msmcknittington
07 May 2009 @ 02:19 am
I think I'm going to start posting my book reviews in my journal, because it's not like I don't spend a lot of time writing them. Also: guaranteed content!

That is, of course, unless anyone has any objection. Speak now or forever hold your peace, people! There is no turning back once I make up my mind to do something.

Book review: The Doubletree by Victoria Pade (Western historical romance) )

Um, this is also acknowledgment of the fact that I judge genre books by different standards than non-genre books. There is general fiction and then there is genre fiction, and genre fiction has an entire culture of expectations and conventions that non-genre fiction doesn't. So, my ratings for romance novels are based on romance conventions and expectations, not general fiction. If I ever read any romance that I think a general reader will like, I will advise. Otherwise, romance non-readers, don't take my high ratings on romances as a recommendation, because you will probably end up confused and/or with a broken brain.
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Current Music: Teignmouth -- Patrick Wolf
 
 
msmcknittington
21 February 2009 @ 01:41 am
Friends:

What does everybody think about Norman F. Cantor? Will he be useful to me in my "Smells Like the Holy Spirit" research, or does he do "Bad Old Days" writing? Any books in particular I should read?

I keep realizing that I know next to nothing about the middle ages, because of things like this. Norman F. Cantor is a very prominent author of medieval history, and I really have no concept of his work. And yet, somehow, I still know more about the middle ages than most people off the street. There's something wrong in that.

Yes, I am still intending to work on my novel-y thing, even if it means being very silly indeed in the process. And dedicating NaNoWriMo 2009 to it.
 
 
msmcknittington
07 January 2009 @ 02:30 pm
I am not looking at the Trés Riches Heures . . . especially not June and July and September. I am not saying, "Oh, the women in June are dressed perfectly for summer. All they need are straw hats." I am not thinking about starting the research for an early 16th-century milkmaid's outfit again. I am not thinking about personas and choosing a name. I am not thinking about what games Jeff and Char's boys would like to play or what books they'd like read to them.

This is not happening. This post was never written.

This IS happening: My books came today! I have "The Ties that Bound" by Barbara Hanawalt, "Persuasion" by Jane Austen, and "The Ladies of Grace Adieu" by Susanna Clarke, which is absolutely beautiful. The cover is lovely and very much in the tradition of 19th-century books, with flowers stamped and painted on the hardcover. And they smell like new books! Mmm, delicious.
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msmcknittington
27 October 2008 @ 03:20 am
I really want this book: Chivalry and Violence in Medieval Europe by Richard W. Kaeuper.

The only problem is that it's $150. ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS! For a single book? At least the shipping is free!

Oh, wait. That's the hardcover. The paperback is only $60. That's more reasonable. According to the paperback page, 76-percent of customers go on to buy the hardcover edition. Uh-huh. I totally believe that.

Anybody want to buy it for me? I can offer you . . . three rutabagas, grown by yours truly with lots of love. They are all the size of softballs. And they were grown with love.

You can read a lot of it on Google Books. I scrolled all the way down to page 80 without hitting a break. It's a very pleasant read, too.

ETA: OMG! Brainstorm! In reading the above Google book, I was reminded that knights didn't have to be from different countries to wage war. What if in my NaNo novel, instead of having it set against the Welsh wars, I just have it be about two families duking it out? I would lose a plotline I was thinking about -- how to communicate when you don't speak the other's language? -- but I think I can deal with it. Hmmm.
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msmcknittington
20 October 2008 @ 10:24 pm
So, as you should all know by now, I am a fan of trashy books romance novels. Though to say I'm a fan strikes me as slightly weird -- my life doesn't revolve around them, I don't have expectations of life based upon them, in fact find a whole crapload of things wrong with a lot of aspects of the romance "standard", and they're by no means the only genre I read -- but I guess there isn't another word for it.

Unless, does anyone know of a phrase for someone who enjoys something but is fully aware of that thing's many flaws? Snarker, by some people's definitions of snark, I guess.

But I don't go into a romance novel expecting the LOLZ. Every time I pick one up, I go, "Wow! Maybe this will be the one! The book with minimal anachronism, no punishing kisses, nobody callously ripping apart anybody's clothes, no TSTL heroines, and heroes that are confident but not assholes. Oh, book! Please be this book!"

Yeah, that usually doesn't happen. Mary Balogh delivers consistently, as does Patricia Gaffney (who sadly doesn't write historicals anymore.) But most other authors? Oh, it's a tough call. It could go either way.

