lesbiassparrow: (THEY MOVE LIKE COUGARS)
Hence comments on Outlander. So far I haven't gotten to the Scene I Have Been Warned About and it is not yet the worst thing I have ever read. Well, not quite, because I still think that book about the vampire who was cursed with having a dragon leap out of him on regular occasions was worse. But I am impressed by Hero and Heroine's ability to be captured by the English at every pivotal plot point. They should stop escaping as it only means that much effort and energy will be expended before they are inevitably captured again. I am also impressed by everyone's ability to speak English no matter how remote the area. They also speak Gaelic as well because otherwise how would we know this is the past, but they are kind enough only to speak it when it is not important for the Heroine to know something. I did not actually know that whipping of various sorts was such an important feature of 18th century rural life. In fact, so important was whipping people talked about it all the time. How they laughed about memorable whippings they had had! How they would regale each other with that story about how their dad/laird/the English/their clansmen whipped them for doing something that totally proves how much of a man they were! It made up about 90% of people's conversation when they weren't talking about whiskey, sadism, and horses.

The rest of the time, of course, they were off having sex in the bracken. Or being captured by the English and then having sex to celebrate their (temporary) escape. I REFUSE TO TALK ABOUT THE OTHER THINGS THAT MAKE UP THIS NOVEL INCLUDING THE AMOUNT OF TIMES PEOPLE TRY TO RAPE VARIOUS PEOPLE.

Heroine is total idiot: if anyone ever offers me the choice between hot baths, modern plumbing and medicine, not being captured by would-be rapist Englishmen and no plumbing, dirt and god knows what horrific illnesses that ran rampant in the 18th century, I know what option I am choosing and it doesn't include the hot and previously virginal 18th Scotsman no matter what he's got under his kilt. ARE YOU MAD, WOMAN? DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT HAPPENS TO THE HIGHLANDS IN THE 18TH CENTURY? CULLODEN IS ONLY THE START, YOU TWIT. PLUS NO INDOOR PLUMBING! AND RAPIST ENGLISHMEN! Admittedly, your husband seemed a bit of a waste of space, but think of being able to take a bath! And use a loo! And live with people who probably washed now and then. (Of course, this being romance, no one smells to high heaven in the olden times. Instead they smell earthy and manly and the like. BOLLOCKS, ALL BOLLOCKS.)

And Duncan McCloud McLeod OF THE CLAN MCCLOUD McLeod.* I cannot tell you how much I wish he'd make a cameo appearance.




ETA 3: I am confused as to the geography of this novel. One moment they're in Scotland, the next minute they're in the English Channel and someone talks about going overland to France, which I feel was probably pretty impossible then as now.

ETA 4: I feel perhaps the discussion of Catholic religious practices might have been better not shoe-horned in at the end, especially as Heroine is supposed to be mad with worry over Hero.


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The horror of Breaking Dawn made me think about books I love. Specifically, what ten books I would take with me on a desert island because I could read them forever and not be tired of them.

Cut for boring list of 10 books I adore )
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I am currently watching a quite fantastically laden with awful British accents SciFi film with Adrian Paul. It's something about Francis Drake and sea monsters and has all the fine quality one associates with SciFi channel films. I also have no idea what is really going on, but I suspect it doesn't matter.

But this is not a post about the many and varied delights of SciFi movies, but about an awesome book recommended by [livejournal.com profile] chelseagirl47: The Beetle. It was published the same year as Dracula and involves stalwart Englishmen being unmanned by an Egyptian man-woman-beetle thing which cleaves a broad path through London in a search for vengeance. So horrifying is this thing that the mere words "THE BEETLE!!!" shrieked at the unfortunate victims will reduce them to conniptions of a type that it is very satisfactory to read about. There's some sort of plot involving a politician with a PAST but that doesn't really matter. Mainly you read for the gothic horror and admire the endless parade of anxieties on display. Gender, sexual, race, imperial...the list is pretty endless. And then there's THE BEETLE. And lots of potentially kinky shenanigans involving the flower of British womanhood who gets herself abducted. (For those who are worried about potential gender imbalance, that is preceded by kinky shenanigans with the flower of British manhood who also gets himself abducted in Cairo.) Good stuff.

