[identity profile] monissaw.livejournal.com
For between the wars, we read The Dig by John Preston, about the archaeology dig at Sutton Hoo in 1939.

This one I finished. It is short, very easy to read and interesting enough to keep you turning the pages. But, I was left feeling dissatisfied. The overall tone is rather depressing, and it feels like everyone loses. There is no suspense/tension. That which is hinted at never develops. I also found the descriptions had to visualise. I had to look some up to get an idea of what he was on about.

It might have been better as narrative non-fiction.
[identity profile] monissaw.livejournal.com
The Great Genre Reading Challenge trudges onwards, adding The Street Philosopher by Matthew Plampin. This was the entry for Victorian England, although it starts off in Crimea, which was as far as I got. After two chapters, I found I didn't care enough to keep reading. I felt the same distancing with the POV characters, like listening to someone talking about the actions rather than experiencing the actions.

Oh well.

Onwards to between the wars, with the The Dig by John Preston, which is short, at least.

Then we are almost out of the historical trenches. *dusts off arms*

Why Historical Fiction Will Never Go Away
[identity profile] monissaw.livejournal.com
This one was the Girl who saved the king of Sweden, which is rather funny in an absurd sort of way.

Although it bogs down in the middle, and the story doesn't progress, but the end is satisfactorily satisfying, and funny in places. It's very good for reading on the bus, or probably any travel reading.
[identity profile] monissaw.livejournal.com
The Bleeding Land, by Giles Kristian

One of the requirements (not by me) for this category was a book that wasn't pro-Royalist. This left us with a choice of... one book.

Now, I realise a reason for reading historical fiction is to get immersed in another time and place, and therefore it is to be expected that there will be lots of setting the scene stuff, but you know, it is possible to have too much. The opening chapters seem to be just setting the scene and starting on the road to establishing the characters' motives.

It doesn't help that the POV is... awkward in places. It's a loose POV, switching every few paragraphs between two or three main characters, and at other times, mostly in the descriptive stuff, there's an more omniscient narrator, which is fine. Not my preferred approach but it works, except there are insertions that force what should be narrator's comments into the POV of one of the main characters, so "Tom had heard" or "Tom knew that" or such. It feels like the author is trying to make the POV tighter but instead it is jarring and draws attention to the info dumps.

Still, I read through to chapter 4, then on the bus trip home, I picked it up to resume reading and accidentally read some later pages, which weren't very appealing. I flicked few more pages and, basically, decided gorish/ghoulish/whatever to read anymore.

It is book one of a trilogy (but I'm not sure the last book has been written yet) and a large part of it seems to be manuevering the characters into their positions for the rest of the story. I'm not really that interested. It apparently picks up and is better, if a bit violent, in the second half, but I have given up.

If you like immersive historical fiction that gives you plenty of room to dwell on happenings and has, I assume, lots of highly detailed battle scenes, you might like this.
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
The Middle Ages used to be a period in which I was very interested--my History "A" Level covered 1066 to Magna Carta, and we also did a special study of King John. Over the years I have somewhat lost touch with the subject, and although I buy books on it occasionally, I'm much more interested n the Romans these days.

My only real connection with Medieval Historical Fiction is my collection of Cadfaels, painstakingly completed through visits to charity shops and secondhand bookshops. I can see it from where I'm typing. So many Cadfaels have I in fact read that they weren't eligible for the challenge. So we went hunting through various online places in order to find something that appealed to, and was available to, us both.

This took some time.

After we'd settled on The Greatest Knight, and both obtained copies, it took time for our reading schedules to align so we could begin reading more-or-less at the same time. [livejournal.com profile] monissaw was reading Lindsay Davis and I was deep into Body of Glass. But finally the moment arrived.

The book opens with a series of dreams that convey backstory. This was not what I considered a hopeful start. Dreams and backstory. All that was missing was a mirror, but, as [livejournal.com profile] monissaw pointed out, full-length mirrors weren't available way back then. Inconsiderate, really.

