Monday, May 21, 2018

The Book Lover's Den No. 27: Gender and Fiction/Nonfiction Genres, Part 1




Welcome to my renewed literary musing feature! I have decided 
to post it on Mondays now!


In each weekly post, I explore 
my thoughts on several 
book-related topics.



This Week's Topic
 Are gender and fiction/nonfiction genres always connected? 



In the ongoing, heated debates regarding gender and certain attitudes and behaviors, one important topic, which I'm sure has already been discussed by other book bloggers, is the connection between a person's gender and the type of fiction (or nonfiction, for that matter) s/he reads.  

I'm delving into this topic today because of a rather annoying incident I was involved in, about three years back.  This incident has stayed with me, and I think the time has come for me to fully and boldly address it. Thus, even though I'm sure this is not a new topic, this post reflects my personal take on the matter.

At the time, my husband and I were looking for new digs. We had decided to buy a condo, and, therefore, contacted a local realtor's office in order to get some expert advice. 

Our realtor, a woman, would always take us to see apartments accompanied by her own husband, who turned out to be a high school teacher, as well as an avid reader. So, inevitably, our conversations while going on these apartment-hunting expeditions would occassionally turn to books. 

On one such occasion, I happened to mention, during the conversation, that I greatly enjoyed reading science fiction novels. (I know I've probably mentioned this incident in other posts, but it has annoyed me to such an extent that I must mention it again. Please forgive the repetition.) Well, this man's reaction to my remark was not only instantaneous, but extremely annoying, as well as rather patronizing. 

The man was actually SHOCKED that I would make such a statement. In fact, he replied, "But you're a WOMAN! Women don't read science fiction!" For a few seconds, I didn't know what to say in response. The vehemence with which he uttered those words, almost as if I had personally offended him, just caught me completely by surprise. So I was simply speechless for a few seconds. Then, feeling that I had to offer some sort of defense, as I felt attacked, I rather feebly replied, "Well, I also love reading romance novels." At that point, I saw his wife GLARE  at him. (They were both in the front seat, as it was their car we were riding in. My husband and I were sitting in the back.)

His wife's glare spoke volumes: "Sweetheart, these are our CUSTOMERS. Our bread and butter. You don't antagonize CUSTOMERS." LOL. Her glare was effective, and he immediately clammed up, and did not pursue the matter. (My own husband very wisely kept out of the argument. Lol.) But it has lingered in my memory ever since, and I felt that I should address this topic at length. I might even need a second TBLD post, in order to do it justice.

I must confess to being a rather idealistic, naive person in certain areas. For instance, I really and truly thought that, once the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been signed, racism had come to an end. Well, the current administration is solid proof that it hasn't, but instead, has even seemed to gather more force since that so-called president took office. 

It therefore seems evident that, in spite of the several waves of feminism -- five so far, according to Google -- certain VERY dated attitudes toward women are still around, in this 21st century. In this regard, the present administration has also been responsible for keeping such attitudes alive, and even bringing them back in full force. 

I had hoped, however, that I would not encounter a remark such as the one directed to me by this man, in the year 2015. Again, my naivete and idealism got the better of me.....

Not only did I give a very weak "defense", but also, I allowed an obvious male chauvinist to intimidate me. I then sheepishly (I could kick myself, too!) admitted to reading romance novels, as well, as if to PLACATE this man! WHY, I wonder. Why did I feel the need to let him know that I was a "normal", feminine woman, since I also read romance novels? Most importantly, WHY did I allow this man to intimidate me, which was what he actually did, since he even RAISED HIS VOICE at me, in obvious shock and offense? 

And thus the topic of this post. Does gender have anything to do with the type of fiction (and/or nonfiction a person reads? On the surface, it would seem so. For instance, there are very few men who actually read and enjoy romance novels. And yet, we have men like Nicholas Sparks writing them. (On the other hand, I've noticed that ALL of Sparks's novels have sad endings, something which goes against the ironclad, unwritten rule that romance novels MUST always have happy endings. I therefore totally avoid reading his, lol.)

