Sunday, February 28, 2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Books!

I've been trying to read more for fun lately, and a bit less for research or because I feel like I should read certain books. I recommend it. It's fun.

In honor of the upcoming baseball season, I got the Maple Street Press 2010 Mariners Annual, a series of articles for the diehard Mariners fan, mostly written by leading lights of the M's blogosphere. Lots of good stuff for the baseball geek, but I think my favorite piece was Derek Zumsteg's article about Ichiro, "The Man Who Will Not Slow Down." (Basically, Ichiro is 36, but he doesn't play like it.) Among other things, he compares Ichiro's stats to those of 1909's leading players, and said that if Ichiro had played in the dead ball era, he and Ty Cobb "would have been rivals until the point Cobb's racist head exploded with frustration." I like that image.

Proof By Seduction (Courtney Milan, 2010) is an extremely promising debut historical romance. It's not a perfect book, but it's fun and well-written, and between it and Rose Lerner's In For a Penny, I'm feeling more optimistic about the state of the historical romance than I have in a long time. I don't like its cover, not at all. I do, however, enjoy Milan's sense of humor about it. For the record, I'm not against sexy covers, I just like them tasteful enough that I don't have to worry about how I'd explain them to my daughter or feel self-conscious about having them in my blog sidebar. I'd be totally happy, f'rex, if/when I'm published, to have a cover something Jacqueline Carey's upcoming release.

Just this evening I finished A Fountain Filled With Blood (Julia Spencer-Fleming, 2004), second in the mystery series featuring Episcopal priest Clare Ferguson and small-town police chief Russ Van Alstyne. This outing takes place about six months after the first book and shows our characters continuing to fight their feelings for each other while battling a possible string of hate crimes.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Monday, February 15, 2010

Food blog update

I made beans. Easy, but tasty.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Of Wimseys and Wellesleys: Name Changes

Post moved to Susanna Fraser blog.

Books catch-up

I've had a bit more time to read lately, but not so much to blog about it. The new job is keeping me busy, and why was I ever crazy enough to think I'd have MORE time once my kid was in kindergarten rather than daycare? So, here's a brief catch-up.

Break Into Fiction (Mary Buckham and Dianna Love, 2009) uses worksheets and examples from popular movies to show writers how to apply the Hero's Journey structure to plotting their own work. A timely read for me, since plotting is one of my weak points. My last manuscript went through three full drafts--not rewrites, but full drafts--because it took me so long to figure out what the plot actually was. And I like that it uses the Hero's Journey, which feels more organic and flexible to me that other approaches I've seen, such as Goal-Motivation-Conflict. (Full disclosure: Mary Buckham is a member of my local RWA chapter.)

The House of Hope of Fear (Audrey Young, 2009) chronicles the experience of a young medical resident at Seattle's Harborview Medical Center, where I worked in a non-patient care role 2007-09. This should be required reading for anyone opposed to health care reform, since it shows what a mess the current system is. (I try not to be political on this blog, but sometimes I just can't help it.)

In the Bleak Midwinter (Julia Spencer-Fleming, 2002) is the first in a mystery series set in upstate New York and featuring a police chief (Russ) and an Episcopalian priest (Clare) as sleuths. It's very, very good, with strong writing and appealing characters. I'm normally really put off by stories that call upon the reader to root for divorce or adultery (Russ is married, not miserably but not all that happily either), but in this case I had sympathy for everyone involved.

In For a Penny (Rose Lerner, 2010) is the debut book of one of my critique partners. And it is wonderful. If you're tired of wallpaper Regency historical romances and are looking for something grounded in its place and time, this is the book for you. It's very well-written with sympathetic, engaging characters, too.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

My critique partner's debut book!

One of my critique partners, Rose Lerner, has a debut book coming out later this month called In for a Penny. It's Regency historical romance with a richly researched setting, engaging characters, and a wonderful voice, and you should preorder it now.

You should also head on over to Rose's blog and enter her contest to win a signed copy of the book or a Regency starter pack with ten of her favorite books.

Recent reading

I haven't been blogging about my reading much of late because there hasn't been much of it! I've been busier than normal settling in at my new job, and I've also had enough going on with editing my own work, helping my critique partners, and judging a writing contest that I haven't had much time for already-published books. So, in the past two or three weeks, all I've managed to finish are two works of nonfiction.

The first, The Humans Who Went Extinct (Clive Finlayson, 2009), bills itself as being about why the Neanderthals died and we lived, but it's more of a big-picture overview of the current thinking on human evolution, as thought by Finlayson. I think he does a good job of pointing out logical flaws in the extreme version of the Out-of-Africa hypothesis (i.e. modern humans all came from Africa really recently after some kind of mental evolutionary leap enabled a cultural explosion maybe 40,000 years ago) without going to the other extreme and embracing multiregionalism, which requires you to think, contrary to any genetic evidence, that Europeans are partially descended from Neanderthals, Asians from Homo erectus, etc., but that there was enough gene flow to keep us one species of broadly equal physical and mental capacity. If Finlayson is right, Homo sapiens left Africa earlier than previously thought and before exhibiting obvious signs of culture in the forms of art or extensive trade networks, and that what helped us out-compete the Neanderthals wasn't that we were smarter, but that with our lighter bone structure and greater distance-running capacity, we were better able to hunt on the Ice Age steppes, while the bulkier Neanderthals couldn't run down their prey and needed a forest environment to thrive. Ice age maxima = less forest, more steppe, ergo fewer Neanderthals, more Homo sapiens.

The second, Lords of the Sea (JR Hale, 2009), begins with a period of history that's always fascinated me, the Greco-Persian Wars. Only instead of focusing on the land war and the Spartan sacrifice at Thermopylae, Hale looks at the Athenian triumph at Salamis and the century or so of Athenian naval hegemony that followed it. I enjoyed the book immensely (even though, as is so often the case with Greek history, I was a bit put off by the utter masculinity of the world, even though I've never been a reader who insists that everything be All About the Women). I kept seeing similarities to later incidents from British and American history, and then realizing that of course Athens INVENTED the concept of being a democratic empire.