Sadly, I followed that up with Geraldine Jewsbury's rather awful The Two Sisters, which is one of those mid 19th century issue novels. There are two sisters, one legitimate and traditionally raised, the other illegitimate and saddled with a batty mother and a life in the theatre. Of course, because it's an issue novel there are endless pages where people discuss women's roles, women's education, etc. etc. all tacked on around a plot that is decidedly unsatisfactory. I gave up when the legitimate sister died of hysteria brought about by the mere thought of running off in an adulterous affair. It just came out of nowhere too: one moment she's going about her boring life, being all mopey, then five pages later it's adulterous thoughts and hysterical death. And then it went back to an entire chapter of people talking about education, without even a twitch.
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As part of my current fascination with bestsellers I found this:

A list of American bestsellers from the 1900s

As you'd expect there's a lot of people you've never heard of combined with a surprising amount of Winston Churchill. Plus there's Mrs Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch, a bestseller in 1902 and 1903 so you know it must be good. I am still wondering about that one.

Plus I found Bestsellers: Popular Fiction Since 1900 about UK bestsellers. It's more of an overview and it doesn't look like it looks at the big sellers, the phenomenon books, but still interesting.
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In my search for more materials for learning Hindi, I came across the absolutely hilarious "Learn Hindi from Bollywood" podcasts. While it is not really useful for learning the language it is a riot to listen to not just because of the selections the author makes from films, but also because it comes replete with his hysterical commentary. I especially loved the one on rejection with the recounting of the rejections that a tender young author must go through. BRILLIANT.

I also bought a learn Hindi book today but I am sure it will not be nearly so much fun. (And some Dresden novels. I thought about getting some more of Kage Baker's Company novels, but although I am enjoying The Garden of Iden I think I could get tired of the main characters quite quickly. It's hard to really want to hear about people who are so superior to mortal people and so conscious of their superiority; they're just a bit too smug. But the novel is still really interesting.
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Ever read a book which could have been awesome and shows flashes of that potential but it all gets lost in a welter of not very good writing? I just read Byzantium's Crown, which is an alternate reality novel set a 1,000 years after Antony and Cleopatra won at Actium. Some things are recognizable - Byzantium was founded, the emperor has both Roman and Egyptian titles, but it just all falls apart under a welter of fantasy. I did like the idea that many of the elements of Greek and Egyptian religion are real but it just takes over the novel. And how many bloody seers can you fit in one novel? Apparently a lot. Such a pity because I did love some parts, such as the mosaic of Octavian surrendering to Antony and Cleopatra after Actium, and it really could have been so good. As it is I find it a waste of an interesting concept.

ETA: Recommendations of good alternate reality books gladly taken.
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If you thought Cassie Edwards' covers of improbable love in the Old West were the peak that western romance could aspire to you were sadly wrong.


"No, no!," cried Lone Arrow. "Not the nipples! Anything but the nipples!"

But Esmeralda could not control herself; she had to touch the nipples of this magnificent stranger, feel his sinuous skin, and toy with his flesh. It was forbidden, she knew, but those round, manly discs, the pride of his gleaming chest, called to her and claimed her wandering fingers.

Lone Arrow, leader of some tribe who would surely be horrified by this whole thing, felt his resolve weaken as his manhood awakened... [Further excerpts available upon application to the author.]

Glorious, glorious covers behind the cut. )

Previously in this series: Christian Romances and Paranormal Romance.
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Have you ever read or watched something with a section that made you go 'What? WHAT???? I can't believe they are saying/doing/advocating that!' And then you trundle off to look at what people said in their reviews but can't find a single person mentioning it at all. And you wonder why they wouldn't mention because surely it can't just be you alone who had this reaction.

