Sunday, February 7, 2016

Book 8: The Misanthrope

The Misanthrope by Moliere is a French comedy written in 1666.  The main character Alceste despises the current trends in French society of empty praise and unmerited flattery and decides instead to denounce all men and speak with brutal honesty instead.  His friend Philinte advocates a less confrontational approach calling him to be more lenient and to cease his rantings.  He points out Alceste's own hypocrisy in decrying the flattery of men while at the same time being in love with Celimene, who is known for her coquettishness.  When Alceste asks Celimene to prove her love by sending away the other suitors, she declares that she loves him but does not wish to send the others away.  Later he demands she prove her love by leaving Paris with him to live away from other people; but while she is willing to marry him, she does not wish to leave Paris causing Alceste to declare he will no longer be her suitor.

While I find the ideas of the play thought-provoking and think Moliere did an excellent job in showing the folly of both brutal honesty and empty flattery, I did not enjoy this play nearly as much as Tartuffe.  The play is more character focused than plot focused, and quite frankly I disliked the characters.  While some of the dialogue was quite witty, I did not find the play entertaining or humorous.  I still believe that there is value is reading the play and exploring the ideas that it presents, but it is not something that I would read for enjoyment.

For me the crux of Moliere's position is found in the following passage:

"Come, let's forget the follies of the times
And pardon mankind for its petty crimes;
Let's have an end of rantings and of railings,
And show some leniency toward human failings.
This world requires a pliant rectitude;
Too stern a virtue makes one stiff and rude;
Good sense views all extremes with detestation,
And bids us to be noble in moderation.
The rigid virtues of the ancient days
Are not for us; they jar with all our ways
And ask of us too lofty a perfection.
Wise men accept their times without objection,
And there's no greater folly, if you ask me,
Than trying to reform society.
Like you, I see each day a hundred and one
Unhandsome deeds that might be better done,
But still, for all the faults that meet my view,
I'm never known to storm and rave like you.
I take men as they are, or let them be,
And teach my soul to bear their frailty;"(23)

My initial takeaway from the play.  Honesty should be tempered by compassion and humility, but striking the right balance is something with which man has always struggled.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Book 7: Written in Red

Written in Red by Anne Bishop is the first book in her series called "The Others".  In this fantasy, the Others (shapeshifters, vampires, elementals, and more) are in control, and humans (called monkeys by the Others) are safe only so far as they are useful.  Desperate to be free, Meg Corbyn finds a job in the one place she might be safe, the Others' Lakeside Courtyard where human law does not apply.  Her job is to be the courtyard's Human Liason accepting deliveries from human businesses for Courtyard residents.  Her first day on the job is not promising...
"Get this into your head, Meg Corbyn.  We don't let humans live in out part of the world because we like you.  We let you live here because you can be useful, and you've invented things that we like having.  If it wasn't for that, you'd all be nothing but meat.  Which is something you should remember." (29)

But unlike previous liasons, Meg proves to be kind, honest, and very different from any human the Others have ever encountered.  She is actually a blood prophet whose ability to prophesy brings a lot of money to the man from whom she ran.  When the police bring a wanted poster of Meg claiming she is a thief, the courtyard leaders decide to protect her because she is like by both Grandfater Erebus (the oldest vampire) and Winter (an elemental the no one dares anger).  Meg is given a new apartment further in the compound where she will be safer, but the prices paid for her prophesies mean that the controller will not give up. 

In contrast the book is also sprinkled with bits of humor as the Others and Meg figure out how to get along...

"'I drive just fine,' Meg snapped.
'Considering you don't know how.' ...
Folding her arms, she stared out the side window and muttered, 'Bad Wolf.'
His only response was to burst out laughing." (137) 

"'Sam gave him an incredulous look. ' If I don't wear the harness, how am I supposed to pull Meg out of a snowbank when she falls in?'
Simon kept his eyes on the road.  The boy had said when, not if.  Just how often did Meg fall into a snowbank?  Was she clumsy, or was it play?  Or did she end up in the snow after getting tripped up by a puppy?" (312)

Over all it's a great story.  Even if you don't normally enjoy the urban fantasy genre, I would say give the book a try.  This is my second time through the book, and it will definitely be a book I come back to read again in the future.  5 stars.

Book 6: Tartuffe

Tartuffe by Moliere is a French comedy written in 1664.  Orgon, a wealthy nobleman, has invited into his home a "pious" man named Tartuffe to guide his household in religious manners.  Tartuffe's hypocritical religious charade fools only Orgon and his mother while the rest of the family wishes him gone.  Troubles come to a head when Orgon decrees that his daughter should marry Tartuffe instead of Valere, the young nobleman whom she loves.  Orgon's wife Elmire tries to ask Tartuffe to change his mind and is shocked when he makes advances upon her.  The hot-headed son Damis tries to break Tartuffe's hold by telling his father about these advancement; but Orgon refuses to listen, banishes his son, and decides to make Tartuffe his heir.  Finally Elmire convinces Orgon to hide in the room while she talks with Tartuffe to expose his deception, but since Orgon has already given everything to Tartuffe instead of him leaving he gives Orgon's family a notice of eviction and goes before the king to charge Orgon with treason.  Were it not for the king's recognition of Tartuffe's treachery, Orgon would have been ruined; but all is set to right as legal document giving Orgon's possessions to Tartuffe is nullified and the true traitor is imprisoned.

