Something Old, Something New…

Posted on February 7, 2011. Filed under: Books, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Romance | Tags: , , , , , , , |

No, I’m not getting married. Phew! That’s a relief, right? And to finish, there is something borrowed but not something blue. Something Green, yes, but blue? No.

So let’s do the run-through. Of late, I’ve been trying to read as many books as possible before I travel back to China. It’s going to be interesting to see if I can finish the one I’m reading now, given that it’s more than 800 pages long, but I’m trucking along. I’ve been reading it while doing the free step exercise on Wii Fit Plus.

As far as the something Green goes, you probably already guessed that I finally read Ted Dekker’s book, Green, from his original Circle Trilogy. Granted, that has now become four books, and there’s no cool name for four books, so we’ll call it a series.

After reading it, though, I was completely lost and confused, mostly cause it’s been so long since I read the original three books. So I had to go back and start rereading the series from Black. I got halfway through Red before moving on to another book. So I suppose that also answers my something old question as well.

I loved Thomas Hunter’s story. The way Dekker wove the history of earth with the history of Hunter’s dream-world-turned-reality was amazing, and the fact that the two worlds were colliding through one man and his connection to both blew me away when I read it originally. Dekker’s originality and creativity made me really appreciate his series.

However, I think I’m with the people who have critiqued the latest release. Instead of answering questions, it left me with more questions. Instead of wrapping up what was already a phenomenal trilogy, it gave me another book with plot twists that only got more and more confusing and led to a cliffhanger that was unsatisfactory. In short, it left me feeling disappointed, and it definitely fell flat in my opinion.

So what else? Oh, yes, that leaves me with my something new. And that would be a book totally outside my normal authors and genres. Actually, I’m not sure where this book would fit. It’s a romance, to be sure, but it’s kind of a fantasy mixed with historical fiction as well. I haven’t looked at the official classification, but I assume it typically falls under romance.

I picked it up because so many people in the NaNoWriMo forums are always recommending this author as one of the greats. I wanted to read some things that I’ve heard people talk about as I tend to read authors who are either less well-known or more obscure (which is really the same thing, I suppose) than the many readers on the NaNo forums. I often find myself feeling as if I’m not well-read at all when I peruse the forums, so I decided to do something about it by choosing a few authors and books that sounded interesting and reading them this year.

The result? I picked up Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, an 800+ behemoth that is the first in a series of at least seven books.

Boy, was I stupid.

Now, before you start thinking that I say that because I was hoodwinked into picking up what is the first in a series of huge books instead of just some one-off, stop. That’s not what I meant. My problem is that I have, so far, really enjoyed the story Gabaldon weaves. It’s actually somewhat plausible to me, and given her protagonist, I can see how the woman’s placement in the time period she’s in would give her opportunities to use her knowledge of history for good while simultaneously avoiding being singled out as a witch and killed.

That said, I don’t have the money to buy the rest of the books in the series. I’m a little sad about that.

But the great thing is that I’ve never read anything by Diana Gabaldon before, and so far, she’s really impressed me. I’m loving the story, even though I’m not even halfway through the behemoth, and I can’t wait to see what other twists and turns it takes before it reaches its end.

So now I’ll end this by asking if you’ve done the same: taken someone’s suggestion of a book or author only to come across someone you really enjoy. Got any other suggestions for me? I don’t read many mainstream books because I tend to gravitate towards others, but I’m always open to suggestions, especially if I’m going to read 50 books this year.

I’ll update you on my progress towards 50 soon, and I look forward to hearing from you!


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Enter Manhattan 1899

Posted on May 8, 2010. Filed under: Books, Historical Fiction, Reviews, Romance, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

Let’s talk books, let’s talk stories, let’s talk what works and what doesn’t! Because I’m lazy and not in the mood to write the official review I’ll put on my PC, I’m going to write a second review of two books I’ve read for my research.

Anna Godbersen’s The Luxe series has four novels in it total. They are: The Luxe, Rumors, Envy, and Splendor. I’ve read the first two books of the series and finished reading the second one today. Because I’m enjoying it, I picked up the third at Borders after I got off work at Book Gallery (don’t tell my boss!) and started reading it over dinner.