The question remains, however: should sweeping generalizations be made as to the "appropriateness" of reading matter to a given gender? I would say that, obviously, no such sweeping generalizations should be made. No two people, of whatever gender, are going to enjoy the same types of fiction genres, or even, for that matter, the same types of nonfiction books. Just because someone is a certain gender doesn't mean they HAVE to enjoy reading certain genres.  Where the heck is THAT written?

I happen to be a VERY eclectic reader. I am what could be termed "a mood reader". I will read a given type of book according to my mood at the moment. However, I am also what I am now calling "an intellectual question-of-the-moment reader". If I happen to be pondering a certain topic at a particular point in time, I will want to read books on the subject. Perhaps that has something to do with my mood at the time, as well, but the topic in question will not be one driven by emotion, but by intellectual curiosity, instead. There are times when certain topics just "grab" me, and won't let go. At such times, I will search for a nonfiction book, rather than a novel, of whatever genre.

My point is, whose BUSINESS is it which type of nonfiction book, or which fiction genre, I reach for, when a particular emotional or intellectual mood gets a hold of me? (This is a topic all by itself, as well.) Who the HECK has the right to tell me what I can and cannot read, according to my gender? Who has the right to tell me what is "appropriate" for a woman to read ?! The obvious answer is: NOBODY. I am an adult, and I have free will. (Of course, there unfortunately exist those people -- mostly men, but paradoxically, there are ALSO women -- who feel that THEY have the right to tell women what they should or shouldn't read, based on their gender. Well, let them stew in their own juices in complete frustration. I will read what I decide to read, and I do NOT care who judges me on the basis of my gender!

If I had a time machine...... Oh, if ONLY I had a time machine..... I would go back to that incident, and THIS time, I would not sheepishly reply that "I also read romance novels". OH, NO. I would say, "Well, thank you for pointing out the obvious fact that I am a woman. (accompanied by a smirk) Now, I fail to see what the HELL that has to do with my choice of reading matter!" But, of course, that wouldn't have been POLITE, would it? No, such a response would have violated the STILL unwritten rules that women MUST be polite, demure, certainly NOT strident, or bold in the statement of their opinions. Right? 

Well, I guess we STILL have a LOOOOONG way to go...... I'm sure that a GREAT FEMALE SF author I happen to know, S.J. Higbee, who blogs at Brainfluff, would have calmly responded to that guy, "How interesting that you feel that way, since you are speaking with a female SF author, dear sir." And she would have given this reply with a very sweet, but totally ironic, smile. Well, I must admit that such a reply might have embarrassed him more than my strident one (which never took place, anyway) would have. Still, I would have LOVED to have replied that way to this guy!

Oh, this will DEFINITELY be continued! Stay tuned for next week's post! 




What are your thoughts on
 this topic?
Please leave me a comment
and let me know!









Sunday, May 20, 2018

Shelf Candy Saturday No. 249: Aladdin and the Arabian Nights



Welcome to Shelf Candy Saturday!


*Late Edition*
This is my weekly feature
showcasing beautiful covers!
It also provides information, 
if available, on their 
very talented creators!



Here's my choice for this week!




Aladdin and the Arabian Nights
Leatherbound Hardcover, 352  pages
Barnes & Noble, Inc.
May 1, 2018
Children's Classics, Fantasy


https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/aladdin-and-the-arabian-nights-barnes-noble/1128233360?ean=9781435166141#/




  
My Thoughts About This Cover

Barnes & Noble is well-known for its totally exquisite collection of leather bound classics. I would love to have most of them! The reason I wouldn't want them all is that there are some I don't like -- such as the collected works of H.P. Lovecraft. 

This volume is definitely one I would LOVE to have! It has a most enchanting cover! 

First off, there's that GORGEOUS blue-green background that actually makes the whole cover look like a Persian carpet.  Then there are those mesmerizing, sinuous lines at the top of the cover suggesting ripples in water. The exotic-looking towers have a fairy tale quality that totally transports me to a land of magic and mysterious tales of genies and other dreamlike creatures.

