It’s meet-disaster for Laura Hayes and Alex Archer: Fascinated by water, Laura is at the local pond practicing her diving skills. Alex thinks she’s drowning and tries to “save” her, much to her indignation. Little does Laura know that wading into the pond to save her was an act of sheer courage on Alex’s part, connected to a past he’d rather forget.
A Convenient Fiction is the third book in the author’s Parish Orphans of Devon series, set in 1860s England. I read the previous books and really enjoyed the first, The Matrimonial Advertisement, a well done marriage-of-convenience story with Gothic elements. While it is not necessary to have read the other installments (the plot itself does not hinge on any previous events), it was extra rewarding to finally get to the story of the mysterious Alex, one of four orphans raised in dire, loveless circumstances. That’s what passed for charity in Victorian times, and it reads every bit as horrid as we can imagine.
There’s nary a duke or even a viscount in sight, which I quite liked. Laura’s family was in the perfume business and she’s barely eking out a living after the death of her father. Alex manages to acquire the trappings of a gentleman thanks to his gambling skills. Years ago, he had disappeared from his friends’ lives never to be heard from again.
The highest-ranking local family is Squire Talbot’s, and his daughter Henrietta is Alex’s quarry. Alex comes across as a scheming person, and sure enough he’s after an heiress to marry. He finagles an invitation to spend some time in the little town where both women live and is intent on offering for Henrietta.
Alex is, at best, a problematic hero, and he veers close to being an antihero at least in the first third or so of the book. I didn’t soften up or warm to him until the book hit the halfway mark, even though I knew all about the extenuating circumstances: pent-up anger about his abandonment (he conjectures he’s the natural son of the local lecherous nobleman), the harrowing years of deprivation at the orphanage, and the abuse he suffered. He did one heroic act and one despicable act as a boy, so even then he was a fifty-fifty proposition.
Laura was much easier to like. She shouldered the responsibilities of taking care of her family (older aunt and invalid brother) without coming across as a martyr or a Mary Sue. She’s strong and succeeding at keeping her family afloat at some personal cost. Henrietta is her BFF but their friendship is unbalanced due to their social statuses, with Henrietta more interested in being “queen bee” than a true friend to Laura.
Granted, unlike Alex, Laura knows what it is to be surrounded by a loving family, and one of the highlights of the book is a touching scene where Laura blurts out an offer to be Alex’s family. I also enjoyed the way the author conveys the subtle humiliations and roadblocks in Laura’s way for being a woman of modest means without a “protector,” all without hammering me over the head with it. The writing is skilled; I’m hardly an expert in Victorian vernacular, but to me the prose evoked a sense of time without being stilted or verbose.
I also thoroughly enjoyed the details about the era that create a strong sense of place. There’s a particularly delightful portion set in the seaside town of Margate, complete with bathing machines (Queen Victoria had hers), head-to-toe woolen bathing suits, busybodies using telescopes to keep tabs on beachgoers, and snooty people decrying that, thanks to the novelty of train travel, Margate was becoming overrun with lower-class daytrippers.
Watch out for plot spoilers!
That seaside holiday is also the backdrop for a pivotal scene, which involves Alex once again setting out to save Laura from drowning (see woolen bathing suit above), only this time it’s for real and he, scandalously, does mouth-to-mouth to save her. No one seems to care that he saved her, though, because in doing so he thoroughly ruined her in everyone else’s eyes.
Unlike his other orphan friends, Alex is not exactly a good man. He may have been dealt the worst hand; he’s not the noblest, or the sharpest, and definitely not the kindest of the four. He’s the sly one, though, and he shows enormous growth as the book progresses.
Oh, my heart did go out to him in the end.
The sex is off page, and I believe that’s part of the reason the romance between Laura and Alex can come across as a little on the tepid side at times (we are told but not shown their passion). In addition, Alex spends a tad too much time insisting on following Plan A (marry the heiress and be done with it.) I did like that Plan B, following his heart, involved a financial setback, which for calculating Alex was realistically presented as a tough pill to swallow. I don’t get to read that many historical romances with an element of financial instability, particularly on the hero’s part.
While that was welcomed and interesting, it could have been explored further in the book. Without giving too much away, Laura and Alex won’t be poor, but they will have to work, and I’d have liked to see them negotiating any future professional roles. That would have gone a long way to show me what kind of romantic partner Alex would be.
