READING THE SERIES AGAIN – Marilyn Armstrong

Many of my favorite authors aren’t writing much these days.

In some cases, like Jim Butcher, they seem to be trying to figure out where to go with the series. In others, they ended a series and haven’t quite found another that works. Yet.

And some of them are getting on in years and aren’t as prolific as they used to be. I can understand that. I’m not writing any books these days either.

Given that so many of my favorite authors haven’t been writing a lot recently, I’m rereading their existing series. It has been quite a while since I originally read the books in these series, so reading them again isn’t a big stretch. Although I remember the plot and how the story begins and ends, I’ve forgotten a lot of stuff that happened in the middle.

I’ve reread the “Lord of the Rings.”

I’ve reread Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series.

I’m rereading all of Jasper Fforde’s “Thursday Next” books, though not in order. To be fair, I didn’t read them in order the first time, either. I started in the middle and read backward and forward.

In between, I also reread Jodi Taylor’s “St. Mary’s” time travel series.

James Lee Burke, bless his heart just wrote a brand new Dave Robicheaux which I finished a couple of nights ago. It’s a good one, the best in a while. I always say that about his books, though because every book somehow seems better than the last. This probably means they are all great.

Finally, in two months, Jasper Fforde has a new book coming out. New characters, new plot. I hope I love it.

Gretchen Archer also has a new book coming out in March, right around my birthday. That will be the eighth Davis novel: “Double Agent.” She also thinks there will be one more by next November. You go, Gretchen!

My collection of Gretchen Archer’s books and cup, if you please

Jodi Taylor is prolific and I think she’ll have something soon. I wonder if she does anything but write? I don’t know how she can … and she does it so well.

Kim Harrison

Kim Harrison has a new one — new characters and story — just about ready for production. I’m reading it slowly and lovingly, a couple of chapters each night, but I’m also listening to Jasper Fforde’s “One Of Our Thursdays Is Missing.” Because listening is what helps me fall asleep. So I read Kim Harrison, then, I close the book and listen to Fforde.

What in the world would I do if I didn’t read?

WIRES – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Electric

I can hide in the woods and live without wi-fi. I wouldn’t like it, but I could do it. I could shudder with fear and use an outhouse. I would hate it, but I can (and have) done it. I can easily live without a cell phone, half-heartedly without a computer … but without electricity?

It is over.

Recently, I read (again, but in Audible with Garry), George R. Stewart’s immortal “Earth Abides.” I have heard some people say “Oh, the technology is so old.” Clearly, they missed the point of the story.

It simply doesn’t matter what your technology is, was, or might have become. When the power goes out, it’s finished.

The book was written in the late 1940s, but technology is barely mentioned except to point out how it is decaying, rusting, breaking. It doesn’t make any difference because when the electric failed, everything else went down the tubes.

Whether it’s wi-fi, television, boiler, or the pump which pushes the water from well to faucets, the bottom line is electricity.

Without it? It doesn’t matter how advanced you were. How many of us could fix a generator? Not the one in your house but a big one, like Hoover Dam? Or fix a fallen wire? Or even reconnect the power lines to our own houses?

In “Earth Abides,” in a single generation, all technology is gone from the earth. A very few cars drive, in the rare case where they can find one that has gas in it and hasn’t rusted to nothing. Weapons don’t work and no one remembers how to read. No one is even interested in reading. The author, a university academic, wants desperately to have readers so they can rediscover what has been lost, but in the end, only “Earth Abides.”

The last time our power went out, we were in the dark for little more than an hour and a half, but it felt like a lifetime. It reminded me — again — that no matter what we invent, no matter how clever we get with technology, in the end, it runs on power.

Until such time as Earth has a viable alternative to massive power generation, electricity is the end of the line for our technological structure.

It is something to think about.

BOOK REVIEW: CHRISTMAS EVE DAUGHTER – A TIME TRAVEL NOVEL by Elyse Douglas

The Christmas Eve Daughter: A Time Travel Novel
by Elyse Douglas

As a time-travel story, this is not quite it. The story absolutely includes time travel, but it’s what we in the science fiction world refer to as “tourist time travel” where there is no technology involved and no “other world” surprises, either. Time travel is not what the story is about, but rather simply a means of “getting there and back.” It’s just transportation, not the storyline.

