Category Archives: Miscellania

Delayed literary gratification and me

To put a fine point on it, delayed gratification has never been a strong suit of mine. Unless it’s something I want with the fire of a million wish lists which necessitates waiting, I’ll usually go for the closer, more immediate reward.

However, the other day I picked up two books I’m planning to read on my trip to England next March. That’s a little over three months. That I will have books in my vicinity. That I’m not allowing myself to read. For three months.

I’ve decided to put them in my closet underneath some pleather hooker books because a) if reading isn’t sexy, what is? and b) if I can’t see them on a daily basis, I won’t be tempted by them. Hopefully.

Thankfully my local library is reopening this week after some much-needed refurbishing, so I’ll have that lifeline.

This is going to be tough!

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A Quick Word on The Narrative of John Smith

JohnSmith

One of the numerous books I picked up on my honeymoon in Britain, The Narrative of John Smith is Arthur Conan Doyle’s unpublished (well, at least until now, that is) first novel.

As a first novel from an emerging writer (who would go on to become a literary heavyweight), it’s actually not bad. It’s interesting enough and doesn’t have any glaring flaws. It is, in a very real sense of the word, ok.

However, it’s not really a novel in the popular sense. It’s more of a linked series of dissertations on various subjects, which, incidentally, would seem more appropriate coming from a young man’s mouth than a 50-year-old man who is laid up with a vicious case of gout.

But, in the end, this must-read for any die-hard Doyle fan provides invaluable insight into the mind of the author and so is worth the read, although what is on offer isn’t quite what is advertised.

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Recommendation Corner: Rivers of London

Set in London, this light urban fantasy series by Ben Aaronovitch follows the adventures of Peter Grant, a biracial police constable who discovers not only that magic is real but also that he is one of a few practitioners.

I love this series for so many reasons (too many to list here, really), but one of the biggies is that the narrator and protagonist is a person of colour. So refreshing to see!

A must read for any budding or established Anglophile, I especially enjoyed rereading this series after returning from my honeymoon in England. And at about 300 pages each, they’re super quick to whip through.

Best read in order, the books out now are Rivers of London (printed as Midnight Riot in the U.S.), Moon Over Soho, Whispers Under Ground, and Broken Homes.  Fifth book Foxglove Summer is due out early January 2015 (with a rumoured sixth book on the way) and you better believe I’m going to preorder that bad boy.

A word of caution though. Be sure to get the British version with the funky, hand-drawn map-style covers. The American covers are absolutely horrendous.

*A bit of a short post this week, I know, but as I’m currently recovering from a stuffy head cold, slicing my hand open on a cat-food-tin lid, and one heck of a Halloween party, I think I’m entitled to slack off just a little bit.*

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Not at all related to books, but OMG TURKEY YOU GUYZ!

Turkey

Happy Thanksgiving, my Canadian brethren!

This week, I’m taking a little break from the recent historical-romance schlockfest. Don’t worry, it’ll resume again next week when my brain recovers from the multiple descriptions of heaving, creamy bosoms. Not to mention all the cleaning I have to do for the impending arrival of mum and the ceiling-repair dudes.

I originally heard this joke from my grandmother, so it’s an oldie but a goodie.

Here is a turkey recipe that also includes the use of  popcorn as a stuffing—imagine that.  When I found this recipe, I thought it was perfect for people like me,  who just are not sure to tell when the turkey is thoroughly cooked but not dried out.  Give this a try.

12-15 lb. turkey

1 cup melted butter

1 cup stuffing (Pepperidge Farm  is good)

1 cup uncooked popcoorn (ORVILLE REDENBACHER’S LOW FAT)

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Brush turkey well with melted butter, salt and pepper.  Fill cavity with stuffing and popcorn.  Place in baking pan with the neck end toward the back of the oven.  Listen for the popping sounds. When the turkey’s ass blows the oven door open and the bird flies across the room, it’s done.

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Trash Day: Cheesy Historical Romance Edition (part the second)

I’ve decided to do a series of four blog posts chronicling my misadventures reading a piece of cheesy historical romance. Since the book in question (Susan Wiggs’s The Maiden of Ireland) is about 400 pages long, each post will cover roughly 100 pages of the novel. You can view part one of my torment here.

When we last left the main characters, the male hero Hawkins (who also happens to be a false priest in league with Oliver Cromwell) was just captured in battle by the female main character Caitlin (who has a not-so-secret identity as the leader of a group of Irish rebels).