Readers who appreciate character-driven, slow-burn romance, flawed heroes, and a firm sense of time and place will enjoy this one despite its minor flaws. Alex and Laura are both lonely when they find each other, and their relationship evolves to true friendship and partnership, with Alex strong enough emotionally to agree to a homecoming of sorts and coming to terms with his past. I’m looking forward to any future books in this series, with the fourth orphan slated to get his story in the next year.
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Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik is $2.99! This is a lovely fantasy with romantic elements. My friend and I recently discussed Novik and comparisons between Uprooted and Spinning Silver. We feel Spinning Silver was the better of the two, but both are still REALLY GOOD. What are your thoughts?
Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders… but her father isn’t a very good one. Free to lend and reluctant to collect, he has loaned out most of his wife’s dowry and left the family on the edge of poverty–until Miryem steps in. Hardening her heart against her fellow villagers’ pleas, she sets out to collect what is owed–and finds herself more than up to the task. When her grandfather loans her a pouch of silver pennies, she brings it back full of gold.
But having the reputation of being able to change silver to gold can be more trouble than it’s worth–especially when her fate becomes tangled with the cold creatures that haunt the wood, and whose king has learned of her reputation and wants to exploit it for reasons Miryem cannot understand.
The Duke I Tempted
The Duke I Tempted by Scarlett Peckham is 99c! This book has been featured in Hide Your Wallet and Book Beat because of all it’s catnip. There’s a botanist heroine, a marriage of convenience and a submissive hero. A lot of my romance reading friends have enjoyed this one as well. Have you read it? What’d you think?
He’s controlled. Meticulous. Immaculate. No one would expect the proper Duke of Westmead to be a member of London’s most illicit secret club. Least of all: his future wife.
Having overcome financial ruin and redeemed his family name to become the most legendary investor in London, the Duke of Westmead needs to secure his holdings by producing an heir. Which means he must find a wife who won’t discover his secret craving to spend his nights on his knees – or make demands on his long scarred-over heart.
Poppy Cavendish is not that type of woman. An ambitious self-taught botanist designing the garden ballroom in which Westmead plans to woo a bride, Poppy has struggled against convention all her life to secure her hard-won independence. She wants the capital to expand her exotic nursery business – not a husband.
But there is something so compelling about Westmead, with his starchy bearing and impossibly kind eyes — that when an accidental scandal makes marriage to the duke the only means to save her nursery, Poppy worries she wants more than the title he is offering. The arrangement is meant to be just business. A greenhouse for an heir. But Poppy yearns to unravel her husband’s secrets – and to tempt the duke to risk his heart.
Intercepted by Alexa Martin is $2.99! This sports romance is the first book in Martin’s Playbook series and was her debut romance. Readers seemed to love Martin’s voice and writing style, but wish the pacing were a bit better in this one.
Marlee thought she scored the man of her dreams only to be scorched by a bad breakup. But there’s a new player on the horizon, and he’s in a league of his own…
Marlee Harper is the perfect girlfriend. She’s definitely had enough practice by dating her NFL-star boyfriend for the last ten years. But when she discovers he has been tackling other women on the sly, she vows to never date an athlete again. There’s just one problem: Gavin Pope, the new hotshot quarterback and a fling from the past, has Marlee in his sights.
Gavin fights to show Marlee he’s nothing like her ex. Unfortunately, not everyone is ready to let her escape her past. The team’s wives, who never led the welcome wagon, are not happy with Marlee’s return. They have only one thing on their minds: taking her down. But when the gossip makes Marlee public enemy number one, she worries about more than just her reputation.
Between their own fumbles and the wicked wives, it will take a Hail Mary for Marlee and Gavin’s relationship to survive the season.
Tiger Eye by Marjorie M. Liu is $2.99! An older paranormal romance, this is the first book in the Dirk & Steele series, which focuses on a super secret detective agency. Though the pacing tended to slow at times, many readers loved the world Liu created.
He looks out of place in Dela Reese’s Beijing hotel room- exotic and poignant, some mythic, tragic hero of an epic tale. With his feline yellow eyes, he’s like nothing from her world. Yet Dela has danced through the echo of his soul and knows this warrior will obey her every command.