I found the play to be witty and thought provoking and would recommend it as a must read.

Favorite passages:  From Dorine to Tartuffe upon being asked to cover her bosom

"It's strange that you're so easily excited;
My own desires are not so soon ignited,
And if I saw you naked as a beast,
Not all your hide would tempt me in the least."

Advise from Cleante to Orgon

"Ah, Brother, man's a strangely fashioned creature
Who seldom is content to follow Nature,
But recklessly pursues his inclination
Beyond the narrow bounds of moderation,
And often, by transgressing Reason's laws,
Perverts a lofty aim or noble cause."

"Learn to distinguish virtue from pretense,
Be cautious in bestowing admiration,
And cultivate a sober moderation.
Don't humor fraud, but also don't asperse
True piety; the latter fault is worse,
And it is best to err, if err one must,
As you have done, upon the side of trust"

Note:  All quotes come from Richard Wilbur's translation

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Book 5: Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

Clay Jannon is an out-of-work web designer struggling to find a new job and rapidly decreasing his list of requirements for what type of job he will settle for when he comes across a help wanted sign in an obscure out of the way bookstore.  He quickly discovers that his new job is quite strange.  Very few customers come to the store, and most of those come to check out a book from the waybacklist, books in code that often require the scaling of a sliding ladder to retrieve and that he is not supposed to peruse himself.  For he customer, he is to keep a detailed entry with a description of the customer, day and time, and book purchased or checked out.  In order to impress a girl, he creates a 3D computer model of the bookstore, enlists the help of his special effects roommate in duplicating a logbook, and takes the original logbook to Google to input the data of the order books in the waybacklist are checked out.  The longest path through the books that is taken results in the appearance of a face on the computer screen, and Clay soon discovers that the secrets he has been trying to uncover extend far beyond the bookstore where he is employed.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Sloan is tale that juxtaposes the modern world with the medieval one, the technological power of Google with a cryptographic puzzle from the middle ages.  Throw in a secret cult, friendship, a quest to help Penumbra, and the pursuit of immortality; and the result is an intriguing tale that I thoroughly enjoyed and would recommend.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Book 4: My Viking Vampire

Bailey has been on the run for four years from her abusive ex when she finds herself been stalked by a djinn and rescued by a vampire named Erick, who offers to take her to the safety of a town called Sanctuary. Having no money for food or bus fare to escape her ex whose truck she spotted in town earlier, Bailey takes Erick up on her offer. For Erick, it is love at first site, and for Bailey it's a chance at love that she thought would never come her way. Erick is compassionate and considerate, patient with her fears, and accepting of her scars. Now she just has to stay alive to claim a new home.

I found Krystal Shannon's dystopian setting and future time intriguing. The main characters were well written and likeable; however the pacing of the plot with the events occurring only over the course of two days and the long erotic-filled interludes between the action portions of the story made the book drag a bit at times. I think the overall plot had a lot of potential that just did not come to fruition for me, and the last chapter of BDSM tipped the book from paranormal romance to erotica. Despite the problems, I did still enjoy the book overall and consider it to be one of the better Kindle freebies that I've tried from Amazon.

Book 3: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Four siblings escape the dangers of living in London during WWII by taking refuge with a professor that owns a large house in the country. While exploring the house, the youngest Lucy ends up climbing into the wardrobe and meets a faun in Narnia. A few days later when she hides in the wardrobe for hide and seek, both she and her brother Edmund find their way into Narnia where Lucy visits the faun and Edmund meets the white witch. Finally all four children duck into the wardrobe to avoid a house tour and end up in Narnia together. Mr. Tumnus, the faun, has been taken by the witch, and three of the children seek out Aslan with the aid of Mr. and Mrs. Beaver to try to save them. Edmund goes to the white witch hoping for magical food and the chance to be made king one day only to discover that all of her promises were simply lies. Working together Aslan and the children must defeat the white witch to regain control of Narnia.

I have enjoyed Lewis' tale many times both for myself and with my children. It's been a few years since I read the story to my 3rd child, so it has been fun to revisit it with my youngest and then borrow the movie from the library for all of the kids to watch.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Book 2: Soulless

Soulless by Gail Carriger is set in an alternate Victorian London where supernaturals exist and are mostly out of hiding.  Unbeknownst to her family, Alexia Tarabotti is not only a half-Italian intelligent spinster, but also a preternatural being without a soul.  As a preternatural she is able to cancel out the abilities of supernaturals and make them human for as long as they are in physical contact.  These abilities come in quite handy one evening when Alexia is appallingly attacked by a vampire with a complete lack of knowledge in vampire etiquette and the dangers of preternaturals.  While trying to talk some sense into the hungry vampire, Alexia accidentally kills him launching an investigation by BUR (the branch of government dealing with supernatural affairs) and bringing her into contact with Lord Maccon, the head of London's BUR division and alpha of the werewolf pack.  Unable to determine the origin of the dead vampire, the mystery is compounded by the discovery that rove vampires and lone werewolves have gone missing all over Great Britain.

With elements of paranormal, romance, and mystery genres blended together with humor and a light touch of social satire, Carriger creates an enjoyable light read that quickly caught my attention and had me wondering what trouble Alexia would find herself in next.  I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys paranormal romance and is looking for an entertaining way to pass a few hours.