September 20, 2014, 10.27 am
Today is Day 11 of child illness in our house (first Baby X was sick for 6 days, then MrD took over the horrible stomach bug marathon), so you can probably guess how this week has gone. So let's talk about something different!
I'm reading lots of eighteenth-century letters, diaries and memoirs right now as research for a secret project that's making me really happy. Of course, this is making me really, really miss the incredible Special Collections (and the general 18th-century lit section) at the Brotherton Graduate Library at the University of Leeds, which is where I used to do most of my historical novel research (when, er, I was really supposed to be working on my thesis...but never mind that part). Luckily, though, almost all the eighteenth-century manuscripts I need have been digitised by various libraries and are available online even for those of us who live in small towns without research libraries.
Last night, as I was up (and up...and up...) with Baby X throughout the night, I started reading The Memoirs of the Margravine of Anspach, the full title of which is The beautiful Lady Craven; the original memoirs of Elizabeth, baroness Craven, afterwards margravine of Anspach and Bayreuth and princess Berkeley of the Holy Roman empire (1750-1828) and good Lord. If you have ever wondered whether people like Lady Catherine de Bourgh, from Pride and Prejudice, really existed...well, wonder no more! Because here she is.
Lady Craven/the Margravine/Princess Berkeley traveled all over the place from her teenage years onward, and her memoirs are some of the most entertaining that I've read in a long time...but that's partly because my jaw keeps dropping open at the nonstop, completely un-self-conscious heaps of self-praise that she throws in at every point. She is only too happy to tell us (again and again!) that everyone from her birth onward (except for her entirely evil and unappreciative mother, who was "over-indulged" and allowed far too much freedom by her father) was amazed by the obvious fact that she was always SO much more intelligent than anyone else around her in any situation; that she was clearly the most beautiful girl EVER and everyone else agreed on it throughout her life, even though her evil mother refused to tell her so (I have to admit to feeling a bit of sneaking sympathy with her mother by about 30 pages in); that her older sister doted upon her, of course (as was only natural - she was an angel!), but that sister was still indolent and stupid, very much unlike her; that...well, the list goes on and on, and you can imagine my eyebrows rising higher and higher with every new point. But I couldn't stop reading!
I can't say I would ever want to meet Lady Craven, but her memoir is a total page-turner, and it's definitely reminded me of just how deliciously fun historical research can be (and it's suggested some fabulous new characters for my own fiction, of course). Plus, in some perfectly meta world that mixed together literary characters of all sorts, both real and fictional, I would love to put her and Lady Catherine de Bourgh in a room together and see who exploded first. ;)
What about you guys? What have you been reading lately?
September 12, 2014, 10.09 am
Well, today is Day 3 of Baby X's nasty stomach bug, and it's the worst day yet, so it's been a long week over here, and honestly, you do not want to hear the details.
So I thought, instead of talking about what's actually been going on over here, I'd let myself escape for a while. Here are five things I'm fantasizing about this Friday, as Baby X sleeps on my lap and an Enya CD from my college years plays in the background. ("Sail away, sail away, sail away...")
1. A short story collection. Honestly, this is hugely unlikely - it is SO RARE for authors to sell short story collections! - which is why this is pure fantasy on my part...but yeah. I've sold about 35 short stories in the last 10 years (mostly for adults, but with a few YA stories mixed in), and it is a total fantasy of mine to publish a collection one day.
2. A trip to Paris. Today it sounds so appealing to hop on a train to London, change trains for the EuroStar, and land in Paris for a long weekend. Sipping thick, dark hot chocolate in a Parisian chocolaterie, wandering through a Parisian stationery store or art museum...mmm. One day this fantasy will come true, I swear!
3. A house of our own. When we came home from our American trip, we found out that we had two months to find a new rental house. Wahhh. We've loved our current rental house, but we're not having a lot of luck so far finding a new one that we like even half as much. Househunting for another rental - where, of course, we'll still live on someone else's whim, keeping the house only until they want it again - is a disheartening process. So, right now I'm fantasizing about a house that belongs just to us, where we can stay for as long as we like, even if that's our whole lives...
4. Oh, and heck, I'll take a cabin, too. A cabin in the woods, by a lake, preferably. Why not? ;)
5. And hey, a writing retreat with friends would be lovely, too.
But right now, I'd settle for a decent (i.e., at least 4-hour-long) night of sleep.
What about you guys? What are your personal fantasies today?
September 2, 2014, 11.23 am
1. First of all, the big news: I'm going to be one of the book reviewers at Urban Fantasy Magazine! It's a new online magazine of urban fantasy for adults that will be publishing its first issue in November. I'm already working on my first couple of reviews. If you write urban fantasy novels and want to get them reviewed there, please contact the editors.
