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Saturday, November 02, 2013

Sunday Morning And Books

I'm lying in bed on a Sunday morning listening to classical music on ABC FM. I woke at 6.20 am and knew I wouldn't sleep any more. The dishes I didn't wash await me in the sink. A house needs cleaning. They can wait another half hour or so. After my breakfast of fruit, toast and something herbal in the way of tea, I will do them all, but now is mine.

Yesterday I bought another print book while waiting for a tram outside my local bookshop, so will have to donate another few to the library to make space for it. It's Simon Schama's The Story Of The Jews. It's going into my reference collection - you never know what you'll need for writing. I like Simon Schama very much. He hosted the wonderful TV series The History Of Britain and brings the same chatty, laid-back style to his writing. The Jews in this book are ordinary people, not the famous history-makers we usually read about in other history books. A father writes to his soldier-boy son about why his kit hasn't arrived, tells him he hasn't been able to arrange the young man's back pay yet and adds that Mum is worried, something every Jewish boy has heard at one time or another, as Simon Schama adds. Someone in business writes to a less-than-reliable colleague and makes dire threats as to what he'll do if the man doesn't turn up on the docks to collect the goods. A woman divorces her second husband and he sues her for his share of the goods(and loses). This is history, who needs kings and generals? And I didn't know about the Jewish community in Elephantine, Egypt, who had their own Temple, much to the annoyance of the folk running the one in Jerusalem. This book is already proving to be great entertainment.

I'm well over halfway through Rachel Hartman's Seraphina, which I like very much for its worldbuilding, and I hear that her reason for human-shaped dragons started in her original  graphic novel, because she couldn't draw dragons very well! Who would have thought you could take a problem and solve it by making it such an integral part of your universe? I like the charm of the characters, the humour and the fact that she has some knowledge of the Renaissance and uses it as a starting place only.

 But is it really a YA novel, despite the heroine's youth? I don't know. This far into the novel, not a lot has happened, except offstage. There's a buildup, but teens aren't patient with buildups. Heck, a LOT of people are impatient with buildups! There's one Goodreads reviewer who panned my novel Wolfborn because not enough happened in the first eight pages(she stopped reading it)! My main action started in Chapter 2, after a buildup in Chapter 1.  And here's a book in which there's a conspiracy going on and the heroine having visions, but nothing happening onstage hundreds of pages into the book. That isn't going to please young readers, though they might hang around for the romantic interest, a nice young man called Prince Lucian Kiggs, who's Captain of the Guard at the palace,  though he can't be much older than the teenage heroine, a brilliant musician who is already assistant music mistress of the palace musicians. Lucian feels like someone at least in his twenties, who is calm, mature and handling his responsibilities well. But something he says early on suggests he's in his teens. Oh, well, keep going. But as an adult, I am enjoying it very much. It has a lot of charm.

I have chosen for this week's random reading My Life As An Alphabet by Barry Jonsberg. I really have to admire Barry, who manages to write novels regularly despite having a day job in teaching. Teaching is a worthy job that lets you make a difference, but it tends to use up your creativity, leaving little energy for other forms of creativity such as writing. People manage - look at all those art teachers who do exhibitions - but it's not easy. I haven't started reading the book yet, but I'm looking forward to it.

This week's download is Susan Cooper's Ghost Hawk, set in early America instead of Britain, where most of her earlier books are set;  she has, after all, been living in the US since the 1960s. The novel starts with a  Native American boy, Little Hawk, going on his manhood vision quest, during which he must survive in the woods for three months and fast till he finds his Manitou, or totem animal. Susan Cooper is always worth reading and has done some wonderful books since The Dark Is Rising series, though I, personally, think that series is her classic and will continue to be read after the others are long out of print.

Time to get up now. Maybe I can unfreeze my writer's block and do some writing today other than blogging!

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