Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Books Read Lately

I've been on the road an awful lot lately so I am grateful for the audiobook.

The Burning Land, by Bernard Cornwell
Fifth in the Saxon Tales series, this has everything you will love if you have made it this far. The dominions of Alfred the great are again beset by the Danes and it is up to pagan Uthred to save the christian kingdom he despises.
It may be easy to think everything from the first four books could be retread but Cornwell keeps new characters fresh and individualized. The predicaments and twists are true to Dark Age life and the villains are as menacing as ever.
While I like Lords of the North and Swordsong a little better-The Burning Land is still an excellent read.
And "SPOILER" as Uthred has not yet taken Bebbanburg we can be assured at least one more book in the series.

The Fire from Within, by Carlos Castenada
I picked this up from the library in part because I had heard of Castenada and the teachings of Don Juan but was not familiar with them or what they were about. Any New Agey book has to have something to grab my attention (10th Insights racing around Peru for example)
So as I perused this I noticed that Castaneda wrote that his spiritual mentor Don Juan (and others) are Nagual. This caught my attention because a Nagual is a shapeshifter, a skinwalker etc etc. I have been reading up on these as of late for several different stories I am working on, so...
He claims to learn at the feet of a Skinwalker, I took the book home and started reading-some real interesting stuff regarding the ancient Toltecs (my Ishmaelites in Heroes of the Fallen) and I'm reading thinking, OK this is cool, this is cool, this is cool...oh wait this guy is a nut.
While there were some interesting things mentioned in the book, the farther I got in, the more I had to say WTF?
Granted, I may have my own weird ideas but the two mentors Don Juan and another having such childish mean-spirited pranks to pull on Castaneda himself struck me as weak and then the explanations of there is no God but a great fiery eagle that will devour us if we don't light our own fire within just sounds like PC hogwash.
You had me then you lost me.
I came to find out later that all the time in the desert Castenada claims he was learning at the feet of these masters, he was in Berkley's library with a hoard of books. Just admit you're writing fiction.

The Best of H.P. Lovecraft, by H.P. Lovecraft
I had read most of these years ago already, but I found for the drive and travel I enjoyed rereading/listening to old favorites. This is a collection of shorts /novella's by that eldritch pulp horror writer H. P. Lovecraft. Inside is the classics ~The Call of Cthullu, The Dunwich Horror, The Whisperer in Darkness, The Outsider, The Shadow over Innsmouth etc etc.
For me it is simmering thought of what could be "out there-scuttling in the dark" that is most appealing about these tales.
Horror as defined by the "slasher genre/real life threat" bears me no interest-these are not monsters, just mad dogs who should be put down-but what of the unfathomable unearthly terrors? These are what interest and taunt my attention~Lovecraft delivers.

Conan the Usurper, by Robert E. Howard
This is one of the 12 original Lancers released with the useless heavy-editing-hand of DeCamp. It was one of the first Conan's I ever read and thus has a strong pull on me still. My brother downloaded an audio version and that made it convenient for me to listen to mostly REH (you purists) while driving-(I don't have the Del Reys on audio despite trying with the local library for months)
Inside is The Treasure of Tranicos (The Black Stranger)regardless of DeCamps tampering this is still one of my favorite Conan yarns, a spectacular blend of Treasure Island, Last of the Mohicans and Count of Monte Cristo.
Wolves Beyond the Borders~ a fantastical frontier fantasy, The Phoenix on the Sword-a superb short with Conan as king and those who plot revolt, and finally The Scarlet Citadel which has one of the best closing scenes in any fantasy yarn ever.

On Writing, by Stephen King
I have read this before as well, but it seemed a good one to take with me on the drive, I enjoys King's timbre as he reads the book himself. The humor is well conveyed and his conversational tone made it feel like he was riding in the truck beside my son and I. The great thing about rereading books you love is catching things all over again and sometimes for the first time, despite it really being the third time round.
While King has yet to become one of my personal favorite authors I respect his work ethic and advice, I have gotten more out of this relatively short book than I have out dozens of other tomes on the craft of writing. The vitality he presents speaks to me and imagine even non-writers thoroughly enjoying this ride.


Karlene said...

I read some Castenada in high school. He was freakin' weird. If you like that kind of stuff, Lynn Andrews has some similar books from a woman's perspective.

David J. West said...

Thanks Karlene-but NO I really didn't care for it.

Berin Stephens said...

I used to have that very edition of the Conan book. Sadly, no more.

David J. West said...

Its one of my faves, Berin.

Brian Murphy said...

I'm looking forward to the Burning Land. Right now it's in my "to be read" pile and it's starting to call to me...