Friday, August 5, 2011

Summer reading continues

I've slowed up a bit on summer reading for grown-ups, not to mention blog posting, because I've got a pair of deadlines, semi-self-imposed but important to me, this month. I'm pushing myself to write harder than I have since first developing my pinched nerve issues last November. So wish me health, and the sense to know just how much I can push myself before causing a serious setback.

But, I've still been reading. I never really stop. My latest three books:

1. The Domestic Servant Class in 18th Century England, by Jean Hecht
Genre: Nonfiction (history)
Format/source: hardcover, UW library

Purely a research rather than a leisure read, but an engaging one. (I find reading about the 18th century more useful to me as a Napoleonic/Regency writer than the 19th because most 19th century sources skew heavily Victorian. Many historians agree with me, for what it's worth, writing of a "long 18th century" spanning the period between the Glorious Revolution in 1688 and Waterloo in 1815.) It gave me a much better sense of why someone who had options might choose to go into service over what to my mind would be a much freer and therefore better way of life as an artisan or shopkeeper--namely good pay, job security that included food, clothing, and shelter, the chance to travel, and the fact that when I think ANYTHING would be better than servility, FREEEEEDOMMMM! etc., I'm projecting a bit too much of my own cultural biases onto a different place and time.

2. Lost in My Own Backyard, by Tim Cahill
Genre: Nonfiction (travel)
Format/source: Hardcover, library

This was recommended to me by the Seattle library's "your next five books" service, which gives you personalized, reader's advisory-type recommendations if you tell them a little about what you do and don't like. I mentioned Bill Bryson as a nonfiction favorite, so the librarian thought I might like Cahill's travel writing. He's not as funny and doesn't have as strong a voice as Bryson, but I enjoyed this book. It reminded me of a childhood trip to Yellowstone and made me want to go back.

3. The Masque of the Black Tulip, by Lauren Willig
Genre: Historical romance/chick lit/spy fiction
Format/source: hardcover, library

I read The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, first book in this series, ages ago, but the reader's advisory librarian reminded me of the series. (The rest of her romance recommendations didn't really work--I'd either already read the author and liked them but hadn't loved them enough to include on my list of favorites, or they were VERY old school. Like, rapist hero old school, you really thought a fan of Loretta Chase, Jo Beverley, Courtney Milan, and Rose Lerner would want to read THAT old school? Seriously, I think the romance side of their reader's advisory could use some work. Maybe I'll even mention it, politely, of course.)

But anyway, Black Tulip. Fun book. I definitely need to catch up on this series. In some ways they're not my usual thing, since my tastes skew realistic and even a bit gritty, while this series is frothy, deliberately OTT, and slyly anachronistic. I think it's the "deliberately" and "slyly" parts that make it work for me. I can tell Willig knows and loves her history and enjoys playing with it. Anachronisms and inaccuracies only bug me when I feel like the author doesn't know and/or doesn't care.

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