The Luxe

The Luxe introduces readers to Manhattan’s top society members in rollicking good style. Swathed in multiple, juicy tidbits straight from the columns of only the best newspapers that harken the beginning of each new chapter, the book tells the story of the Holland sisters.

Elizabeth Holland is the oldest daughter of the Holland family and has just returned from an extended trip abroad. The trip was one of the means she used to forget the horrible details of her father’s recent death. Now that she’s back, though, things are beginning to fall apart. Her family is in financial trouble, and all her mother’s hopes are resting on Elizabeth… and a wedding that could change everything.

In the meantime, the youngest of the Holland’s, Diana, is enjoying finding her kicks where she will, in the dark coatrooms where clandestine meetings for kisses are not so easily noticed and in servant hallways that are infrequently traveled. The more risque of the sisters, Diana sees no need to appear with decorum when her older and more accomplished sister can do so for her, but in a strange twist of fate, the younger sister finds that love can come from unexpected places and at horribly wrong times. Now she has only one problem: telling her family.

With an intriguing cast of characters, I have to give Godbersen credit. I fell in love with the Holland sisters and felt nothing but disgust for some of the more important side characters, such as the indomitable Penelope Hayes, the sneaky Lina Broud, and the irritating Isabella Schoonmaker. Godbersen’s characterization is fabulous, and I am enjoying getting to know her characters and hoping I’ll find something good and worthwhile in some of the more cruel of the women.

Her plots are elaborate and twisted. I’ve been impressed by the intrigue behind the movements of the Holland sisters and the plots of Penelope Hayes. And even little Lina Broud strikes me as much more intense and devious than I would have expected given her characterization in the first book. And with the winding, often snakelike paths the story takes, I expect I’ll be just as surprised in the third and fourth novels as I was in the first two, a definite plus in my book.

So what makes this series so intriguing, especially to the teen readers? Well, let’s start by examining the cover. Most women I know have a fascination for the fashions from the past, especially those ball gowns that are featured so heavily on Godbersen’s covers. Second the titles are ripe with intrigue. They offer visions of brightly lit ballrooms, women wearing precious gems and delicate outfits, men in smoking rooms, and any number of rich debaucheries. It’s the stuff of legend and the stuff we simply can’t get enough of.

Now I’ll admit, I was angry at the end of the first book. I was also furious at the end of the second book because, quite frankly, I didn’t want it to end the way it did. I hate it when authors don’t offer me a happy ending. However I have two more books to read, and unfortunately the fourth book hasn’t been released in paperback yet. Once I finish the third one, I’m afraid I’m a bit up a creek until the paperback fourth book gets released.

The big problem for me is that I’m a sucker for fairy tale, happily ever after endings. And as such, I’m determined to read to the end of the series and hopefully find that Godbersen has offered both happy endings to the characters I like and trials to the ones I don’t like. If she doesn’t do that, I might be a little miffed.

So far, the series has been solidly developed, excellently written, and hard to put down. I think that makes it a good series to use in my YA research, don’t you?

If you’re looking for a new read and don’t mind something that’s technically written for a younger audience, check it out. Godbersen’s style is subtle and well-played in the scenes she writes. The characters are deliciously entertaining. The settings are the perfect foils for the antics of her main characters. It’s simply a fascinating series of (somewhat) unfortunate events.

Let me know if you pick it up. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. And while we’re at it, feel free to let me know what books you’re reading now. I love hearing about new books, you know. 😉


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Shameless About A Few Of My Favorite Things

Posted on March 8, 2010. Filed under: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Romance | Tags: , , , , , , , |

I have a wee bit of news before I get into the meat of my post for the day.

First, I have to thank Stacy of The Cat’s Meow for sending me Alice I Have Been. I follow Stacy’s blog, and through that, I won a copy of this book by Melanie Benjamin. Benjamin’s debut novel tells the story of Alice Liddell Hargreaves, the inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s book Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland. Carroll was a pseudonym for Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, and he shows up as a character in Benjamin’s book. Ironically enough, Melanie Benjamin is also a pseudonym for author Melanie Hauser, who has written two contemporary novels.

