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Shiri gets thumbs up from Night Owl Reviews

Look what I woke up to!

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Check out the review here.

Ah yes … five stars … top pick … “exceptional novel” … “The writing was fantastic” … “I can actually see it adapted to the movie screen” … “I just couldn’t put it down.”

All the things I like to hear! Well that’s my blog post for the day short and sweet!

Sansa Stark Rocks

sansaWow, I’ve just been visiting a particular forum dedicated to George RR Martin’s epic series ‘Song of Ice and Fire’, and my overriding memory of the experience is surprise at the sheer quantity of Sansa hatred out there.  In my esteemed opinion Sansa is one of the best written and most intriguing characters in the whole series. She’s developing and growing more than any other character. Despite this it’s clear that there is no more hated character in House Stark than Sansa. I’d wager she is even more hated than her pain in the arse mother.

Catelyn Stark - Twice as annoying as Jar Jar Binks and three times harder to kill

What did Old George do to bring such wrath down upon Sansa? Well … he wrote a realistic portrayal of your average teenage girl. Yup, it’s just that bad, seriously, the next time you’re thinking of writing a character that you want people to loath just picture a naïve 13/14 year old girl with say a Robert Pattinson obsession and you’re sorted.

As sure as the sun rises in the east such a portrayal will get people discussing your work with erudite and philosophical musings similar to the following:

“I hope Sansa ends up getting her head chopped off. That would be poetic justice.”

 “Sansa is sooo annoying and selfish. I hope she gets killed off.”

 “Sansa’s selfishness and stupidity got her father killed, I’d rather see her die than Cersei. At least Cersei is interesting.”

And my personal favourite …

“Sansa deserves to be raped, humiliated and tortured to death.”

Yup, apparently naïve teenage girls who believe in fairytales and just want everything to be ‘nice and pretty like in the stories,’ deserve to be raped and or murdered in the most gruesome fashion Old George can devise. (And knowing George RR Martin that’s pretty damn gruesome.)

Now, I’ll admit when I first read Game, Sansa was far from my favourite, character, I thought she was a spoilt, selfish, brat. But hey how many girl’s in her position wouldn’t be? What makes her character so great is not just that it is realistic but that more than any other character in the series she is developing and changing. Believe me, Sansa is going to be one major badass before Old George is done. I for one would much rather see somebody like her bring down Cersei and co. than I dunno … cough … DANY.

Sansa Stark

Tell me this is not on the way to being a major badass

Yup, Sansa Stark rocks.

Five Star book Reviews – Gone With The Wind

Gone With The WindThe secret of Gone with the Wind is that Scarlet O’ Hara IS the Confederacy. What Margaret Mitchell effectively does, is take the South as she saw it and turn it into flesh and blood. I never realised it until I was almost finished, but the book is one big metaphor.

Scarlett begins as a wholly unlikable character, spoilt, arrogant, brash, selfish, uninterested in anything that doesn’t directly revolve around her etc. etc. Pretty much the same way the author describes the South/Atlanta.

But just like the south she has other characteristics too. Determination, single-mindedness and a survival instinct that would give Bear Grylls a run for his money. If the film changed quite a bit about the book (the number of children she has, the quantity of racism etc.) one thing above all else remained the same: Scarlett. That’s probably why it was such a success.

Scarlett O' HaraI will say that in my humble opinion the book is far from flawless. I can’t imagine publishers today going anywhere near it, simply because of the length. At times its mammoth size makes it almost a chore to read . You could probably cut the book down to half the word count and not lose too much. But then that is probably more a comment on my attention span than quality of the book. In fact, I’m sure some would argue that it is its length that allows Mitchell to define her characters so well. From selfish Scarlett, to selfless Melanie, (one of the few truly likable characters in it) each of the main characters feels very real and believable.

Of course, if you’re the type that enjoys political correctness and happy endings, steer clear of this one. From fine beginnings and great dreams Scarlett’s life, just like that of the Confederacy spirals down and down into one endless pit of tragedy. Despite her determination and drive and incredible ability to pick herself up and struggle on against insurmountable odds, there is no happy ending in store for her, or the old Confederacy, which as I’ve said, I believe she is the embodiment of.

 

The women of Lord of the Rings

Somebody once advised me that the Lord of The Rings “is like totally cliché.” I conceded that since pretty much everyone has copied it, it probably is.

two towers

It’s cliché don’t you know

The same person also pointed out that there are undertones of sexism and even racism in the great tome. I guess some … and I suppose the academic term would be ‘post colonial’ criticism is inevitable.

So I thought I’d check out at least one of these criticisms … Is the Lord of The Rings Sexiest?

Well, it’s certainly true that Tolkien couldn’t write female characters to save his life. (Or perhaps more accurately he could, but just didn’t bother.)

True enough, the guy possessed an intellect of epic proportions. A veritable goliath of the mind, Tolkien forged entire worlds out of words and imagination, invented species, peoples, histories, and pretty much kick started the whole epic fantasy genre. But ask him to figure out why the missus’s knickers are in a twist and I’d wager you’d get a blank look.

The truth is there is only one decent female character in Lord of The Rings – Éowyn.

