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Merry Christmas

A photograph of flowers from a Christmas wreath

It’s that time of year again when I say goodbye for the holidays. I’ll be finishing up my latest rounds of editing this weekend and taking time away from blogging and editing over Christmas. I have to say it feels very strange to be writing this post on a day the heating hasn’t been on and I’m wearing a jumper simply because I feel I should, but that’s British weather for you, always unpredictable.

I’ll be posting my December round-up on the 31st and the What’s In A Name category posts will be up on 1st January. My year round-up I plan to post on the 2nd and it’ll mark my return.

Merry Christmas and a happy new year to you all. I may well comment on blogs over the holidays, but if not, see you all next year!

Susanna Fraser – A Christmas Reunion

Book Cover

Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?

Publisher: Carina Press (Harlequin)
Pages: 76
Type: Fiction
Age: Adult
ISBN: 978-1-426-89924-9
First Published: 24th November 2014
Date Reviewed: 15th December 2014
Rating: 3/5

It’s the early 1800s and Catherine is to be married at Christmas time. It won’t be a love match, but then she gave up hope of anything between her and her cousins’ cousin, Gabriel, five years ago, when her uncle sent him to war so that the lovers would not cause issues. Gabriel, illegitimate and poor, was no match for a landed heiress. But Gabriel will be returning for Christmas and Catherine must make sure they don’t find themselves alone under the mistletoe again.

A Christmas Reunion is a short novella that presents a look at the turning point of a couple’s relationship.

It’s a nice set up but given the scope, a lot is left out of this story and this does affect the reading. We only learn about the beginnings and the defining moment of the friendship between Catherine and Gabriel via flashback and thus the necessary time for becoming attached to them is completely missed out. The reader has to be willing to take the author’s word that they love each other and given how short the (written) story is, the present part of their tale isn’t developed enough to offset the lack of knowledge. It’s a case of ‘they love each other? Great. Moving on…’ Put simply, this novella really needed to be a full length novel.

The history is well written except for a few spots wherein the English 1800s characters use American English. ‘You wrote me’ is perfectly acceptable in a book about Americans, but completely out of place in Georgian England. These spots are joined by a few proofreading errors that, due to the short length of the book, are very noticeable.

There is a mini reveal that occurs as the story descends towards the finish line that puts previously kind and caring characters in an unbelievable and somewhat nasty place. It’s not the idea of the scene – that is all well and good – but the execution does unfortunately mar what is otherwise a fair cast of characters.

What works in the novella is the way the secret of Gabriel’s heritage isn’t drawn out. Yes, it’s a novella so it couldn’t have taken long, but it is to the book’s credit that it is dealt with swiftly and without shock tactics. And good also is Gabriel’s relationship with his ward. It’s well written and is a nice touch.

A Christmas Renunion isn’t going to win any awards and it isn’t particularly believable, but it is firmly set in its season. The holiday is part and parcel of the story rather than just a backdrop and therefore it’s a fair offering if you’ve an hour or so free and want to feel more festive. That it’s historic surely helps.

Related Books

None yet.

Who’s To Blame If We Dislike A Book And/Or It Fails To Make An Impact)?

A photograph of Vanity Fair, Anna Karenina, and David Copperfield - books people might hope would make an impact on you

A while back, Maria said something in her comment on my post about finishing books you’re not enjoying that got me thinking. It was the following that I picked up on: “I think reviewing and saying I didn’t finish would make it look like it was the book’s fault while I usually assume that I was not in the right mood or I’m not in the book’s primary audience.”

I started thinking about to what we could – ‘should’ is too strong a word – attribute the lack of an impact a book has on us as individuals. I’ve used the word ‘blame’, but only so that my meaning is obvious. There isn’t anyone to blame as such because the thoughts, backgrounds, and reading contexts change per reader.

I want to consider target audience. If we (you or I) pick up a book and we’re not the target audience, and most certainly if we know we’re not the target audience, it could be argued that it’s more our fault than anyone else’s if we dislike it. We chose to read it. However there are some elements of books that tend to unite people whether or not they’re the target audience, so in that respect it’s more difficult to say it’s the ‘fault’ of the reader.

But, where elements are concerned (let’s use the love triangle as our example), we can’t exactly say it’s the author either. Yes, an author may choose to include a love triangle, but if that is what sells or is what the publisher is looking for, you can understand why they might have chosen to include it. It may indeed be the case that self-publishing means writers can now truly write what they want to write but we’re not quite ‘there’ yet overall.

Questions can be asked – should we have to be the target audience in order to read the book, to appreciate it? What about expanding horizons? What about reviewers and readers who are new to the genre and are reading it to analyse or dip their toe into the water and see if they like it?