Once they return to the castle, for some reason Caitlin’s father goes off to look for Irish priests. Because apparently that’s better than going off to hunt dragons or something. Regardless, this leaves the post of clan chieftan empty.

Of course this results in a furious debate over who should take over, because STATUS! RESPONSIBILITY! UNLIMITED POTATOES!

Somewhat unfeasibly, the only contestant everyone can agree on is Caitlin. Well, everyone except her sister’s disgruntled husband. Let that be a lesson: don’t stiff a guy when you owe him an entire herd of cattle. He storms off in a huff, practically trailing streams of foreshadowing. You could almost hear him doing his best Terminator impression.

She goes through initiation and investiture rights, which don’t involve wearing shoes or having your hair bound for some reason. With her newfound sense of responsibility dawning, Caitlin and Hawkins are getting closer, and just when you think they’re FINALLY going to get to have some raunchy fun…

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand of course they get interrupted just as they’re about to have sex for the first time. Well, at least as a priest the guy’s used to having a case of blue balls, but damn, that’s harsh. THIS IS WHY WE KNOCK, PEOPLE. Or you know, don’t have sex outside on a hill next to your very-crowded-with-refugees castle.

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Trash Day: Cheesy Historical Romance Edition (part the first)

Due to a recent genre-shaming incident I experienced, I’ve decided to do a series of four blog posts chronicling my misadventures reading a piece of cheesy historical romance. Since the book in question is about 400 pages, each blog post will cover around 100 pages.

Maiden

The offender in question is Susan Wigg’s The Maiden of Ireland. Set during the mid 1600s, the book sees a false Cavalier priest go to Ireland at the behest of Oliver Cromwell so that he can destroy a band of rebel warriors. Of course, his cooperation is obtained because Cromwell has the false priest’s young illegitimate daughter and threatens to sell her to a brothel unless he complies.

(One could make the case that certainly Cromwell was a brutal military dictator, but Wiggs turns the man into a villain of Mr. Burns-type proportions. I mean, you can practically hear the man cackling and tenting his fingers. Kind of surprised he didn’t twirl his curly, Snidely Whiplash moustache and tie the girl down to some train tracks, to be honest. )

Destroying the band of Irish rebels involves, apparently, seducing the mistress of a castle (I really, really would love to see this job description on Craigslist) who also might, maybe, possibly be the leader of the rebels. Incidentally, this supposition requires you to ignore the descriptions of a large, muscled, and presumably armoured warrior in a big fight scene, but I digress.

This just about covers the events of the first 100 pages.

As my husband pointed out last night, setting a romance novel during the time of Cromwell’s conquest of Ireland isn’t the best idea, seeing as the Irish still remember the episode less than fondly, to say the least. Systematic ethnic cleansing doesn’t exactly get the romantic juices flowing.

I feel like I shouldn’t have to say this, but if you’re going to set it in a specific (although ill-advised) time period, please, please, please get a historically accurate costume on the cover. The green dress on the cover is general Medieval, at best. You would never see that outfit in that time period. It’s not even close to being appropriate and probably about 300 years out of date, at least.

Also, not really digging how her breasts are *that* close to being exposed. Next time, let’s aim for a costume that ISN’T two seconds away from a wardrobe malfunction, mkay?

 

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Procrastination, Thy Name Is Me

It was super hard to write a blog post this week. To be honest, my head was totally not in a writing space. And as such, I pretty much used any excuse to put off writing for as long as possible.

This week, instead of writing a blog post, I:

-read partway through 5 library books, each of which I then discarded for various reasons (Lesson learned: I cannot read paranormal romance anymore.)

-went to a baseball game (My husband won tickets through work. It would be wasteful not to go, right?)

-groomed the cat to within an inch of her life (It’s basically an exercise in hairball prevention now.)

-wrote part of at least 3 blog posts, but didn’t publish, because they were shite

-drank a beer and fell asleep on the couch, twice (Substitute the beer for tea and some knitting, and I’m my grandma.)

-saw Guardians of the Galaxy (Seriously, how cute is the bromance between Rocket and Groot?!)

-read Mercedes Lackey’s latest Elemental Masters book (Review coming next week!)

Huh. Not quite as unproductive as I thought I was. Yay me!

So I guess what I’m saying is “Oops. Sorry guys, I promise to do better next week!”

