What I have been reading

Rain and illness have contributed to quite a bit of reading. This is not necessarily the order in which they were read, rather the order and collection they were in as I put them in my book journal.

Doughnut by Tom Holt. I have been reading Tom holt since high school, he is kind of like a mash up of Doug Adams and terry pratchett. Writes in the fantasy space but waaaay more British than pratchett. This book was weird. Lots of physics concepts, alternate realities, bending causality. Engrossing, but strange. And the ending ( as with most of his books) is not completely conclusive.

the princess bride By William Goldman. The book that the movie is based on. A reread of an old favourite. The book is structured as him abridging a pre-existing book- the princess bride, so lots of asides. Just fun.

the belly of the wolf By R. A. MacAvoy. This is the third book in the lens of the world series. It’s fantasy I guess. Another reread. The protagonist is an aging scientist/philosopher/writer who must stop a potential civil war in his country. This is complicated due to his potential to be crowned as king and the fact that he wrote about the philosophy that the rebellious side believe in. These are interesting books on what it means to be human.

love a little sideways by Shannon Stacey. This is one of Kowalski series, and is the story of Liz Kowalski. I like this series, they are are happy contemporary romances in a small town, and have realistic people. But this book ( and several of the others ) can be tough- a lot of her heroines are my age of older and they easily fall pregnant/consider it, and there are babies in this book. The issue of kids is a bigger issue in this one because the hero and his first wife divorced ( a few books back) because she never wanted kids, and lied about it. Fun read, but some issues.

Christmas kismet Jemma grey. Novella. My notes say jilted woman accidentally spends winter weekend in remote cabin with widower, romance ensues. Widower has two daughters conveniently not present. Meh

A gentleman and a scoundrel by Norma Darcy. Dreadful. Regency romance that borrows plot lines from all over the place and smushes them together. Young woman is supposed to marry a duke, because her older sister, who was originally to do so married someone else. She isn’t sure she wants to. Duke is secretly in love with her. Random plots all over the place. She toys with finding him a new bride. Matchmaking for her other sister and a friend of the duke. Falls in love with a callow young neighbor. Dire

the diakos baby scandal Natalie rivers. A harlequin presents novel. Secret baby, rich Greek businessman, secret family problems.

The greek’s forced brideMichelle Reid. Another harlequin presents. Repressed young woman walks in on her fiancé and sister getting it on. She flees and ends up marrying her fiances stepbrother. Drama

taken with you Shannon stacey. Another Kowalski book, but not actually about any of the kowalskis. Town librarian, not a wilderness girl, get a lost on a single woman’s weekend and is rescued by a holidaying ranger, who turns up in town as the new ranger in the area and her neighbor. Fun, interesting take on contrasting people and how it works. Only baby is her friend’s and not a major plot point.

smitten Janet evanovich. Prior to the Stephanie Plum novels she wrote romances. A tad slapstick, divorced mom begs for job from local construction company, boss falls for her, hijacks ensue. There’s a flasher, a crazy old lady and a hungry puppy

moosed up tiffinie helmer. Yes, that is how her name is spelled. A nurse, recently arrived in a remote Alaskan township falls for the local ranger ( ok, perhaps ranger in both this and the Kowalski book is not quite the right name- the parks and wildlife enforcer). He’s hot and he talks to animals. Kind of madcap, kind of thriller ( she gets held up by poachers) not great.

The Nekkid Truth
. Nicole Camden. Erotica. Photographer with face amnesia ( she cannot remember faces) works with police at crime scenes, in love with with one of the detectives, involved in a case. Pretty good

So I have read a bit in the last couple of weeks. Escapism reading

Fan Fiction

No, I am not writing fan fiction.

I never have, but I have certainly read some in my time.  For those who do not know (and there are a lot of people who don’t) fan fiction is an activity whereby you use the characters/setting/worlds of a tv show, movie or book and write your own.  Sometimes they even surpass the original.  Many years ago I read an article that implied Star Trek was one of the original sources of fan fiction, and of the sub genre known as “slash” (not about the GnR guitarist-sorry).

This fascinates me, and also helps demonstrate one my pet theories.  Generally good fan fiction comes from sub par development of tv and movies.  The fans fill in the back stories and lives of their favorite characters. Star Trek- while a revolutionary tv series etc etc, is not the best character development tv show ever.  Hence obsessive fans filled in the gaps.  And since one of my favorite writers (Lois McMaster Bujold) started out her writing life by doing so, I can’t say it is all bad.  In a way I am impressed by the dedication of the people who wrote and “published” these stories- pre web, pre fax and pretty much pre home computer.  They really loved those characters.

