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im-a-weekly-geekThe Weekly Geeks topic is historical fiction, with an interesting choice of questions to consider. But the more I contemplated it,  the more I realised that it’s not quite as straightforward an issue to comment on as I had thought.

My relationship to historical fiction has changed over the years; in my teens I really enjoyed Jean Plaidy (especially her series on (surprise, surprise) Mary Queen of Scots and Catherine de Medici), but as I studied more history (that’s what my degree is, after all) I pulled away from reading fiction set in the period I was most interested in – the sixteenth century. And that’s because the little things, the niggly not quite right stuff, the playing about with the facts for dramatic purposes began to annoy me more and more.

So most of the historical fiction I read is in the crime genre, particularly the Victorian period and even more particularly anything vaguely reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes.

But if you asked me to pick the one historical novel that really impressed me and that I have gone back to more than once, then I would have to say Katherine by Anya Seton. A huge, sprawling, romantic blockbuster of a novel which had a huge impact, and I say that as someone who doesn’t do romance at all. I first read it when I was fifteen and fell in love then and there with John of Gaunt, and nothing I’ve learned about him since has changed my mind.

blueberrygirlneilgaiman52269_f1I never know how best to review a picture book, especially one which is designed at least in part for children. They tend to be very short so it’s almost a cheat describing it as something that I’ve read, but they are always beautiful things that deserve to be celebrated, and that’s certainly the case here.

Blueberry Girl is a poem written by Neil Gaiman for his friend, the singer/songwriter Tori Amos when she was expecting her little girl. It’s a prayer wishing for all that’s good to be given to the child so that she grows up to fulfil her potential.

The poem itself is very moving, and is wonderfully supported by gloriously colourful illustrations by the great Charles Vess, filled with animals and flowers.

It’s a gorgeous book and one that I’m sure I’ll go back to; and it’s also my first read for The Dream King Challenge.

haltingstatecharlesstross52250_fHalting State is only my second Charles Stross novel but I think it’s already clear that he and I are going to have a long and productive relationship as I’ve thoroughly enjoyed both reads so far (see this review for my previous foray).

So we are in Edinburgh and Sergeant Sue Smith has been called to the office of Hayek Associates, a company which produces and supports online games. There has been  a robbery, but not one of your usual smash and grabs; this time the robbery has taken place inside a game, and has been carried out by a marauding but organised band of orcs, supported by a dragon.

Add to this mix Elaine Barnaby, a forensic accountant with practical skills in weilding very large swords in medieval role playing games, and Jack Reed, a games programmer who just happens to be unemployed at the right time and with the right skills set to assist in the investigation, and you have the three main characters in a tale of gaming, programming and international terrorism in a 21st century which is a bit of an advance on the one we recognise. And one of the questions is: when is a game not a game?

I loved this; I’ll admit it took me a day or two of typical reading-on-the-train commuter time to really get into the story but once I was housebound with the dreaded Head Cold 2: This Time It’s Personal, this book was exactly what I needed to escape from the depths of feeling sorry for myself. And what more can you ask?

I’ve never played World of Warcraft or any of its competitors but I can see the attraction it has, and although I’m sure you would get a lot of additional pleasure out of this story if you had a background in online gaming, I found I knew enough to make the story intelligible. The techy stuff was really interesting and was very happy with how the plot all worked out in the end. Another recommendation, and another read for the 42 Challenge.

Bride of the Book God

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Scottish, in my fifties, love books but not always able to find the time to read them as much as I would like. I’m based in London and happily married to the Book God.

I also blog at Bride of the Screen God (all about movies and TV) and The Dowager Bride, if you are interested in ramblings about stuff of little consequence

If you would like to get in touch you can contact me at brideofthebookgod (at) btinternet (dot) com.

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March 2009