There are a few of us doing reviews, so when you're deciding which reviewer to request, do keep in mind that my tastes tend to run toward the more fun/romantic end of urban fantasy rather than the darker/grittier end of the genre. I also love books where the magic feels very real and genuinely magical, and I love books with an intense focus on character. (For instance, I absolutely adored V.E. Schwab's Vicious, which was dark and romance-free but had the most fabulous characters I'd read in a long time.)
Just a few examples of other urban fantasy novels I've really enjoyed include most of Ilona Andrews's books, Patricia Briggs's first few Alpha and Omega books, G. Willow Wilson's Alif the Unseen (if that counts as urban fantasy? still debating in my head), Kat Richardson's Greywalker novels, and Mike Carey's Felix Castor novels. (I would say Deb Coates's books, too, but those are clearly rural fantasy, not urban fantasy, so...?)
2. In a totally different genre, I read my favorite MG novel in months this weekend, Dana Alison Levy's The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher, which was hilarious, moving, sweet, smart and wonderful. It'll sit on my bookshelf of favorite MG family novels next to the Penderwicks, Hilary McKay's Casson Family books, and Susie Day's Pea's Book... series. You can read my full Goodreads review here.
3. Years ago, back when I was writing a romance book blog under my married name, I reviewed a book I absolutely LOVED, Rose Lerner's A Lily Among Thorns, a Regency romance for adults. It still stands out in my memory as my favorite book that I ever reviewed on that blog - it was so smart, so fun, so genuinely romantic...and also so different, in a couple of key ways, from most of what I was reading in the genre at the time. It just got re-issued, today, from a different publisher, and in honor of the republication, here's a link to my original review (updated to include the new cover and info at the end).
4. And some really lovely reviews have been coming in for my Kat novella, Courting Magic - yay! Here are some from Brandy at Random Musings of a Bibliophile, from Quinn at KidsReads.com, and from A Library Mama. A couple of quick snippets from the reviews:
Quinn says: "...And did I mention that it’s funny? I started reading this on the subway and within a few pages I was practically laughing out loud with delight. I’m sure everyone around me thought I was insane. Consider yourself warned." A Library Mama says "...Burgis crams a lot of wonderful into a very short number of pages without things feeling rushed."
And Brandy says, "...Basically this book was all that I could have asked for. Happiness bubbled up inside me as I was reading it, like I was a bottle of soda being shaken up. It just made me effervescent when I was done, walking around grinning like a fool."
And I was beaming when I finished reading the reviews. :) I am SO GRATEFUL to everyone who's read or reviewed my novella! Thanks so much, guys. (And a quick reminder: you can read the first two chapters of Courting Magic here.)
Whew! Now time to get back to my reading. :)
August 29, 2014, 3.20 pm
So, we're back in the UK. Whew! The trip back was not easy (no surprise, with an overnight flight and a teething one-year-old just on the verge of walking), and jet-lag is hitting all of us hard, but never mind. It was a wonderful, wonderful visit back home to the US, and it's good, too, to be back home in the UK now, even if I'm veeeeeeery tired at the moment. (Between Baby X's jet-lag, teething, and his new cold, I didn't get any sleep at all last night until I handed him off at 6:55 this morning, at which point I finally got...3 hours. Sigh.)
It is so good to have our Maya-dog back, though! Over the last year, since Baby X was born, I'd been paying far too little attention to her, and she's so quiet and good-natured, it was only too easy to ignore her while I focused all of my limited energy on wailing babies/five-year-old drama/etc. But I really, really missed her during our five weeks away! It's so good to be able to cuddle her again now and really notice just how she great she is. She is such a sweet companion.
Thank goodness, my parents really generously came back to the UK with us to help out with everything while we get through the first week of jet-lag/post-travel M.E. crash, so I'm getting lots of time during the day to just rest and read and recover. I'm reading Nicola Griffith's Hild, which is a rich, gorgeous historical novel, and also Kate Rorick and Bernie Su's The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet, which is light and fluffy and fun and a perfect add-on to the webseries (which I loved).
(I'd been a little skeptical about the whole concept of this book - having read the original Pride & Prejudice a dozen times, was there any point to a novelization of the contemporary webseries adaptation? Well, it's not just a novelization of the webseries - it's all about the stuff going on behind the webseries, and it's really well-written, funny and clever. Perfect light reading when my brain is tired! I'm really enjoying it - and I'm definitely going to try Kate Rorick[a.k.a. Kate Noble]'s Regency rom-coms after this.)
What are you guys reading right now?
August 22, 2014, 8.38 pm
Happy Friday! I've just uploaded one more chapter of Courting Magic to my website, so you can now read both of the first two chapters free online.
(I actually meant to do this almost a week ago. Oops. The downside of publishing a book while on family vacation...)
I hope you enjoy both chapters! And here's the lovely graphic that Patrick made me for the occasion. :)