Because I’ve never actually read Carroll’s classic, I went out and bought it today. So now I own my own copy of Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. I plan to begin reading it tonight.

That said, I finished reading Kathy Tyers’ Crown of Fire tonight, so I’m officially done with that particular series. It’s lovely and well done, but I believe I’ve had my fill of sci-fi for a while. Although I have learned that I tend to increase my book list by two books for each book I finish reading. That, of course, means I won’t be finishing my book list anytime soon. I believe it’s numbering upwards of 40 books now. Granted, I’ve read some, but still–it’s a little excessive to have that many books piled up against the wall of your bedroom.

All right, onto something more interesting!

A Few Of My Favorite Things:

I’m a romance fan. I have been ever since I read my first romance novel back in middle school. Not that I was really emotionally ready for an actual romance novel back then, but my hormones being what they were, I felt like I could take on the world. So I ditched my childish stories that wouldn’t even classify as YA or teen novels in today’s bookstores and began searching for something more along my reading level.

I found Lori Wick. To elaborate, I was searching through my church’s library for some new material because the church library doubled as a school library for the private Christian academy I attended. I’m pretty sure I was supposed to be writing a book report (those were the days!) on a book of my choice, so I began looking through the library for something interesting to read. It might have been seventh or eighth grade, but I was attracted to the adult books.

The book I picked was a standalone book of Wick’s titled The Princess, a heartwarming tale of a couple set in a country very much like the United States or England but very much a made-up country. Let me clarify that by saying that this was not anything like sci-fi or fantasy. Wick just chose to create her own country that could have been an island nation set off from the Western United States. In fact, her character mentions visiting New York on a school trip, so perhaps it’s set to the east. Either way, it’s a ‘what-if’ type of story.

Pendaran is a humble kingdom where the prince or princess is required to marry before he or she can assume the throne. There is, of course, a cut-off date for marriage; in this particular story, Prince Nikolai is a widower, having lost his wife two years after marrying her. He mourns her several years after her death.

Unfortunately for Nikolai, the time is rapidly approaching for the fated birthday by which he must be married. Unwilling to go searching for a princess of his own, Nikolai entrusts the task of finding a suitable woman to his parents. They make a request of a good friend to send out feelers among his own web of friends, and lo and behold, they find Shelby Parker.

The daughter of a deaf father and a very capable mother, Shelby knows sign language and regularly translates for her father, who gives motivational speeches about disabilities. Shelby has one brother who is in college, graduated with a nursing degree, leads a ladies’ Bible study, and is an all-around sweetheart.

Running out of time and unable to pursue the topic under any normal circumstances, the king and queen make a decision to approach Shelby directly. After a bit of time and a few letters pass between Shelby and Nikolai, Shelby decides to accept this unusual proposal of marriage. In a very quiet ceremony, the two wed, and Shelby begins a totally new life as princess of Pendaran.

Meanwhile Nikolai, overwhelmed by his grief and the newness of another woman, retreats in the only way he knows how: by making himself unavailable and taking on added appointments to his already busy schedule. The result? A comic moment in the kitchen of the couple’s suite in the palace a few weeks after their marriage.

When he doesn’t even recognize his own wife dining in the kitchen, Nikolai realizes his own grief has driven him too far from someone he should be making an effort with. Thus, he begins attempting to court his lovely, red-headed wife, whose innocence is both touching and refreshing.

I won’t spoil the rest of the story, but Shelby and Nikolai suffer their fair share of heartache and tragedy before realizing that love can transcend loss and lack of trust.

After having read quite a few romances in my day, I’ll admit it’s the picture-perfect formulaic romance. It follows the regular pattern from a Christian point of view, but it was the first romance novel I ever read, and as such, I have a certain fondness for the book. I’ve read it multiple times over the years, and I’ll probably read it again.

Perhaps it’s the fact that I know this is the happy ending story, but I usually pick up The Princess when I’m feeling a little down and don’t want to read anything new. I crave the comfort of an old friend, and this is, indeed, an old friend.

What about you? Do you have any old friend books you return to time and time again for comfort or escape? Does it change depending on your mood? I know mine certainly does. Let me know what you think. And, of course, I don’t mind if you disagree with me on The Princess; it is, after all, targeted to a rather limited audience!

