Monday, October 29, 2007

Various HNS things

This may be old news if you're on the HNS e-list, but the editors' choice selections from the upcoming November Historical Novels Review are online now.

The HNS Conference board of directors is looking for a new publicity coordinator for the 2009 North American conference. Details here.

Mark and I each brought a mail bin full of review books to the PO today (me to Charleston, him to Savoy, where they tried to make him say there were "personal notes" in the packages - there aren't). So if you got assigned a review book from me, they're en route. I think this is the fastest I've ever gotten them out.

Some links of interest:

Via Marg at Historical Tapestry, Rosina Lippi (aka Sara Donati) interviews Diana Norman (aka Ariana Franklin) on her blog. My review of Fitzempress' Law from this time last year is in the blog archives.

The 2nd authorized sequel to Gone with the Wind, Rhett Butler's People, comes out November 6th. I loved GWTW, and am curious about the new book, if only to see whether it reads anything like the original... I suspect not, as Donald McCaig has a much more literary style (I reviewed Canaan earlier this year). The novel has an official website.

News on Ken Follett's upcoming epic trilogy, and it's not medieval.

A long-lost love story written by James Michener, now in possession of one of his (many) ghostwriters, and available now (Amazon link) from the University Press of Florida.

Australia's The Age doesn't like Colleen McCullough's Antony and Cleopatra, because of prudish and unnatural dialogue and odd sentence constructions. There are no comments on the book's Australian cover, which is different from both the US and cartoony UK versions. I think it makes Cleo look like a perfume ad model, but maybe that's just me.

Non-historical fiction reference. Before we moved out to Illinois, we bought many pieces of furniture from Jordan's in Avon, Massachusetts. This includes our blue livingroom sofa, a couple of chairs, and the bed that's in our guest room. Too bad we weren't back there last spring to go shopping, or we could have gotten all of those items free. I'm glad the Red Sox swept the series, for obvious reasons, but also because I'm tired of staying up till midnight.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Pretty cool video on women in Western art

One of my coworkers at Reference found this video online... how many of the portraits do you recognize, either from the original paintings or from historical novel covers?

It gets bizarre and a little creepy toward the end, when the more modern pieces (Dali, Magritte, Picasso) start to appear.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A sneak preview

The following titles will be appearing on the next HNS review book list, which I'll be emailing out tomorrow evening. (Among others - there are three other editors with books to offer, but the majority this time are mine.)

This means another painful trip or two to the post office next weekend. Unfortunately I don't get to keep any of these, but I will have a bunch of books arriving in my mailbox very soon, thanks to some earned Amazon gift certificates and a couple birthday gifts from nice people (the big day was Sunday).

Lately I've been working on my Christian fiction chapter, which means I've been learning all about things like Preterism and the Gerasene demoniac in order to provide sufficient historical and biblical detail for the annotations. Normally when I write these up, I have the book in hand if at all possible; if I haven't read it yet, I'll read the jacket copy and skim the first chapter to get a feel for writing style. I'll also go online and read as many reviews as I can.

However, some titles I'm attempting to summarize are proving problematic. Many appear not to have been reviewed by reliable publications, and I don't like using Amazon reviews as a primary source. In some cases, doing so would be impossible. Hank Hanegraaff and Sigmund Brouwer's The Last Disciple, for instance, has 75 "reviews" on Amazon, but apart from the PW one (which is vague), you have to wade through over half of them before you find one that gives the protagonist's name correctly or provides anything resembling a plot. Most of them consist of short, poorly worded theological arguments, but this single-line "review" tops everything:

"It was so bad I did not want to spill a lot of ink talking about it. "

My only consolation is that only 7 out of 42 people rated it "helpful."

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Trouble in paradise?

In surveying Steeple Hill's website (Harlequin's Christian fiction imprint) for relevant books for my current chapter-in-progress, I noticed that one book cover image looked remarkably like something I saw in a women's magazine at home earlier today.

The 1st image isn't for a historical novel, though it looks it, and the author has written other titles in the genre. The 2nd image was taken from an ad for a prescription medication used to treat bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Different skirt, slightly different pose. Same photo shoot, and the remaining differences due to Photoshop?

Making up for lost time

My literary historical chapter is finished (pending 2008 publications), and my latest reviews (for Booklist and Choice) have been turned in, so it was time to get back to reading once again. Normally I do read fiction alongside the writing, but with my schedule so busy, it was pretty much impossible to find the time.

But last week I picked up the newly republished trade pb edition of Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind, which, I'm ashamed to say, I'd never read before. I also own a mass market pb from the 1970s, but the binding is so tight, and the paper so thin and transparent, that it was a deterrent. A 1000-page novel practically begs to be read in hardcover or trade - and the latter may be preferable, if the binding holds up, simply because of the weight. The 2007 Scribner edition is kind of floppy, but it's not hard to hold onto when reading. This is important.

I'd made a New Year's resolution to read at least one classic in 2007, and I suppose GWTW qualifies? (If not, then The Sylph definitely does. Review isn't on Amazon yet.) I must be the last person I know to read it, as even friends who don't read historical fiction have done so. Not sure why I'm surprised, given its popularity, but it's an engrossing novel that, apart from the derogatory references to African Americans (which reflect attitudes of the time), doesn't feel as if it was written 70+ years ago. It may be superficial of me, but the newly designed cover and new typesetting help modernize the reading experience. It's also interesting to read firsthand about characters who have become American icons.

I already know the basic storyline, but not all the details - and as I've never seen the movie either, no spoilers please!

Monday, October 08, 2007

A new (sort of) Hella Haasse novel

I so enjoyed reading Haasse's In a Dark Wood Wandering, a biographical novel of Charles d'Orléans, that I thought this deserved its own heading...

Hidden within the deals on Publishers Marketplace last Friday:

89-year-old Dutch author Hella Haasse's THE TEA LORDS, translated by Ina Rilke, set in the Dutch East Indies, amongst the merchant class, to Philip Gwyn Jones at Portobello Books, for publication in 2010 by Annette Portegeis and Lucienne van der Leije at Querido (world English).
This makes, I believe, four novels of Haasse's to be translated from Dutch to English, the remaining two being Threshold of Fire (conflict between pagans and Christians in 5th century Rome) and The Scarlet City (Giovanni Borgia, the "child of Rome," as he tries to discover his true parentage in the 16th century).

Per a brief mention in the magazine World Literature Today, The Tea Lords (Dutch title Heren van de Thee):

...traces the life and colonial career of Rudolf Kerkhoven: from his student days in Delft in 1869 and his departure to West Java in the East Indies in 1871 (where his relatives had been growing tea since 1845); via his successes and failures on Gamboeng, the plantation where he grows coffee, tea, and quinine; his marriage to Jenny Roosegaarde Bisschop and the birth of their children; [and] his conflicts with his relatives who live on the neighboring plantations; to his final days in 1918.
All of the characters are reportedly based on historical figures. Patience, though, if this has your curiosity up - the deal did give the publication year as 2010.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Cartoony covers from the UK

We all know by now that the "headless bodice" look really took off with the UK edition of Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl, right? Perhaps this is another soon-to-be-trend: cartoon-style covers for historical fiction. All of the images below are taken from the British editions. Of them, the Julia Quinn is the only historical romance; the others are mainstream historicals.

Some of these novels won't be out for a while, so click on the images for the descriptions from Amazon UK.

Do any of you like these covers more than I do? Apart from the one for the Tannahill, which I know will be fairly lighthearted, I really don't care for them much.