Thursday, January 23, 2014

2014 Reading, Books 7-9

I'm judging Romance Writers of America's Rita awards again this year, which means I have a whole box full of books I'm counting toward my tally, but that I can't say much about without violating the contest's confidentiality rules. So...

7) Rita Book #1. In a subset of a subgenre I've never read before and wouldn't have picked up on my own, but a sweet, thoroughly enjoyable story. If all my books turn out this well, it'll be my best judging year ever.

8) Thief of Shadows, by Elizabeth Hoyt.

I was home sick the day I read this book--and frankly, procrastinating, when I wasn't so sick I couldn't have been writing or doing any number of other practical things--so I read yet another book. I've heard nothing but good things about Elizabeth Hoyt's writing, but somehow hadn't gotten around to reading any of her books. I had this one on hand from what I'm pretty sure was a goodie bag giveaway at the 2012 RWA conference, and I thought I'd give it a try.

I'm glad I did. This is a fun, romantic, and sexy historical romance with a somewhat unusual setting (1730's London, and at least as concerned with the rookeries of St. Giles as high society ballrooms), a hero who's a masked avenger fighting crime by night, and a heroine with subtle masks of her own. It was a good romance to read soon after The Three Musketeers. The style and tone are obviously very different, but they're alike in not being afraid to swing for the fences in historical swashbuckling. Since if anything I think I err on the side of being too subtle as a writer, big stories are an inspiration and a challenge.

9) Rick Steves' Spain 2014, by Rick Steves.

I'm preparing for a big, month-long European trip in the summer of 2015. We're going to fly into London (or possibly Paris or Amsterdam--have to research fares and such, but those are the three best options for our itinerary where you can get direct flights from Seattle), be in Belgium in time for the June 18 bicentennial of the Battle of Waterloo, then make our way through France (Paris, then several days in the Dordogne region to unwind, eat VERY well, and see prehistoric sites) before crossing into Spain and Portugal. So I'll be reading lots of guidebooks this year, for values of "read" that equal "read the information for the places on our tentative itinerary in great detail, while skimming the rest of the country to determine what to try to fit in if we have a little more time."

For Spain, we expect to start out in Basque Country, based in either San Sebastian or Bilbao, then Madrid and Salamanca before crossing into Portugal--unless we decide to stay strictly in northern Spain and more or less follow the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela and then go down the coast into Portugal. I wish we had world enough and time for Granada, and my husband feels the same about Barcelona, but I know we won't want to cut the French portion of the trip short, and here's hoping there will be other chances in the future.

As always, Rick Steves writes a friendly guide for the traveler who's maybe aged out of the starving student backpacker at youth hostels stage, but who wants to avoid tourist traps and thereby save some cash while having a more authentic and intimate travel experience.

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