I’ve fallen under the spell of Queer Romance Month and of pretty covers (the latter isn’t really anything particularly new…)
If you’re looking for some good books to buy this week, I ask you to consider the books of my colleague Jackie Barbosa. Jackie writes in various different genres, so there’s a little something for almost everybody, especially if you like your stories a bit spicier. I’ve just bought the contemporary According to Luke myself because the excerpt sounded so very delicious. Check it out here.
And here’s the blurb:
Luke Finley, the eldest of four brothers, is a committed serial monogamist. He’s all for one woman at a time, but not one woman forever. He knows a lifetime of fidelity just isn’t in his genes.
But when his latest girlfriend kicks him out–of his condo–the woman he’s always thought of as “one of the guys” turns out to be the one woman who can rock his world and make him believe in forever.
A friends-to-lovers story! Love those!
The reason I’m asking you to support Jackie is a sad one: You might have already heard that earlier this month Jackie lost her 17-year-old son Julian in a car accident. Most of us will never be able to fully understand what Jackie and her family are going through right now, the terrible pain they must be feeling.
There is nothing we can do to ease this pain, but we as her colleagues wanted to show her our support, and so Beverly Kendall and Courtney Milan came up with the idea of authors highlighting Jackie’s books on their blogs or FB pages.
There is also a memorial fund set up in Julian’s name. Details to donate can be found here. Any and all donation amounts are greatly appreciated.
Michael Ende’s DIE UNENDLICHE GESCHICHTE (THE NEVERENDING STORY) was one of my favourite novels when I was a child. Not only is the story magical, but also the book itself is beautifully made (or at least the edition I own was beautifully made). As you can see from these pictures, the book was printed in two colours: red for the real world and green for Fantastica.. There were also beautiful illustrations at the beginning of each chapter.
An amusing side note: I always thought Atréju had green skin. When I looked up his description a few months ago, I realised that he isn’t really supposed to be green: he is described as olive-skinned. (But who cares? For the past thirty years, my Atréju has had green skin… *g*)
As this is not just the time to look forward, but also to look backward, I thought I’d do a review of 2013 in terms of books I’ve read.
2013 was the very first year I’ve managed to keep a reading journal (yay me!). While I haven’t kept track of all the books I’ve read (for example, I don’t note down the books I read for university), I think very few have actually fallen through the cracks.
I went through
three four five major gloms last year:
- I re-read a lot of Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher books in January (she had a new one out in September: Murder & Mendelssohn – loved it!)
- In spring and summer I read and re-read most of Michelle Reid’s books. I even bought the M&B Special Edition set (because the books looked so pretty). Reid’s books are a bit of a hit or miss with me: either I really, really like them, or they fall into the meh category for me. One of my favourites of hers is The De Santis Marriage, which plays with the conventions of Italian tycoon stories. Here’s a very nice example:
Lifting up her hand, she caught hold of his fingers and pulled them away from her mouth. “That was really good,” she commented. “Quite breathtakingly arrogant and rightfully proud of your mighty fine self, in fact, and it should really have put me squarely in my lowly place.”
- In May and June I read several of Anthony Berkeley’s Roger Sheringham mysteries. I thought the first three or so quite delightful – very entertaining, with a clever twist at the end – but eventually I figured that the “clever twist” is one of the characteristic features of those mysteries. (When an author insists on depicting his hero as a bit of an arrogant, know-it-all moron, he shouldn’t be suprised when said hero gets on readers’ nerves after a while.)
- In October I re-read all of Jacqueline Gilbert’s books. *happy sigh* They’re just so lovely! Old-fashioned, but really, really lovely. With grumpy heroes and all that! *another happy sigh*
- I also did a mini-glom / re-read of Dorothy Dunnett’s Dolly series once I realised they had become available as e-books. Her prose is – oh my goodness! – so, so wonderful! Take this sentence from Roman Nights:
Every ruin is packed like a biscuit box.
In Rome there is a pathological shortage of small coins. For change, the little shops tend to use candy.
If a Roman junction during one of the four normal rush hours is suicide, a Roman junction while the traffic lights are off resembles nothing so muhc as a her of myopic rhinoceroses meeting eye to eye with a her of dim-witted elephants and attempting to copulate.
I had quite a number of those, alas. Several of the historicals I bought (luckily, I bought most of them cheaply or got them for free) were simply unbelievable: not only was the writing often stilted or the story mind-numbingly boring, no, several books also abounded with historical inaccuracies. As in: a debutante dances the waltz (!) at Almack’s in 1806 (!!!). *head desk*
I’m afraid even one of Michelle Reid’s books fell into the DNF category: I thought the The Italian’s Revenge was truly, truly awful (“thoroughly disgusted” I wrote in my nifty little reading journal). But then this was one of her older books (originally published in 2000), so this might have had something to do with it. Many of her later books have an underlying humour that I simply love!