I love the very graceful font used for the title, too! It imitates Arabic writing, and adds more magic to this already wonderful cover!

At the bottom of this image, surrounded by the palm trees so common to the Mediterranean and Middle East, sits Aladdin, blissfully riding along on his flying carpet.

Needless to say, I badly want to make this book a part of my B&N Collectible Editions collection! Since I do have the link to it (see above), it's only a matter of time before I do! I have also checked it out on Amazon, and it's actually much cheaper at B&N, so that's where I will end up buying it.

Unfortunately, I have been unable to find out who created this LUSCIOUS cover..... All I can do is admire it from afar, until it can proudly sit on my shelves!

 

What do you think of 
this week's cover?
Please leave a comment
and let me know!








Saturday, May 19, 2018

Book Review: Dread Nation, by Justina Ireland


Dread Nation
(Dread Nation, Book 1)
Justina Ireland
Hardcover, 464 pages
Bilzer + Bray
April 3, 2018
African-American Fiction, Alternative History,
American History, Diverse Reads, Fantasy, Feminist Fiction, Historical Fiction, Horror, Humor, Paranormal Fiction, Satire, Social Justice, Southern Gothic, Young Adult Fiction
Source: Amazon

Synopsis Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville—derailing the War Between the States and changing America forever. In this new nation, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Reeducation Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead. But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.

But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home, and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose. But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies. And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.



https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30223025-dread-nation?ac=1&from_search=true


Note
I participated in a buddy read of this novel with Barb @ Booker T's Farm. Be sure to read her review, which you can find HERE!


Buddy Read Links






I must point out, right up front, that I am definitely not a fan of the horror genre. That might seem paradoxical, since I do enjoy reading urban fantasy, which sometimes almost crosses into horror.  I don't like the horror genre, however, because its writers thrive on the graphic depiction of fear and gory scenes. Besides, many urban fantasy novels are also paranormal romances, which, of course, do interest me! 

So what in blazes got me to read Dread Nation? Well, several months ago, I came across this novel on the blog of one of my book blogger friends, Barb (see above), and it immediately caught my eye! So Barb suggested we do a buddy read, and I agreed. Surprisingly, I didn't run screaming from the book! Instead, I found this to be a very interesting, even entertaining read, despite the seriousness of its deeper themes. But that was because it was what can be called "horror lite". In other words, Dread Nation is not a typical horror novel. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised to find other, stronger elements involved. Incredibly, there was even some humor in it in the form of snarky observations made by its female protagonist.

Jane McKeene is indeed a very strong, dynamic protagonist. The cover alone gives some hint of this, but then, when I actually encountered her in the pages of the book, she became a very real person. Her sense of justice and adventure, as well as her natural leadership abilities, make her not only likable, but admirable, as well. And her sense of humor, even in dire situations, hits the nail on the head every single time!

The background history of this novel -- which is an alternative version of real events -- is a fascinating, if appropriately horrifying one: the Civil War was actually brought to a halt by the sudden appearance of zombies walking the fields of battle, killing Union and Confederate soldiers alike. Surely one would expect to find some blood and gore here, right? Well, no. This event took place in the year Jane was born, and is not detailed at all, but merely mentioned in order to set the scene.

This unexpected event could have changed the attitudes of those who advocated slavery, but sadly, it didn't. Instead, African-Americans (referred to as "Negroes" at the time) were then legally required to train at special combat schools in order to defend wealthy whites. And this is where the author had a field day unmasking the not-so-subtle demon of racial discrimination. Through Jane, her spokesperson, Ireland depicted the blatant prejudice of the society of the time. While doing so, she also took aim at the prejudice and discrimination of our own times. And with a feminist heroine, no less!

This novel also involves a mystery that Jane is bent on solving, as one of the families which have disappeared are the Spencers. Lily, sister to an old boyfriend of Jane's, Jackson, has disappeared right along with them. 

