Thursday, 17 January 2013

Eowyn and 'great deeds'

Eowyn is one of my favourite characters in 'The Lord of the Rings'-trilogy. It is not often that female characters are allowed to experience the same kind of heroism that the men are. I recently discussed this with my father. Male characters often have very tragic, yet beautiful, death scenes. Think of the opening scene of 'Saving Private Ryan' which is, in essence, one big, heroic death scene. We are presented with men willingly sacrificing their lives in order to save those of others. This is typically seen as a 'heroic' death because it takes courage and shows a man at his best.

Look at Boromir. Having fallen victim to the Ring, he redeems himself by sacrificing his life to save Merry and Pippin and fighting with honour. I cannot be the only one that tears up at his death. But do we get these kinds of scenes for women? I think directors are hesitant at giving women, or girls, longer death scenes because they feel it might be offensive. Most women die realitively quickly or overly emotional. In action movies it is all rather quick. And this is why I love Eowyn, because she comes very close.
Below I have the first description of Eowyn. 

'Go, Eowyn sister-daughter!' said the old king. 'The time for fear is past.' The woman turned and went slowly into the house. As she passed the doors she turned and looked back. Grave and thoughtful was her glance, as she looked on the king with cool pity in her eyes. Very fair was her face, and her long hair was like a river of gold. Slender and tall she was in her white robe girt with silver; but strong she seemed and stern as steel, a daughter of kings. Thus Aragorn for the first time in the full light of day beheld Eowyn, Lady of Rohan, and thought her fair, fair and cold, like a morning of pale spring that is not yet come to womanhood. And she now was suddenly aware of him: tall heir of kings, wise with many winters, greycloaked. Hiding a power that yet she felt. For a moment still as stone she stood, then turning swiftly she was gone. 'Now, lord,' said Gandalf, 'look out upon your land! Breathe the free air again!' P. 75 - 'The Two Towers'

She is a truly tragic character, the way Homer might have written her. She is calm, composed and strong. She commands attention and demands respect. She is, in many ways, en equal to Aragorn. She is an heir to kings, a leader of the people. But what I love most about Eowyn is her character, and most of all: what she fears. 
And she answered: 'All your words are but to say: you are a woman, and your part is in the house. But when the men have died in battle and honour, you have leave to be burned in the house, for the men will need it no more. But I am of the House of Eorl and not a serving-woman. I can ride and wield blade, and I do not fear either pain or death.' 'What do you fear, lady?' he asked. 'A cage,' she said. 'To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.' P. 29 - 'Return of the King'
Eowyn has pride and valour and, most important of all, desire. What makes the death of Boromir and so many other male characters so tragic is the selflessness in their death and their will to be strong and heroic. Women are often presented as wanting to preserve life and happiness. Eowyn wants to go down in history alongside her uncle and brother, not remain at home and look after the children and animals.

The sentence
'To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.'
is perhaps my favourite line from the entire trilogy because that is my ow fear. I do not want to live my life without the chance to prove myself. It's one of the reasons I couldn't stay at home and not work or do something with my life. I want to see the world and experience life. Perhaps I relate too much to the Anglo-Saxon ancestry of Europe, but excerpts like these just fill me with a kind of longing to a different world. A world in which I could prove myself.

I realize that this post hasn't really been an analysis as much as me rambling on about Eowyn and strange personal feelings, but I hope you sort of enjoyed it. 

Booking Through Thursday - Winter

btt button
It's Thursday, all my essays have been given in, more or less the way they're supposed to be, and now I have to revise for my Vikings' exam. But first: Booking Through Thursday, hosted by Deb over at BTT

It’s the depth of winter here where I live right now … what books do you like to read when it’s snowy and white? What books do you read to evoke a real feeling of winter (good or bad)?

Oh, there are so many books I love reading, all snuggled up under my blanket. I don't really have a special set of winter books, I don't even have a particular set of winter clothes! But here is a set of books I love reading when all huddled up and warm:
  • 'Wuthering Heights' - Emily Bronte. I will always read this book, no matter where I am. But there's something about being all warm and cozy and to then read about these cold heaths and these terrible characters.
  • 'The Lord of the Rings' - J.R.R Tolkien. My copy has all three books in one so it's a massive volume. I love just curling up around it and reading it to myself. 
  • 'Die Unendliche Geschichte' - Michael Ende. One of my childhood books and I just absolutely love it. It's beautiful. And it is just fun to have a nostalgic afternoon with a childhood read!
There are loads more because I love picking up the occasional romance novel and just read it through in one sitting, or lying rather. 
How about you? What do you like to read in winter?