At some point in September, I thought it would be nice to have a nice reading copy of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South aka one of my favourite classics EVER! So I perused various different editions on Amazon and eventually stumbled across the Penguin Clothbound Classics edition of Cranford. Oh my. I mean…. OH MY! Here’s what happened then (Part 2 of my September Book Haul):
And speaking of classics, my favourite work of 2013 in that category was Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (translation by Simon Armitage). I read it for the class on medieval literature I’m teaching this semesterand was thoroughly enchanted. There’s also an audiobook available of that translation, read by the translator himself – which didn’t work for me at all, alas. In fact, I had to switch off after a mere five minutes because I felt the desperate urge to throttle the narrator. Ugh. (Why couldn’t they have let RICHARD Armitage read the story? He would have done such a great job, I’m sure, and they would have sold oodles of copies. Hmph.)
Apart from my re-reads, my favourite romance of 2013 was Courtney Milan’s A Kiss for Midwinter, her Christmas novella from 2012. The premise is rather unusual, the hero is rather unusual, and the heroine is all prickly. Nice. 🙂
But two most favourite books this year were Robin Sloan’s Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore (a book about books and the love for books and really strange bookshops) and Joyce Dennys’s Henrietta’s War (which I called “Cranford for the 1940s!” in my reading diary). I have to admit I was drawn to both books because of their beautiful covers (well, in Mr Penumbra’s case, I had to order the novel from Canada because all other editions sport rather ghastly covers) – I’m shallow like that. But it’s such a joy when something that looks so pretty turns out to be wonderfully written as well. I highly recommend both books.
So, that was my year in reading. Which books and authors did you discover in 2013? Which were your favourites? Which were the books that you re-read? Let me know!
Have you read any good books over the weekend? Here’s what I’ve read:
It started harmless enough: I was looking for a nice edition of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South. I love, love, LOVE North and South, but my Penguin Classics edition, which I use for teaching, looks rather bedraggled, and the Norton edition that I also have isn’t really that pretty. Soooo… Off to Amazon I went to check out my reading options.
And there it happened.
I stumbled over the Penguin Clothbound Classics edition of Cranford (see above).
You know how susceptible I am to pretty covers. And if that is not a pretty cover, I don’t know what is!
This was the first time I had ever heard about the Clothbound Classics. They are hardcovers. And they are pretty. (Unfortunately, there is no North and South Clothbound Classics edition. That’s too bad of you, Penguin!)
So, there I was, sitting in front of my computer, salviating at the sight of this beautiful book. Have I mentioned that I was somewhat stressed, too, what with contacting reviewers about Springtime Pleasures, inserting the copy edits, and finishing off all the grading from the past semester? Well, you know what happens when I’m a bit stressed: I buy books.
And so I succumbed to the green temptation. *happy sigh*
One of the things I’m trying to do this year is to keep a reading journal. I started one last year in March, when I stumbled across the lovely reading journal produced by Leuchtturm, but abandoned it in April (understandable in a way, since in April things turned rather bleak). I took it up again in late December and so far, have managed to stick with it. *knocking on wood*
I like the layout of the Leuchtturm book: apart from lines where you can note down the title, author, date of publication, genre, and date when you read the book, there’s plenty of space for notes and quotations, and they even have included some very convenient boxes for your rating. AND there’s an alphabetical register at the end of the book. As I said, very convenient all around.
I don’t just note down new books I’ve read, but also re-reads. In an effort to cut back on my book-spending, I’ve done a lot of re-reading this year (but never fear, I made up for that by falling in love with the books produced by the Folio Society *sigh*). A couple of days ago I found out that Dorothy Dunnett’s Johnson Johnson mysteries (or the Dolly mysteries) have been released as e-books. (Wheeee!) As a
rabid Dunnett fan girl I simply had to check them out, never mind that I already have them as print books. (Some of those are pretty grubby, though, and in one case, I had to cut the corners of some pages because of the truly disgusting stuff sticking to them.) (Really, what do some people do to their books?!?!?!)
