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Tag Archives: Naomi Novik

Well, I had another post all ready to go, with a few nice pics, but Blogger didn’t want to cooperate with me. So, that will have to wait for when I have a bit more patience! In the meantime, I have a few thoughts related to Prinnyworld, and Elena’s and Janet’s excellent posts.

In the last year or so, I’ve read a few books that dealt with an “alternative” Regency world. The backdrops of the stories, and integral parts of their plots, were well-grounded in the culture and history of the Regency period–with a few notable exceptions. One of them was Susannah Clark’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell, a huge tome of nearly 800 pages, but they all fly by. The year is 1808, and Regency England is full of magic–theoretical and practical, fairies and other creatures, statues in churches that suddenly shout out, all sorts of things. It comes across sort of like a “comedy of manners,” complete with footnotes and eccentric “period” spelling. There is rich mythology woven into real history (such as a blockade of French ports by an English fleet conured up out of rainwater).

Another was Madeleine Robins’ “Sarah Tolerance” mysteries (two that I know of so far–Petty Treason and Point of Honour). These are terrific glimpses into the gritty underworld of Regency London, seen from the viewpoint of a Fallen Woman turned Agent of Inquiry. A sort of Regency noir. They take a few liberties with history–for instance, Queen Charlotte is the Regent. But they are well and imaginatively done.

Another is Naomi Novik’s His Majesty’s Dragon, which I only recently (in the last two weeks!) picked up, thanks to all the recs online. What a fun book! It’s the first in her “Temeraire” series (T. being the dragon). Patrick O’Brian meets–I dunno, some fantasy author who writes a lot about dragons. 🙂 Dragons, of various breeds and varieties, are used in aerial combat against France (flown by the Aerial Corps, natch, a fascinating sub-caste in Regency society). There are detailed battle scenes and a great deal about both naval and aerial life. Sometimes the dragons seem more well-rounded than the rather stiff humans, but it’s a great read.

This doesn’t even count the numerous Regency-set romances that involve some sort of paranormal aspect. Would those count as an “alternate reality”? I think the whole idea is fascinating, probably because I could never really be creative enough to create my own version of history and have it work as well as these examples. What about you? Do you like books of this sort, or do you prefer your history “straight up”? What are some favorite examples of the genre?

Like Carolyn I too am on deadline with a Jan 1 deadline, but it’s a rewrite. Piece of cake. I hope. So, fab things I have read and seen this year.

I saw three movies this year but they were all winners. One was the Jane Eyre and I blogged about that here. The other was Bridesmaids, which had so wisdom and insight on female friendships. The other, which I caught last week, was Cave of Forgotten Dreams, a documentary about some amazing cave art in Chauvet, France. It was made in 3D which I imagine is spectacular although I saw it on normal format. The paintings are the oldest ever found–35,000 years old–in a beautiful “crystal cathedral” (to quote director Werner Herzog) of limestone. There is no public access and scientists visit only for four hour stretches. There is one part of the cave that has so much CO2 from tree roots that it’s dangerous to stay in too long and access throughout is limited to boardwalks created to protect the environment. The movie is available on Netflix where I found it.

And on to books. I acquired a kindle this year and, gawd, I have never read, or started to read, so many bad books in my life, but I won’t talk about those. I do find the lure of the free, $1.99, and kindle daily deal irresistible. For the first time in my life I have a TBR (digital) pile.

One book I didn’t buy for the kindle–some books just won’t work, particularly books with pix–was Adam Hochschild’s brilliant To End All Wars, about World War I. For me, it gave some entirely different perspectives on the war, particularly what was happening at home in England, where the authorities were terrified of revolution.

I said I wouldn’t talk about books I didn’t like (I have some discretion) but the much-vaunted and revered Death Comes To Pemberley by P.D. James sucks a major one, as we literary critics say. This article in the Guardian says it all–warning, contains spoilers, but the book is so poorly written you know who’s done it almost immediately. I would however recommend The Mysterious Death of Miss Austen by Lindsay Ashford who I met very briefly at the JASNA conference last October. It’s moving, sexy, and beautifully written. At the moment it’s really only available on kindle or from the ever-faithful Another writer I met at the conference was the lovely Syrie James (you should have seen her outfits!) whose non-Austen book Nocturne I also recommend–nothing to do with Austen, but one of the best vampire love stories I’ve read, and one which is smart enough to tackle the outcome of a mortal/immortal’s future together.

