I got a little crazy with the reading in August. Which is why this post is coming up at the end of September: I read so much that it took the whole month to finish writing about it all! I’m still chipping away at the complete works of Shakespeare and selected works of Poe, but most of my reading time this month was spend on my Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) and Walking Dead obsessions. I’m raising my nerd flag high this month.
Here are the books I read in August:
I got a little carried away reading graphic novels from the Walking Dead series this month. I may have read nine in rapid fire succession… It’s a good thing that my best friend Harvey owns them, because I downed $160 worth of these in three days. I’m glad I have someone to borrow these from, because I can’t afford this habit! Also, the library never seems to have a complete series of anything. Sigh.
And, before I start talking about the novels, a quick show vs. graphic novel comparison: One won’t ruin the other. I promise. The premise is the same, most of the characters are the same, and the plots hit up some of the same points, but they have very different plot twists. I saw the first season before reading the novels, and was completely blown away by the ending of the first book, because someone dies that is still alive and kicking at the end of the first season. But that’s all you’re getting out of me.
Here are the nine I read:
The Walking Dead, Vol. 1: Days Gone Bye / The Walking Dead, Vol. 2: Miles Behind Us / The Walking Dead, Vol. 3: Safety Behind Bars / The Walking Dead, Vol. 4: The Heart’s Desire / The Walking Dead, Vol. 5: The Best Defense / The Walking Dead, Vol. 6: This Sorrowful Life / The Walking Dead, Vol. 7: The Calm Before / The Walking Dead, Vol. 8: Made to Suffer / The Walking Dead, Vol. 9: Here We Remain
Even if you’re not into horror novels (or zombies), these are great. I mean, they’re especially great if you’re into horror and zombies. But what they’re really about is interaction of humans in a lawless society. And, sociology lovin’ nerd that I am, I love that so so much. That’s not to say this is some great work of literature: it’s not Alan Moore level or anything. It’s more the level of character development you would expect from a really good TV show with a lot of cliff hangers (And hey! That’s why it translates well.)
It gets REALLY disturbing as you go along. I actually had to put the sixth volume down for a minute. I haven’t had to do that since I read The Road and American Psycho. Which means that that volume is in my top ten most disturbing things I’ve ever read. I don’t know why, but I count that as a good thing.
It’s kind of impossible to quote comics, but a taste of author Robert Kirkman’s introduction will serve just as well:
“To me, the best zombie movies aren’t the splatter fests of gore and violence with tongue in cheek antics. Good zombie movies show us how messed up we are, they make us question our station in society… and our society’s station in the world. They show us gore and violence and all that cool stuff too… but there’s always an undercurrent of social commentary and thoughtfulness.”
Stories from Edgar Allan Poe: Selected Works, Deluxe Edition by Edgar Allan Poe
I didn’t read a whole lot from the Poe in August, mostly because the last story I read took forever to get through. (It was a little boring.)
Here are the Poe stories I read this month:
*ALMOST ALL OF THESE HAVE SPOLIER ALERTS
Eleonora (1841) Pretty girl lives to be pretty, narrator loves her, she dies, he marries someone else, she comes back from the grave. Didn’t I read this one already? Even though the plot mirrors a lot of Poe’s other stories, the tone of this one is very different. Despite the death, it’s actually pretty darn happy and idllic. And the ending is relatively upbeat, too.
The Oval Portrait (1842) This one is really really short. A wounded man looks at a portrait for a really really long time and can’t believe how realistic it is: he’s totally captivated. He then reads how the painting was created. The painter basically sucked the life out of his wife and put it into the painting. Creeeepy.
The Masque of the Red Death (1842) A prince tries to avoid a plague, holds a masquerade ball, and a guest disguised as Red Death kills everyone on contact (because the guest is actually the Red Death personified). Seems legit.
The Mystery of Marie Rogêt (1942) This is the sequel to The Murders in the Rue Morgue, which was the first detective story. This one is was the first detective story to be based upon a real crime. That’s interesting, but this story doesn’t have the umpf that Rue Morge did, there’s no rising action, it kind of lacks the basics of the story. It’s really just a break-down of the reason of the case. I think this one’s Poe showing off again. His stuff is genius, but sometimes it seems he’s working to show off that genius rather than create good literature. (His over-use of Latin and French can attest to this also, though he could have just expected his audience at the time to know those languages as a part of their basic education.)
Here’s a quote from The Masque of the Read Death:
“The “Red Death” has long devastated the country. No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its Avatar and its seal–the redness and the horror of blood. There were sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with dissolution. The scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the face of the victim, were the pest ban which shut him out from the aid and from the sympathy of his fellow-men. And the whole seizure, progress and termination of the disease, were the incidents of half and hour.”
Plays from The Complete Works of William Shakespeare by William Shakespeare
I said last month that I was pleasantly surprised to find that I love the tragedies. I was expecting to find them boring: there’s something really intimidating about a list of titles that only contain King’s names. The histories I read this month were great too; I actually read them all back-to-back, when usually I need a break between reading Shakespeare plays. Because each picks up where the next dropped off, they’re like a mini-series. Or, really, like Game of Thrones (but better worded and not as sexy, obviously).