Hari has been used and abused for millennia. But he sees, upon his release from the riddle box, that this new mistress is different. There is a hidden power in Dela’s eyes- and with her, he may regain all that was lost to him. Where once he savaged, now he must protect; where once he only knew hatred, now he must embrace love. Dela is the key. For Dela, he will risk all.
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Although the Good Friday Agreement brought an end to the violence in the North, the issues of national identity, civil and political rights, and religious differences that lay behind the Troubles are far from resolved. But without Brexit, it’s quite probable that the people of Ireland, North and South, would have happily gone on as they were, even though that required a significant papering-over of cracks. Now that Brexit is threatening to shatter the illusion, reinforcing the separation of the two parts of Ireland—either by restoring a hard border in the worst scenario, or by placing the North in a customs zone apart, in the best case—people in the South are engaging with the Northern question in a way very few did during the Troubles.
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Although Meriem Bennani’s early work overlaps with Internet art’s preoccupations—it appropriates the idiom of reality TV, for example, and her one-off videos match the pace of online production—her work remains relevant even as the Internet’s social role has changed dramatically. To net artists of the DIS era, the threat posed by the commercial Internet was primarily aesthetic; it was banal, stultifying, and homogeneous, which made hijacking its visual language to produce, say, a stock image of a Gallery Girls star chugging beer out of a baguette koozie feel incisive and funny. Bennani’s latest work, “Party on the CAPS,” an exhibition of video and sculpture at Brooklyn’s Clearing Gallery, captures an experience of postcolonial dispossession and rage.
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The thing about being a woman is you always have to pretend to be interested in characters in books and movies to whom you don’t quite relate. I don’t relate 100 percent to men in suits, or men with guns, or men pining after women, or anguished male artists in paint-splattered pants, or men sailing ships, or men making money. I relate, at best, 74 percent to these men. And then I do the work, make the mental leap, bring myself the extra 26 percent so I can really enter the story.
What I can potentially relate to 100 percent is women. Women in flowing bow ties, women cleaning floors, women chopping wood, women knitting, women leading countries, women wrestling wild animals, women raising kids, women making eyes at men, women making eyes at women, women doing nothing at all. Some of the books and movies I come across are about women, but not enough. It’s fun to read books about people who are different from you, but not if your own story is so excluded that you feel erased.
The women in Ogden Whitney’s comics live to find love. If they are distinguished, or distinguishable from one another, it is only in order to offer a different spin on the tried and true form of the romance story. They are vivid characters, but their vividness exists solely to attract the attention of men. Although there are plenty of talented and interesting women in the pages of Whitney’s Return to Romance, clichés still abound: if they know how to cook, that’s good. If they don’t know how to dress, that’s bad. The edgy beatnik character in “Beat Romance” turns out not to be a beatnik after all: she’s a polite, healthy coed, top of her college class—not a threat to the status quo, and therefore deserving of romance.
Our knowledge of Whitney is shadowy. He was born in 1918 in Massachusetts and later lived in the Bronx. At twenty he began working for Detective Comics, Inc., which is now DC Comics, and from there created a number of superheroes, the most famous of which was Herbie Popnecker, a fat, unhappy child who wields a magic lollipop. Whitney drew the romance comics in the early sixties, when New York comic book publishers were trying to use love stories to reach a new audience of teenage girls. Unlike most of the artists drawing romance comics in that period, however, he didn’t use stock plots but likely invented his own; their pacing and interest in social relations, even within the confines of the genre, are part of what make them worth reading today. Whitney’s life was marked by its own romance. By all accounts a lonely, withdrawn man, he married Anne Whitney in 1958 at the age of forty. (She was forty-two.) Their marriage coincided with one of the most fruitful, inventive moments in his career, and when she died in 1970, he is said to have been overtaken by alcoholism and madness.
Are these comics sexist? Sure they are. They depict the female stereotypes of a very sexist, very white Protestant, early sixties American society, where a woman’s highest calling—higher even than cleaning and cooking—is to attract a man by being lovely and pointy-breasted, a light dancer, an easy laugh, supportive of the man in all his pursuits, and fun without being threatening. It’s a stupid, quietly violent thing to tell a woman: that her vocation is to be pleasant to men, and her supreme goal is to be chosen, kept, erased by one reassuringly tall, clean-shaven fellow. But it’s even more of a violent thing to tell a woman indirectly, by not putting her point of view in the book at all. I’ve been told these things indirectly all my life. It’s a relief, in these comics, to hear it said out loud, said to us, so we can make of it what we will. These comics won’t turn you into a sixties housewife. They’ll remind you, with a rush of fairy-tale feeling, that you are an I. With the great power that comes with selfhood, perhaps you’ll be able to identify the sixties housewife living inside you. So you can gently thank her, and let her go.
