Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Girly Swashbuckling!

I took care of one time-consuming item on the pre-trip to-do list and got about four inches whacked off my hair, which was getting out of control. With my hair, no one else will notice, but it'll be easier for me to deal with. It's gone from just past my waist to halfway down my back, but the combination of the cut and the increased curl coming from less weight will make it look like it's just past shoulder-length. Now I have the whole afternoon for looking over copyedits and doing laundry.

One nice thing about taking a weekend mostly off is that I got to do some reading, and I have two very different books to talk about.

First, Coronets and Steel by Sherwood Smith. This is a contemporary fantasy, though the fantasy elements are pretty light and subtle in this book (it looks like they play more of a role in the sequels). It's about an American grad student who's taken the summer off to travel to Europe to try to track down her grandmother's mysterious heritage. She starts having strange encounters -- sometimes seeing what she thinks are historical re-enactors that no one else seems to see, sometimes having people approach her and act as though they know her and then get insulted or angry when she doesn't know them. Then she gets drugged and kidnapped and eventually ends up in an obscure Eastern European country that seems almost untouched by time. There's no cell coverage or Internet, there's barely any electrical or landline phone service. Modern guns don't work all that well. And even the seemingly sophisticated, educated people firmly believe that some pretty strange legends are absolutely true.

Basically, this is a Prisoner of Zenda-like story with a heroine who's a ballet dancer and fencer. So why didn't I know about this book before now? The Prisoner of Zenda is one of my favorite books (they still haven't made a film version I'm entirely happy with), and it's so much fun to have a very girly swashbuckler. Our heroine's fencing skills come in handy, and the physical conditioning from ballet also helps make the things she has to do to survive more credible. She's pretty smart most of the time, making only a couple of plot stupidity moves, and even there, you can kind of understand why those moves seemed like a good idea at the time, since she doesn't know she's the heroine of a novel. There are sequels, and I plan to read them soon after all the upcoming travel.

Then there was what I guess you'd call paranormal chick lit, Twisted Sisters by Jen Lancaster. Our heroine/narrator is a TV psychologist, kind of playing the Dr. Phil role on an Oprah-like show about doing life makeovers. In spite of her success, she still obsesses over the way she thinks one of her sisters is favored by everyone. Her sister is overweight, uneducated, only a hairstylist, and living in an apartment in their parents' basement. So why does everyone love her so much? Then the show gets bought by a network that wants instant results with minor celebrities. She can't cure someone of a phobia in one session. The show's New Age guru has a possible solution: astral projection, putting herself in the body of the subject so they can film the person overcoming the fear. Strangely, it works. And you can probably imagine exactly where this is going.

While this was a fun book, and I sometimes really enjoy the "bitch gets a comeuppance" kind of story, this one is oddly paced. It's halfway through the book before the astral projection thing kicks in, and the real main plot, the thing you spend the whole book waiting to see happen, doesn't happen until the last few chapters. I wanted a lot more of that part of the story. But it's still very funny and rather satisfying -- the kind of thing to read when you're in a really bitchy mood that you need to work through.

Now to go brave the red marks on my manuscript and do more laundry.

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