Sadly, the book never got better. [livejournal.com profile] monissaw has given her own reasons why she didn't find it engaging, but, for me, the problem was the lack of conflict. Obviously with a historical subject you're somewhat constrained by the history, but there isn't any need to write a hagiography unless that's your intention. It felt as if Chadwick's admiration for her subject had overridden the need to write an exciting story.

Protagonist William Marshall is poor and a little concerned that his mentor and fief lord will cast him off as he simply has too many knights hanging off his sleeves. Nor can anything be expected from William's family. So, what does he do? Distinguishes himself in battle, of course. But oops! he's forgotten to take prisoners for ransom. Well, no matter, he can ride off and make himself a fortune in tournaments instead.

He's left with a dodgy horse but no matter! he can fix the horse's problem instantly.

There's no immediacy of threat in any of this, and no obstacle, apparently, that William can't bound over with feet to spare. So there's nothing in it for this reader. I want to see a character driven up a tree and then watch rocks being thrown at them. Provided I care about the character, of course.

The setting is fine, although sometimes period-accurate words like "destrier" seem uncomfortable on the page. There's just nothing driving the story, and so no reason for the reading to continue.

I got partway into chapter four before [livejournal.com profile] monissaw and I agreed we could stop.
[identity profile] monissaw.livejournal.com
This is the modified list. Anything to be added or removed?

Literary Fiction: The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden

Children's: Liar & Spy

Young Adult: Sea Hearts

Chick Lit: Can You Keep A Secret


--Classical: The Emperor's Spy
--Middle Ages: The Greatest Knight
--English Civil War: The Bleeding Land
--Colonial Australia: The Gentleman's Garden
--Victorian England: The Street Philosopher
--Interbellum: The Dig
--World War II


--Amateur Detective
--Courtroom Drama
--Heists and Capers
--Police Procedural
--Private Detective
--Psychological Suspense

--Historical Romance
--Inspirational Romance
--Paranormal Romance
--Regency Romance
--Romantic Suspense

--Medical Thriller
--Techno Thriller
--Police Procedural

[identity profile] monissaw.livejournal.com
The History: Medieval book took a while to choose, as we couldn't find one that looked like we'd want to read. Finally we decided The Greatest Knight, by Elizabeth Chadwick looked like a good compromise. Then I had to wait for a copy to come available at the library, then finish the book I was already reading, and by the TGK had to go back to the library because someone else wanted, so I bought a cheap copy and waited for that to arrive. Gah.

And after all that... it starts with the MC asleep, dreaming, about himself as a child. Yeah. So the first three chapters are episodes in the life of the MC. Maybe the whole book is like that, or maybe it gets more of a connected narrative, I don't know because I stopped reading after the third chapter. If I want episodic life histories, I'll read a biography, and that way I can skip the lists of what they eating and other lovely created descriptions that did nothing to evoke a sense of the place to me. The only thing it evoked was the feeling that the author had done a lot of research and wanted to include all these lovely details. (Historical fiction usually makes me feel like that, this is why I Don't Like It.)

I'm sure it's a very good book if you like fictionalised account of famous people with lots of visual details. I don't, and this seems to be what Medieval History book seem to be about, or war, or both. This is why it took us so long to find one to read :)
[identity profile] monissaw.livejournal.com
Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead is the children's book for the Great Genre Challenge. Minor spoilers, sort of, but not really.

A few pages in, I thought I'd read this story before. Different names, different setting, different details, but the same story. Having finished it, I know I've read the story before. Kid's life is disrupted by Major Event and he has to deal with this along all the usual kid stuff like school, bullies, making/losing friends, but in the end everything ends happily, with bonus Cool Parents.

So I wonder, if this the sort of story adult writers think kids want to read (or should be reading?) because they can Relate To It. Or it's safe and reassuring and confirms the status quo?

