Monday, February 24, 2014

2014 Reading, Books 22-24

22) Coriolanus, by William Shakespeare.

Yesterday I saw Tom Hiddleston as Coriolanus in the Donmar Warehouse production that's being shown at various art-house cinemas. Because, Tom Hiddleston. And also Shakespeare. It was a beautiful thing. In any case, I thought it behooved me to read the play first, the better to follow the action on screen.

I can see why this isn't one of Shakespeare's most famous tragedies. To me Coriolanus (the play and character alike) doesn't have the heft of a Hamlet or Macbeth or Othello. He felt more like a caricature than a person on some levels--though, that said, he's a caricature of a recognizable type, namely the brilliant, arrogant leader who feels like his accomplishments should speak for themselves and disdains the political game of appealing to the masses. I've encountered such leaders in history and even in modern politics, and in subtler form I even tend to like them--they're better than smooth-talking demagogues, at least! And now that I've seen the performance, Coriolanus as played by Hiddleston did feel like a person--a young, arrogant aristocrat gifted at war but in over his head in politics. A recognizable type indeed.

23) The Witness Wore Red, by Rebecca Musser with M. Bridget Cook.

I've always felt a certain horrified fascination for the FLDS polygamist cult, and I've read several memoirs of women who've escaped. This was a particularly fascinating account of the young woman who in her late teens became the 19th wife of elderly cult leader Rulon Jeffs, only to decide to escape after his death when his son Warren became the leader of the group and made it even more restrictive and insane. She was a key assistant to the Texas police and witness in the trials that resulted from the raids on the YFZ Ranch a few years ago.

24) The Stolen Luck, by Shawna Reppert.

This male/male fantasy romance is a lovely, well-balanced, well-paced story. The human hero, James, wins elven slave Loren in a game of cards. Even though he is morally opposed to slavery, he needs the elf's help to win back the stolen "Luck" of the title--a talisman that ensures the productivity of his lands and therefore his family and dependents' future. He swears to free Loren so he can return to his own lands and people...but only when the Luck is back in his hands. Attraction and trust very gradually grows between the two men, but neither is willing to act on their feelings while Loren remains a slave.

I love the subtlety of this story. The fantasy world feels lived-in and plausible without a lot of extraneous detail. While the stakes are hugely important to the characters--James needs to save his estates and Loren longs to be free--this isn't a Save the World! story. I enjoy a Save the World! story as much as the next reader, but I also like variety. And I love that James and Loren never let their feelings for each other get the better of their integrity and honor.

Monday, February 17, 2014

2014 Reading, Books 19-21

19) The War that Ended Peace: the Road to 1914, by Margaret MacMillan.

One of the many, many books on WWI coming out of late because of the war's centenary, this one looks at the twenty years or so leading up to the war, how the alliances among Britain, France, and Russia and between Germany and Austria-Hungary were built up and hardened to the point that fighting any one became fighting all, and the many crises that could've led to war but somehow just missed it. It still seems almost a uniquely pointless war, but I feel like I have a better understanding now of the tensions and instabilities that made it, if not inevitable, very difficult to avoid. That said, it could've been shorter and still gotten the point across--my eyes were starting to glaze over by the end as yet another not-competent-enough foreign minister of one power or another was introduced.

20) Shakespeare's Restless World: A Portrait of an Era in Twenty Objects, by Neil MacGregor.

This relatively quick read looks at a series of objects found in England around the turn of the 17th century--a rapier and dagger set, a glass goblet, a communion chalice, a clock, etc.--for how they illuminate the world of Shakespeare's plays. I enjoyed it and thought it gave interesting insights into the lives and mindsets of the English people as they were beginning the transition from a kingdom somewhat on the fringes of Europe to a great seafaring empire.

21) Rita Book #6: An entry I dreaded based on the cover art and back cover blurb that turned out to be the best book I've judged so far because it took tropes that normally leave me rolling my eyes and made them work.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Still on sale!

Just a quick post to remind everyone that my debut novel, The Sergeant's Lady, is still on sale for $0.99 from the vendors listed below through tomorrow, February 16. Take advantage of this bargain while it lasts!

Carina Press

Barnes & Noble
All Romance eBooks

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

2014 Reading, Books 13-18

13) Rick Steves' Amsterdam, Bruges & Brussels by Rick Steves.