I also loved this collection of short stories by Laura Lippmann, Hardly Knew Her, a kindle bargain. Most of them are set in Baltimore or Washington, and several are about a high class hooker who maintains the identity of an upperclass suburban mom. Fascinating stuff.

At the moment I’m reading Laura Miller’s The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventures in Narnia, which has some wonderful things to say about reading (and by extension about writing). It’s a book that absolutely resonates with me as I too loved the Narnia books (apart from The Last Battle) as a kid, and have returned to them at different stages of my life.

But what about romance? Okay, okay. Miranda Neville’s funny, sexy, smart The Amorous Adventures of Celia Seaton. (Refers to kindle.) Cafe du Hour by Lilian Darcy, Liberation of Alice Love by Abby McDonald, Tongues of Serpents by Naomi Novik (not technically a romance but I’ve always loved the Lawrence/Temeraire dynamic), and I finally got around to reading Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase which to my surprise I liked.

Have you read any of these? What were your favorite 2011 reads?

First some vaguely related but blatant self-promotion: I’ve just found out that A Most Lamentable Comedy‘s release has been pushed back to July 23 which is great news because I’ll be a beach read and possibly sign at the 2009 “Readers for Life” Literacy Autographing in Washington, DC, July 15.

I’ve been trying to figure out what makes me buy a book and looking back over my buying/reading habits. The last two books I bought were at Heathrow Airport by two tried and true authors, Kate Atkinson and Nicci French (mystery/suspense writers) and not yet available in paperback here. There was a bookstore promotion of 50% off the second book and I had cash to use up.

So I don’t think that really counts. Besides, the real question is why you would take a chance with squandering your hard-earned cash on a writer or book you don’t really know anything about.

Do you think reviews, official and reader comments on such sites as Goodreads help?

Yet another lack luster Regency romance. I don’t know why I persist in reading these.

Awesomely funny book. Fast read, but so enjoyable.

Uh, probably not. Yes, they are talking about the same book (The Rules of Gentility).

Friends’ recommendations? My major going to bookstore and drinking cups of coffee friend and I have polar opposites in reading tastes– so far we agree only on a few, and even fewer that I have recommended. So far our only 100% agreement is Naomi Novik, my recommendation after she and her husband had read all of Patrick O’Brien’s books.

Back cover blurbs? Maybe…

Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first person she meets and then teams up with three strangers to kill again.

Yes, I’m cheating. That was a one-sentence summary of The Wizard of Oz, created, with his tongue firmly in cheek, by Rick Polito of the Marin Independent Journal, according to this movie trivia page.

Covers? Oh lord no. Just try doing a google image search on bad romance covers and see what you come up with. (Does the one on the right remind you of an old-fashioned butcher’s shop? I had trouble even defining what part of the male anatomy it was).

I’m somewhat influenced by cover quotes from other writers and also by those helpful signs on Amazon, and in bookstores and libraries of If you liked this… although sometimes I find them wildly off mark.

My suspicion is that we’re manipulated far more by website and distributors than we really like to think. How many times have you wandered into a bookstore thinking you might possibly just buy one book and then find yourself leaving with an armful? Or cranked up your Amazon order to meet the free shipping amount?

What do you think? And share with us the last new author or book you took a chance on, and, if you can, why you did.

I’m guest blogging today over at (don’t you love that blog name?) on what makes a hot book hot–please come on over and visit. You have to register, but Riskies’ readers are the smartest, so you can do it…and you could win a copy of one of my books, including the now hard-to-find Dedication, the only Signet Regency with bondage.

Pimping over, I thought I might do a complementary post today on what makes a Regency regency.

Think about it. Consider your favorite Regency reads and what makes them successful as giving a feel for the age. Which books float your boat, rock your curricle and make you think, yes, this is what it must have been like. This rings true.

And why? Or how? I entered a contest once where a judge gravely told me that I should have the characters mention Prinny and Hessian boots to give it a period feel.

I tend to like writers whose work is full of careful details (although not necessarily the Hessians and Prinny) and who can include, but go beyond, the life of the ton in London. I like dialogue that flows and characters who have real concerns, passions, and occupations. I like the history to be right but not obtrusive. I like a world that I can immerse myself in, and am sad to leave once the book is over

Off the top of my head, The Slightest Provocation by Pam Rosenthal, An Accomplished Woman by Jude Morgan, and anything by Naomi Novik (whose history is certainly right in her own worldview!).

How about you?

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