But the tv show was cancelled (all the more reason to keep Kirk and Spock going in their imagination)and people found new sources of fan obsessiveness.  Star Wars- another good story that kind of has wooden characters.  Once again- impressed (and disturbed) by the dedication.

Then the internets arrived.  People suddenly found whole groups of people to obsess with- I mean if the collectors of beanie babies could find each other, the people who wrote stories about Kirk and Han solo definitely could. And they found an audience. Boom!

Now there are many sites dedicated to fan fiction now.  More than you want to know.

Slash fiction is primarily about relationships between two male characters as in “Han/Luke”.  For some reason this is really appealing to fan fiction writers, who are mainly straight females.  No, no idea why.  I will comment that women seem to demonstrate their fandom by writing fan fiction, men by dressing up in strange costumes and creating fake languages. Interesting.

One of the theories behind the mostly female writing of slash is it is to give the male characters a fuller emotional life.  I don’t know.  It is not my favoured area of fan fiction, so haven’t really thought much about it.

Anyway there is fan fiction for many things. Dawson’s Creek, Harry Potter, Buffy, and House.  Also  Full House!? Some is good.  Some is written by 13 year old fan girls who don’t understand plot, grammar or spelling.  It hurts the eyes and scars the brain. Some involves relationships that you want to scrub out of your brain with a wire brush. (no not telling you- it hurts.) If you haven’t dipped into this weird world, it can be amusing. No really.  And I think it can help beginning writers learn, up to a point.  After that you really need to write your own characters and your own plot.

I don’t have issues with most of the internet fan fiction writers.  They have a hobby, it isn’t hurting anyone and they freely acknowledge that the characters are not theirs.  Its the legitimised fan fic I have issues with.

You know the spin off novels- the carry ons.  Star Trek has had these for years, they get done for many of the teen and tween shows (we bought Greg’s niece Ava a set of Hannah Montana books for Christmas), and they are used to revitalise the franchise (hello Star Wars and Timothy Zahn).  The problem I have with these is that they really can’t do much with the characters- they have to keep them intact for the next tv season.  At least the fans can write a story where  Mulder and Scully get married in Vegas- the writers of the X files spin off novels can’t interfere with the storyline of the whole series.  It is kind of like the antithesis of fan fiction- the characters have to stay even more flat and wooden than the show or movie  they are based on. Bujold actually has talked about how when she was asked to write an “official” Star Trek novel she turned it down- it’s someone else’s wold, and their rules.

The only place this doesn’t apply is books.  Everyone wants a sequel to Gone with the Wind, or Pride and Prejudice- and because the authors are dead, they get to write what they want.  At least the Tolkien estate was smart. No One can write about Middle Earth.

My current pet peeve is the Pride & Prejudice brigade.  There are some good ones- like Joan Aiken- ho understand the period and the style and manage to write about peripheral characters, yet fill in the lines about the main ones. Then there are the books like the one I bought last week.  Stupid me for not reading enough.  The woman who wrote it started a fan fiction page because she loved the Keira Knightley movie so much she had to continue the story. (Gah, mistake one and two- the movie! and if you are going to write fan fic about a filmed production, at least have the wisdom to write about the Colin Firth mini series! ;-)) Then she got a publishing contract and the book I bought was the second book about the Darcy’s married life. Complete with sex scenes. I can quite put into words why this hurts, but it does.

And it is not the only one- there is a whole industry of people out there writing these books.  Getting the language wrong, and making Elizabeth a feminist ( sorry but she really isn’t) and a whole host of 21st century attitudes.  And so poorly written and observed in comparison to the original.  And they are books. Why? Please leave poor defenseless Jane Austen alone.

Ok-rant over.

What I have been reading

It has been a couple of weeks, and I have been doing quite a bit of reading.

First off the bat, I finally finished Venus Envy by Rita Mae Brown.  I had been reading this off and on for the past six months.  The main character, Mary Frazier Armstrong, is a well off woman in her mid 30s who runs a thriving art gallery in a small town in Virginia.  She goes to the hospital suffering breathing difficulties (lifelong smoker) and is told that she is dying.  Her assistant gives her a box of nice stationery and tells her to write to the people she loves.  She does, telling them to live their lives to the fullest with no regrets, and by the way she is gay.  The next morning her very embarrassed doctor shows up- her x rays were mixed up and she isn’t dying.  The letters have gone, and the rest of the book deals with the fallout.  Frazier copes with ex-lovers and ex- beards who feel threatened by her choice as well as the reactions of her family, both good and bad.  It’s entertaining, if a bit dated ( written in the mid 80’s).