In this kind of tale, the ‘traveler’ steps through a (suddenly appearing out of nowhere) wormhole or discovers a magic medallion, a lantern, a piece of clothing, a special page in a book … and miraculously finds her or himself in the past. After which, it’s time for romance.

Everyone lives happily ever after.

This being book two in the series, happily ever after is interrupted by the discovery that the man who came from the past has a previously unknown daughter. Will the magic time-travel lantern work one more time? Can the beautiful couple from modern New York go back in time and rescue the young woman?

This is not science fiction. It’s a romance novel with that includes time-travel. In fact, the formula for the book is identical to every romance I have ever read, except instead of traveling to a different physical location on Earth, the characters — all of whom are beautiful — travel through time.

As a former editor of the Doubleday Romance Library, I know a formula when I see one. As this kind of writing goes, the book is silkily written and well-edited. Very clean. If you are a fancier of romantic fiction, you will like it. It adds just a hint of “magic” to a traditional story.

Elyse Douglas is a good writer with a smooth touch. If I were still editing the library, she would get my vote.


About Elyse DouglasChristmas Eve Daughter: Time Travel Novel by Elyse Douglas

Elyse Douglas is the pen name for the husband and wife writing team of Elyse Parmentier and Douglas Pennington. Elyse began writing poems and short stories at an early age and graduated with a degree in English Literature. Douglas began writing novels in college while studying music at the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music.  He traveled the world as a professional pianist for many years.  He has also worked as a copywriter and corporate manager.

Some of Elyse Douglas’ novels include The Christmas Eve Letter (A Time Travel Novel), Christmas for Juliet, The Summer Letters, The Christmas Diary, The Summer Diary, and The Lost Mata Hari Ring. They live in New York City.

Website: www.elysedouglas.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/douglaselyse
Facebook: www.facebook.com/elyse.authorsdouglas

Buy Christmas Eve Daughter: Time Travel Novel by Elyse Douglas

Amazon
BarnesandNoble
Indiebound
BookDepository

BACK TO THE DRESDEN WORLD: READING THE SERIES AGAIN – Marilyn Armstrong

I really missed Jim Butcher and Harry Dresden. I missed Harry, the only wizard listed in Chicago’s telephone book. I miss his huge furry dog Mouse. And his gigantic cat. I  miss his magical Chicago and the strange island in the middle of Lake Michigan.

The only new writing he has put out in recent years is a collection of short stories, which I bought and read. And then, I began the entire series from the beginning, books one through 15 because I live in hope that someday, he will decide to write one last book about Harry Dresden. Just one more.

Including spineI am a Harry Dresden and Jim Butcher fan, so there’s no way for me to discuss any of these books with even a semblance of neutrality. If you also love the series, the enchanted world of Harry Dresden and Jim Butcher … I’m with you.

In the next to last Dresden book, “Ghost Story,” Harry was neither entirely alive nor quite dead. It was a difficult excursion for Harry’s fans. I liked it well enough, though it was different from any previous Harry Dresden adventure. I was sure it was an important bridge to the next phase of Harry’s world and I was right.

“Cold Days” is more satisfying. Although Harry gets pulverized (as usual), I’m consoled knowing Harry will survive what would kill an ordinary mortal. He has, after all, already survived death. Earlier books ended with more resolution than the last few. Now, each book is an episode in a continuing storyline. “Cold Days” brings Harry back — alive, this time. He is different. Changed, less careless of life having lost it … but as Winter Knight, he is powerful in new ways. This is just as well because his foes are stronger than ever and they aren’t going away.

Jim Butcher is brilliant.

He extracts Harry from impossible predicaments in which he faces horrendous odds, then adroitly uses these apparently hopeless situations to move the story in a new direction that will become the next book. Nothing is superfluous. It’s all part of a giant jigsaw puzzle, a piece of the full picture to be revealed in a subsequent installment.

I love the Dresden universe. My world has more than enough evil to keep an army of wizards busy, but the evil on this plane is likely to consist of grey bureaucrats, smarmy politicians. Fighting them is like trying to punch a hole in jello. You can’t beat them; they have no substance. Harry fights evil for me. He takes his lumps and then some, but he’s out there fighting for justice, even when it seems he’s taken a wrong turn. Despite appearances, Harry is never bad, though he is stubborn, too wedded to his own opinions. He has always been a poor listener and this failure has cost him dearly.

He listens better these days.

