Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Monday, January 18, 2010

I have food blogged again...

Go here for my experiment with Pork Wellington. I wish all my experiments were this successful!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Of Wimseys and Wellesleys: a new series

This post, and others in the series, are being moved to my Susanna Fraser author blog.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Recent reading

In times of stress and difficulty, there's nothing quite like a good escapist book, especially when you're spending hours upon hours on airplanes. So it's not surprising I've read three such books since the beginning of the year. (I've also re-read almost all of Northanger Abbey, which is its own kind of escapism. It's not even close to my favorite Austen book, but Henry Tilney is probably the Austen hero I'd marry myself if I could.)

The Unlacing of Miss Leigh (Diane Gaston, 2009) is a Harlequn Undone--i.e. a historical romance novella published solely in electronic form. Though I'm normally all about long fiction (sagas preferred!), I'm finding I really enjoy romance novellas. With longer romances, I often find myself getting impatient with the couple and wondering if they really belong together if they have so many misunderstandings and so much difficulty in solving them. (Not always, just often.)

I thought this was an especially good story for the novella form, since Gaston set it up so that the couple had a childhood history and had also exchanged letters before meeting in person, thus making it seem logical that the couple could know each other well enough to commit after 15,000 words or less. (That being the equal and opposite problem facing romantic shorts. With a bad full-length romance, I think, "Get on with it already!" With a bad short one, I think, "You're crazy if you're committing to him already. For all you know he's an axe murderer.) Anyway, here a literally battle-scarred hero and a down-on-her-luck heroine find mutual comfort and passion, and it's a sweet and sexy quick read.

Though I'm really tired of the whole sin/wicked/naughty trend in romance titles--it's become way overdone, IMHO--I picked up Wicked All Day (Liz Carlyle, 2009) in a bookstore because the cover caught my eye, read the prologue and liked it, and decided to order a Kindle edition. (Yes, I sometimes buy books for my Kindle while shopping in a bricks-and-mortar store. I just don't see the point of cluttering my house with a physical book when it's available for the Kindle unless the book has illustrations or otherwise doesn't work well in e-format.) It was the perfect read for a long flight, and I mean that entirely as a compliment. There was a large, appealing cast of characters, the hero and heroine were believably flawed but still likable, and the romance was romantic.

Heat Wave (2009) is purportedly by Richard Castle, whom fans of Nathan Fillion will recognize as the mystery author he plays on the ABC mystery series Castle. I have no idea how well the book works on its own as a thriller, because I don't read the genre. I read it through the lens of the TV series and characters and enjoyed it on that level.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Blogging Hiatus

My mother passed away this afternoon after a long illness, so this blog will be quiet for awhile.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Food blogging!

I restarted my food blog to track my resolution to try 24 new recipes in 2010.

Last book of '09, first book of '10

My next manuscript will be set in the Scottish Highlands in 1806. I recently stumbled across Dorothy Wordsworth's Recollections of a Tour Made in Scotland A.D. 1803 while looking for free Kindle downloads, so it was a natural research choice for me.

It was slow going, especially when I was reading on a plane (as was often the case over the past two weeks) and couldn't look up the places the Wordsworths were visiting to help me visualize what was going on. However, it did give me a useful picture of what the Highlands were like 200 years ago--half empty, and half wild--and how an English observer might view them. Wordsworth seemed almost offended by the half-tamed landscapes--she kept wanting more trees and hedgerows--and she was obviously much struck by the friendliness of the people and their relatively dirty and unpolished living conditions.

To start 2010, I read Soulless (2009), Gail Carriger's well reviewed and highly recommended debut. I didn't love it as much as all those reviewers and recommenders, but the world-building and characters carried me past occasional awkwardness in the writing itself.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

My favorite books of 2009

2009 wasn't my best reading year ever. While I didn't keep a tally, I think I finished fewer books than normal, quite possibly falling short of 100. Partly that's because I was busy with work and writing, but I also started more than my share of books that I couldn't bring myself to finish. I've become entirely too picky. If there's a historical error, a cliched plot device or character, or more than a handful of awkward phrases in the opening chapter, that's it.

So one of my resolutions for the new year is to try to offer other authors the same grace I hope to be granted once I'm finally published. I'm not going to read a book that bores or offends me, or one whose flaws outweigh its virtues. Life is too short to read bad books. But during that all-important opening chapter, I'm going to look for reasons to keep reading a book rather than reasons to cast it aside.

That said, here are my ten favorites of the books I finished last year, listed in reverse order of completion.

1. Carbonel: the King of the Cats (Barbara Sleigh, 1955). One of many children's books I never read as a child, since I skipped straight to the adult section of the library when I was 9 or 10. Set in post-WWII England and stylistically reminiscent of the Chronicles of Narnia.

2. Refuse to Choose (Barbara Sher, 2007). Self-help for people with too many interests to focus on just one.

3. An Echo in the Bone (Diana Gabaldon, 2009). Being the further adventures of Jamie and Claire Fraser in the American Revolution. What's not to love?

4. The Unlikely Disciple (Kevin Roose, 2009). A Brown student spends a semester at Liberty University. My favorite of the half dozen or so outsider accounts of the evangelical subculture I've read over the past few years.

5. Naamah's Kiss (Jacqueline Carey, 2009). First book in a new sexy epic fantasy trilogy set in the same world as Carey's two Kushiel trilogies.

6. The Graveyard Book (Neil Gaiman, 2008). Just a beautifully written and moving single-volume fantasy.

7. Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement (Kathryn Joyce, 2009). I write alternative history, and the quiverfull movement feels like MY alternative history, since 15 or 20 years ago some of the people I was around preached male headship in the church and marriage, eschewal of birth control, etc. I never liked the ideas, but some of them made a semi-convincing case it was what God wanted for the part of me that believes in parallel universes wonders if somewhere out there there's a version of me in a patriarchal marriage raising a brood of 10 or 12 children. So I've developed a strange fascination with the life I might've lived if I'd made different choices. This book is a good intro to the movement.

8. Wellington: Pillar of State (Elizabeth Longford, 1972). Longford's is the best Wellington biography out there, IMO. This is the second volume, recounting the Great Duke's post-Waterloo life and work, and while Wellington the politician is much less appealing to me than Wellington the commander, this is still a lovely biography...and a useful reminder in an overly politicized world that those with whom I disagree can still be honorable, well-meaning, and decent individuals.

9. The Sharing Knife: Horizon (Lois McMaster Bujold, 2009). Final volume in a thoroughly delightful romantic fantasy series. Maybe 2010 will be the year I finally try the Vorkosigan books.

10. Forever Princess (Meg Cabot, 2009). OK, I admit it. I love the Princess Diaries series. Pure well-executed fun.