Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Books I have read recently - May

I had a cold the other day, so was home from work, and had the chance to do some light reading.

Miracle and other Christmas stories
by Connie Willis
I have owned this one for a while, and have dipped in and out- a selection of Christmas stories, most with happyish endings. Amusing, and she definitely prefers miracle on 34th street to It's a wonderful life. Some good stories about the original Christmas story, and some thoughts on the meanings. Sometimes what you think you want is not what you want.

Remake by Connie Willis
More of a novella than a novel, but an interesting story on where movies are going (studios own the copyrights of old movie stars and endlessly remake movies using computerised images of those stars, rather than real people). Also a story about addiction and obsession and dreams. Interesting, I understand it better this reading than I did a few years ago.

The Pinhoe Egg by Diana Wynne Jones
Another favorite author- I have been dipping in and out of this book for a while, but this time I found the esrliest folded page and read to the end. Another in the Chrestomanci series, looking at the villages around the castle and the hidden magics there. She is always an enjoyable author, and this was a fun read. Another variation on the what you think you want is not what you want theme though.

The guilty pleasures section
I tend to read trashy romances when I am bored- it is my trashy reading habit- I don't generally buy trashy gossip magazines, this is my variation. I usually don't hold on to the books, but will read and move on. I have developed some pretty strong guidelines- certain authors are good, others are awful and certain types of stroies are not worth it.

More than a mistress by Mary Balogh
Regency era romance - and there are quite a few for this era. I have read this author before and she is not bad, although I occassionally feel like I am reading a variation on a classic- this time it was a very simplified Jane Eyre. A young woman interupts a duel, and as a consequence the hero is shot in the leg. She ends up as his nurse for three weeks while he recovers. At the same time there is a scandal soing the rounds of a young lady who has apparently killed a man and robbed his family. needless to say it is the same young lady. All is resolved in the end, but the use of the name Jane and the creation of a teasing relationship and the master and highly placed servant brings on Jane Eyre moments.

I didn't read all of theese end to end on the one day, I was mostly finishing off books that had been started before. It is interesting how certain books can start a chain of related books though- because of the Miracle book, I went and found Remake.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Romance and accuracy

Of late I have been reading several regency romances by Stephanie Laurens- the Cynster series and the Bastion Club. While both of these series are enjoyable, and have a balance between the romance side and the mystery that drives the story, I am starting to have issues with the historical accuracy.
I like history, but I would not have called myself an expert on early nineteenth century Britain. Unfortunately, neither is the author. There a few areas where I doubt whether the details are accurate, and there are some where I know the details are inaccurate. For example, in one book, set in the early 1830s, the main characters pay a visit to Harrods. Thankfully it is not described in much detail, but it is still interesting that they manage to visit a store that will not open for another few decades.
Once these details are spotted, they start to niggle and the whole construct of the story is shaken by distrust of these details. Was horse racing really like that in the 1820's? other sources indicate not. Was Vauxhall Gardens still a popular high society entertainment in the mid 1820's- sadly probably not. A lot of the areas are ideas about the regency (references to Prinny), ideas about London (that have no idea of the geography) and ideas about England that are more myth than reality.
The books are still readable, I just don't use them as any type of reference material.