On a side note, I just bought some posters for my room and I feel like I should share what is now the craziness of my wall. I will be very happy with Fili, Kili and Thorin on my wall!

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: 'Joyland' by Stephen King

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine. This week I'm waiting for:

Stephen King's 'Joyland' which comes out this June!
Joyland.jpgSet in a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973, Joyland tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a carny and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life forever
I don't read a lot of Stephen King but I love scary novels and Stephen King is, well, the king when it comes to that!

What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Review: 'Utopia' by Thomas More

University has started again which means I am not only buried in essays I need to hand in and format but also means I have to read books for the next couple of weeks. One of those books was 'Utopia' by Thomas More. I spent about 20 minutes in the bookstore looking for it until I had the bright idea to check out the philosophy aisle. I have nothing against reading philosophical works, I quite enjoyed Plato's 'The Republic' so I thought I would enjoy this too. How wrong I was. This is what Goodreads has to say:

First published in 1516, Thomas More's Utopia is one of the most important works of European humanism. Through the voice of the mysterious traveler Raphael Hythloday, More describes a pagan, communist city-state governed by reason. Addressing such issues as religious pluralism, women's rights, state-sponsored education, colonialism, and justified warfare, Utopia seems remarkably contemporary nearly five centuries after it was written, and it remains a foundational text in philosophy and political theory

My copy's marked as a translation, which mainly means that some of the names have been changed and words such as 'communism' and 'capitalism' are used. I'm pretty sure More didn't coin those as well. In me edition, Raphael is called Raphael Nonsenso. To anyone with a grasp of English that last name comes dangerously close to 'nonsense' which made me groan inwardly. I don't think I needed the editor's help in deducing that this Utopia isn't in fact real. To then name the capital Aircastle is just going too far. I would have much preferred More's name for it: Amaurot. Perhaps I would have enjoyed this book more had I read a different edition, so for anyone who wants the real More-experience, don't get the Penguin version shown above. If you just want to know what the book's about then this version is perfect: small and compact without long introductions.

Now to get on to the actual text. I did not like this at all. I am completely aware that More is not trying to show a perfect world but is trying to create a mirror for England so it can think about some of its actions. But that doesn't mean I have to agree with what it says. As a philosophical starting point it is perfect: there will be loads of discussions afterwards and there are bound to be disagreements. But personally I did not only think that Utopia was nowhere near a perfect society nor did I think that More did an exceptionally good job at writing about it. And I disagree with Goodreads saying it has 'contemporary' value.Yes, it is influential, but our (especially European) societies have moved beyond what More described.
Leaving its influence aside, I got increasingly frustrated while reading 'Utopia'. It seems as if More was contradicting himself the entire time in his account of Utopia. For example, in one place he says they never go to war or use violence unless 'in self-defence, to repel invaders from friendly territory, or to liberate the victims of dictatorship' in which case they go in out of 'humanity'. Not 40 pages earlier did he write how Utopians go about colonization: 'If the natives won't do what they're told, they're expelled from the area'.

Next to this I also found the flippant remarks about women obeying their husbands and slaves being treated terribly unless they're voluntary slaves (a ridiculous concept) astounding. I even got a highlighter out to highlight the passages I thought were politically wrong. I am usually a very laid-back reader, even appreciating it when a villain behaves terribly because that is how novels work: bad guys do bad things.To a book, however, that has been praised as a 'foundational text in philosophy and political theory' I didn't expect to have such a response.

Perhaps that is where More's genius lies: he draws you out, makes you voice your opinion. And while you criticize Utopia, you cannot help seeing how similar some of its aspects are to our world. Do you agree with Raphael's view of the perfect world or do you disagree, at the cost of being ridiculed by Raphael? I give this book...


Personally I disagreed with any things that were said in the book which is why I gave it such a "low" rating for a classic. More's writing style is, however, good and I don't know how heavily my edition and therefore judgement is influenced by Paul Turner's translation. I do recommend it to everyone who wants a good discussion about politics and society.

Here are some of my "favourite" wrong quotes from the book:

  • 'If there happens to be a church in the Sty, the priest and his wife automatically take precedence...' - oh, what a fair society this is!
  • '...except certain people receive preferential treatment, such as the Mayor, the Bishop, Bencheaters and diplomats.' - again, you have to admire those little side comments. 
  • 'And reason also teaches us, first to love and reverence Almighty God.' - I know More was a religious man, but I don't know whether Reason is what converts people to Christianity. 
And finally:
  • 'But in no circumstances can a man divorce his wife simply because, through no fault of her own, she has deteriorated physically'. - I'm not quite sure yet whether I think that's offensive or whether that's More being funny.

So, what do you think? Does this look like your kind of book?