So, that's why I picked up a book of novellas, where Mary Balogh received top billing. Because Mary Balogh can do very little wrong in my mind. She pulled off one of the hardest things in a historical romance -- the hero was a virgin, and the heroine was way experienced. If you can do that convincingly, then . . . well, wow. Congratulations!

So, I grabbed a copy of Timeswept Brides for a quarter, and settled in for a good time.

The Mary Balogh story was, of course, quite good. Man goes back in time via a family heirloom ring, which he gave to his fiancee despite having some serious doubts about marrying her. In the past, he discovers his One True Love, who is married to the man whose body he happens to have appeared in. Who is also his direct ancestor, which sort of makes the MC his own grandpa. Anyway, the man in olden times scoots forward to the modern age, and falls in love with the MC's fiancee, because their respective SOs were more suited for the other guy. Yeah, it's confusing. But good! Very fluffy, because 72 pages isn't really enough space to explore serious issues.

And then I flipped to the next story, with high hopes. And it got . . . squicky. Like pedophilia squicky, which I was not expecting.

I'm not even sure where to start with this novella, there are so many things wrong with it. Historically, ethically, other -cally's. So let's start with the setting and the names of the characters and work from there.

A Dream Across Time by Constance O'Banyon )

So. Yeah. Bad novella. Pretty creepy.
 
 
Current Music: Ode to an Electric Fan -- Pretty Balanced
 
 
msmcknittington
23 June 2008 @ 05:27 pm
There was a thread about Laurell K. Hamilton and how horrible she is in Lazy, Stupid, and Godless on Ravelry, and I offered to share the end of "Nightseer", which was published by Roc in 1992. It's bad. It's really bad. The main character spends most of the book being bitchy and shutting down her (arranged marriage) fiancé's advances while simultaneously being kind of a tease. Also, her body is taken over by a succubus at one point, and then her fiancé is kidnapped by succubi led by the evil witch who killed her mother and . . . it's just bad.

So here's the end of the book, where Keleios and Lothor get hitched and their "wedding night". Bah. It's atypical to say the least.

As the section starts, Keleios is getting ready for her wedding to Lothor. Asterisks are mine. If you don't want to read about the wedding, scroll down to the part where I've bolded the text and begin there.

Lothor -- black healing arts priest/prince/fiancé dude
Keleios -- whiny bitch
Magda -- her former nanny/mother figure
Methia -- Keleios's twin sister
Groghe -- Keleios's imp/demon pet
Tobin -- prince of some other country; one of Keleios's sidekicks
Urle -- the god of Keleios and Methia's country; he's a blacksmith

The horror within )

So there you have it, folks. Attacked by a succubus on their wedding night and nearly dying while running the risk of burning down a castle, they laugh maniacally afterwards. These people are messed up. For all that Hamilton protests that she doesn't write sex scenes unless they advance the plot, here's an example where the character development would have actually been advanced with one.

I'm also not a fan of having a character have their epiphany in the last three pages of the book. It's just so abrupt.
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Current Music: Wandering Star -- Portishead
 
 
msmcknittington
11 June 2008 @ 10:13 am
I just got off the phone with the woman in charge of the adult fiction/mystery section at the library, and as the next book in the series (I Shall Not Want) came out yesterday, it was not on this month's book order. She'll order this month, which means it will arrive next month. I'm first in line on the waiting list, though!

Dude. I've only got three other books in the series to read, and that's only like a weekend's worth of reading. I suppose I could stretch it out to two weeks if I tried, but I am impatient as hell.

Note: I refuse to pay $25 for something that will take me an evening to read. Just no.
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msmcknittington
11 June 2008 @ 08:37 am
So, completely disregarding any recommendations made to me in my last poll about books, I downloaded and read Julia Spencer-Fleming's first two books about Reverend Clare Fergusson and Russ van Alstyne. They are OH MY GOD GOOD. (For murder mysteries -- no match for Foucalt's Pendulum, etc.) They're mysteries set in the Adirondacks in New York, in Washington County. I think they're set around the year 2000, because Russ van Alstyne is 48 in them, and he fought in Viet Nam in 1970, but no date is given exactly. Anyway, Clare Fergusson is the new Anglican priest in Millers Kill, a small rural town in northern New York. (By the way, guys, it's dairy country! How exciting is that?) Russ is retired military police, who's come home to Millers Kill to be the chief of police for the eight-person force. Coincidentally, Clare was a helicopter pilot in the Army until she got the calling to become a priest. They meet and mayhem commences. In an entirely engrossing and engaging manner -- these books are funny.