Something someone said recently about P.D. James made me remember that this was my experience reading Original Sin. I like P.D, James and An Unsuitable Job for a Woman is one of my favourite detective novels, but this book, well, it was just bizarre. There's a part of the story that revolves around a disgraced Anglican priest who was disgraced for interfering with young boys. It's not rape, but there seems to have certainly been touching and inappropriate behaviour. However, the story and the characters within it see it as a shocking and dreadful thing that he should have lost his parish because some lower class boys were encouraged to beef up their stories by well-meaning and obtrusive people when everyone knows those sort of boys would say anything and nothing too terrible happened. No, honestly, that was pretty much the gist of it, especially the bit about the lower class boys. I read that bit several times because I thought I must have been misreading it. But when I went to look not a single reviewer even mentioned that bit; the closest I came was a comment in The Guardian about James' tory (small t) politics and view of England.
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Recently I read Heart and Science by Wilkie Collins. It is not, to put it bluntly, a good book. Despite the assertion of the back cover that Collins considered this as good as The Woman in White, I fear that the only reasonable conclusion is that he must have been in a high fever at the time. Or negotiating book rights. Basically there are a lot of brain ailments and boring people who seem to succumb to those ailments without much of a reason, plus some guy who is in Canada recovering from nervous exhaustion by taking canoe trips. And a vivisection subplot that doesn't really go anywhere except exist so our nervously exhausted hero can save the day via a discovered secret for curing brain ailments. And while I appreciate that the editor has been handed lemons on the Collins front, I still think that he could have done a better job. Here's a sample of his footnotes: the text says 'as the proverb goes, it was the hair that broke the camel's back.' His footnote, carefully lying there at the bottom of the page like something that has something to say, informs the reader that 'this is a proverbial statement.' AND NOTHING ELSE. Listen mate, the text already said that. The point of a footnote is to explain something that you otherwise might not get; if there's nothing to add THEN DON'T ADD A FOOTNOTE. Unless, of course, you've read a long academic book in German that you want to mention so people know you've read it. That's entirely different.

Plus, you know if you're buying a minor Wilkie Collins novel in a not terribly appealing academic looking edition I suspect that you don't need to be told what an N.B. is. Just saying.

This is not a blog that I've ever read before but [livejournal.com profile] cleolinda linked to their
top 10 things for what publishers could do for readers to sell more books. Many of the suggestions just strike me as not things that matter to most readers. Do most people really care that much that all their books in a series are the same size? It might be annoying if you like all your books to line up, but if you're this attached to a series aren't you going to be buying them all anyway?

Another suggestion is: "Include a relationship chart in the beginning of every book. Most books published today are series books, all somehow related to one another. It would be very helpful if, at the front of the book, all the books in a series are identified in the way in which they are related to one another and what characters appear in which books." But why would you do this? People would only buy the books with the characters they liked surely, rather than buying it and hoping that this was the time that Lars von sexy Vampire-Werewolf with the Tight Blue Pants* finally got his woman.

* To distinguish him from Elferic, the cursed scion of Norwegian Viking-Faeries who always wears tight red pants.


Jun. 27th, 2008 05:52 pm
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I am reading Russell's The Sparrow and if I read one more comment about how brilliant and marvellous all Jesuits ever in the history of ever were THERE WILL BE VIOLENCE DONE.

*Goes off to read Terry Pratchett before she explodes with all the religion*
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Have you ever read something which you know is quite good, which you know that you really should like - but somehow find yourself not liking it? I just finished Robin McKinley's Spindle's End and while there were plenty of things I liked in it, in the end I found myself almost disliking it. And I have no idea why. Very strange. Maybe I shall blame it on there being a character named Narl, whom I thought was about 60 but surely cannot be because the heroine loved him and I don't think I was supposed to be squicked out.

Jezebel has a post post on how people often seem to want to support animal charities (specifically animal charities that involve saving cute things like puppies) over things like battered women's shelters. While I think it's a wrong to have a hierarchy of charitable giving which pits one needy group or cause against another, I do get tired of people who have immense empathy for animal suffering while having none for humans. This may be because I had a job a while back where during Hurricane Katriona none of the people had any concern for the situation until they saw abandoned animals. Then they got outraged and arranged a collection for the SPCA and foster animals, even as they turned down other suggestions of fundraising for other charities and blamed people for leaving behind their animals to save themselves. It was horrifically depressing - how could you have empathy for one set of suffering and none for the other? There is also this horrible story about these women heralded for saving their pets from fires in Malibu who left behind their Hispanic housekeeper because they didn't have space for her.

It is also awfully disturbing how many people on that Jezebel thread are suggesting that battered women are somehow blameworthy for not getting out. I think they imagine that there are more shelters and options available for these women than there are. It's not like you leave the guy and the system goes 'Yay! Here have a place to live and some money! We'll look after you!'
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Apparently, God wants you to marry an ugly pirate. Though I must say that I commend Christian romances for bringing back pirates into romance. Complete with massive, er, swords.