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Booking Through Thursday and Top Ten Thursday

btt buttonBooking Through Thursday is hosted over at BTT and this week's qst is:
It’s my Dad’s birthday today, which makes me wonder … do you like to give books as gifts?
Well, first of all, congratulations are in order! Happy Birthday to Deb's dad!! I do like giving books but usually not as a birthday present. For birthdays I always try to find something fun, not that books aren't fun, but they're very subjective. I could absolutely love a book that everyone else hates. I always try to get my sister to read the books I used to love when I was her age and I find myself slightly disappointed she's just devoured the Twilight saga and The Hunger Games trilogy but passes on Harry Potter or any of the other great books I've still got. She is reading 'The Hobbit' now though, so there is hope. But when I give a book to someone I do it because I know they'll like it or find it interesting, whereas birthday presents are just supposed to be fun. I mean, I just bought someone a massive nerf-gun for their birthday! I feel I might regret that when I become the target!

TTT_mittelTop Ten Thursday is hosted by Alice im Bücherland and this week we're making a list of:
Chinese or Japanese themes books
I haven't read that many books set in China or Japan, but those few I have read I've really enjoyed.

So, what's on your list and do you like giving books as presents?

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Guestpost: Jade Kerrion on her novel 'Perfection Unleashed'

JadeKerrion.jpgAuthor Bio:

Jade Kerrion unites cutting-edge science and bioethics with fast-paced action in her award-winning Double Helix series. Drawing rave reviews for its originality and vision, and described as “a breakout piece of science fiction,” Perfection Unleashed, and its sequels, Perfect Betrayal and Perfect Weapon, are available in print and e-book through Amazon and other major retailers.

About The Double Helix series:

His genetic code sourced from the best that humanity offers, Galahad embodies the pinnacle of perfection. When Zara Itani, a mercenary whose abrasive arrogance exceeds her beauty, frees him from his laboratory prison, she offers him the chance to claim everything that had ever been denied him, beginning with his humanity.

Perfection cannot be unleashed without repercussions, and Galahad’s freedom shatters Danyael Sabre’s life.

An alpha empath, Danyael is rare and coveted, even among the alpha mutants who dominate the Genetic Revolution. He wields the power to heal or kill with a touch, but craves only privacy and solitude—both impossible dreams for the man who was used as Galahad’s physical template.

Galahad and Danyael, two men, one face. One man seeks to embrace destiny, and the other to escape it.

DoubleHelixCovers.jpgThe award-winning Double Helix series, consisting of Perfection UnleashedPerfect Betrayal, and Perfect Weapon, will challenge your notions of perfection and humanity, and lead you in a celebration of courage and compassion. Science fiction, urban fantasy, and action-adventure readers will enjoy this thrilling roller-coaster ride as it twists and turns through a world transformed by the Genetic Revolution.

Deleted Scene from “Perfection Unleashed”

I love the extra features that accompany movie DVDs, like the director’s commentary, movie bloopers, and deleted scenes. My debut novel, Perfection Unleashed, which won multiple awards, is frequently compared to an action movie, anime, or graphic novel, and today, I thought I’d give you a peek into one of its deleted scenes.

But first, what was the scene in question, and why did I delete it?

The deleted scene was the prologue, and it set the context for the entire Double Helix series. The scene helped transport readers from “today” into the “not-so-distant future,” and described key players in a world transformed by the Genetic Revolution, including mutants with psychic powers. It also introduced Galahad, the perfect human being, and foreshadowed the existence of the abominations, inhuman by-products of the path to perfection.

Clearly it was an important scene, but why did I delete it?

The prologue didn’t do much more than the first chapter did. By the first chapter, readers are introduced to Galahad, and hear the banshee-like wails of the abominations. By the first chapter, we know that mutants with psychic powers populate our world, even though we have to wait until chapter three to meet Danyael, the alpha empath, Galahad’s physical template, and the protagonist of Perfection Unleashed.

It was a hard decision. The prologue was the scene that launched the movie in my mind, which eventually became the Double Helix series. I was, perhaps not irrationally, deeply attached to the scene. Still, in the final count, the prologue slowed down my attempt to plunge my readers straight into the action. I took a deep breath and hit delete.

Figuratively speaking, of course. The prologue never made it into Perfection Unleashed, but I did save it as a deleted scene, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to share it with you today. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Social media and buy links:

Connect with Jade Kerrion: Blog / Facebook / Twitter
Perfection Unleashed: Amazon / Amazon UK / Smashwords
Perfect Betrayal: Amazon / Amazon UK / Smashwords
Perfect Weapon: Amazon / Amazon UK / Smashwords

See more for the 'Perfection Unleashed' Prologue