Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Helga Recommends: Patricia Veryan

My mother was a great fan of historical romance, and I happily followed her lead. There's pretty much nothing I'd rather read than a good historical--one with the right mix of historical detail and relationship-building. Ideally, a book that reflects the author's interest in and research about the historical period and not one riddled with obvious anachronisms and modern characters transposed onto historical settings. The less said about those, the better.

Let me get to the point. If you like Georgette Heyer's historical romances, you should try Patricia Veryan. If you like historical romance with elements of swashbuckling adventure (à la Scarlet Pimpernel), you should read Patricia Veryan. If you enjoy historical romances with characters that pop up in multiple books, especially series that end with rogues becoming heroes, Veryan could be a good fit for you as well. I am a Heyer fan, but I'm a Veryan fanatic. Every time I visit a new library, I go to the Vs in the fiction section to see how that library's collection measures up.* As you can see from the picture below, I am deadly earnest about this recommendation.

My personal collection includes my mother's copies as well,
hence the stack of duplicates on the right. 
From the late 1970s to the early 2000s, Veryan published more than thirty historical romances set in the Georgian and Regency periods. Most of her books are connected to four different series: the Golden Chronicles (set in 1746 in the aftermath of the Jacobite rebellion); the Tales of the Jewelled Men (featuring several characters from the Golden Chronicles); and the Regency-era Sanguinet Saga and Riddle series.

Why Do I Love Them?

This was surprisingly hard to quantify. To me, Veryan's books are a perfect blend of humor, romance, action, adventure, swashbuckling, and period detail. Perhaps it's because there are always interesting and life-threatening situations that put the hero and heroine in relief? There are very few books that I re-read, but these are on top of my list. I would be perfectly fine stranded on a desert island with only Veryan series and Oreos to sustain me. In short: my literary catnip.

This scene is from The Tyrant (which I was just re-reading the other day), in which the hero and heroine become engaged to hide the fact that they were aiding a fugitive. They hope to extricate themselves from the engagement once the danger is past, but in the meantime:
Carruthers swooped down and planted a kiss on her cheek.
She jumped back, saying indignantly, "I thought it was agreed there was to be none of that!"
He shook his head at her. "You'd make a poor spy, Miss Ramsay. You seem quite incapable of understanding that this is a most deadly predicament you have got me into."
"Of course I understand, but--"
"It is of vital import that we keep up the pretence if we are to come out of this alive."
She glanced around. "Certainly. But there is no one here to--"
"One of the first things I learned in my military career," he said gravely, "was that one does not fail to post sentries merely because there is no sign of the enemy."
Phoebe regarded him suspiciously, then started up the stairs. She halted on the third step and looked back. He stood there, watching her. She fancied to detect a quickly suppressed grin, but then he said "I believe we have taken sufficient precautions for tonight, ma'am. Mustn't overdo it." (68) 
Like Heyer's, Veryan's books are also "green light" reads--there are only a few (very tasteful) sex scenes to be found throughout the series. Perfect for when you've got an elderly lady at your reference desk who doesn't like those "modern" romances.

Where Do I Start?

If you're looking for a one-shot, test-the-waters book, try The Wagered Widow, Married Past Redemption, or Some Brief Folly. Both Practice to Deceive and Time's Fool are good series openers, although they aren't my favorite books in their respective series. Love Alters Not is another fun book, if you don't care about jumping in to the middle of a series.

Several of my personal favorites (Sanguinet's Crown and The Mandarin of Mayfair top this long list) are many books into a series and should be read as a culmination of plots from the preceding books.

Books to avoid unless you become a die-hard fan: The Lord and the Gypsy, The Mistress of Willowvale, Give All to Love. The Riddle series was her last, and I haven't re-read it multiple times like I have the other three.

Unfortunately, Veryan's books are very hard to find. Her last new book was published in 2002. They are not easily found in used bookstores--trust me, I check every time, even though I own all but a few of them. Georgette Heyer's books have recently been reissued in lovely trade editions. Let's hope for the same for Veryan's work in the near future. In the meantime, check your local library.

Other things I've recommended:
Paper Books

*My own library does very well, with 16 Veryan titles on the shelf. I check them out regularly to make sure they don't get weeded.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

What is #librarylife?

Once upon a time, there was a project called Library Day in the Life. Between 2008 to 2012, it was a semi-annual event coordinated by Bobbi Newman in which librarians from all kinds of libraries shared glimpses of their work life through Twitter and other platforms. And it was fun! My Library Day in the Life posts are here. Newman decided to shut down the project, but some of us still want to share what we're doing at work. I've written in this space about why I think it's important to share my work as a librarian.