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Posted on February 24, 2010. Filed under: Historical Fiction, Musings, Romance | Tags: , , , , , |

I just finished watching the 1934 production of The Scarlet Pimpernel starring Leslie Howard. I only realized after watching it that Leslie Howard also starred in my favorite movie: Gone With The Wind. He played the role of Ashley Wilkes in that particular movie, which works well for his rather effeminate appearance and mild-mannered temperament. Those same attributes made him a dead ringer for Sir Percy in the Pimpernel film.

It strikes me as interesting that my favorite book would actually be a script. Technically speaking Orczy wrote The Scarlet Pimpernel as a play first before writing the novel. And if I’m recalling correctly, the play was produced on stage before it was set into the annals of classical novels.

But, of course, this isn’t the big point of the day. The title of this post is to refer to one of my favorite things. I tend to quote movies; it’s a habit I picked up as a kid, and since it was a simple thing for me to pick some lines from movies to use later, I developed the knack for it. Typically speaking, I’ll pick up at least one quote from any movie I see.

Oddly, enough, though I don’t generally pick up quotes from books. I’m not sure if it’s the difference between hearing and seeing or if there are just too many things I might want to pick out of books to quote at later dates. Either way, I generally don’t remember quotes from books.

That’s why I like The Scarlet Pimpernel.

The movie version incorporates my favorite quote from the book. I was reminded of it as I watched today. Sir Percy, dimwitted as he is, has a habit of being the most inane character you could meet. Due to the rising curiosity of Londoners towards discovering the elusive Pimpernel’s identity, Sir Percy has written a small ditty that he uses to both charm the ladies and annoy the French ambassador.

It goes a little something like this: “They seek him here, they seek him there. Those Frenchies seek him everywhere. Is he in heaven? Is he in hell? That demmed, elusive Pimpernel.”

I always thought that a rather clever little line. It seems trite and silly just reading it in this context, but in the context of Sir Percy the Pimpernel using it to taunt the French? It’s quite brilliant.

As I was thinking about other quotes from movies and books, I was caught by one more book quote. It’s from one of my favorite authors, Lori Wick. Normally I’d remember plots and locations (not to mention names) from her stories. But this one took me off-guard.

It’s from her book Pretense, which is by far the longest book she’s written to date. It’s also one of the more interesting as it follows the love story of a mother and then those of her two daughters. I’ve always been attracted to this particular book and have read it several times now simply because of the two daughters.

Marrell Bishop has daughters that are a year apart in age. The oldest, Mackenzie Rose Bishop, grows up to join the Army. She’s rejected everything concerning God and wants nothing to do with the God her mother used to despise. Her younger sister, Delancey Joy Bishop, hasn’t got the same qualms as her older sister, but she doesn’t see a need for God and goes off to art school.

As this is probably at least 400 pages in length, I’ll shorten the plot and say that Mackenzie becomes an author, my biggest dream, while her sister becomes an illustrator. Together they write two different series of children’s books that become bestsellers. The sisters change and grow, and of course, they have their own set of romantic entanglements.

At one point, after various struggles and hardships, Mackenzie is visiting her step-father and his new wife for lunch one Sunday afternoon. She went to their church and wore a very nice blazer and met the son of her step-father’s wife. After being invited over for lunch, she runs home to change and shows up in jeans and a sweatshirt, curls up on the couch, and lounges with Jackson, her step-father, and Tucker, his step-son.

Without seeming to notice them near her, she mutters softly, “Roughing the kicker,” scuffing her foot against the couch.

It’s something I remember for a couple reasons. One: the first time I read it, I had no idea what she meant by that statement. You can imagine my confusion. Two: the whole scene is actually a very sweet portrait of the family Mackenzie’s been ignoring for years and comes home to. It’s one of my favorite scenes in that book. And three: it’s the beginning of Mac’s romance.

Why do I remember that particular quote? I have no idea. I’ve been wracking my brain trying to come up with other book quotes, but all I have on recall are quotes from my favorite movies.