Eowyn

Am I the only one who thinks its messed up that Aragorn went for the elf instead of this?

If you disagree and say, ‘oh but what about that elf queen, Galadril? She’s female and brilliant!’ you may as well stop reading now. Galadril was practically a half god, immortal super being. She may as well have been an asexual twenty foot tall, fire breathing preying mantis. And if you mention Aragorn’s elfin crush, well, can I just say, I’m talking about the book not the films. Believe it or not, Liv Tyler barely appeared in the book.

Yup, there’s only one good female character in the whole trilogy. Of course the problem that some people point to here, is that Tolkien only manages to make her decent by making her a complete Tom Boy. Would it be too much to say, he basically writes another male character and then simply sticks him into a skirt?

Okay that’s overly harsh, we’ll stick with Tom Boy and as I said, she is a good/great character. So that’s one.  But if you were to compare Tolkien to the man often regarded as the modern Tolkien, George RR Martin, you’d see the difference a few decades makes. George’s books are populated by a plethora of very strong, multi faceted and above all, believable female characters. Just look at the likes of Cat, Cersei, Dany and the naïve but very underrated and to my mind brilliantly written character – Sansa. Okay, Arya is the kick ass Tom Boy, but no harm there. No doubt if Tolkien had written ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ Arya would be the only girl in the whole series.

Yeah, one thing I find to be a bit of a cop out, is the way some authors, (particularly fantasy authors) believe that to make a strong female character she has to kick ass with a sword, or be a better shot than all the guys with a longbow, or whatever, i.e. she has to be this …

And that’s where they’re wrong. A woman doesn’t have to be Xena to be strong.

Now that’s not an indictment of Tolkien, but it is most certainly an indictment of some modern authors who repeatedly fall into what I like to call the ‘Xena’ trap. If you ask me they fall into it because it is easy. You’re faced with a conundrum ‘how do I write a strong female character into my world of warriors and dragons? Oh, I know I give her a great big sword and have her bash up a half dozen guys every other chapter. Girl Power!’

Now THATS cliché. I’d rather start with a picture of a woman that I know, say for arguments sake the missus. Now, she’s a strong character, but more importantly, she’s real. She’s not going to beat up Vitali Klitschko, but I bet you any money, if he was threatening something, or somebody she cared about, or loved, she would try to stand up to him all the same. That’s real courage, real strength. Not phoney, Xena strength.

Oh, and before you start, I’m not saying Xena characters are wrong per say, but I’d just be extra careful when writing them. After all, even if your book is fantasy, your characters should still be real.

Anyway back to Tolkien, I’d say yes, one decent female character in a book anywhere near LOTR’s scale and scope, would be a major flaw in a modern novel. But to say the same of LOTR is to ignore the fact that the book was not written yesterday, it is of its time and should be judged as such. The older the book you’re reading, the more detached you are from the author and time in which it was written. Besides, I think most of us can agree that Éowyn’s “I am no man!” assurance rocked big time.

So yes from a modern perspective (and not even including the incessant singing and poetry) there are flaws in Lord of the Rings. If you’re hyper sensitive to such things and are looking out for them, I guess you can point to various passages and themes shouting, “ Racism! Sexism!” or whatever. You could do that all day and I’d say, “Sure, you got a point, but you know what? The book still rules.”

And in answer to the question, is The Lord of the Rings sexist? Well the answer is simple. NO. It’s just male orientated, and at risk of a backlash, in my mind that makes it no more sexiest than a ‘chick lit’ that centers mainly around female characters.

 

Treasure Island versus Captain Blood

Do kids still grow up reading about Long John Silver, or does their knowledge of pirates extend no further than Johnny Depp and Orlando what’s his face?  If you ask me, the powers that be should consider sticking Treasure Island on the Leaving Cert curriculum instead of yawn fests like, Hard Times and that story about the kid who gets stuck on some island in the Caribbean.

Treasure Island Robert Loius Stephenson

Treasure Island - It's better than Hard Times

But younglings aside, pretty much everyone agrees that Treasure Island is the greatest pirate yarn ever written. As usual, pretty much everyone is wrong. Captain Blood eats Long John Silver for breakfast.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Treasure Island isn’t without its merits, it’s a great tale of pirates, adventure, buried treasure etc. And Long John is quite possibly the first anti-hero ever. But Peter aka ‘Captain’ Blood is just a bucket load of awesome from the first page to the last. For example, Peter Blood is so awesome, that even after god knows how many weeks locked up in some slave ship’s bilge, he is still able to get super hot Arabella Bishop to swoon.

In fact if I had one criticism, it would be that Mr. Blood suffers from a serious case of awesome overload. He could beat Kasparov in a game of chess, down a bottle of rum, turn around and send Tyson to the canvas in a bare knuckle brawl, before boarding his ship and sinking half the Spanish Armada. I do prefer my heroes to have at least some flaws.

Oh by the by, if you don’t fancy reading it, there’s always the old black and white 1930s movie.

Captain Blood Errol Flynn Olivia de Havilland

Okay, admittedly Errol Flynn manages to corn things up pretty impressively but fear not, the actress playing ‘Arabella’ (Olivia de Havilland) more than makes up for that … oh yes.

 

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