Many people already participate in and follow the #saturdaylibrarian and #sundaylibrarian hashtags on Twitter, but what about the rest of the week? That's where #librarylife comes in. It's a hashtag that lets users share a little bit about what they're doing at work for the purposes of fostering community between librarians from many different kinds of libraries. As with the weekend tags, it's a good way to find out what other people are doing--and useful for finding new librarians to follow.

So, when you're on Twitter recounting your storytime success, listing some of the things that you never learned in library school, talking about the interactions you're having with patrons (good and bad), or just contemplating how much you love the sweet, sweet sound of microfilm rewinding, try tagging it with #librarylife!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Meditation on my 2013 Year in Reading

It's hard to believe that this is the fifth year I've done a post like this. I feel like I've done a good job taking control of my reading, at least in terms of tracking what happens, which has made it easier to compile stats. And who doesn't love stats? Don't answer that.

Read: 121 (including 24 audiobooks and 15 ebooks), about the same number as 2012. Goodreads says this is slightly over 40,000 pages. The longest book by far was Brandon Sanderson's The Way of Kings, which clocked in at 1,007 pages. More than half of the books I read were romances, so I'm going to break that down into more categories this year.

Romance, general: 18
Romance, historical: 17
Romance, lesbian: 17
Romance, erotic: 14
Fantasy: 21
Young Adult: 9 (4 Fantasy, 5 Science Fiction)
Manga/Graphic Novels: 6
Nonfiction: 4
Mystery/Suspense: 4
Middle Grade: 3
Science Fiction: 3
Historical Fiction: 2
General Fiction: 2
Picture books read to Little G: still ∞

My goal for 2013 was to read 125 books, and I didn't quite make it there, despite spending November reading furiously. I would have easily reached my goal if not for the siren call of fanfiction, which reappeared in my life at the end of 2013 after a long absence. In any case, I think 125 is the outer limit of what I can read in one year--not surprising, since it requires reading at a rate of more than two books a week. For the first time in many years, I didn't read any Young Adult books with LGBTQ emphasis. I'm not sure why, but nothing seemed to grab my attention. Some of the YA books I read refused to address LGBTQ issues at all. Last year was very light on nonfiction as well.

Compared to 2012, the number of audiobooks went down slightly, from 29 to 24, and the number of ebooks went up from 10 to 15. This is at least partially due to the fact that I chose the audio format to plow through some long works, such as the aforementioned Way of Kings. It takes a long time to get through 36 CDs, even with a half hour commute. On this front, I'm pleased to announce that I picked up an assignment, mid-year, as an audiobook reviewer for Library Journal. So far it's been very enjoyable!

My Fifty Shades of Grey readalike project (recap forthcoming) was the primary reason that I read so many erotic romances, and my Reading Roulette project (recap also forthcoming) led to reading several entire series--mostly fantasy and romance. This year I decided to look at the breakdown between male and female authors among the books I read, and the outcome was very heavily skewed toward female authors. I read 98 books by women, 22 books by men, and one book, Freedom & Necessity, that was co-written by a man and woman. I am completely on board with this trend and hope it continues in 2014. I'm not rejecting books written by men out of hand, but there tend to be more female characters in books written by women, and I'm past the point of wanting to read so much about dudes.

Looking forward, I am going to continue my Reading Roulette project into the new year. It's really expanded my horizons in terms of making me read things I would never choose on my own, which can only help me when it comes time for Reader's Advisory. I'm also going to try to participate in the Year in Reading, kicking off in January with a book from the year I was born. Some of the likely candidates so far: The Silmarillion (*sigh*), The Thorn Birds, and Agatha Christie: An Autobiography. I took my reading goal down to a more reasonable 100 books, as I am hoping to write some as well as read this year.

What were your favorite reads of 2013? What's your plan for 2014?

My favorite reads of the year:

Beautiful Bastard, Christina Lauren
Deep Deception, Cathy Pegau
Etiquette & Espionage and Curtsies & Conspiracies, Gail Carriger
For Darkness Shows the Stars and Across a Star-Swept Sea, Diana Peterfreund
Hyperbole and a Half, Allie Brosh
The Kat Series (Kat, IncorrigibleRenegade MagicStolen Magic), Stephanie Burgis
The Luckiest Lady in London, Sherry Thomas
A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent, Marie Brennan
The Republic of Thieves, Scott Lynch
The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion
A Woman Entangled, Cecilia Grant

Meditation on my 2012 Year in Reading (117 books)
Meditation on my 2011 Year in Reading (62 books)
Meditation on my 2010 Year in Reading (51 books)
Meditation on my 2009 Year in Reading (87 books)

Meditation Index