Here’s my confession: Not only do I not mind Whitney’s romance comics, I love them. I find them touching and empowering and human. The stories are ridiculous. They have a lot of charm and are beautifully crafted, but it’s not hard to see behind the scenes and think, This is a world where everyone is a white American Protestant, and where a woman’s sole value is in her desirability to men. This is propaganda. I will take it with a grain of salt. The romance comics don’t hide their retrograde politics. They make them clear, so you can concentrate on reading, and not expend the usual energy weeding out the sexism cleverly hidden in art and pointing it out to others. I also think, by some miracle, Whitney really understands and empathizes with his female characters—Margie Tucker, the “hopelessly dumb” farm girl with a heart of gold; Nancy Wilson, the pug-nosed scientist; Roxanne Farr, ambitious president of Roxanne Frocks, Inc.; Cindy Lamb, the spunky coed; Meg Foster, the self-abnegating aunt—the way Anton Chekhov and Alfred Hitchcock (who was a terrible person, by the way) do.
These comics are fairy tales. They tell you that you’re chosen and precious. It’s true, they tell you, that no one notices how special you are now, but notice is within reach: all you have to do is lose a few pounds, do your hair differently, buy a new dress, and everything will be wonderful. Fairy tales were originally oral histories, told from mother to daughter. A woman, as a daughter learns from her mother, is not a full human being. A woman is a storybook character, like Prince Charming or Santa Claus. She can act only according to certain rules. She lives in fairy tales. Once your mother has told you a fairy tale, the character of the woman lives in you, too. You can’t get her out. She’s tied up with you, but she is not you. We are blessed and cursed to have her, just as we are blessed and cursed to be able to give birth to our own daughters, if we wish, and teach them these lessons, too.
What is a woman? She is all things good and lovely. Often unrecognized, and kept down by forces less incorruptible than herself, she prevails by force of sheer quietness. How, specifically, does she prevail? By winning the man: Prince Charming. Like most of the female characters in great romantic books and films—Philip Roth’s women, Junot Díaz’s women, Haruki Murakami’s women, Wes Anderson’s women, Woody Allen’s women—Prince Charming is alluring but opaque. A love object. How delicious and rare for a man to be seen in this way. For a woman to be the one watching him. Even if, ostensibly, according to the story, she’s only watching him watch her. Astrid Franklin, in the title story—who loses her dreamy husband by neglecting her looks and wins him back by changing her hair style and clothes, losing weight, and putting on makeup—is one-dimensional. But her feelings—low-level depression, then devastating loss, then blinding realization, and then triumph—are all the more relatable for it, and so gratifying. And there is so much pleasure in a happy ending: Astrid Franklin wants only one thing from life, and her wish is granted.
Fairy tales are a twisted thing. Femininity is a twisted thing. It’s a kind of religion. As for Prince Charming, I will never have him, and I don’t want him. But don’t make me give up my longing for him. Tell me about it again and again. Tell me fairy tales the rest of my life.
Liana Finck is a cartoonist for The New Yorker and the author of A Bintel Brief, Passing for Human, and Light and Shadow. She lives in New York City.
From Return to Romance, by Ogden Whitney, edited by Dan Nadel and Frank Santoro, published by New York Review Comics. Introduction copyright © 2019 by Liana Finck.
The post The Charming, Ridiculous Romance Comics of Ogden Whitney appeared first on NeedaBook.
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The Cybernetic Tea Shop
I am a simple human. I like robots. I like tea. I like reading about people falling in love, especially if they’re gay. So when I heard there was an f/f romance about a robot that runs a tea shop, I one-clicked so hard Jeff Bezos got a bruise.
The Cybernetic Tea Shop is a novella set in future-ish Seattle. The year is never specified, but it’s mentioned that AI was invented 300 years ago, so the intended timeframe is probably the 2300s. That was hard for me to buy, though, since the only futuristic element in the story was the robots. Everything else felt very early-21st-century: the characters wear jeans, travel on trains, and communicate by email. Overall, although the story has speculative elements and a nominally futuristic setting, it’s light on world-building and reads more like contemporary romance than sci-fi.