Click for more devout loving! )
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While 'researching'* for this I discovered the horrible and tragic affliction that affects so many men of the paranormal world: headlessness. And leglessness. For all that they get around a good deal and bed many lusty wenches. (Only, sadly, the books don't call them lusty wenches, instead they prefer horrific terms like 'lifemates' and 'bonded females.' I think I'd rather be called a lusty wench myself.) And, no, I have no idea why this guy is half blue. I suspect it has something to do with sex. And possibly the plague.

* And by research I mean I clicked through as many book covers as I could take. Which wasn't that many, but Amazon is now convinced that I only read either Latin texts or books about sex-mad vampires.

Sadly, unlike Cassie Edwards there are no startled vicars. More images under cut: not at all dial up friendly. )
lesbiassparrow: (Affronted by meganbmoore)
But not for the reasons that I am sure the publishers hoped for:

I wonder if he's called 'Manuel Manolito De La Cruz,' the somewhat unfortunately named hero of some other mad vampire book. Why am I driven to read descriptions of these books when I don't even like vampires as fictional characters all that much? I have issues, clearly.
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I pose this question: what's the worst book you've ever read that has been packaged as a romance and why? I am getting intrigued by reading blogs on romances (especially the Smart Bitches site which I am too lazy to look up the link for) and some of the truly horrific books they review. I assume that at some point in the publishing process someone thought these offenses against literature were a good idea rather than them just being tossed out there. I just picked romance because it is (to my mind, at least) a very defined genre with definite expectations and parameters: you can mess with them, of course, but then I'd question a bit what genre your book is. In that they're a bit like mystery, a genre I read a lot more of and very definite opinions about what are the worst ones* I've read.

*The most offensive might be P.D. James' Holy Orders which at one point made the staggering claim that clerical child abuse wasn't that bad and that it was something which was basically made up by lower class louts. It was a bit unexpected, to say the least.

ETA: I should probably have thought before I posted this question. Because now I am a bit traumatized. Actually, I'm a lot traumatized.
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Having read 2 1/2 Georgette Heyer novels (These Old Shades, Devil's Cub, and half of The Corinthian) recently, I pine for the following things to happen in one of her novels:

1. The hero's valet to stab him through the however many caped greatcoat he is wearing after being asked to polish his boots from ye authentick bootmaker one more time. (Sadly, valets are there in Heyer to swoon over the hero's manliness or something)

2. The same valet, the housemaid, and who ever else wants away from the most snobbish people in the universe to run off to the new world with the contents of the hero's strongbox

3. A revolution to occur in England.

Sadly, none of these things would ever happen in Heyer's Britain where everyone is either noble or well bred or if none of those things, a jumped up vulgar 'cit.' Oh - I forgot the loyal servants!

These Old Shades was not content to have the hero say that true blood (=upper class blood) will always out and being born a peasant even when you've been raised as a gentleman will inevitably show through, but also endorsed that attitude as being absolute truth. Ditto for The Devil's Cub, where the heroine was saved because she took after her aristocrat father and not her (naturally) vulgar middle class mother or sister. I gave up on The Corinthian half way through when the heroine's natural breeding seemed to be shining out like a lighthouse on a cold winter's day.

The thing is, I just don't understand why you'd write books even more conservative than the period actually was. As far as I know the 18th and 19th centuries were periods where people were exploring radical new ideas about status, birth, and gender. The 1700s alone gave us both the Enlightenment and the French Revolution and new political movements all over Europe. Everyone didn't subscribe to these ideas and certainly very few had access to them in book form, but if you look at studies of popular literature, papers, etc. in the period they were certainly circulating widely enough. And that goes double for 1800 on. Even Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice is about how the authentically upper class people are quite often horrible or just plain idiots while many of the middle classes (the cits of Heyer) are where true emotion and value lies. In Heyer's world Elizabeth's aunts would both be vulgar and horrible because, hey, they have no breeding! Their husbands work for a living! They live in the city! And to go one step further back: Richardson's Pamela would be a money grubbing vulgar wench.
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List behind cut )

