beth_bernobich: red mushroom (tea cup)
Chapters 10 and 11 have been spliced and edited into what is now chapter 9. Whew! I am pretty sure I replaced nearly every word. But I am sooooo much happier with this version.

This week, the old chapter 12 is on the revision block. This one is another slash and cut and rewrite exercise. After that, I need to mark up the next five chapters to evaluate how much they work they need. (My impression was "not much," but so much has changed with this draft, I'm no longer sure.)

In between my lovely writing sessions and the dayjob, I have an extra wonderful treat. I'm reading an ARC of Stephanie Burgis's historical fantasy Congress of Secrets. And what a treat this is. I feel as though I am drinking a cup of gourmet hot chocolate, frothy and sweet and delicious, but with an edge of dark.

You can read more about Steph's wonderful book here. Check it out!
beth_bernobich: red mushroom (lilith)
Fantasy Cafe is holding their third annual Women in SFF Month, with posts from women authors and bloggers. Today's entry is my post about "The Invisible Woman".


Jan. 3rd, 2014 09:38 am
beth_bernobich: petal twigs (petal twigs)
Sarah Monette talks about How to Help a Writer's Career. Go. Read. She says lots of good stuff.

I talked about this same subject in November. Since then I've followed through on buying more books from authors I love, and telling my friends (and sometimes complete strangers) about those books. I do need to write more reviews, because that also makes a difference.

And thank you to those folks who have done the same for me. It really can make a difference when a publisher decides whether to continue, or cancel, a series. Whether an author needs to start over with a pen name. Or if they manage to sell another book at all.
beth_bernobich: red mushroom (book love)
This is my checklist of things I can do personally for books I love:

Buy them if I can. Sometimes I'll buy the e-book first because it's less expensive, and I'm not familiar with the author or the particular series. Sometimes I buy the e-book because I LOVE the author and I want the next book in the series NOW.) But then I discover I LOVE the book and I want a physical copy, so sometimes I buy the e-book first and the printed copy as well.

Buy them new if I can, but used if I can't. Books are expensive, and not all of them are available as e-books. Buying a used copy doesn't help the author directly, but I have bought one used copy, then realized I want the rest of the series.

Ask my library to order a copy. Not only does the author get royalties, and I get to read the book, but other readers might come across the copy and discover a new author. Besides, libraries are cool.

Tell my friends about the book. Because they might love the book too, but they might not know the book exists. Or they might not even know the author exists. And maybe they'll buy a copy, or check the book out from the library. And maybe they'll love the book as much as I do, and they'll tell other friends. Then more people will discover this amazing book.

Review the book on places like Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, and Bookish. The more reviews a book gets, the more often it shows up on "Recommended For You" lists. Reviews make the book visible to other people who might otherwise never hear about the book, or the author. And maybe they aren't interested in that book, but they see another book by the same author and think, Hmmmm, that sounds interesting.

I have to confess I've fallen off with writing reviews--partly because I've been immersed in deadlines or moving house for the past two years--but my new resolution is to write more reviews for books I love. My voice added to others can make a difference. So can yours. Let's help the books we love to succeed. Let's help the authors succeed, so they can write more books.
beth_bernobich: red mushroom (book love)
There are books I enjoy very much, books I re-read once or twice, books that work as comfort reading despite their flaws, there are even books I could say I love, but with reservations about this element or that. But then there are the books I love to pieces, ones I read and re-read over the years, without fear of visits from the suck-fairy.

Here are a few from that list:

The Queen's Thief series, by Megan Whelan Turner.  Fantasy. These books are centered around three small kingdoms, with an increasing intense plot line and strong vividly portrayed characters, the most vivid of them all being Eugenides, clever, arrogant, vulnerable, strong, pig-headed, and with a wicked sense of humor. I love the first three books to pieces. I enjoyed the fourth one, but not as completely as the first three.

The Aubrey/Maturin series, by Patrick O'Brian. Historical fiction. These books follow the friendship of Jack Aubrey, captain in the British Navy, and Stephen Maturin, physician, natural philosopher, linguist, and spy, in the time of the Napoleonic Wars. You get pretty much everything in these books: love, friendship, betrayal, death, philosophy, amazing battles scenes, and, of course, sloths. I love the first sixteen to pieces, and I know that when I start the first one, I won't stop re-reading until I reach #16. After that, the books are still enjoyable enough, but they suffer in comparison to the previous ones.

Slow River, by Nicola Griffith. Science Fiction. I find this one hard to describe, but the prose is like polished silver, the characters are utterly engaging, even the horrifying ones, and the plot twists and turns around until the end.

The Privilege of the Sword, by Ellen Kushner. Fantasy. Swashbuckling, politics, painful histories, and a strong young woman as the central character, all wrapped around with lovely prose.

Akata Witch, by Nnedi Okorafor. MG Fantasy. Strong-willed girls and boys, strange magic, a funky bus, and a bridge that takes you from the ordinary world into the extraordinary one. I'm delighted there will be a sequel.

A Civil Campaign, by Lois Bujold. SF. The trick with this book is that you really have to read all the previous books in the Miles Vorkosigan series. Which is not a problem, imo, because I thoroughly enjoyed all of them. This one is the exquisite, lace-spun decoration on top of the series cake. It's wildly funny, dark, romantic, sometimes painful, and ultimately hopeful, with the most beautifully choreographed dinner scene.

What about you? Which books have you read that you love to pieces?
beth_bernobich: red mushroom (lilith)
One of my favorite Georgette Heyer books is The Grand Sophy. The heroine is the exact opposite of the passive woman in need of rescue. She has her own money, thank you. She can shoot, ride, and knows her way around worn-torn Europe. She's also kind and has a sense of humor. In the end, she does marry—this is a Regency romance after all—but I always had the conviction that hers would be a marriage of equal partners.