Harry is changing and growing. He’s painfully (in the most literal sense) aware of his mortality and fragility. He knows he’s made terrible mistakes he can never set right. He’s not cocksure anymore. He has become more of a planner. He is less inclined to charge headlong into danger unless it is the only course. Mindless violence is no longer his default setting. All to the good.

I’m sensing a climactic conclusion to the series coming. I wish the series would go on forever, but Jim Butcher has said it will be 20 books and a trilogy. I’m not sure if the trilogy is part of the 20 books or in addition to it. I keep meaning to ask. Maybe I’ll just wait and see.

Harry Dresden

I hope — by now — the next installment of the Dresden Files is nearing publication. I’ll be waiting and ready to read when it comes around! Meanwhile, if you haven’t gotten to this one, don’t miss it. It’s rich, complex and I promise it will grab you and take you for a ride you won’t forget.

I’m now finishing the last full book – Skin Game. I think there needs to be at least one more. Please Jim, one more. Just one. After that, I’ll stop begging.

He has his own website where you can find all his books. It’s called Jim Butcher. All his books are available at Amazon and everywhere they sell books, including Audiobooks.

BOOKISH QUESTIONS AND ODDLY BRIEF ANSWERS – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango plucked these from the blog of Melanie at who picked them up from Teresa. Interesting book questions for those of us who read.

The Questions:

1-Have you ever re-gifted a book that you’ve been gifted?
2-Have you ever claimed to have read a book when you haven’t?
3-Have you ever borrowed a book and not returned it?
4-Have you ever read a series out-of-order?
5-Have I ever spoiled a book for someone?
6-Have you ever skipped a chapter or a section of a book?
7-Have you ever bad-mouthed a book you actually liked?

And now, the answers – because I can discuss books and remain sane.

1-Have you ever re-gifted a book that you’ve been gifted?

No. Everyone I know is desperate to get rid of books, not collect them. We are all rather bookish people and books come to you like iron filings to a magnet.

2-Have you ever claimed to have read a book when you haven’t?

No. If I haven’t read it, I will say I haven’t read. Sometimes I’ll even explain why I haven’t read it. Usually, I have a reason.

3-Have you ever borrowed a book and not returned it?

No, but I’ve given away books and hoped I never got them back. Oddly enough, they always come back.

4-Have you ever read a series out-of-order?

Sure. I try to read them in order, but sometimes, you read a book, realize there are other books in the series and you go back and read them.

5-Have I ever spoiled a book for someone?

Not intentionally or that I know about.

6-Have you ever skipped a chapter or a section of a book?

I’ve put down books and never picked them up again. If I don’t like it, I won’t bother to finish it. I have read a lot of books and I’ve never been embarrassed about not reading another one.

7-Have you ever bad-mouthed a book you actually liked?

No. But I have complimented books and given moderately good reviews to books I really didn’t like. Authors are sensitive. I hate hurting their feelings and just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean someone else might not love it. Also, believe it or not, authors read reviews. Even mine.

UNDAUNTED ANGELIQUE – Marilyn Armstrong

“Nounou,” inquired Angelique, “Why did Giles de Retz kill so many children?”

With these words, one of the world’s greatest series of historical fiction begins. It is a translation from French. I have been told that much was lost in a not-very-good translation. But I don’t read well enough in French. Once, I did, but that was a very long time ago.

angelique book cover

Nothing will change the way I feel about these books. Most were written long years ago. I read the first of them when I was 13. I still have the book, though the binding is broken and the pages are beginning to turn to dust.

The first book was published in 1957 and I read it in 1960. In those days, I lived in books. I didn’t have friends. I was too different. I’ve always been out of step. Sometimes, a lot, occasionally almost catching up with my peers. But back then … I was weird.

Then I met Angelique.


The fifth child of an impoverished country nobleman, Angélique de Sancé grows up in the Poitou marshlands, a region known as the “Green Venice”, halfway between the ocean and the forests. She is a free child, as one with the forest and the marshes, discovering nature’s healing secrets with the help of the witch Mélusine. Her logical destiny would be to marry a poor country nobleman, have children and spend her life fighting for a meager subsistence.