Either way, I’ve read quite a few quotable books. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the best quotes. But there’s something about a book that’s quotable that makes me want to reread it. Thus, things like Harry Potter, which I just glanced at and remembered a quote from the lovable Dumbledore, have become part of my rereads group.

(Said Dumbledore quote, that most people will know, is the following: “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” Granted, it’s also quoted in the movie, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I remember it more.)

Do you have any favorite book quotes? Honestly, probably some of the best books I have to quote are non-fiction, but like I said, there are quite a few fiction novels that could be quoted for various reasons.

Anyway, I thought that was an interesting concept: remembering movie quotes but not having recall for novel ones.

Thoughts? Comments? Let me know.


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Travelocity: Acceleration by Fiction

Posted on February 14, 2010. Filed under: Books, Historical Fiction, Romance | Tags: , , , , |

Here’s my Short Sunday Blurb followed closely by my Regular Daily Post.

In church this morning, we sang a rather beautiful song that I thoroughly enjoyed. One of the lines of the song stood out to me, though, and it paints an incredible picture of what I believe.

“Love has paved the way for grace.”

It’s simple. Short. Think about it. Isn’t it true in your own life? And couldn’t it be true for others as well? Love is such a selfless action when you get right down to the nitty-gritty details of it that the only way for it not to open itself up to other things like forgiveness, generosity, and grace is for it not to truly be love.

Personally, my life has been changed by love, and I want to share it with everyone else, but here is not the place. I simply wanted to share that little line and see what you thought of it. Does it make you smile like it does me?

Okay, onto the Regular Daily Post!

In keeping with my post yesterday, I thought I’d elaborate a bit on my desire to travel. I think I accurately titled today’s post because it’s true: my love of travel and desire to see the world was only accelerated by my love of fiction.

It doesn’t make an incredible amount of sense to me now, but my historical fiction debut into the Holocaust was followed swiftly by a foray into what is one of my favorite ‘eras’ of historical fiction: Victorian and pre-Victorian fiction set in the merry old land of England.

It started easily enough with reading things by Lori Wick, specifically her Kensington Chronicles series. Through this series, I began reading a lot of the history behind England and her monarchs, and I learned to love the ages of long dresses, satin slippers, and horse-drawn carriages.

This is a fairly large jump from reading about the Holocaust, but at the very least, I was still reading about Europe at large. And I grew to adore the idea of high England with her monarchs and politicians bound by the dream of defending the realm, her Eurocentrism, her conquering nature, and her dukes and duchesses.

It all fascinated me in middle school because it was so far removed from everything that we have here in the United States. Monarchs and duchies, kings and queens, duels and quips – these things all brought out that childlike joy that can only come from meeting a new fantasy.

If I had my way, I’d travel all of Europe, but I’d linger especially long in the United Kingdom. Even more so than in Germany, I want to explore the halls that kings tread upon, see the castles built to serve as bastions of strength during troubled times, explore the countryside where young ladies grew up before debuting in London, and visit those hallowed halls where the ton spread rumors, coquettishly flirted, and made advantageous matches.

The great thing about visiting the United Kingdom? Getting lost in a country where I speak the language. Even if the accents are different, I’m sure with a bit of patience I could understand and gain directions to wherever I needed to go.

I will have to write another post about finding fictional aspirations through places I’ve traveled, though. Despite the fact I haven’t yet made it to England or past an airport in Germany, I have visited other parts of the world where I found literary inspirations.

In the meantime, I’m still reading my fabulous Lauren Willig books and wondering about something.

Akismet caught another spam comment, which I managed to check out in my filter. Has anyone heard of Drakz? I’m not really sure what it is, but the comment that was posted to my blog has some sort of tag back to the website (first of all, the comment made no sense). I clicked on the tag and realized part of my blog yesterday had been posted to this website with a “read more” function that brings the reader to my actual blog.

Should I be concerned? I have no clue. The original re-post is here, and the main US news site is here. I can’t find an “About” page for the website, so I don’t know whether to be flattered my blog warranted re-posting or annoyed someone didn’t do much more than leave a very confusing comment on my post about it. Any thoughts? I’d appreciate some insight!