In lieu of an actual blog post, please accept these recordings of Neil Gaiman reading his H.P. Lovecraft-inspired story “Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar”. 

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Book vs. Graphic Novel: A Wrinkle in Time

Originally, my first introduction to the sci-fi/fantasy works of Madeleine L’Engle was through my high-school-era discovery of A Ring of Endless Light. A shy girl who has three boys competing for her attention? Of course I would love it.

However, it wasn’t until last year when I picked up the recently-published graphic novel version of A Wrinkle in Time that I rediscovered her works. The graphic novel inspired me to pick up the text version about a year later, after some internal debate.

Granted, this is as far as I will probably get in L’Engle’s books. From what I gather, the author’s Kairos series gets progressively more religious from here on, and I have a strong personal dislike for sci-fi/fantasy works in which the author’s religion encroaches on the story.

(It’s kind of like the Chronicles of Narnia. Once you learn that the magic sky kitty is Jesus and the series as a whole is a thinly disguised religious tract, you can’t unlearn it. And I’m not even going to touch on the problem of Susan [well, not here, at least])

A Wrinkle in Time, though, is a surprisingly sophisticated melding of physics and YA literature. Interesting, then, that although rejected by at least 26 publishers because it was deemed too difficult for children, that it has continuously been in print since its first publication in 1962.

Generally speaking, when it comes to different versions of the same story, I prefer the one that came first. In this case, though I find myself gravitating towards the graphic novel for a couple of reasons.

Primarily, this is because the graphic novel seems to minimalize the religious content. As much as it can be, when you’re reading about guardian angels who are a melding of human and pegasi.

It also makes it accessible to a completely different audience. Hey, I probably wouldn’t have picked up the text version had I not read the graphic novel first.

But if I’m being completely honest, it was the illustrations themselves that really won me over. The elegant and expressive blue, black, and white illustrations are a perfect accompaniment to the story.

And while I ultimately prefer the graphic novel to the text version, I like to think that the two complement each other quite well.

So read them both!

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Odd Bookish Thought of the Day

CrabbeGoyle

In the wizarding world of J.K. Rowling, the reporter Rita Skeeter is basically the analogue of trashy, tell-all tabloids like the Daily Mail.

That got me thinking.

What would be the equivalent of British anti-EU/anti-immigrant party UKIP? I was thinking the Death Eaters, but they’re too malevolent and, to be perfectly honest, too smart for that kind of foolishness.

Crabbe and Goyle would definitely be in on it regardless. They’re about the right mixture of ignorance and ill will.

Got any suggestions? Toss them in the comments section below.

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My Cup of Books Runneth Over

IMG444

Let’s take a look at my #TBR pile, shall we?

Technically, this is both my and my husband’s TBR pile. Please note that my pile is only the first shelf. The other three are the husband’s. I have a MUCH higher turnover rate.

A sizeable portion of these I got from work. One of the many benefits of working in a building that comes with a cheap-books section. When they’re only $2 each, there’s so little holding me back I’m only surprised I haven’t picked up more of them.

A few were also picked up on my honeymoon to Great Britain, during which we stopped at Hay, the famous book town in Wales. We brought an extra duffel bag just to carry the books we would pick up there. It was very heavy and full at the end of the trip.

I think the rest are mostly books I picked up at random places around town, as well as a few birthday presents.

So, on to an account of what I haven’t gotten around to reading yet.

-Prince of Stories: The Many Worlds of Neil Gaiman (Christopher Golden, Hank Wagner, and Stephen R. Bissette)

-Rogues (ed. George R. R. Martin)

-Dreamsongs Volume 1 (George R. R. Martin)

-Dreamsongs Volume 2 (George R. R. Martin)

-The Luminaries (Eleanor Catton)

-The Night Gwen Stacy Died (Sarah Bruni)

-The Gospel of Loki (Joanne M. Harris)

-The Wars of the Roses (J. G. Edgar)

-The Narrative of John Smith (Arthur Conan Doyle)

-The Children of the New Forest (Frederick Marryat)

-The Mammoth Book of Historical Crime Fiction (various)

-The Regeneration Trilogy (Pat Barker)

-The Rude Story of English (Tom Howell)

-To the Letter (Simon Garfield)

-A Fairy Tale (Jonas T. Bengtsson)

-Triumff (Dan Abnett)

-The Life of Charlotte Bronte (Elizabeth Gaskell)

-Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town (Stephen Leacock)

Wow.

I have a lot of work ahead of me.

 

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