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text 2017-06-16 12:34
Bloggers write: Why I love circus books

 

A guest post by Lora from Lora's Rants and Reviews

 

Every child is enchanted by the idea of the circus at some point in their young life. For me, this began with the story of Toby Tyler, by James Otis, alternately titled Ten Weeks with a Circus. The story was also made into a movie called Toby Tyler as well as a radio dramatisation.

 

As I became an adult, I learned that the way animals were treated in the real life circus could be brutal at times and the big cats, whom I loved most, spent their lives in cages the size of a train car. Circuses are actually not legally allowed to keep animals in the UK. So, for me, the magic of the circus is relegated to fantasy; to the world of books.

 

While fiction satisfies my fascination with life behind the scenes of the circus, some non-fiction books are also very interesting, relating what this life was really like in the days when there was no regulation to speak of to keep the activities of circus folk completely legal. While circus is primarily a performance profession, there was a time when 'hooch tents' and violations of prohibition played a significant role on the seedy side of traveling entertainment.

 

Some stories relate this side of circus life as openly as the non-fiction books, like Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. The author did her research well and many incidents, including a very amusing situation involving an elephant stealing lemonade, came from real anecdotes from circus people. There are some sad incidents concerning animals in the annals of real circus life as well, but these I try to avoid.

 

Toby Tyler, or Ten Weeks with a Circus - James Otis Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen

 

Circus books are my fantasy circus, where animals are never mistreated and it's all about the magic of entertainment. I am, however, fussy about authors doing their research properly. I have an aunt who traveled with the carnival in her youth and she taught me the differences between the circus and the carnival. A fast way to get me to abandon a book is to write in a carnival setting and mention a Big Top or to refer to circus people as Carnies.

 

These worlds have a few things in common, but distinct differences. I loved how Stephen King got around all that in Joyland  by setting the story in an amusement park owned by someone who had worked for both the circus and the carnival sometime in his past.

 

Joyland - Stephen King Mr. Stubbs's Brother: A Sequel to Toby Tyler (Illustrated Edition) (Dodo Press) - James Otis

 

I recently found another book by James Otis on Amazon, Mr. Stubbs's Brother: A Sequel to Toby Tyler. It was even free! Naturally this is high on my tbr, but I want to re-read Toby Tyler again first. These circus stories bring out my inner child and for just a little while, allow me to enter a world where it's all about the magic.

 

A Spark of Justice - J.D. Hawkins Under the Big Top: A Season with the Circus - Bruce Feiler The Advance Man: A Journey Into the World of the Circus - Jamie MacVicar

 

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If you missed the Book Love Story blog posts by BookLikes bloggers have a look here and join. Can't wait to read and re-post your book love stories! Remember to add why I love tag to your book love story.

 

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text 2017-06-09 11:14
Bloggers write: Why I love reading

 

A guest post by Chris from Chris' Fish Place

 

I know that these posts are supposed to be genre based, but that's not goint to work for me.

 

For me, reading is life. I know it is for many of us on sites like this or Goodreads or LibraryThing.  Pick your position. You have more books than you know what to do with. The e-reader is the book haul. Your bedroom or house is simply a place where you sleep or live with books.  It's library with an alternate function.

 

I was, am, never the out going one. I am the shy one, the quiet one, the one with her head in the book because the best thing about human race in many class is literature.  At first, books are an escape.  There's magic.  There's horses.  There's dragons.  The underdog wins.  The unpopularity doesn't matter because the book doesn't care.  You meet people like you in books.  The characters don't give a damn what your hang ups are, and they don't betray you - at least not in the real world way.  You can forget, submerge, be on Mars, Krynn, MIddle Earth, Medevial France, the Tudor Court, a mole in a hole.  

 

And you can stop reading. You are in control and not in control.  It's a good feeling.

 

Because books are there. Once, you just needed a library card. Now, you need a phone or computer.  

 

The Hero and the Crown - Robin McKinley Then you get older, and you realize that books teach you. That Robin McKinley's The Hero and the Crown didn't just teach about story telling but about being a woman. That non-fiction is worth reading too, even if it is about those long dead people.  

 

Non-fiction boards your mind. Fiction does too.

 

It keeps you sane because it is the rabbit hole and the ruby slippers. The way out, the way back. It can protect you from those other humans, yet educate you about them too.

