Book review: Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale

Flowers from the StormFlowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had some very complicated feelings about this book.

I’m generally a huge fan of Kinsale’s work. The Prince of Midnight is, hands-down, one of my favorite romances, which I reread fairly often.

This has some things in common with that novel, particularly, the jerky hero who is “brought low” by his disability, finds love with an awesome, yet prickly intelligent woman, learns to be less of a jerk, and moves on to a better life with an understanding that being an asshole to everyone you meet isn’t actually a good thing. So, the “overcoming toxic masculinity through disability” trope, if that’s a thing.

In this novel, Christian (an unrepentant rake) has a stroke and is institutionalized because he is thought to be mad. His family is trying to disinherit him by having him declared incompetent.

Archimedea (Maddy), the Quaker daughter of his mathematical partner (Maddy’s father is blind), ends up as his caregiver through A Series Of Events. She eventually has to wrestle with her faith as she falls in love with someone outside of her community.

As much as I bought their initial attraction/different worlds thing, I had great difficulty with the relationship development itself. Christian is, mostly, still a selfish jerk. And while he is getting better, he is still predominantly entitled (from his perspective) to Maddy’s time, love, and care, over the care of her blind father in many cases.

Maddy didn’t feel to me like she had a ton of agency here; maybe that’s because her decision to care for Christian is initially a religious awakening, which then gets tied into her having the hots for him. But she never feels as though she is choosing for :her: — she moves from choosing because it is a Calling to “but he needs me.” (In contrast, Sunshine from The Prince of Midnight is very prickly, but she makes her own choices in relation to Maitland; and Maitland does not feel entitled to her love or care, even after he has rescued her from a cult).

Now, Maddy gets the fairy tale ending of being wed to a Duke, which means many more resources to help people and care for her father, so it’s not like she’s ending up with a horrible deal, here.

Interestingly, Christian does recover some from his stroke (but is not fully cured!) through Maddy’s care. They win, and there is a cost, and all is not perfect, which I actually LIKE.

But this is one of those books where I can’t decide if I enjoyed it overall or not. There are some really great things going on, and yet some of them made me uncomfortable, and I need to sit with that.

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Book review: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Jonathan Strange & Mr NorrellJonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a really long book. I don’t say so as a criticism, more as a warning to readers for the experience to expect.

If I had to describe this to someone, I’d call it “Middlemarch with magic, but mostly about men. Not a lot happens.” Again, not a criticism. Middlemarch is one of the most important novels in the English language, full of deep thematic layers and characterization that change and shift as one rereads from different perspectives. Arguably, not a lot happens in Middlemarch. And yet, the portrayals of the shifts in lives lived are seismic.

This novel is similar. I began reading it as an ebook, then switched to a paper copy because the footnotes were much easier to navigate in paper. (Also, the paper copy is printed in a period appropriatesque Baskerville font). The irony of needing to switch formats is extra rich, as this novel includes lots of 19th century printing jokes (including ascribing several seminal magic books to George Eliot’s publisher).

This is a slow novel. It is, like the Victorian literature it is aping, structured as though it was being serialized and the author was paid by the page. Linguistically sharp and in the Victorian mode, this is a novel about the return of English Magic, and long-lost connections to Faerie. It is also about human folly despite intent–how we treat each other well (or don’t), how we hurt each other (or don’t), and the ways in which we feel safe (or don’t), all exacerbated by magical access.

This is not a plot heavy work; big battle scenes are not laid out in great detail, and much of the magic is described through the perspective of the caster. For Norrell, it’s a lot of dry scholarly references; for Strange, it it instinct and effect, with little explanation of the mechanisms. The central conflict of the novel is that neither Norrell nor Strange can be happy or truly effective without the other’s approach to magic, despite the fact that they do not get on particularly well.

So, if you are looking for something contemplative and slow, with a lot of wry commentary on human nature, this is for you. If you want whiz-bang action, not so much.

I reread Middlemarch every 10 years or so, and get something different from it every time. I suspect this novel has the same capacity, but I won’t be able to tell for another decade.

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Extra! – Gallifrey One Love

New Verity! Extra!

verityextragally2017It’s our annual recorded-live-in-person Gallifrey One Extra! Join Deb, Erika, and Katrina as we tiredly gush over how lovely this year’s Gally has been.

Were you at Gally this year? Please share your fond memories in the comments!


Download or listen now (runtime 32:03) 

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Verity! Episode 129 – The Doctor as a Valentine

New Verity!

verityepisode129No, we’re not talking about the Black Guardian, it’s (just past) Valentine’s Day! Join Deb, Erika, Lynne, and Tansy as we celebrate the holiday-of-love by discussing the Doctor as a romantic figure. Not all of us are equally comfortable with that notion, but as always, that leads to a fascinating discussion.

What are your thoughts on the Doctor as a heart-throb? Let us know in the comments!