Happy Valentine’s Day (or whatever holiday you’re celebrating today)!


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Ah, the Rereads

Posted on February 11, 2010. Filed under: Books, Historical Fiction, reading, Romance | Tags: , , , , |

I honestly don’t have much of a post today. I’ve been rereading one of Lauren Willig’s books in preparation for the newest one I purchased, and it’s been very pleasant going.

I tend to forget how she melds witty banter with excellent faculties of language to create these incredibly intense scenes with just one conversation. Generally I prefer to stay away from writing lots of conversation because I simply can’t find ways to justify it, especially since I’m not the best at it. But Willig has such an artful approach to it that I can’t help but be delighted.

I’m currently rereading the third in her series. The Deception of the Emerald Ring is full of light conversations with the excellent undertone of mischief, danger, intrigue, and illicit activities. It’s right up my alley.

In Emerald Ring, we get a closer glance at one of my favorite heroes: Geoffrey Pinchingdale-Snipe, whose last name is certainly a mouthful. Geoff is quite snippy, especially towards his recent acquisition, our heroine, Letty Alsworthy, the new bride to the heir of the Pinchingdale name and fortune.

Granted, it wasn’t her fault at all. Not one little bit. All she wanted was to prevent Geoff from ruining her older sister by eloping with her.

You can imagine how well that goes.

In short, the book follows Geoff after his impromptu wedding on an adventure to Ireland under the orders of the London War Office, but our dear spy simply cannot be bothered informing his most unwanted bride of this small detail. And that, of course, is where Letty comes in, deciding to follow dear Geoff to Ireland instead of wasting away in his cold, empty home and avoiding the ton as they gossip about her grabby attempts to usurp her sister’s position as rightful bride.

Bring on the witty banter.

Yep, so that’s what I’m rereading now. I’ve caught myself, several times now, cracking up in the middle of a reading due to the prose, and I simply adore the characters Willig has created. I’ll admit, I’m hooked.

What books are you rereading? And what books do you put on your reread list? I have strict categories of rereads, which I’ll probably talk about at some point or another. For today, I’m just enjoying the story.


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Book Formulas

Posted on February 9, 2010. Filed under: Books, Fantasy, reading, Romance, Style | Tags: , , , |

Today I thought I’d talk a little bit about book formulas. It seems that different genres have these formulaic ways in which authors write their stories. And in most instances, if you’re an avid reader (or even if you aren’t), you’ll pick up right away on the formula.

For example: let’s take a typical romance.

Fairly normal female protagonist + handsome and charming male + male’s seduction and intrigue + sudden betrayal of trust + hot make-up sex = A romance that sells.

Okay, so that might not be the complete formula, but it’s pretty basic. Authors generally add and adapt these formulas to suit their whims and make sure all the bases are covered. In my opinion, it feels a little bit too structured.

However, I can’t deny that these books sell by the thousands. Even the shoddy ones that come from new romance authors who are literally following the template set up by thousands of their predecessors. I also can’t deny that I’ve purchased some in my day.

The same can be said for almost any genre you can think up. Fantasy has what feels like a different formula for each sub-genre of the main. But all the formulas seem to stem directly from the classic “high” or “epic” fantasy.

Pick a genre, any genre, and you’ll see similar themes. These things sell and sell well for publishers. And readers are eager to lap it up in most cases. (I’d say almost especially so for the romances.)

My book, too, uses the basic formula for fantasy. It’s something that’s difficult to get away from. And if you try something different, you’re most likely going to find it difficult to get published because agents and publishers are looking for things that will market well.

So I find it odd that I enjoy and sincerely appreciate some of these formulas (i.e. fantasy) and not others (i.e. romances). What’s strange is that I like both fantasy and romance, but I quickly find the norms in romances becoming tedious. The more I read them, the more predictable they become, and the more difficult it gets not to just flip to the end and decide that, yes, I knew this would happen from the beginning.

Do you find yourself doing something like that with a genre you really love? I’m not sure if it’s just me, but I honestly don’t get as excited with some of my romance fiction as I used to because the genre never changes. I may just be choosing my books without care, I’m not sure. Either way, I’m not as appreciative of it as I used to be.