The story is on the sweet side rather than sexy or suspenseful, but it does deal a lot with themes of grief and prejudice. Sal, the robot heroine, is one of the few remaining autonomous AIs in existence, and as a result she faces discrimination including threats of violence. She also struggles with the grief that comes with being functionally immortal and watching people she loves die.
Clara, the human heroine, repairs Raises, the much more limited AI helpers that have replaced robots. She doesn’t like to stay in one place long, and her repair skills make it easy for her to find work whenever she wants to pack up and move. At the beginning of the book, she quits her job and relocates herself and her snarky hummingbird Raise, Joanie, to Seattle.
Sal has been running the titular Cybernetic Tea Shop in the same building for over two hundred years. She’s struggling, but hoping to keep the shop open for at least three hundred. That was the last wish of her original owner, Karinne, who is long dead but who Sal still loves and misses. Sal’s programming is literally written to never allow the memories of Karinne to fade.
Clara wanders into the shop for lunch and is fascinated to meet a true robot. After a rocky start, she and Sal become friends. The shop is damaged, and the two fall in love as they work together to repair it — and to repair Sal, whose components are wearing down without access to replacements. They must then decide whether they can build a future together, given that Clara is a wanderer and Sal has gone decades without so much as crossing the street.
When I read this book, it was evident within a few pages that Katz is one of the increasing number of authors who got their start in fanfiction. To be clear, that’s not in any way an insult! I read and write fanfic myself, and anyone who wants to talk down about transformative fanworks can meet me in the alley.
That said, I’ve noticed that new authors tend to do some particular things when they first make the switch from fanfiction to what I shall, for the sake of argument, call original fiction. (For my rant about why no fiction is actually original, you can also meet me outside, but like, in the garden. Bring tea and budget about twenty minutes.)
The first thing that ex-fic writers have in common is a generally slower pace. The entire first chapter of The Cybernetic Tea Shop describes Clara waking up, eating breakfast, going to work, and deciding to move. Long passages about everyday activities are a fanfic staple, but they don’t work as well in a standalone story. That’s particularly true in a novella, where story space is limited and it’s already hard to build a convincing relationship arc. By the end of this section, I was bored and wondering why I should even care where Clara decided to go.
Then Sal came on the page, and I was hooked. Maybe it’s my personal bias toward AIs, but I loved being inside her head. She’s thoughtful and empathetic, but also very stuck. Her life is an endless round of making tea she can’t drink for people who treat her like a toy, and longing for the past. (There’s a bit at the beginning about broken teacups as a metaphor for lost time that gave me a lot of Feels.) Her anxiety and isolation were more relatable for me than the carefree Clara, and I was rooting for her to find her way to something better.
Sal’s internal struggle is a great example of the second thing about fanfic authors: they tend to structure their stories around internal rather than external conflict. On the surface, that might not seem to be the case here, since there is a clear external conflict between Sal and the robot-hating people who
vandalize and ultimately burn down her shop.
However, when you look at how much page room is given to that vs. Sal adjusting to change and healing from her grief over Karinne, it’s clear that the heart of the story is the personal element. Clara and Sal don’t spend their time fighting outside forces; they spend it talking about their feelings.
Now personally, I like character-driven stories over plot-driven ones any day. That’s why I read both romance and fanfiction. But when you put slow pace and internal conflict together, you tend to end up with the third ex-fanfic problem: a lack of narrative tension.
A major difference — maybe the major difference — between fanfiction and original fiction is how they generate tension. In other words, how do they keep us reading? In an original story, you’re meant to be hooked by the interplay between a protagonist who has a goal, and an antagonist that prevents them from reaching it. This works exactly as far as the author can convince us to care about whether the characters get what they want, so their challenge is to engage the reader emotionally in the struggle.
In fanfic, on the other hand, we’re already emotionally engaged. That job was done by the original story. So, narrative tension in a transformative work comes from the interplay between the characters we already love and the new story the author is telling with them. The question isn’t “OMG what’s going to happen?” but “OMG what if things were different?” Look, they’re in a coffee shop! One of them is a cat! Oh my god, they were roommates!