Mid-way through the book there is a scene that is so vile, so utterly soaked in anti-Semitism, I nearly threw the book away unfinished. I did eventually read the rest, but it was a near thing. When I finished, I cut those pages from the book, so that when I re-read it (and I am someone who re-reads a lot), I won't even accidentally see that section again.

And I do love the rest of the book, but that scene, even with the pages missing, lurks in my memory.

There are other books I otherwise love that have this same problem. I'm currently re-reading Sayers's Wimsey series, and oh dear, there are some mighty problems with sex, race, and class in those books. Sayers does manage to poke at Lord Peter's privilege from time to time through authorial comments, and there are instances, even before Harriet Vane makes her appearance, of women characters who are strong and independent just as a matter of course. I especially love Miss Climpson, the single, middle-aged woman who runs Wimsey's investigation bureau. She's smart, competent, and brave. She isn't anyone's arm candy.

And yet...

I am re-reading Unnatural Death today. This one is my second-least favorite of the bunch, but the exact reasons had vanished from memory. As I read, I winced at the weird assumptions about women, about gender, that permeated the story. And then... I came across the section where a long-lost relative shows up. He's black. He's poor. And our wonderful Miss Climpson is rambling on her letter about this man, using the N-word with abandon, and generally acting the part of the nice white lady who sympathizes with those lesser folks, but is nevertheless convinced that whites are superior.

It was like biting into a sweet apple and discovering a half worm in the middle.

There are many, many times when an author portrays a character with bigoted beliefs that the author does not share. I'm not so sure that's the case here. Miss Climpson is portrayed as a clever, competent woman. Sayers pokes at some of Climpson's other statements, but she never pokes at Climpson's beliefs about non-whites.

So what do you do when this happens? Sometimes you can just cut out one single scene. Sometimes the problem is the entire book. Sometimes the problem is not the text itself, but what's absent from that text. Gay people. POCs. Women. Or having these characters as real people.

If a book otherwise gives me delight, I can sigh and say, Okay, it's not perfect but I can continue to read this book or this author. I can do that with Sayers, certainly. She has other books that might be limited, but within those limits, they are free of worms.

But I keep looking for books that don't have worms and don't have limits.
beth_bernobich: red mushroom (book love)
A while back, I bought a new book by a favorite author. I was pretty excited to read it, because I'd read a number of reviews that said this was the author's best book yet. So, off I started.

For about twenty pages.

I stopped for the evening, vaguely dissatisfied. The next day, I decided I hadn't been in the right mood for the book. (It happens.) So I picked up different book, one I hadn't looked at in years. It was someone's debut novel, with a strong voice and a quirky weird plot that twisted around in unpredictable ways. This one, I read it straight through to the end, finding all the flaws I remembered, and noticing a few others for the first time, but the quirkiness and strong voice were still there and still entertaining.

When I finished that book, I glanced at New Book. Decided I still wasn't in the mood, so I rummaged through my shelves and found my copy of Souls in the Great Machine, which I am currently devouring for the Nth time.

Now, Souls also has a number of flaws—the biggest being an out-of-control plot that ignores all the traffic signs and often the road itself—but it's weird and wonderful and all the characters know they're over the top, but they don't care, and neither do I.

Meanwhile, I've been wondering why New Book failed to engage me. The prose is good, with some lovely details, the setup is interesting, and the author has taken care with the worldbuilding. It probably is her best book to date, at least in terms of craft.

It could be I'm not in the right mood. It could also be the story is too smooth, too polished. I suspect, and this is just me guessing, that this particular plot would not surprise me, and that my vague dissatisfaction came from the feeling that I had already traveled this story's road.
beth_bernobich: red mushroom (book love)
A while back, I tried reading the last book in a Very Famous Series. I had enjoyed the first few books (in spite of their flaws). I found the middle ones interesting—I liked what the author did with her characters, and I liked how the tone of the series changed, too. Unfortunately, the flaws had become more noticeable to me, and they started to drown out the engaging bits. At the second-to-last book, I stopped reading partway in.


That last book came out with much hoopla. So I picked up a copy and started to read.

Cliches. Awkward bumpy purple prose. More cliches. Ick.

I skipped into the middle. No different. To the end. Oy.

So I set the book aside. To a friend, I said, "Boy, that sucked. I'm so disappointed."

"Oh no," they said. "The plot is marvelous. Sure, the first few scenes are cliched and the prose isn't great. But it gets better. Well, except that middle part that goes on forever, but—"

But I didn't give it another chance. And I'm not sorry.

What about my friend, though? Were they wrong to love this book so?

Of course not. There were elements in the book that worked so well for them, they could either overlook the flaws or not even notice them, and they were drawn inexorably through a magical story.

Was I wrong to hate the book? I don't believe so. The magical story didn't appear for me, and I'd be foolish to waste my time trudging through that tedious mess.

We're both right, because we're two different readers. As the years pass, I try to keep that in mind more. I don't pull punches in giving my opinion, but I try to keep in mind that other readers have different tastes. Not wrong. Just different. That book you loved? Someone hated it. (And not because they were clueless idiots.) That book you threw against the wall? Someone found a key to insight, or a few hours pure pleasure and escape. And you know what? You're both right.

I still won't read that last book in Famous Series. My to-read pile is taller than me, and filled with books I know I will love. I hope yours is too.

Happy reading.


Apr. 2nd, 2005 05:05 pm
beth_bernobich: red mushroom (Default)
Just finished reading Sorcery and Cecilia.

::swoons with delight::

So often I find myself disappointed with my reading. Not here. Every. Note. Perfect. An absolute delight. And yes, I'm in love with Thomas. Aren't you?

::runs off to buy The Grand Tour::


beth_bernobich: red mushroom (Default)

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