And regarding Heroes, I only have one thing to say: small spoiler )
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While I was in Birmingham I happened to peruse the romance section in Waterstones. I will admit nothing, but I may have been looking for novels about pirates and the women who love them too much. And as far as the eye could see there were love stories featuring werewolves. Now, I don't mean to run down werewolves if they're your cup of tea but what about them shrieks romance? I mean, a vampire might suck your blood but at least you'd get eternally damned life in return; but with a werewolf what you'd get is being torn apart, shedding, and a boyfriend who you'd have to lock up every full moon. That sounds like kinky fun and games until you realise that it would involve beastiality and probable death for the girl if she tried anything at all.

So what is with the whole genre of werewolf romances? There were dozens of them, too, so it's not just some mad fetish thing. And when I checked Borders here, they were all over the shelves too, so it is a bona fide transatlantic trend. When did werewolves become the epitome of sexiness rather than the hairy, howling evil you will meet on the moor? And when did pirates fall out of favour?
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Today I spent most of the day reading what turned out to be a very interesting book (though the title is a bit offputting): Towards a Working Class Canon: Literary Criticism in British Working Class Periodicals, 1816-1858.

Basically this is a fascinating study of what these periodicals valued in literature, which writers they promoted, who they hated, and the genres of writing they liked (apparently drama was not such a big hit with them and they are often quite nasty to Shakespeare - one person wrote three articles on how Brutus was a failed radical). It's really interesting to read about how their canon of authors really differed from that of the middle classes and how even when they overlapped they were obviously looking for totally different messages in these writers. So Milton is huge, especially his prose, but not at all as a religious writer.

The author talked about how the big three poetry writers for the writers of these journals were Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron, and Robbie Burns. When they commend the first two not infrequently it takes on the form 'why, they write so well of oppression they could be working class!' which I think is a nice turn around from the book I just read, which was all about the reverse attitude of the aristocracy to working class writers. (I loved the person who said that Shelley was the 'best thing the aristocracy had produced.') Unfortunately, the writer did not talk too much about the circulation of these journals (I suspect for a lot of them it's impossible to know), though he did point out that the middle class starting producing things like Penny Magazine in an effort to promote the right sort of knowledge for the lower orders, so some of them must have been popular enough

After that I went to look at some books on fandom and telly, which just made me cross. There's a certain awful smugness about a lot that gets produced on fandom and TV, as if the author feels so proud of their cutting edgeness they have to chuck it at you along with polysyllabic theoretical terms every line. I did find an article on how the Tardis control room was all about conservatism but I did not get the book out as it looked very annoying. The same for the book that was all about how people should feel guilty for enjoying soap operas because they are Opressive and Tools of Women's Destruction.
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This came up after a conversation on a board about the Inspector Lynley books* and aristocratic detectives. So, there are obviously a ton of books which have the aristocratic detective and working class sidekick scenario (Lord Peter, Campion, the Lynley books, etc.). Are there any which reverse that that anyone can recommend? Mainly I think you are more likely to get it in American detective novels which, at least in classic hard-boiled form, tend to have more problems with wealth (as in the Philip Marlowe books) and the power it brings. But I'd be intrigued to read something English that does make the working class person the leader - and the smarter - in this partnership.

Sometimes I think that if you look at older detective fiction it tends to be more socially liberal than the books which appeared in the 1930s and 40s, and did not have such an obsession with the aristocratic detective. Maybe that's because the job itself is so much more socially ambiguous - I'm thinking of Holmes and the weird class stuff that goes on with the Duke of Holdernesse in The Priory School, where he is very emphatic about getting paid properly there. And that really early detective series (1827) - Richmond: Scenes in the Life of a Bow Street Runner has a really rather shady and lower class detective.

*Confession: I read part of one of this series and there are no words for how much I loathed it. Whoever the writer is she's not exactly a fan of the working class, is she?

ETA: So far I've got a couple of excellent suggestions: the Anne Perry novels with William Monk and others (I read some of these and really enjoyed them) and Foyle's War (I've also seen a few bits of these and thought they looked great). And I'd like to sing the praises of the Fforde book I am reading The Big Over Easy which has some fun with famous detectives and their sidekicks and nursery tale characters. I really recommend it.


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August 2011

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