When you look at it that way, it becomes clear why it’s challenging to make the jump from one to the other. Fanfic often doesn’t have a ‘plot’ in the same way original narratives do, because the premise is the plot. I would read the absolute hell out of a fanfic where Draco Malfoy is an android that needs repairs and Harry Potter is a robot mechanic. (Seriously, does that exist? If so, please rec it in the comments.) You could give me 2,000 words of Harry eating breakfast and I wouldn’t care.
For original fiction, however, that doesn’t work. We need something to grab onto. We need stakes. Sadly, The Cybernetic Tea Shop was pretty light in the stakes department. The premise and my love for Sal almost carried it, but not quite; I wanted just a bit more weight behind the characters’ choices.
New author rough patches aside, this story was very sweet. I loved the characters’ dynamic of consideration and respect. Clara is concerned and careful to make sure that she’s treating Sal like a person, not an object, even when she’s literally reprogramming her. Meanwhile, Sal has a quick but believable journey from being stuck in the past to looking towards the future.
I also really enjoyed the fact that this story presents a healthy, romantic, explicitly asexual relationship. Sal is not built for sex and Clara is not interested in it, and that’s that about that. At no point is it treated as a problem, or even as a big deal. They spend more time discussing tea than talking about sex. (Which, you know, mood.) Positive ace representation can be tough to find, so if that’s something you’ve been looking for, definitely check this one out!
All in all, I’d say The Cybernetic Tea Shop is a nice short read for fall. It won’t fill your need for substantial fiction, but it might satisfy your sweet tooth. Fair warning: For best results, you’re going to want a cozy sweater, some rain outside the window, and a great big mug of tea.
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Bloodlust & Bonnets
by Emily McGovern
Well this was just…neat! Bloodlust and Bonnets is a graphic novel in which a bloodthirsty Regency ingenue named Lucy teams up with Byron the poet and Sham, a vampire hunter, to fight vampires. The fact that Byron never seems to understand what’s going on, Sham is always lost, and Lucy would actually like to BE a vampire confuses the matter immensely, leading to hijinks and an amazing amount of red ink.
At the start of the book, Lucy is exchanging chit chat with an older gentleman when she is suddenly seized with an urge to lop off his head as well as the heads of several surrounding gentleman. A woman shows up out of nowhere and congratulates Lucy on being “an ideal candidate to join…my secret ancient immortal vampire cult!” Just then Byron appears (“It is I! Lord Byron! You know…from books!”), and he helps Lucy slaughter the woman (but not really as she reappears in our story later on) as well as many more people (all of whom were actually vampires all along) and then Byron and Lucy fly to Byron’s magic castle on the back of his eagle, Napoleon. Thus concludes the five page long prologue. Got all that?
The mysterious woman is Lady Violet Travesty. She pops up in Byron’s castle none the worse for wear and tells Lucy again that Lucy has “unique potential” Lucy is 100% down with joining the secret ancient immortal vampire cult, but once again Byron dispatches Lady Travesty (again, temporarily). With Byron convinced that this woman has it in for him, and Lucy secretly determined to join the cult, they go looking for Lady Violet’s home turf and meet up with Sham, a vampire hunter who is also after Lady Travesty. Other characters include but are not limited to Byron’s rival, Sir Walter Scott, and Lady Violet’s rival, Countess Gladys De Harridan, and Gwendolyne, the local succubus.
At one point Lucy says, “It all started out so simply! Now I’ve got no idea who’s doing what or why..I’m so confused…” I hear you, Lucy. I hear you.
Author and artist Emily McGovern has a distinctive art style. Her characters are a lot like Funko Pops – they have dots for eyes and (usually) no noses or mouths. It’s amazing how much expression McGovern gets out of this art style, which makes lavish use of body language and an occasional eyebrow. It’s an acquired taste but I did grow to appreciate it by the end of the book. I love the beautifully colored backgrounds, which emphasize the expansiveness and gothic scope of the story.
This will be a love it or hate it book. First of all there’s the art style which takes some getting used to it. Fans of My Life as a Background Slytherin will already be used to it since it’s written by the same author. Then there’s the general tone which I of course adored with all the force of my nature. Others may dismiss it as silly. Pifff upon them. Nothing that features an eagle that speaks French and Lord Byron sleeping with rag curlers in his hair and begging for attention can possibly be too silly for me. It’s a very fun satire of gothic Regency suchness. There’s also a sweet sort-of romance between Lucy and Sham, the colors are gorgeous and everything bizarre and ridiculous that can happen does.
