Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Recent Romances

Given Laura Vivanco's post yesterday on the Australian Women Writers Challenge blog, I feel that I ought to post proper reviews of two recent romances I've read, both by female Australian authors.   Both by the *same* female Australian author, actually: Stephanie Laurens.  (I have already reviewed Elizabeth Rolls' His Lady Mistress.)

I currently read and have in my past read romance novels.  I went through a massive glut when I was about 17/18 years old, with a particular focus on the "Loveswept" label.  They seemed to my teenaged brain to be of a higher quality of writing than your average Mills & Boon.  (I had a friend whose mother practically lived on M&B; I read a few, but the repetitiveness got to me.)  Between the ages of 16 and 20 I also went through a Danielle Steele phase, with particular focus on her historicals, like Jewels, Zoya, No Greater Love and Message From Nam (all of which I still own, as I enjoy re-reading them so very much!)  Danielle Steele was my favoured author for airplane reading at a time when I was doing a lot of 14-hour flights, and every so often, one of her titles will occasionally appeal to me.

But it has to be said that I've gone along with giving the romance genre a bad rap.  On Goodreads my tag for romance is "trashy trashy romance".  This shelf includes Stephanie Laurens, Jane Feather, Elizabeth Rolls, and an attempt at Amanda Quick (or if it doesn't, it ought to.)  I unreservedly love Stephanie Laurens, in particular, for her message that love is at the centre of all that is: that marriage without love is lacking, and (in "The Edge of Desire", for example) that love is love, no matter what the pairing.  And because of that unreserved love, I feel rather bad about the shelf-label of "trashy trashy romance".  I still believe that Laurens is a light read as compared to someone like Chloe Hooper or perhaps even Sulari Gentill (wait until I've read her).  But although  I think there's still no liklihood of a flat romance winning any literary awards anytime soon, I don't know why we don't acknowledge writers like Stephanie Laurens, who has to be one of Australia's best known writers when you come down to numbers.

And so: here are my reviews of the latest two Stephanie Laurens books that I've read.:

The Edge of Desire

Viscount Breckenridge to the Rescue

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Review: Viscount Breckenridge to the Rescue

Viscount Breckenridge to the Rescue
Viscount Breckenridge to the Rescue by Stephanie Laurens

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Heather. Is. Awesome.

There are no two ways about it. Heather is simply awesome. Brilliant. Beyond description. Heather is a Girl Guide and a Regency Heroine bound up in one. Heather is awesome. Intelligent and thoughtful and after she's thought for a while, able to cope with the concept that Timothy Davers isn't actually ridiculous.

It's still a regency romance. It still comes under my personal definition of "trashy trashy romance". And yet it still is readable, the characters loveable, and the thing is, it's just totally Stephanie.

I enjoy Regency Romance. Somehow the historical moment overcomes the sickliness of what can be a contemporary romance. And having said that, it's the modernity of SL's characters that appeals to me: the fact that - like an Austen heroine, they've rarely been entirely on the shelf. They have almost always managed to refuse someone first, before finding their True Love. And the fact that they mange to have sex well before marriage is all about "yay" for the fact that these are liberated ladies who don't belive that a priestly blessing is requried prior to pleasure (even though it always strikes me as historically anachronistic).

Anyway. Love the book: looking so very much forward to books two and three.

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Review: The Edge of Desire

The Edge of Desire
The Edge of Desire by Stephanie Laurens

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Possibly one of the most engaging Bastions I've read so far, due to the depth of the mystery on the one hand, and the intransigence of the heroine on the other. I simply adore a heroine who refuses to let the hero coddle her, and in Letitia that's exactly what the reader has. She is awesome, in the true sense of the word. She refuses to let Derne, Dalziel, or any of the Bastion club overrule her, and she is as much a part of solving the puzzle as any of them.

For as much of a puzzle as there is to solve.

Of course, I'm coming at this book from the wrong angle entirely, having already read the book in which Dalziel's true identity is revealed and the traitor hunted to ground. In fact, I read that book quite some time ago. And yet, I still think this one of the most engaging Bastion Club novels of the series.