Here’s what I thought of the Shakespeare histories I read this month:
The Life and Death of King Richard II (around 1595) Dispute before the king! Challenging people to duels! Banishment! Revenge! Usurpation! Murder most foul! It’s good, folks.
King Henry IV: First Part (mid 1590s) It’s not really a spoiler to tell you that King Richard II dies in the privious play (it’s right there in the title!) and that Henry wins (again, right there in the title!). There’s a lot of scheming, which is interesting. There’s a rebellion, which disrupts a crusade. There’s an unworthy son that acts how you’d imagine an entitled rich kid to act (he spends a lot of time goofing off in taverns). And it ends with a battle. Good stuff, all.
What is weird, though, is that King Richard II made me root for King Richard. I think it’s natural to go with the guy who has the right to the throne. So I started this play not liking Henry. Which means that I was now rooting for the rebels. What’s weird is that my loyalties would have lied very differently had I read this play first. I love thinking about how authors get readers to want specific things to happen (though they so rarely give us what we want!), so the order here was an interesting twist. Does anyone else feel a similar way or am I just babbling here?
*Note: if you’re interested in reading this and have trouble with names, you might want to keep a list of names of people and their titles. You’ll also need to know that the Prince is called Hal, Prince Harry, and Henry, which could be confusing.
King Henry IV: Second Part (1597-1599) There’s a lot more shenanigans going on here, but the tone is more serious than in Part 1, as two of the major characters draw out their dying quite a bit. A different rebellion is going on, but this one’s more about politics than battles. The Prince still seems unworthy, and trying to figure out how he was going to step up in to the kingship for the next play is what kept me page turning. (The answer, if you care to know, is a complete personality change following a very long monologue.)
King Henry V (1599) You’d think that England would be as pissed off to have this guy as king as they were about his father, but King Henry V transformed from an unworthy prince to an awesome monarch. The rebellions are over, but that doesn’t mean the fighting is done! There’s still plotting on the King’s life, but that’s not the main focus. What is that compared to England invading France? It’s not looking so good for England for awhile, and Henry goes among his soldiers in disguise. He then makes some damn good speeches that would turn me into a hawk (this coming from a lady that minored in Peace Studies). The end suddenly turns comic and romantic, but I won’t spoil that for you.
Here’s a quote from King Henry V:
King Henry V: “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead!
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let it pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o’rewhelm
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O’erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill’d with the wild and wasteful ocean.”
A Clash of Kings (1999) by George R. R. Martin
I started reading this, the second book in the Song of Ice and Fire series, as well as the first book in the series, A Game of Thrones, in July. (If you are lost and want to know about the series as a whole, read the July Reads post.) As with Game of Thrones, there weren’t a lot of surprises in this book, as the second season of the television series (which I’d already seen) follows it closely. There are more TV vs. book differences here than in Thrones; some of the characters are left out, some of the characters in the television show are more developed (two semi-minor girl characters are pretty much personality-less in the books but are very interesting in the television series). But it mostly is pretty much the same.
The books have a different point of view narrator each chapter, and I loved that new characters were given major narration roles in this book. This gave insight into other areas of geography and a deeper look into some of the factions not covered in the previous book.
Here’s a quote from A Clash of Kings:
“‘How can you still count yourself a knight, when you have forsaken every vow you ever swore?’
Jaime reached for the flagon to refill his cup. ‘So many vows…they make you swear and swear. Defend the king. Obey the king. Keep his secrets. Do his bidding. Your life for his. But obey your father. Love your sister. Protect the innocent. Defend the weak. Respect the gods. Obey the laws. It’s too much. No matter what you do, you’re forsaking one vow or the other.'”
A Storm of Swords(2000) by George R. R. Martin
This, the third book in the series, is probably my favorite so far. It might be because I had no idea what was going to happen. Again, Martin’s not afraid to kill off people you like… but he finally kills off a few you don’t like too. The point of view narration also picks up by a few characters that aren’t sympathetic (though Martin somehow makes you hate them a bit less), which makes for some interesting reading. It’s fun to know why the bad guys are doing what they’re doing.
The end to this is SO SHOCKING. So good that I finished reading it and immediately picked up the next book in the series.
“‘Why should I wish him dead?’ Littlefinger shrugged. ‘I had no motive. Besides, I am a thousand leagues away in the Vale. Always keep your foes confused. If they are never certain who you are or what you want, they cannot know what you are like to do next. Sometimes the best way to baffle them is to make moves that have no purpose, or even seem to work against you. Remember that, Sansa, when you come to play the game.
‘What . . . what game?’
‘The only game. The game of thrones.'”
A Feast for Crows(2005) by George R. R. Martin
I also started reading the fourth book from the Song of Ice and Fire series this month, but I’ll save what I think about that for the September Reads posts. I will say that this book is split geographically instead of chronologically with the fifth book, so a lot of the characters I care about did not appear in this volume at all. I wish I had known that ahead of time, because I kept reading and reading, wondering where the heck the other characters and places were. But, alas, it was mostly centered around Lannisters, for those of you who follow the series. And not the good ones. And you spend way too much time in Cerci’s head for my taste in this book, but that just made me hate her more. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted a character in a book to die more. Reading makes me mean.
You can see all of my other reads posts here.
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Have you read any of these? What did you think? What are you reading lately?