This book is silly fun. If you like to make fun of Lord Byron (which I do), engage in some literary vampire-slaying (same), poignantly reflect on how very much we all want to be special (oh, shut up), hear some witty dialogue, and see some good Regency Lesbian Flirting then you’ll enjoy this. My only complaint is that I cannot access a sequel RIGHT NOW.
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RECOMMENDED: Texas Destiny by Lorraine Heath is $2.99! Jessie, who was a publicist at Avon, is a huge fan of this book, and has been since forever. she wrote A Love Letter to Texas Destiny a few years ago, and said:
There’s so much angst and heartache and tenderness and joy in this book, I’m overwhelmed with emotions every time I read it (which is maybe once or twice a year for the past ten years).
Arriving on the Fort Worth train, Miss Amelia Carson, mail-order bride, had never met Dallas Leigh, the Texan she promised to marry. The tall cowboy at the station wasn’t Dallas. He was Houston, Dallas’s brother, sent to escort her on the rugged three-week trek to the ranch where Dallas waited. Brought up in war-ravaged Georgia, Amelia thought Dallas’s letters made Texas sound like heaven, a place for her dreams to grow with the right man beside her.
And his only love…
By all appearances, Houston Leigh would hardly be considered the “right man.” The war he survived had scarred him inside and out, and he was little competition for his handsome brother. But from the moment Houston met Amelia, he knew she possessed the courage this wild land needed. She had eyes that could see past his wounded face to his soul. And he would fight any man—except his brother—for her heart. Now he and Amelia were riding down dangerous trails, sleeping under the stars, and God help them, they were falling in love.
Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley is $2.99! This is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Readers say that McKinley’s Beauty is a better take on the retelling, but others loved the character relationships in the book. Which book do you think is better for Beauty and the Beast lovers? It has a 3.7-star rating on Goodreads.
Award-winning author Robin McKinley returns to one of our most enduring fairy tales to tell an enthralling story of love and redemption
Once upon a time, a wealthy merchant had three daughters . . . and when the merchant’s business failed, he and his three daughters left their grand house in the city and moved to a tiny cottage buried deep in the countryside. The youngest daughter, Beauty, is fascinated by the long, thorny stems of an unknown plant that overwhelms the neglected cottage, and she tends it until, the following summer, its rich, fragrant flowers are the most glorious things the sisters have ever seen: roses.
An old woman tells Beauty: “Roses are for love. Not . . . silly sweethearts’ love but the love that makes you and keeps you whole. . . . There’s an old folk-tale . . . there aren’t many roses around any more because they need more love than people have to give ’em . . . and the only thing that’ll stand in for love is magic, though it ain’t as good.”
There’s no magic in the town of Longchance, but, the old woman adds, Beauty may not know that this is the result of a sorcerers’ battle that happened many years ago, a battle that left a monster, or perhaps a beast, in an enchanted palace somewhere in the deep forest . . . and a curse concerning a family of three sisters.
Sommersgate House by Kristen Ashley is $1.99! It’s the first book in the Ghosts and Reincarnation series and the rest seem to be on sale. Ashley is known for her alpha heroes and boy does this book’s description lay it on thick. Have you read this one?
Douglas Ashton is the cold and unfeeling owner of the sprawling, gothic Victorian Mansion, Sommersgate House. Julia Fairfax is his stubborn American sister-in-law. After tragedy strikes, Douglas and Julia are forced to live together at Sommersgate and raise their newly-orphaned nieces and nephew.
Douglas has no desire to raise his dead sister’s children nor does he want the distraction of the tempting Julia living under his roof. Julia is struggling with grief and trying to make a go in a new country without much help from impossibly handsome but even more impossibly remote Douglas. Not to mention, she has to deal with the active hostility of Douglas’s frosty, Attila-the-Hun-in-a-skirt mother, Monique.
Douglas decides the best way to give the children what they need, get his mother to behave and give himself what he wants is to marry Julia. When he tells her (yes, tells her) she will be his wife, Julia thinks Douglas is (probably) insane. And anyway, she’s decided if she ever has another husband (since the last one wasn’t so great), he was going to be short, balding, have a paunch and worship the ground she walks on (none of these characteristics define Douglas in the slightest).