I have to admit that I really don't tend to expect much of a Laurens: an enjoyable romp, Regency-style balls and accoutrements, and a happy ending.

The Edge of Desire gave me all this, and a frolicking, rolicking mystery as a side dish. Twelve points to Stephanie Laurens!

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Official Launch Day

I would love to write more, but it's a big day today, and I don't have the time.

Today is the official launch of the National Year of Reading in Australia.

If your local library is open and you're able, wander down around 11am, because they may well have something going on.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Review: "The Confession of an Unrepentant Lesbian Ex-Mormon" by Sue-Ann Post

The Confession of an Unrepentant Lesbian Ex-MormonThe Confession of an Unrepentant Lesbian Ex-Mormon by Sue-Ann Post
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I watched the related documentary many years ago when it was shown on ABC's Compass program, and then a couple years ago I found the book in a discount book store, and I snaffled it up.

I have to admit that I have skimmed the first two and the last chapters. Whenever Sue-Ann got into attempting to prove why all those with faith in God are wrong, my eyes glazed over, partly in self-protection, partially because she's not actually here to argue against, and in my mind, she's hellaciously wrong. She's denying a core part of my identity, and I guess that these days I just don't put up with that. More to the point, I'm so used to blogs and interactivity and etc and being able to argue back, and a book doesn't allow for that in the way that a blog might.

It was a good read. It was a frustrating read. It was a somewhat infuriating read (in part due to her narrow theological view, and Post's assumption that she knows the theology of ALL elements of Christian theology when she bloomin' well doesn't. For proof please see the pages relating to the World Council of Churches, and her apparent COMPLETE lack of understanding that the Roman Catholic Church is NOT part of the WCC.)

All that said, without those three chapters, it's an awesome book. I'll go back and read those three missing chapters one day when I feel better able to deal with them without setting fire to the book or myself. And there was a lot in the other chapters that I read out to my GF as I was reading it, that I loved, that I chuckled over, that I tried to absorb and turn over in my mind and learn from.

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Saturday, 4 February 2012

Unaccompanied Minors

Seen this post at the Australian blog

A mother drops off her three children, aged 5, 8 and 10 at the public library for 20 minutes while she goes shopping.  She tells a friend, who remonstrates with her about leaving the children with the library staff who are not child carers, and who were not informed of the situation.  Said mother blogs about it on  640-odd comments later, not a single person who identifies as a librarian wholeheartedly approves of the situation.  Many of those librarians point out liability issues, the realities of public library users (surely this isn't news?), and the fact that we've got policies about the age at which children are allowed to attend the library unaccompanied.

The OP, and Mia Freedman, publisher and proprietor of say things such as "it was only twenty minutes" and entirely ignore the comments of the library staff who have made their dislike of the situation pretty obvious.

Frustration ensues in your humble blogger.

Meanwhile, in the final few days of the school holidays, my own library has a sudden influx of underage minors not only spending from opening to closing (approximately nine hours) in the library, but these children spend what time they can wangle on the public computers (max 1 hour, but kids can and will play the change of staff on desk shift) on a "talk to strangers" website.

On Friday, when as far as I know every student, whether Victorian or New South Welsh should have been back at school, we had kids try to tell us that school didn't start until the "16th of February, miss!"

I don't entirely know what my frustration centres upon.  The lack of any actual library-related legislation in Victoria - unlike in NSW?  The fact that hundreds of commenters on a highly popular blogging site have decided that while teachers should be respected as professionals, librarians shouldn't?  The simple fact that for the past 20 months I've been dealing with the public at large, and that doing so is not the most edifying experience, even when it is a fundamentally educational experience?

I'm not entirely sure.

I suppose, in the end, what I want to say is this: please consider, before leaving any child unattended in a public library in Victoria, that it's really no different in legal terms, to leaving that child unattended in a public park.  If you wouldn't leave them there?  Don't leave them in a public library.