Adds a note: I was not impressed by the large extract from another book at the end. Fortunately, I'd looked forward to see how much longer I had to read and realised the chapter headings at the end were a different font so most of the last bit was a different story. If publishers have to do this, can they at least mark the edges of the pages as being different?
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
[livejournal.com profile] monissaw gets her books from the library. I buy mine. She's more sensible than I am. Today we chose the YA (teen) book and the chick lit book. Chick lit had to be the worst possible genre name ever until cli fi came along.

The challenge book has to be available both here and in Australia, which ruled out one YA novel I did want to read: Claire Zorn's The Sky So Heavy. Just impossible to get that book here without visiting EvilCorp and paying ridiculous sums. So we settled on a book by Margo Lanagan, called Sea Hearts in Australia and The Brides of Rollrock Island over here. Looks good to me.

I've often wanted to try a Sophie Kinsella book--the covers look so much fun--and this challenge is the perfect excuse, er opportunity. So I suggested Can You Keep a Secret? My first choice was the first Shopaholic book, but I'm not sure I could get much enjoyment out of reading about debt. So we'll read the Secret book.

Progress :).
[identity profile] littlerdog.livejournal.com
The Great Genre Reading Challenge was supposed to start with Literary, but as [livejournal.com profile] monissaw has at least 100 days to wait before her library coughs up The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden, we thought we'd leapfrog along to Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead.

Children's books haven't formed a regular part of my reading for some years now, although I did dip into the Harry Potter phenomenon briefly, before finding it inexplicable and climbing out while still only half-wet. Liar and Spy seems a perfectly good book for children. But it's not for me, which makes discussing it problematic. I don't like this and I don't like that can easily be rebutted by saying 'but it's not FOR you'. Which is true.

The narrator, Georges, has a fun, very readable voice. Unlike some books for children, which kill or otherwise remove the parents, or at least one parent, Georges has a mother and a father, and the book succeeds in evoking how much he misses his hard-working mother without ever having him directly express it.

One aspect I did find problematic is that the family have sold their house because of money problems, which is also the reason why Georges' mother is working lots of double shifts, yet they don't behave like money is a problem. When we first meet the family, Georges and his father go to a pizza place for lunch, then to a Chinese restaurant for dinner, and the next morning they go to a diner for breakfast. That signals affluence to me. Also, I wonder how come the mother is working so hard to fund all this eating in which she never gets to share. Still, these wouldn't be the first characters to plead poverty without actually being poor.

It's a fun book so far, though, with Georges and new friend Safer investigating the mysterious Mr X, into whose apartment go people and out of whose apartment come suitcases. Hmmm.
[identity profile] monissaw.livejournal.com
The Great Genre Reading Challenge is to read one book from every genre/sub-genre on this list.

Literary fiction
Young adult
-- Crime
-- Noir
-- Detective
-- Paranormal
-- Courtroom drama
-- Espionage
-- Forensic
-- Heists
-- Locked room
-- Medical
-- Swords and sorcery
-- Arthurian
-- Dark fantasy
-- High/epic fantasy
-- Mythology
-- Fairy tale
-- Romantic
-- Urban fantasy
-- Wuxia/Eastern fantasy
Science fiction
-- Hard science fiction
-- Soft science fiction
-- Space opera
-- Time travel
-- Alternate history
-- Steampunk/biopunk/cyberpunk
-- New age
-- Post-apocalyptic
-- Dystopian
-- Spy-fi
-- Hauntings
-- Slasher/splatter
-- Vampires/werewolves/zombies
-- Gothic
-- Magical realism
-- Psychological
-- Quiet horror
-- Romance
-- Victorian England
-- American West
-- Middle Ages
-- Ancient Rome/Greece
-- Ancient Egypt
-- Biblical times
-- American Revolution
-- American Civil War
-- World War I
-- World War II
-- Chick lit
-- Contemporary
-- Historical
-- Erotica
-- Multicultural
-- Comedy
-- Drama
-- Holiday
-- Christian
-- Action
-- Adventure
-- Government conspiracy
-- Disaster
-- Espionage
-- Military
-- Suspense

Source of list


The Little Dog Laughed

January 2019

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