I decided to get the Kindle version of Roman Nights (or Dolly and the Starry Bird). Here’s the blurb:
Ruth Russell, an astronomer working at the Maurice Frazer Observatory, is enjoying herself in Rome – that is, until her lover, Charles Digham, a fashion photographer and writer of obituary verses, has his camera stolen. The thief ends up as a headless corpse in the zoo park tolleta. Johnson Johnson, enigmatic portrait painter, spy and sleuth, is in Rome to paint a portrait of the Pope and is therefore on hand to investigate in one of Dunnett’s usual thrilling and convoluted plots that grips the reader from cover to cover. There is something far more deadly at stake than just the secrets of a couture house …
As all of the Dolly books, Roman Nights has a female first person narrator (in this case, Ruth), and the opening sentence concerns the bifocals Johnson Johnson is wearing:
I have nothing, even yet, against bifocal glasses. I know some very nice poufs and a couple of stockbrockers and a man who keeps a horn moustache comb in his jumpsuit. I’m a girl who doesn’t shock easily.Or so I thought until I first met Johnson Johnson, which was outside the Rome zoo in November.He was there because he was waiting for me, although I didn’t know it. I was there on a day’s leave from the Frazer Observatory. If I’d stayed on leave, none of it might have happened.
And so it starts. All of the Dolly books are fairly eccentric (think balloons filled with lethal gas), with impossible twists and turns. The “hero” of the series, Johnson Johnson, portrait painter and (former) secret agent, often stays in the background and we only get to see him through the eyes of others (which is typical for Dunnett’s heroes). As with all of Dunnett’s novels, one of the great delights of the book is how language is used. Dunnett has a way with words that is awe-inspiring: both witty and intellectually challenging. As reader you really have to stay on your toes. But you’re rewarded with gems like this one:
Every ruin [in Rome] is packed like a biscuit box.
The railings of the Palazzo Barberini are upheld by marble weightlifters with beards and grimaces of incipient hernia.
In Rome, there is a pathological shortage of small coins. For change, the little shops tend to use candy.
Aren’t these delicious?
I gave the book four stars. It is somewhat lengthy, but it is full of wonderfully eccentric scenes and it has a very nice twist at the end.
A few months ago I created a Flickr account (oh well, it was more, like, over a year ago, but who’s counting, I ask you?) as part of my desperate attempts to kickstart my creativity. I thought that sharing pictures of my crafting projects might do the trick. (It didn’t, not really; but hey, I did teach myself using a sewing machine. That’s something, right? And frankly, I’m tickled pink that I can sew. *g*) (I’m also tickled pink that my humble creations seem to have inspired others to tackle crafting – yay! Surely that’s the best compliment ever!)
Though I don’t upload pictures on a regular basis, I love Flickr. You can discover so many interesting things there. Like these
(Did you see the itty-bitty crocheted dragon? Isn’t it cuuute???)
On Saturday I browsed the pictures of the group Moleskinerie and happened to stumble across some absolutely stunning sketches of urban landscapes, like this one:
Aren’t these awesome?
Now, you know that I’ve got this thing with books, right? And because I’d fallen in love with the works featured on the blog, I naturally ordered the aforementioned book. It arrived today, and let me tell you, it is absolutely and utterly stunning. After a short exploration of what urban sketching is, the book takes you on a journey around the world via the sketches of the various contributors.
It’s one of those books that you can open again and again, and every time you will discover something new. *happy sigh*
Today I bought/received these two books:
The first one has been written by the wonderful Laura Vivanco, dragonslayer assisstant extraordinaire (i.e., she was one of the poor people who volunteered to proofread my PhD thesis). Laura has been reading and studying Harlequin Mills & Boon romances for a long time, and judging from her postings at Teach Me Tonight and our e-mail discussions, I am certain that her book will knock my socks off. I’m thrilled to pieces for her, and even though I wanted to wait until the POD edition would become available, I’ve just bought the Kindle edition because I simply couldn’t wait.
The second book arrived in today’s mail:
As you know, I’ve become a bit obsessed with sewing lately. So far, all I’ve ever sewn are bags and softies and some really simple quilts, but I do love the idea of sewing my own clothes. So for the past two or three years, I’ve been steadily building my library of sewing handbooks. All I need to do now is to brave the actual process of sewing clothes.
Which, to be honest, scares me witless.
Sewing softies is fairly easy and cotton is a very forgiving fabric, too. If you’ve made a mistake in the construction of the softy, you can always improvise and the result will still look good (well, except for that one doll pattern) (and the sock kitty with the strange head) (hey, but the embroidery on said kitty’s belly is rather good!). But with clothes? That you want to wear???? Uh-oh.
So I’m still scared, still not sewing clothes, and still finding excuses. Ah well … one day … 🙂