The action moves from Baltimore, Maryland, to a strange location out in the West, where Jane emerges as a strong leader in the fight against the zombies. The reader sees her development throughout the book, as she battles not only the zombies (known as "shamblers" in the novel), but, even more importantly, the unjust treatment received by her fellow zombie fighters.

Ireland has woven a very believable historical tapestry here. While reading this novel, I frequently found myself believing in the reality of the zombie hordes, the combat schools, and Jane's ability to always, somehow, come out victorious, even against her worst enemies (none of which, by the way, were zombies, ironically enough). 

Dynamic secondary characters made this novel even more believable. The first, and most important of these, was Katherine, whom Jane delighted in calling "Kate", precisely because Katherine hated being called by this shortened version of her name. Although she and Jane were a study in contrasts, they also became good friends, as well as allies in the fight against the prejudice of the times. 

Jane's mother is another important secondary character, although the reader gets to know her mostly through the letters she and Jane send to each other. This woman was very influential in making Jane who she was, and she also hid a secret that, if exposed, threatened to bring tragedy to the slaves at her plantation, not to mention Jane herself.

In regards to this character, I was initially very sympathetic toward her. But, early on, I caught something in her attitude toward Jane.....I'm not sure exactly what it was. Later in the novel, this woman did something entirely shocking and horrifying, so I ended up actually hating her! I couldn't believe  that she had actually turned into a totally despicable person.....

Gideon, the brilliant scientist who sees Jane as who she truly is -- a dynamic, strong woman who acts on her principles -- is another great secondary character. He obviously admired Jane, and it was more than obvious that there was something going on there, too. He, like Jane, bucked the status quo, and I would have liked to have seen more of him in this book. Perhaps he will be featured more often in the forthcoming sequel. I certainly hope so!

Another interesting, though less important, character, was Jackson, also known as "Red". Although I didn't like the offhanded way in which he often treated Jane, I did like how concerned he was about his sister's disappearance, and the way he ended up helping Jane in her quest to escape an intolerable, brutal, situation.

Then there's "The Preacher"..... This character was obnoxious and evil in the extreme, with his disgusting "sermons" about "the divine order" of things, in which Negroes were "divinely ordained" to serve whites. Of course, this character not only represented the racist beliefs of the time, but was also meant as a satirical instrument to ridicule and expose the blatantly prejudiced views of some Evangelicals in our own time. 

I did have a problem with the inclusion of this preacher, though. In my opinion, his presence in the novel should have been balanced by that of at least one other Christian who held opposing views. Not all Christians who lived during the real historical Reconstruction Era after the Civil War were racists. (This period lasted from about 1863 to 1877.) Before the Civil War, there was also the Abolitionist Movement, not only in the States, but also abroad, and there were many Christians involved in it. In the States, such names as Charles Finney, Theodore Weld, and Harriet Beecher Stowe were well-known. So this was something that I found very disappointing.

More than anything else, I see this as a brilliant satirical novel which encapsulates the racist mindset. I also see it as an equally brilliant exposition of feminist ideals. Unlike Kate, Jane never stops to consider whether her actions might be considered "proper" or "genteel" for a young lady. She simply acts, and her actions come from a sense of justice for her people, as well as for all women. She is her own woman, and no one can talk her into acting as the society of her time thought she SHOULD act, not only as a woman, but as a member of an "inferior" race.

Despite all of my admiration for Dread Nation, especially its female protagonist, I am unable to give it the five stars I was sure it deserved when I began to read it. However, the book is so compelling, so well-written, that I cannot bring myself to give it less than four stars.

I have mentioned the shocking event regarding Jane's mother. I have also mentioned the problem with the stereotypical treatment of the Christian religion. There's one more thing, which I will not mention here in order to avoid spoilers. It concerns a shocking revelation toward the end of the novel, one that altered my overall perception of it due to its blatant immorality, as well as the fact that it entailed a very tragic loss of innocence....