The principle attraction for me are the two main characters. They're not clichés -- a female ex-helicopter pilot turned priest could hardly be one -- and have depth. They're nice people, sincere people. And, since this isn't a Mary Higgins Clark novel, the heroine isn't helpless and the villains aren't senselessly menacing. That's always refreshing. The crimes themselves are . . . well, this is a murder mystery. I will admit that I wasn't able to pick up on who the guilty party is until shortly before the characters do, but I'm really stupid that way. Even Agatha Christie novels usually stump me.

Mild spoilers, nothing to get your hackles up )

The first two are also available for FREE from the publisher (St. Martin's Press) until June 13th. You have to sign up for their mailing list, but so far I've received exactly one e-mail from them, and I signed up on the 6th. It's just announcements about books they're releasing and promotional offers like this, so your choice. Details here on Julia Spencer Fleming's website.

My entire point in making this post was in saying that I desperately want to read the next four novels in the series. The latest one was released this month, but it's not showing up in my library's database yet. I want to read it now! The excerpt on Spencer-Fleming's website ends on a big ol' cliffhanger and I must know how it ends. I'm contemplating messaging somebody on Good Reads to find out, because I am in that much suspense.

This whole PDF book experience has led me to discover, however, that I really hate ebooks. So dumb. I like reading in bed before I go to sleep and in the tub -- in the bathroom generally, really -- and places where I can't lug my computer with me. I don't really have any interest in getting an ebook reader, regardless of however many people have drunk the Kindle-Aid, because I enjoy books. Paper? Paper is awesome! I liked to be able to toss one in my bag and not worry about trashing multiple books if I spill a cup of coffee in there. Only the one in that event. I also find that paper books give me less eyestrain than any sort of electronic display. Margin notes are occasionally my life, and who wants to futz with a stylus when a pencil works so much better?

Jeezum crow, when did I become a . . . not a phlebotomist. That other p-word. Plebian? Philander? Pharisee? Dammit, none of those words are it. More coffee for me.

As a last note, the final count for bug bites on my backside is five. Four on the top of one cheek, and one on the other. I don't even know how it happened. Those were some determined gnats. I know it was gnats because all the bites are dime-sized, and mosquito bites are always the size of half-dollars on me, because I am just that special. The total bug bite count? Eleven.

My mom says the bugs like to eat me because I'm so sweet, but I think it's because they're bloodthirsty little bastards. Consensus?
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Current Music: The Girl Is Mine with John Legend -- Stephen Colbert
 
 
msmcknittington
20 May 2008 @ 03:01 pm
In the current trashy book I'm reading (which is "Angel" by Johanna Lindsay -- so old it's got a Fabio clinch stepback for a cover), there's something that's just bugging me a lot. I take it for granted that the heroes in romance novels are supposed to be phenomenally handsome and virile to a fault. That's just the way it goes and probably the way it's gonna go for as long as there are books about twue wuv! between a silly girl and a powerful guy.

But this book just isn't conveying the whole hot dude thing to me. It's got that tradition of early '90s romances where the hero's hair is disreputably long, he's domineering* at first but has a change of heart when he realizes he wuvs! the heroine, he shoots people for a living . . . so it's got all the tenets of your basic Western romance novel. Bad dude meets good girl, add trouble, shake vigorously, and the end result is a cocktail of love. Except for one thing.

The gosh-darn hero is described as constantly wearing a bright yellow slicker/raincoat. Over all black clothing, natch. So every time the slicker is mentioned, instead of imagining some really handsome dude in a raincoat, I imagine this guy. Only more bumblebee-y.

Not good, Johanna Lindsay. Not good.

*Seriously, who finds someone who's constantly trying to control your actions, telling you you're wrong, and is insanely jealous a good life mate? Why did that cliché persist so long in romantic fiction? Drives me nuts!
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Current Music: Mother and Child Reunion -- Paul Simon
 
 
msmcknittington
17 March 2008 @ 01:29 am
Dear friends who read romance and young adult fiction:

The Smart Bitches, in coalition with some other blogs about books, are sponsoring a March Madness tourney for books. This is awesome! This is a tourney I actually know something about -- not so for wrestling or basketball.

The person whose tourney most closely matches the results (determined through weekly voting), will win copies of the top 8 books, a $50 gift certificate from Lochers.com, and a six-month subscription to Paperspine, which is Netflix for books. (I had not heard of this before, and I think it sounds pretty awesome.

The deadline is March 19, at 7 AM.

My top picks? Agnes and the Hitman and Thirteen Reasons Why, which is the only book I've actually read. It was pretty good.
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Current Music: Kilmeny -- Mediaeval Baebes