 

It is a way to make friends.

 

One of my oldest friends is my friend because we both loved The Hero and the Crown. Today, we have many books in companion, and some we don't. I went to my first protest with my book club. Every friend I have on a site like BookLikes or GoodReads is there because of books. Books aren't about life; they are a key to life.

 

I love reading because it helped me find my voice.

 

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If you missed the Book Love Story blog posts by BookLikes bloggers have a look here and join. Can't wait to read and re-post your book love stories! Remember to add why I love tag to your book love stories.

 

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text 2017-06-02 13:10
Bloggers write: Why I love science fiction and fantasy books

 

A guest post by Debbie from Debbie's Spurts

 

Once upon a time, a child's moving neighbor asked if they wanted any books before donated elsewhere.  Duh.  I was an avid reader of whatever variety of stuff found in school library, borrowed from friends and sporadic yard sales.  These boxes included authors like Lester Del Rey, Andre Norton, Robert A. Heinlein, Alan Dean Foster, Mercedes Lackey, Andrew J. Offutt, John Wyndham, Ron Goulart, J.R.R. Tolkien, Anne McCaffrey ... devoured, never looked back and have been hooked ever since by these greats of SF/Fantasy.

 

If it can start with "what if," "In a faraway," or "Once Upon a Time," count me in!

 

Oh, the possibilities.  The potential worldbuilding.  The "what if ..."  The potential "other," diversity or alien-ness for characters.  Societies and sociological switch-ups.  The exploration of furthest reaches of space, science and imagination.  The huge tapestry in which an author can create.  Escapism for me, please, but with a logic inherent to whatever the author has imagined.  Take me along for the ride and for a brief moment let me live in the world you made with your stories and your characters instead of mine,

 

Moon of Mutiny - Lester del Rey The Stars are Ours - Andre Norton,James J. Campanella,Uvula Audio Stranger in a Strange Land - Robert A. Heinlein  Arrows of the Queen - Mercedes Lackey  

 

Web Of The Spider - Andrew J. Offutt,Richard K. Lyon  The Day of the Triffids - John Wyndham  The Panchronicon Plot - Ron Goulart  The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien  

 

Yes, those few unwanted boxes launched nearly 50 years of book love.  No genre beats the scope and elements of an excellent SF/Fantasy book.

 

Squee!  I'm a dancing fan poodle unable to write a good post about it.

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If you missed the Book Love Story blog posts by BookLikes bloggers have a look here and join. Can't wait to read and re-post your book love stories! Remember to add why I love tag to your book love story.

 

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text 2017-04-02 17:37
Why I Love Poetry

I was disheartened but not surprised poetry was left out of the "Why I Love" featured posts in February. Poetry, especially contemporary poetry, has a comparatively small readership, at least in America. As a poet, it sometimes seems that only fellow poets read poetry, which is a shame.

 

Before I explain why I love poetry, here are some reasons why it appears readers avoid it (feel free to skip!):

 

1. Poetry tends not to be taught in school as consistently as prose, at least in the U.S. When it is, it's often works that are at least 50 years old, if not centuries. I went to a good public school, and in addition to Shakespeare's sonnets, we may occasionally have read the likes of Robert Frost, Dylan Thomas, and Emily Dickinson. Fine poets, but not contemporary and not representative enough. As a result, students think all poetry must rhyme or be in form and sounds antiquated.

 

2. Poetry has a reputation for being "difficult." This is related to the reason above in that students erroneously learn to see poems as puzzles to be solved. Poems are not math problems (one more reason I love them). There is no mystical key you must stumble upon to "unlock" a poem. Poems are like living beings when encountered in that space between the words on the page (or in the air if heard) and what happens in your mind and body. When poems are approached as if they are puzzles, it's like treating them as dead things, or like Prufrock in T.S. Eliot's poem, when he is "fix[ed]...in a formulated phrase...sprawling on a pin...pinned and wriggling on the wall." If a reader is fixated on "solving" it, he/she will miss the poem's beauty.

 

3. We're living in a time when the arts and humanities are undervalued. In the U.S., funding for the National Endowment for the Arts has been gutted in Trump's budget proposal, even though it's a minuscule slice of the federal pie. Even in Obama's presidency, the emphasis was on training and education for the science and technology fields. I have a PhD in English and still have been unable to find a full-time teaching position as the recession hit a few years before I graduated. As universities' budgets are cut, so are the literary journals they help fund. Essentially, there are fewer places to publish and read poetry.