More preparation for the 2015 European trip. Though we'll likely fly into London, then take the Chunnel over to Brussels in time for the Waterloo bicentennial, if the airfares are better we may go in through Amsterdam instead. Either way, this will very much be the military history part of the trip, since in addition to Waterloo we'd like to visit Flanders Fields.

14) Lysistrata, by Aristophanes.

I picked this Dover Thrift Edition up years ago, but only just now got around to reading it. I knew broadly what it was about--the women of Greece going on a sex strike to force an end to the Peloponnesian War--but I was surprised how laugh-out-loud funny it is nearly 2500 years later. (It helps that I've read enough on 5th-century BCE Greece to have a decent grasp on the cultural context.) The best comparison I can come up with is that it felt like I was reading the Daily Show or Colbert Report of ancient Athens.

15) A Summer Affair, by Susan Wiggs.

An enjoyable historical romance with a rather unusual setting--San Francisco in the late 19th century. A doctor who blames himself for the tragic death of his young wife a decade earlier and hasn't found a way to move on finds his life upended when he treats a self-described "lady adventurer" for a gunshot wound received in an incident she refuses to discuss.

16) Rita Book #4: This one got off to a bumpy start, and I never would've stuck with it past the first chapter if I hadn't been obliged to finish it because of my judging responsibilities. But around about p. 60 the story hooked me. Some might say the moral is that I should stop giving up on books a few pages in if I don't like the writing or characters, but in my experience this book is an exception, and books that start out dull, badly written, or otherwise problematic stay that way.

17) In This House of Brede, by Rumer Godden.

This book is my February re-read, of a book I initially read back in the mid-90's. I found it through the Hypatia recommender on Alexandria Digital Literature, a site I believe is now defunct, but that led me to several favorites--this book in particular, but also Dorothy Sayers, Lindsey Davis, and Diana Gabaldon. It also kept insisting I needed to read the Vorkosigan Saga, but I ignored it because I wasn't a science fiction reader. It took me over ten years to give in, but ever since I've been an evangelist for the series. (Have YOU met Miles Vorkosigan and accepted him as your personal Vor-lord and savior yet?)

But I digress. When I first read this book, I didn't expect to be hooked by a story about Benedictine nuns. I'm not Catholic, and at the time I'd never even met anyone in a religious order. (That's since changed due to my stint as office manager for the Spiritual Care department in one of the Seattle hospitals, since some of our chaplain trainees were nuns.) But I was drawn in by the vivid portrayals of the characters. I've always enjoyed stories about communities, whether they be towns, ships' crews, extended families, or whatever, and you can't get a much more focused community than a monastery of enclosed nuns. And it's that sense of community--of revisiting well-known friends--that makes the book so re-readable for me.

18) Rita Book #5: Average.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Sergeant's Lady (and other Risky Regency books) on sale this week only!

To celebrate Valentine's Day, all this week the Risky Regencies bloggers are offering some of our books for only $0.99...including my debut novel, The Sergeant's Lady!

Spain, 1811

Highborn Anna Arrington has been following the drum, obeying the wishes of her cold, controlling cavalry officer husband. When he dies, all she wants is to leave life with Wellington’s army in Spain behind her and go home to her family’s castle in Scotland.

Sergeant Will Atkins ran away from home to join the army in a fit of boyish enthusiasm. He is a natural born soldier, popular with officers and men alike, uncommonly brave and chivalrous, and educated and well-read despite his common birth.

As Anna journeys home with a convoy of wounded soldiers, she forms an unlikely friendship with Will. When the convoy is ambushed and their fellow soldiers captured, they become fugitives together. The attraction between them is strong, but even if they can escape the threat of death at the hands of the French, is love strong enough to bridge the gap between a viscount’s daughter and an innkeeper’s son?

This book will always hold a special place in my heart. I love romances where the hero and heroine know they belong together, but have to fight against a world that's determined to separate them. I also have a soft spot for road romances, and I'm endlessly fascinated by the Napoleonic Wars. In The Sergeant's Lady I was able to combine all of that into one package. I loved every minute I spent writing it, and I'm so glad it became my first sale.

Oh, and on a much more shallow note, if you imagine Firefly-era Nathan Fillion wearing the uniform from Sharpe's Rifles, that's the picture I kept in my head while writing Will.

And this week all this can be yours for less than the price of a 20-ounce soda (and far healthier for you, too)! Buy links are below, and do check out the Riskies for info on the other great books on sale.

Carina Press
Barnes & Noble
All Romance eBooks