One more thing, Sommersgate House is haunted by the ghosts of the man who built it and the woman who was the love of his life. They both died mysteriously at Sommersgate months after it was finished. When they did, a curse settled on the house making it seem strangely alive. And the only way for the beautiful but frightening house to rid itself of this curse is for its owner to find true love.
Dangerous Books for Girls
Dangerous Books for Girls by Maya Rodale is $1.99! This is a nonfiction book about romance novels. Some readers thought this was an informative and passionate look at romance, while others felt it came across defensive at times. If I remember correctly, this is based on Rodale’s Master’s thesis.
Long before clinch covers and bodice rippers, romance novels have had a bad reputation as the lowbrow lit of desperate housewives and hopeless spinsters. But in fact, romance novels—the escape and entertainment of choice for millions of women—might prove to be the most revolutionary writing ever produced.
Dangerous Books for Girls examines the origins of the genre’s bad reputation—from the “damned mob of scribbling women” in the nineteenth century to the sexy mass-market paperbacks of the twentieth century—and shows how these books have inspired and empowered generations of women to dream big, refuse to settle, and believe they’re worth it.
For every woman who has ever hidden the cover of a romance—and for every woman who has been curious about those “Fabio books”—Dangerous Books For Girls shows why there’s no room for guilt when reading for pleasure.
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Mira los libros que componen tu biblioteca. Algunos serán nuevos, otros llevarán allí un par de décadas, y unos pocos serán de segunda mano, acumulando años y años. Todos están muriendo. La vida media de un libro sin cuidados especiales sobre temperatura y humedad oscila entre 30 y 100 años. Todo depende de la calidad del papel y la tinta, pero hay que tenerlo claro: los libros no son eternos, como muchas veces podemos pensar.
El culpable principal de este proceso de decadencia y desaparición está dentro de los propios libros. Estamos hablando de la lenta acidificación de las páginas, una destrucción inevitable que depende del momento de impresión y de la calidad del libro. Resolver el problema es difícil y lento, existe un espray que introduce un agente que neutraliza la alcalinidad, pero no arregla daños anteriores y su aplicación es tan laboriosa como cara.
De hecho, las bibliotecas han optado por la digitalización de sus fondos en lugar de gastar el dinero en conservar libros publicados en el sigo XX o XXI, a menos que sean obras únicas por algún motivo. La mejor manera de conservar el conocimiento y los detalles de cada libro es pasar por el escáner.
Si os preguntáis por qué sucede este proceso, hay que ir a los inicios de la imprenta y el mercado literario actual, que nació a mediados del siglo XIX. Era difícil encontrar buen papel y se apostó por un trabajo de reciclaje que incluía numerosos productos químicos para obtener una buena textura y un color adecuado. Esto hace que, a la larga, el papel se vuelva quebradizo y se rompa con solo pasar una página. Es como si se quemara lentamente de dentro hacia fuera.
Los libros impresos en papel de mayor calidad aguantan mucho más tiempo, pero la química necesaria para su creación sigue ahí, destruyéndolos poco a poco. Si las condiciones ambientales son ideales, los libros envejecen mejor, facilitando una futura restauración. Pero hay que tenerlo claro, es muy difícil que los libros que tenemos hoy en día, sobre todo los de bolsillo o de ediciones baratas, superen los 100 años de vida.
Puede que digitalizar nuestros libros sea la solución para que, en un momento dado, podamos volver a imprimir las páginas que se vayan perdiendo y colocarlas de nuevo en su lugar. O tal vez, para leerlos sin más, echando de menos, como buenos nostálgicos, el suave tacto del papel en nuestras manos.
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Bathsheba Demuth’s Floating Coast: An Environmental History of the Bering Strait tells the story of how people learned to make money from the seas—specifically, from the waters of Beringia, the region that includes Alaska, the northeasternmost parts of Russia, and the seas in between. At first the money came from sea otters and whales, but when these grew scarce in the mid-nineteenth century, they were replaced with walruses sleeping in piles on the icy edges of the shore; then attention turned to caribou and Arctic foxes, and to the gold, tin, and oil in the earth. But as humans hunted and mined at an ever-accelerating pace, they did so with little understanding of the cyclical and finite aspects of life on earth, or of the ways their actions would disrupt the larger ecosystem, especially one as delicate as that of Beringia.
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