Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Respectable Romance: Arabella by Georgette Heyer

Ah, good even to you, my fair readers (if there are any of you out there at all). Well, it's been a while (when isn't it a while?). I've been off having some wonderful adventures, and although not all of them have been reading-related, many of them have been.

One of the really good adventures I've had recently was a resurgence of my romantic spirit. Not many people will admit to reading romance, since it isn't considered "high" literature, but pooh sayeth I to such silliness. A book is a book, is a book, is a book. No writing is bad writing, unless it is poor writing. There are just as many "bad" and "poor" intelligent reads out there, as there are "bad" or "poor" so-called Low Culture reads. I make an effort to try not to classify books into value-laden categories. I find that it says more about an individual when they class books into "high" and "low" categories, and much less about the book, the quality of writing, and the author.

Having said all this, and I
do sincerely apologize for digressing, I am super excited to share with you, oh wonderful readers, my discovery of a truly talented writer, Georgette Heyer.

Oftentimes, one finds much to be lacking in the romance genre. It appears that everything is slash and grab, or in other words unconcerned with the subtleties of human nature. I don't like to be told what I already know in a story. Moreover, I am not a stupid reader, and can usually pick up on hints. This is something that I feel many romance authors forget, although not all are guilty of doing so.

Georgette Heyer was one such author who allowed her story to tell itself for the most part. And I am now planning to sacrifice myself to her writing as often as I can.

Arabella is a simple story detailing the debut of said lady in Regency London. Without giving too much away, she has the tendency to run away with her temper, and this lands her in a bit of hot water, when poor, penniless she is unaccountably considered a wealthy heiress by society, and finds herself the object of many a penniless suitor. How and why this happens is related to her encounter with one of society's highest of the high trendsetters.

As I've already stated elsewhere, Dame Heyer is like a breath of fresh air in the romance genre. There is subtlety in her descriptions, and storyline. Things don't crash and burn. Her characters are realistic. They are not run over by their vices
or their virtues. They do not bear with things that are not meant to be borne with, and yet they do not labor to do that which is absurd.

Conversations between characters are realistic. Relations are not forced. The setting is realistic. What can I say, dear readers? Characters do not merely play at being Regency era ladies and gentlemen while maintaining 21st century ideals and attitudes.

The narrative is neither slow, nor fast. Rather, events occur at a regular, even pace, as they ought to. All in all, Georgette Heyer makes it
very easy and enjoyable to delve into her created world, and it provides a beautiful and relaxing escape.

For myself, I am astonished that I never came across her Regency novels before this, and am eagerly awaiting my next trip to Regency London through the guidance of her prose. You'll find my recommendations below.

To begin, this book is
NOT for anyone who...:

  • despises novels of the romance genre
  • wants to sink their teeth into something dense and heavy
  • can't stand reading about silly Regency era traditions
  • doesn't believe in love
However, this book IS for anyone who...:
  • is looking for an intelligent romantic read (yes, even I was surprised that such a thing exists!)
  • has read and enjoyed reading Jane Austen's novels (although this is a much better cure for Austenitis than Eliot's Middlemarch, Heyer's' writing style is a little different from Jane's)
  • enjoys a light, but emotionally satisfying read
  • does believe in love
Happy reading everyone!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Paranormal Pieces: Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris

It's been a long time since I've posted, but I've been reading. I haven't forgotten my goal of reading at least one book a month, and I've kept myself reading much more than my goal.

My most recent read was the ninth installation of the Southern Vampires series by Charlain Harris,
Dead and Gone. I had originally picked up the first book, intrigued by the setting, the voice of the character, and the fast pace. Hooked by the first book, I've continued to read all the way to number nine.

Dead and Gone, Sookie is faced with yet another murder, but one that's a little more gruesome and hateful than others. To top it off, she gets married unintentionally (and there was no booze involved), and is the target of a vicious enemy (by way of her great-grandfather).

You can expect the usual package of action (there's lots of it), and typical Sookie reactions. But there just seems to be a lot more crammed into this one book than one would expect. It seems almost as if there's enough material in this one volume for three volumes worth of writing.

I have to say, I was a little disappointed. I've come to enjoy Sookie's upbeat attitude, and I really enjoyed her creative solutions to problems in the past. These days, Sookie's just trying to get through each day without dying, it seems, and that doesn't make for a truly enjoyable story. Sure, she has to worry about her safety, but if the whole plot revolves around her safety and nothing else, it doesn't make for entertaining reading.

One of the reasons I had come to enjoy the series was the authentic feel Harris was able to give the characters, the setting, and the plot. You could get a real sense of Bon Temps, Louisiana in the first couple of books. You could form the characters in your mind fairly easily.

In the past couple of books in the series, however, the quality of the ambiance has begun to dull down. Things are happening so fast it's hard to keep the days straight. There's nothing normal about Sookie, and nothing will ever be normal again. That's fine, but does everything always have to involve Sookie being beaten to a pulp? Whatever happened to the human side of Sookie? What happened to her relationships?

All in all, I'm not looking forward to the next book in this series with as much hope and excitement as I used to. Now all I'm hoping for is some sort of stabilization. Let us catch a breath, Charlaine. Let us catch up to where Sookie is. Give us some type of explanation for why things have happened so quickly.

I get my copy of
Dead in the Family (Southern Vampires, 10) in June. Let's hope that questions are answered, and things ease up a little. I really don't want to have to give up on this series yet.

This book is not for anyone who:

  • has no read any of the previous Sookie Stackhouse books
  • dislikes contemporary paranormal stories
  • hates vampires, werewolves and fairies (same thing as the prior point, I know - I'm just clarifying)
  • is looking to feel a little better about life or looking for a light and happy read
This book is for anyone who:
  • has read and is obsessed with finding out who dies next in the Sookie Stackhouse series