Thoughts? Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear them. 🙂


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Book Research – How Thorough Should An Author Be?

Posted on February 8, 2010. Filed under: Books, reading, Romance, Style | Tags: , , , , , , |

I’ve been reading a book on my book list lately, and while I already know the ending (end reader thing again), I haven’t finished it. So I’m not going to post a full review or anything resembling that here. However, I am going to talk a little about the book in the context of research.

Authors of almost any genre have to research things for their books under most circumstances. I’m doing it, and I know a lot of other authors who are doing the same things. Unless you’re an absolute expert, there are always things to be researched.

So my question today is this: How thorough should the author be in researching topics for novels?

The reason I ask is because of the book I’m reading. It’s called Everyone Worth Knowing and is written by Lauren Weisberger. If you haven’t heard of her or her book, perhaps you’ll know her from another of her more popular novels: The Devil Wears Prada.

In Everyone Worth Knowing, Weisberger writes about life for Bette Robinson, a small town New Yorker who quits her job as a banker in New York City because it’s become tedious. She ends up working in public relations as an event planner for some of the biggest names out there.

It’s obvious to me that Weisberger’s done a lot of research for her story. She drops names left and right: Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Lauer, Katie Couric, and Hugh Heffner to name a few. She knows her designers and labels, and she mixes it up with the clubs, restaurants, and companies of only the best areas of NYC.

I’m a fan of people who take the time to research things well, but I noticed something in Weisberger’s novel that irks me just a bit. I’ll admit it’s nothing big and probably not something most people would notice. In fact, there’s a possibility it’s done for effect more than anything else.

Despite all that, I read it and was a little disappointed. I’ll quote it here for you.

“I’m getting a coffee, and then we can figure out the event details. Can I get you something?”

I shook my head and pointed to my coffee cup.

“No grande sugar-free vanilla extra-hot no-whip skim latte?”

This is from page 153 of my copy of the book, and I read it again last night. In fact, I read it twice.

The scene takes place inside your favorite and mine: Starbucks. And our heroine, Bette, is talking with bouncer Sammy. Aside from the fact that I feel his little comment deserves a few extra commas, I have to give Weisberger some credit.

I used to work as a Starbucks barista, and one of the things you learn rather early on is how to call an order. If you’ve ever sat down and looked at the boxes on the sides of the cups, you’ll notice there’s a certain order to them. The trick to properly reading them is starting from the top and working your way down. So, for example, when I order one of my favorites, I ask for a “grande three-pump-vanilla, breve, extra caramel, caramel macchiato.”

Weisberger gets props in my book for knowing the lingo and structure of an order. However, she does something that bugs me just a bit. I won’t harp on it for long, so bear with me.

It’s the “no-whip” part of this quote that gets me. I’m a perfectionist, and this might be a stylistic thing, but lattes do not get whipped cream. Period. Sure, you can order them with whipped cream, but they are not normally made that way. The trick to making a latte is to steam the milk and create a bit of foam at the top. When you’ve finished pouring the milk into the cup, you scoop a bit of whip out of the pitcher with your spoon and place a dollop on top.

That’s a latte.

Ordering it with no-whip is redundant.

Ah well, I’m not here to really argue the point. I’m really just curious how much everyone else thinks an author should research for a book. And let me point out that I’m not claiming Weisberger didn’t research enough. Just, in general, I would be interested in how much authors put into their research and how much their readers think the authors should know.

Thoughts? Comments? Snide remarks? Let me know!


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The Favorites Post

Posted on February 5, 2010. Filed under: Books, Classics, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, reading, Romance, Suspense/Thriller, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

So I’m a bit later to post today. In fact, it’s the latest I’ve posted since I started NaBloPoMo, but I think that’s okay. On a more personal note, I actually had a friend, Desteni, over today for a breakfast that extended to 2 p.m. (See the “Adventuring Solo” link on my blogroll for more info about Desteni.) To celebrate my actual social tendencies, let’s take a look at our favorites today!

Yes, this is a cop-out post because I’m struggling with blogging about anything writing or reading related; however, it does fit the theme. With no further ado, I’ll tell you a little about my favorites.