 

So here's WHY I LOVE POETRY, and you should too!

 

1. Every line of a poem (or sentence/phrase in a prose poem) can be a surprise, can change everything, including the reader. Prose forms and drama build tension and suspense through plot; poetry doesn't need that. That combination of surprise and recognition that happens when you read a good poem is like having an epiphany over and over with each line, with no dilution of its revelation, or like hearing a favorite comedian deliver a punchline. My favorite example of a poem that embodies this sort of surprise is Rilke's "Archaic Torso of Apollo."

 

2. Sound and language for their own sake. Even if you have no idea what a poem is "about," you can enjoy the way it plays with language and sound. This is why nonsense poems like Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky" are still a delight. Also a reminder that poems are meant to be heard.

 

3. Diversity: of form, source (writer, culture, time), purpose. Every culture with which I am familiar has its own poetry (or poetries). Before prose, there was poetry. Before we wrote anything down, there was poetry. So whatever you're in the mood for, there's a poem for it, whether it's something political, personal, social; narrative or lyric; formal or free; angry, joyful, sad, funny.

 

Here's my favorite site to browse poems: poetryfoundation.org. You can browse by occasion, poet, movement, time period, place, etc.

 

Here are some contemporary poet recs. (Also feel free to browse my poetry tag(s).)

 

Anne Carson

Billy Collins

Mark Doty

Rita Dove

Daisy Fried

Louise Gluck

Matthea Harvey

Robert Hass

Seamus Heaney

Zbigniew Herbert

Juan Felipe Herrera

Marie Howe

Ko Un

Yusef Komunyakaa

Jamaal May

Harryette Mullen

Adrienne Rich

Tomas Transtromer

David Wojahn

Adam Zagajewski

 

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text 2017-03-21 20:47
Why I Love Urban Fantasy

I’ve been a fantasy reader all of my life.  I started as a little kid with books like Waldo the Jumping Dragon.  I continued as a teenager with The Lord of the Rings.  And although I still have an enduring love of the regular fantasy genre as well as science fiction, I have found my true love in the Urban Fantasy subgenre.

 

Urban fantasy seemingly has it all: vampires, werewolves, fairies/the Fae, spies, time-traveling librarians, Medusas, talking mice, druids, magicians, goblins, intergalactic inns, magic swords, you name it!  It also has a propensity towards tough, ass-kicking main characters, be they male or female.

 

But no matter how impressive the main character, they suffer from the same problems as you and I do.  They sometimes doubt their abilities (Seanan McGuire’s October Daye).  They have difficulty with their families (Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels trying to cope with her god-like father).  They struggle with their finances (Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden).  They experience confusion in their love lives (Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse).  They worry about their careers (Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant).  They make bad decisions that have lasting effects on their lives (Kevin Hearne’s Atticus O’Sullivan).  They’ve lost people who are important to them (Ilona Andrews’ Dina Demille).  They’re having problems with their supervisor at work (Genevieve Cogman’s librarian, Irene).  They struggle to provide for their families (Ilona Andrews’ Nevada Baylor).

 

In short, these characters share the same problems that we have in the mundane world.  Just as the Harry Potter books speak to regular kids’ problems (sports, tests, bullies, misunderstandings between friends), Urban Fantasy represents a subset of somewhat more adult problems. 

 

Plus, Urban Fantasy is all about relationships and not just romantic relationships.  Building a supportive circle of friends and allies.  Making a good reputation for yourself.  Finding a good partner, both in work and in love.  Finding out what you stand for.  Basically, it is about building a well-rounded life for oneself.

 

When the main character is female, she is generally a take-charge woman.  She’s a mechanic like Mercy Thompson or a vampire-librarian like Jane Jameson or an Inn Keeper like Dina Demille.  She’s got a quick wit and quicker reflexes.  They are us the way we would like to be.  I don’t know about you, but I always think of the perfect rejoinder about two days later and I often feel like I’m in danger of tripping over my own feet.  This is the REAL fantasy of these novels—the fantasy that allows up to enjoy this feeling of competence that is occasionally missing from the daily grind.

 

I love the hopeful nature of Urban Fantasy—the belief embodied in it that we can all find our place, find our people, and find our way in the world.

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