I have also finally finished This Charming Man by Marian Keyes.  I know there are a lot of people who place Marian Keyes in the fluffy chick lit section and ignore, but her books often deal with deeper issues.  In this case, the original storyline is that a young, sexy politician has just announced his marriage, and the book deals with how 4 women cope.   What the book is really about is the insidious nature of spousal abuse.  Each of the women in the book is dealing with the fallout from their relationships (not all romantic) with the politician and the way he abused them.   They are interesting reads, but I don’t find them as brainless as many people seem to think they are.

ON to two historical romances by Amanda Quick.  The first, The Paid Companion, is set in roughly the 1820’s or so.  An energetic nobleman/scientist is searching for the murderer of his uncle.  After his fiance elopes with another man he decides to select the next one from an employment agency. He does so, and murder mayhem and romance ensue.  Fluffy and relatively brainless, but once again the overused metaphor that ties the story together- this time chemistry and electricity.  Yes is it possible to be overwhelmed by references to chemistry and electricity between two people. The second, The Third Circle is set in the late Victorian era and is part of a series about the Arcane Society.   It focuses on a special crystal, that can only b worked by descendants of a particular woman, and efforts to steal and retrieve it.  Lots and lots of references to auras and psychical abilities.  Entertaining, but not my favourite genre.

On to the big series,   Garth Nix’s Keys to the Kingdom.  This is a children’s series, but he is one of my favourite authors.  The premise is rather interesting, a 12 year old boy, Arthur, is dying in an asthma attack when three mysterious men in suits materialise, and after argument, declare him a true heir to the will and give him Monday’s keys.  He is just as confused as that last sentence.  Basically thousands of years ago the seven trustees of the will for the House broke it and allocated the days and responsibilities to them selves.  A piece of the Will has escaped, and so action needs to be taken.  In the scene above, Mister Monday has been persuaded to give Arthur his Keys and declare him heir, with the knowledge that Arthur is supposed to die in the next minute.  but the power of the keys keeps Arthur alive.  He embarks on a quest (7 books) for each of the keys and parts of the Will to carry out the Architect’s Will.  A well written and suspenseful series.  The books are: Mister Monday, Grim Tuesday, Drowned Wednesday, Sir Thursday, Lady Friday, Superior Saturday and Lord Sunday.

The next is a reread of Carole Kendall’s The Gammage Cup.  It is another children’s book, and quite a good one.  The wikipedia link does a better recap than I, so I will simply say that it is a fantastic story about sticking to our guns and believing in yourself.  It also has a character called Muggles. hmm

The accidental sorcerer and Witches Inc are both by K E Mills.  The first concerns a third grade sorcerer who accidentally blows up a staff factory.  After this debacle he is desperate for a job, and winds up accepting the post of court wizard to a small post colonial kingdom.  He discovers new, much more powerful magic skills, but is trapped by his employer, the mad king of the country.  Bad things happen, then he finds courage to stand up to the king. At the end he is offered a job in his country’s magical spy department, and reluctantly accepts.  Witches Inc follows on, tracing the sorcerer in his first assignment and the sister of the mad ing as she tries to set up a witch agency.  Their cases collide and everything goes pear shaped.

The Last book, finished today, is The Last Hero by Terry Pratchett.  There is no point describing it- either you know about Terry Pratchett or you don’t.  If you don’t- well take a look at wikipedia.

That’s about all remember of the last couple of weeks, still close to an average of a book a day, although dropping a bit.  I am off to have some BBQ.

Romance and accuracy

Of late I have been reading several regency romances by Stephanie Laurens- the Cynster series and the Bastion Club. While both of these series are enjoyable, and have a balance between the romance side and the mystery that drives the story, I am starting to have issues with the historical accuracy.
I like history, but I would not have called myself an expert on early nineteenth century Britain. Unfortunately, neither is the author. There a few areas where I doubt whether the details are accurate, and there are some where I know the details are inaccurate. For example, in one book, set in the early 1830s, the main characters pay a visit to Harrods. Thankfully it is not described in much detail, but it is still interesting that they manage to visit a store that will not open for another few decades.
Once these details are spotted, they start to niggle and the whole construct of the story is shaken by distrust of these details. Was horse racing really like that in the 1820’s? other sources indicate not. Was Vauxhall Gardens still a popular high society entertainment in the mid 1820’s- sadly probably not. A lot of the areas are ideas about the regency (references to Prinny), ideas about London (that have no idea of the geography) and ideas about England that are more myth than reality.
The books are still readable, I just don’t use them as any type of reference material.