Monday, February 24, 2014

2014 Reading, Books 22-24

22) Coriolanus, by William Shakespeare.

Yesterday I saw Tom Hiddleston as Coriolanus in the Donmar Warehouse production that's being shown at various art-house cinemas. Because, Tom Hiddleston. And also Shakespeare. It was a beautiful thing. In any case, I thought it behooved me to read the play first, the better to follow the action on screen.

I can see why this isn't one of Shakespeare's most famous tragedies. To me Coriolanus (the play and character alike) doesn't have the heft of a Hamlet or Macbeth or Othello. He felt more like a caricature than a person on some levels--though, that said, he's a caricature of a recognizable type, namely the brilliant, arrogant leader who feels like his accomplishments should speak for themselves and disdains the political game of appealing to the masses. I've encountered such leaders in history and even in modern politics, and in subtler form I even tend to like them--they're better than smooth-talking demagogues, at least! And now that I've seen the performance, Coriolanus as played by Hiddleston did feel like a person--a young, arrogant aristocrat gifted at war but in over his head in politics. A recognizable type indeed.

23) The Witness Wore Red, by Rebecca Musser with M. Bridget Cook.

I've always felt a certain horrified fascination for the FLDS polygamist cult, and I've read several memoirs of women who've escaped. This was a particularly fascinating account of the young woman who in her late teens became the 19th wife of elderly cult leader Rulon Jeffs, only to decide to escape after his death when his son Warren became the leader of the group and made it even more restrictive and insane. She was a key assistant to the Texas police and witness in the trials that resulted from the raids on the YFZ Ranch a few years ago.

24) The Stolen Luck, by Shawna Reppert.

This male/male fantasy romance is a lovely, well-balanced, well-paced story. The human hero, James, wins elven slave Loren in a game of cards. Even though he is morally opposed to slavery, he needs the elf's help to win back the stolen "Luck" of the title--a talisman that ensures the productivity of his lands and therefore his family and dependents' future. He swears to free Loren so he can return to his own lands and people...but only when the Luck is back in his hands. Attraction and trust very gradually grows between the two men, but neither is willing to act on their feelings while Loren remains a slave.

I love the subtlety of this story. The fantasy world feels lived-in and plausible without a lot of extraneous detail. While the stakes are hugely important to the characters--James needs to save his estates and Loren longs to be free--this isn't a Save the World! story. I enjoy a Save the World! story as much as the next reader, but I also like variety. And I love that James and Loren never let their feelings for each other get the better of their integrity and honor.

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