It's really very unfortunate when an author makes his/her readers get totally immersed in a novel, only to throw the proverbial monkey wrench in the works towards the end of the story. That's just what happened here. I realize that there are characters who do deserve what they get, because they've done some very evil deeds, but, as another proverbial saying goes, "two wrongs don't make a right". That's all I'm going to state here.

I would still recommend this book to all lovers of alternative history, strong feminist protagonists, and books dealing with social justice. Despite its disappointing elements, this novel goes beyond the Young Adult Fiction genre to become a real tour-de-force, and I know I will never forget it! Although I was not quite satisfied with it, I would like to re-read it at some point in the future. It's just that Jane is such a POWERFUL role model for all young (and not so young) women! So I'm therefore eagerly looking forward to the sequel, which I will also buddy read with Barb! 

MY RATING:








Justina Ireland enjoys dark chocolate, dark humor, and is not too proud to admit that she’s still afraid of the dark. She lives with her husband, kid, and dog in Pennsylvania. She is the author of Vengeance Bound and Promise of Shadows.






Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Can't Wait Wednesday No. 62: Time's Convert, by Deborah Harkness





Welcome to "Can't Wait Wednesday"!



This is a weekly event hosted by
Tressa @ Wishful Endings!
This is also where we excited book bloggers showcase future releases we're eagerly anticipating! 
For more information, 
please click HERE.


There's also a Linky widget, so participating blogs can link up!




Here's my choice for this week!




 Time's Convert
(All Souls Universe, Book 1)
Deborah Harkness
Hardcover, 400 pages
Viking
     September 18, 2018        
Fantasy, Historical Fiction,
Paranormal Romance

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38395454-time-s-convert







From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Discovery of Witches, a novel about what it takes to become a vampire.

Set in contemporary Paris and London, and the American colonies during the upheaval and unrest that exploded into the Revolutionary War, a sweeping story that braids together the past and present.

On the battlefields of the American Revolution, Matthew de Clermont meets Marcus MacNeil, a young surgeon from Massachusetts, during a moment of political awakening when it seems that the world is on the brink of a brighter future. When Matthew offers him a chance at immortality and a new life, free from the restraints of his puritanical upbringing, Marcus seizes the opportunity to become a vampire. But his transformation is not an easy one and the ancient traditions and responsibilities of the de Clermont family clash with Marcus's deeply-held beliefs in liberty, equality, and brotherhood.

Fast forward to contemporary London, where Marcus has fallen for Phoebe Taylor, a young employee at Sotheby's. She decides to become a vampire, too, and though the process at first seems uncomplicated, the couple discovers that the challenges facing a human who wishes to be a vampire are no less formidable in the modern world than they were in the 18th century. The shadows that Marcus believed he'd escaped centuries ago may return to haunt them both--forever.

A passionate love story and a fascinating exploration of the power of tradition and the possibilities for change, Time's Convert will delight fans of the All Souls trilogy and all readers of magic, the supernatural, and romance.
 






Why I can't wait for this one!

So this is yet another author whose work I want to read! The All Souls Trilogy has garnered raves from all paranormal fans, and I need to get started on it!! After I finish it, I will then be able to dive into this  one! Crossing my fingers..... The thing is, I do have a sort of obsession for romantic vamps.... Away with Dracula!! Lol.  
Aside from the above, this book sounds especially fascinating, because part of the story takes place during the American Revolution! This is the very first time I've come across a vampire romance set in this time period in American History. Part of the novel does take place in modern times, too, though, but still..... I LOVE this combination!




Deborah Harkness is a professor of history at the University of Southern California. She has received Fullbright, Guggenheim, and National Humanities Center fellowships, and her most recent scholarly work is The Jewel House: Elizabethan London and the Scientific Revolution. She is also the author of the New York Times bestselling All Souls Trilogy, and writes an award-winning wine blog.

Website/Goodreads/Facebook
Twitter
Amazon Author Page





What do you think of my
choice this week? 
Please leave a comment and
let me know!


  

Sunday, May 13, 2018

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY TO ALL MOMS!!!!





May God bless all mothers, 
because they have chosen to accept
the great gift of life He 
has given them!!