Being new to a genre, trying something different, you’re possibly not the target audience or at least you’re not yet the target audience. There are books that don’t require prior knowledge but most assume you’re familiar with and like the genre. I know I was not and likely never will be the target audience for inspirational romance, but I’ve read and reviewed a couple of them. It could be said I’m to blame for choosing to read them; the background I brought to my reviews somewhat gelled with my little knowledge and hesitation (writing as objectively as possible is something else). I liked reading them, I liked gaining knowledge about the genre. But I was not the target audience.

Where reviews and general conversation are concerned, readers only ever read books targeted to them, the context and angles for discussion wouldn’t be as varied as they are. A reader may read a book about a historical period they aren’t really interested in and/or knowledgeable about, but sometimes those reviews and conversations contain points that readers who do know a lot about the subject might have missed. It’s the usefulness of the outsider opinion.

I think it’s important to acknowledge when you’re not the target (when it’s obvious to you) but it’d be impossible to suggest, for good, a fault one way or the other.

What, if any, responsibility does an author have? I think it would be unfair to suggest an author always (always, always) take the reader into account. It’s important for the author to be creative, to experiment and to be able to use the idea, ‘write the book you want to read’. (Of course aligning themselves with this thought could match what a reader wants to read.) If you’re not the target, there’s little the author can do; but clarity, fun, and the story, are all down to the author.

To think of everyone would limit an author, that they think of their audience is best.

I think that if anyway, the answer is another question. ‘What’. ‘What’ is to blame if we dislike a book? Answer: difference, individuality. And that’s the problem with the word ‘blame’. It isn’t blame because it’s good to be different.

What do you think about this subject?

My Fear Of Long Books

A photograph of James Clavell's Shogun alongside the shorter books Eleanor & Park, On The Holloway Road, and Before Ever After - the latter three are in a pile

I would apply the words ‘fear’ and ‘daunted’ to the way I feel when considering reading a long book, because if ‘daunted’ means you’re scared but still carry whatever it is out, then ‘fear’ is a bit more serious.

I often approach my shelves wanting to take out a long classic or other suitably long book. This is because of the idea, at least it’s my idea, that the longer the book, the longer the story and the more developed and engrossing the world. I suppose it’s correct to say that that’s the way I feel it should be, and of course it often is. It’s the same thought I have when I hanker for fantasy – I love the idea of it, what it represents, but do I at this particularly moment want to spend the time the complexities require? (I find fantasies complex and admire those who read many of them. This has a lot to do with my slow reading speed.)

Anyway. I have a fear of the time needed to read long books. There are a few reasons for this. Firstly comes my mindset: in the time it’s likely to take me to read Bleak House, I could be reading two or three shorter books. Forget yearly book count; I will have read and experienced more books in that same time if I read shorter books. The second reason is that I know the long book is likely to contain filler material of some sort. It’s almost inevitable. I know that if there is filler material which, let’s face it, is something that tends to be boring or at the least frustrating, I’m likely to put the book down and I’ll have difficulty picking it up again. As much as I can acknowledge that merely thinking this can cause it to happen, it’s a valid consideration.

Related to this, then, is the knowledge that deciding to read a long book is rather akin to confirming your place in a project. It’s saying you’re going to spend the next week/fortnight/month (a month in my case) devoted to this one book, because you will even if you read another at the same time. It’s saying that as much as you’ll be happy to be able to say you’ve read it, it is nevertheless still just one strike on your list.

So my perusal of my shelves goes like this: approach bookcase; spot long book and know I want to read it; I really do; realise it’ll take a while; look at other books; play a game of eenie meenie miney mo I’ve no intention of honouring the result of if it lands on the long book; choose the shorter book even if my gut tells me the longer one is the one for me right now.

And yes, the whole reading another book alongside anyway thing does mean this is silly. But I’ll still go along with my fear.

The only way for me to read long books is to just do it. I haven’t mastered it yet.

How do you feel about long books in this context?

Next Stop Procrastination #5

A screenshot of Rhett and Scarlett walking passed Tara in Gone With The Wind

Screen shot from Gone With The Wind, copyright © 1939 Selznick International Pictures.

I actually managed to forget I had more than a few links ready for this next post, so #6 shouldn’t be too long in the future. Here are interesting articles and blog posts I’ve found over the past couple of months – some old some new.

The links

She may not be a book blogger but the sentiment is very apt when Cassie tells us to have an opinion.

Ever eaten or had a drink soon after brushing your teeth? It’s awful, isn’t it? This is why.

What if age is nothing but a mindset?

Scarlett O’Hara’s Tara has been found in a random barn and it’s being restored.

And if you’re anything like me and miss news, Anthony Horowitz’s disagreement with his editor was included in a printed copy.

What’s piqued your interest recently?


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