here with a branch just around the corner from my apartment. In fact, I would be there right now if it was not closed on Sundays.
Trickster’s Choice and Trickster’s Queen by Tamora Pierce
Tamora Pierce is one of the most influential writers in my life. Her Lioness Quartet numbers among my favorite works of literature. So, imagine my joy when I obtained the first of these books in hardcover from Swaptree.com. This two volume series is set in the Tortall universe and follows the adventures of Alanna’s daughter, Alianne of Pirate’s Swoop as she finds herself embroiled in the affairs of the trickster god, Kyprioth.
Like many of Pierce’s works, this series features a strong female protagonist. Aly is the sort of hero a young girl can look up to. She is strong, independent, and uses her own skills and strengths to work her way through tough situations. She is the sort of female hero that seems to be lacking in more recent young adult works.
I enjoyed both books but the first is by far the more interesting of the two. I loved the intricacies of Aly’s world of spies and the intrigue of the brewing revolution happening within the Balitang household. I loved watching Aly grow from a spoiled, misdirected girl to a self-assured, powerful woman.
Still, there were several points within the series that were disappointing. Above all, I found it hard to connect or feel for many of the characters within the novels. Aside from Aly herself, the majority of the characters felt one-dimensional– as though too much time was spent treating the characters as if they were chess pieces on a game board instead of individuals. I can see, due to the nature of the story itself, how this was necessary but it was rather disappointing. Again, the second book spent too much time lining up pieces than creative a compelling narrative. It was only near the end of the second volume that I started to feel for the characters as I had in the first book, and by then the story was ready to end.
Just After Midnight by Stephen King
The short story is my favorite form of literature. It takes a true master to craft a successful and compelling short story and in many ways this newest collection from Stephen King falls short. I have one major complaint about King’s works and it features prominently within this collection: his writing becomes formulaic after a while. There are distinct patterns, themes, and ideas that prevail throughout this collection (as well as his other works).
Just After Sunset essentially boils down to the same story written three or four times with different characters in slightly different situations or settings. I like my short stories to be filled with ideas and a certain degree of mystery– many of these were simply stories for the sake of stories. Sure, they were entertaining to read but unmemorable beyond that.
That said, there were several stories within the collection that satisfied the short story elitist lurking in my chest. (Incidentally, she’s usually dressed all in black, wearing a black beret, and sipping coffee like the stereotypical poetic type. “Lowfat milk and two shots of espresso, please,” she requests from the other side of a chain coffee-shop counter.) My favorite story from the collection is simply titled N. and tells the story of a circle of stones and the people whose lives are consumed in maintaining a rift. My other favorite stories include Willa and Stationary Bike.
Overall, the collection was entertaining if not the most profound collection of stories. Who doesn’t enjoy a little human suffering and horror every now and again?
Night by Elie Wiesel
This one can easily be finished in an afternoon. I picked it up on a whim between chatting and gaming online, before I knew it I was turning the last page and swaying back and forth between disgust and amazement. I think what I liked most about this narrative was the simplicity of the writing. Night is blunt and powerful. I regret not having the opportunity to read it for a class, but am infinitely glad it popped up on my Swaptree page.
Overall, it has been a productive month for reading on the home front! I think this has been the only New Year’s Resolution I’ve actually managed to stick to.