Also covered:

Bonus links:
Erika’s Gally schedule
Kat’s Gally schedule

Download or listen now (runtime 1:13:07) 

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Episode 128 – Lynne’s Love: Frocks and Fireplaces

New Verity! In which I GUSH about Girl in the Fireplace, my fave story ever.

verityepisode128It’s high time we started on the love part of our year of love and lasts. Join Deb, Erika, Liz, and Lynne as we cover Lynne’s love, “The Girl in the Fireplace”. Liz and Deb do some LJ fanthropology, Erika has a change of heart, and Lynne gushes about France and frocks. Of course we do our usual random-tangent thing too. X-men fighting leprechauns, anyone?

What did (and do) you think of this ep? Do you love it like Lynne or hate it like an old-school Rose/10 shipper? Or somewhere in between? Let us know in the comments!


Also covered:

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Book review: Valentine Rogues

Valentine RoguesValentine Rogues by Cindy Holbrook

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Finished this yesterday.

Once in a while, I will read an Old Skool style romance to remind me of why I prefer newer, more inclusive romance. This collection of novellas from around 2000 (which I totally grabbed from my pile of free stuff from a friend because LOOK AT THAT COVER) is a good example. It’s mostly fine, but there are little things that kick me out because the stuff I tend to prefer Doesn’t Do That Anymore.

So, for instance, secondary characters in a couple of these were kind of cardboard. I tend to enjoy the any-point-of-entry group series (sets of siblings or friends who all get their own books), so thin secondary characters irritate me now.

Slutshaming– having a flirtatious character (the sister of our protag) who is acting out referred to as “whorish” really did not work for me. Yes, she crossed the line (that was her plot job). But having the hero call her a whore is not really what I would have gone with in the scenario where you want me to LIKE him. There are ways to express social displeasure with out doing that.

Stereotypical “high drama Italian courtesan” was really not my cup of tea, although I’m glad her character got rehabilitiated after our main couple got together. Also, there was some deeply classist stuff that just threw me off.

Again, most of this was perfectly passable, and each contained an Important Valentine’s Day Ball Scene with Lovely Frocks. But the things that kicked me out outweighed the things I stay for.

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Special Collections in Non-ARL libraries: Our List So Far

Reminder! I am still seeking rare books and special collections from organizations that aren’t members of the Association for Research Libraries!

Confessions of a Curator, Editor, Geek

Earlier this year, I launched a crowd-sourced listing of libraries that work with rare books and special collections, but are not members of the Association for Research Libraries. A lot of our literature surveys ARL libraries because a list exists. My thought was that we should have a list of NON-ARL libraries that could be surveyed about their experiences, too.

Here is the list of institutions so far.

American Bookbinders Museum
Amherst College
Archdiocese of Philadelphia
Autry Museum of the American West
Barnard College
Beloit College
Benedictine University
Berea College
Bowdoin College
California State University, Chico
Carleton College
Carson-Newman University
Chemical Heritage Foundation
Claremont Colleges Library
Clark University
Colby College
Colgate University
College of Physicians of Philadelphia
Congregational Library and Archives
Connecticut College
Davidson College
DePaul University
Drexel University College of Medicine
Earlham College
Fairfield Museum and History Center
Folger Shakespeare Library
Free Library of Philadelphia
George Mason University

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Our First Repeat! – Episode 46 – Communication Breakdown


verityepisoderepeat46Because of the emotional ups and (mostly downs) of the last week in the world, the Verities did not have it in them to do a podcast–about love or anything else. Instead, we’re releasing our first re-run. Join Deb and Erika as we give a short intro explaining why we’ve chosen to re-release this particular episode. At this time in history, we feel it’s really important.

The conversation Deb talks about in the intro starts at 49:12, so feel free to skip to that if you only want to hear the truly relevant bit. We hope you enjoy!

As always, comments are welcome–especially messages of hope, perseverance, and love.


As published July 16, 2014

This week we do lots of talking about villains who don’t. Join Deb, Erika, Lynne, and Tansy as we discuss what makes silent villains so creepy and effective. We also discover just how many Moffat-baddies are…

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Extra! – In Defence Of … The Gavel Edition

New Verity! Extra! IN DEFENSE OF!

verityextraido6As promised, we’re starting off the year’s Extras with some fun! Join Deb, Erika, Katrina, and Tansy for another edition of Verity!’s most popular gameshow–“In Defense Of”! We do our best at defending the indefensible within Doctor Who…with varying results. It’s certainly a hoot though!


Download or listen now (runtime 42:30) 

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Verity! 127 – Goodbye Martha Jones

New Verity!

verityepisode127We start our year of love and lasts with the last (regular) appearance with one of the most underrated new Who companions, Martha! Join Deb, Erika, Katrina, and Lynne as we talk about Martha as a companion and how much we all love (or learn to love) how she said goodbye to the Doctor. We also spend a good deal of time talking about why.

How do you feel about Martha and her send-off? Let us know in the comments!

Also covered:

Down load or listen now (runtime 1:25:35) 

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