"The Scarlet Pimpernel" by Baroness Orczy

Favorite Book: The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy

Wow, what a concept! I actually have a classic as my favorite? Yes, that’s right. I love the swashbuckling tale of the ever elusive, ever daft Sir Percy Blakeney and his dear, sweet wife. The Baroness’s tale became my favorite in middle school when my English teacher showed us the 1934 version of the movie. I read the book for the first time in high school and was in love.

Favorite Author: Baroness Orczy

I am on a mission to eventually read all the novels within the Pimpernel series to be quite honest. I have only found the first in print at bookstores, but will be on the lookout for others in the future. The Baroness has a true fan in me!

Favorite Genre: Too close to call

I’m eclectic, a word most people (me included) use to describe their music tastes. However, I refer to genres. I’ll read historical fiction, romances, fantasy, general, classical, and a few others. Right now it’s a toss-up between fantasy and romances.

Favorite POV: Third person omniscient

I’ll admit I’m not a fan of first person unless it’s done incredibly well. Third person is my standard, and if it’s omniscient, it’s even better. I like getting an overview of all the pertinent players instead of sticking in one person’s head.

Within the genres–

"The Hawk and the Jewel" by Lori Wick

Favorite Romance: Toss-up between The Hawk and the Jewel, The Princess, and Donovan’s Daughter all by Lori Wick

Honestly, I love a ton of romances. But these three represent three very different things to me. The Hawk and the Jewel represents my adoration for historical British fiction. The Princess represents my introduction to the romance genre. And Donovan’s Daughter represents all the good things I love in romance.

And, yes, these are all Christian romances. Perhaps I should add a Christian subcategory, but I don’t want to go into that much depth!

"The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" by C.S. Lewis

Favorite Fantasy: Toss-up between Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien, Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, and The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

Anyone else seeing the pattern here? I don’t know about you, but I’m curious. Why do all these authors only use their first initials? Is that the mark of a good fantasy author? (If so, I’m in trouble!)

That’s beside the point. Lewis introduced me to the world of fantasy as a child. Tolkien made the fantasy come to life. And Rowling reminded me of what it is to feel childlike faith in a fantasy again. I think they offer a good mix.

"The Secret History of the Pink Carnation" by Lauren Willig

Favorite Historical Fiction: Any of the books in Lauren Willig’s series

I won’t rant and rave here. Honest. I’ll just point out that Lauren Willig not only revived my faith in authors trying to channel the classics but she also channeled the one classic I adore: The Scarlet Pimpernel. Willig’s series of bumbling, dangerous, deadly, and humorous French Revolution spy novels is lovingly coupled with the young woman who sets out in modern times to discover their secret identities.

Plainly put, I love this series of books, and I plan to write about them in due time. I just have to do them justice, which will not happen today!

Favorite Classic: Outside of The Scarlet Pimpernel, I am a Jane Austen fan.

Simply put, Austen’s classics do not bore me to tears, make me want to burn the books, fill me with despair, or leave a bad taste in my mouth. Instead, they make me smile with amusement at the antiquated wit and whimsy she writes into her tales, and I find myself feeling light and cozy. It’s the perfect pairing for a rainy day (like today).

"House" by Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti

Favorite Suspense/Thriller: Three by Ted Dekker and House by Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti

Ted Dekker knows the art of suspense. His books are chock full of it. He weaves the art of storytelling with the art of suspense-writing and creates vivid worlds where the best response I can give is to turn the next page until I’ve reached the end. Combine Dekker’s suspense with Frank Peretti’s art of addressing the supernatural, and you get chill-inducing fiction which thrills and frightens.

In conclusion…

I do believe that is quite enough of my favorites for today. I’m planning a later post with my least favorites (which will hopefully gain a more entertaining title by then), but I want to hold off on that for a while. So we’ll see how that goes.

Feel free to let me know what your favorites are! I’d love to hear about new authors that I can check out and books that you enjoy. (Come to think of it, I’ll have to make another post on my nonfiction favorites as well.) And if you have any comments about my favorites, I’d like to hear it.


P.S. In case you’re curious but don’t want to spend money, you can read the e-book version of The Scarlet Pimpernel here.

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