Destiny has other plans in store for her. At 17, when she returns from the convent where she has been getting an education, she finds herself betrothed to the wealthy count of Toulouse, Joffrey de Peyrac. He is 12 years her senior, lame, scarred and rumored to be a wizard.

from the review by Harvey Adkins


Angélique’s life and adventures inspired me and gave me courage.

angelique pages book

Thus the story begins. In subsequent volumes, they will take you through most of the world of Louis XIV. Joffrey becomes the love of Angélique’s life. After he is burned at the stake for heresy (and for being too politically powerful), Angélique finds herself homeless, penniless, with babies to protect in the underworld of Paris. Yet she rises up from the gutters back to the glittering court of Louis XIV. Confronts him on the murder of her husband, rebels against him, leads a group of Huguenots to the New World. Builds a colony, fights emissaries of the church and King to retain her freedom. Along the way, she has children — from a variety of fathers, including one resulting from rape — and one is murdered.

With all the power of Crown and Church arrayed against her, Angélique finds a way through and emerges victorious. Bowed, but never beaten. Her defeats are temporary setbacks, her triumphs change the world.

She is deathlessly beautiful. If you are a woman taking on the world, it’s never bad to have golden hair and hypnotic green eyes. But Angélique doesn’t win the day using sex. When she leads, she carries a gun and a sword. She will kill in defense of her own (and does). She will fight for her family, her home, her beliefs.

She became much more than a fictional character to me. At a time when female role models were few and far between, Angélique was fearless. Unstoppable. No simpering lady of fashion, she was tough. Smart. She suffered the worst life could dish out. She faced down unspeakable challenges. And there were casualties.

Back in the real world, author Anne Golan was fighting her publisher for the rights to her books.

Anne Golon was born 17 December 1921 as Simone Changeux in Toulon, France. She published her first novel at 18 as Joëlle Danterne. During World War II, she traveled by bicycle through France and Spain writing under various pen-names. She helped create France Magazine. Was sent to Africa as a journalist, where she met Vsevolod Sergeïvich Goloubinoff, her husband, Serge Golon.

angelique french editionThey collaborated on Angélique. Anne wrote. Serge did the considerable research required by these surprisingly accurate books. The first book in the series was an astounding success. The books were credited to Serge and Anne Golon, (Sergeanne Golon), the names having been merged by publishers who were reluctant to print books written by women.

In 1972, Anne and Serge Golon went to Canada to continue research. Anne wrote Angélique and the Ghosts. Serge died.

Anne continued writing and raising her 4 children. Between 1972 and 1985, she wrote four more books. While battling Hachette for unpaid royalties and rights, Anne Golon lived in extreme poverty. She finally won, leaving her sole owner of the works.

These are the books which were translated into English:

Angélique, The Marquise of the Angels
Angélique: The Road to Versailles (US and the UK with the 1st volume, Angélique)
Angélique and the King
Angélique and the Sultan (aka, Angélique in Barbary)
Angélique in Revolt
Angélique in Love
The Countess Angélique
The Temptation of Angélique (In Canada as: The Temptation of Angélique 1: The Jesuit Trap, The Temptation of Angélique 2: The Downfall of Goldbeard)
Angélique and the Demon
Angélique and the Ghosts.

The English translation of this series stopped abruptly with Angélique and the Ghosts. Anne Golon’s fans — like their fictional heroine — wanted to know what had happened to the author. We found her, in Paris, alive, well, and still writing. We learned — as of August, 2009 — there were three yet-untranslated books already in the series:

Angélique à Quebec
Angélique: Route de L’Espoir
Victoire d’Angélique

Ms. Golon also announced 2 more books: Royaume de France, (“Kingdom of France”) to follow Victoire, and a 15th and final volume, yet untitled. None of these has been translated. English-language readers — like me — have waited more than 35 years. An entire lifetime during which I have gone from adolescent to a senior citizen.

Anne-Golon

I’ve read thousands of books during these long years, but never lost hope for translations of the new Angélique book. Anne Golon is well into her 90s, but like Angélique herself, nothing short of Death himself can stop this remarkable woman.

The Angélique fan group to which I belonged fell apart some years back. There were deaths. Surviving members squabbled. You can still find information at Angélique Books.

It’s not easy to find intact copies of the books, but if you are interested, don’t give up. Amazon has some. ABE Books often has copies. And there’s eBay.

Maybe there will be new copies eventually. I hope to see them republished. Soon would be good, because none of us are getting any younger.


July 2017: I just read that Anne Golon passed away on Friday at the age of 95. She was writing until the end. She inspired me as a girl and instilled the belief I could do anything a man could do. She was a wind behind my back for a lifetime. If you read French, there is an article in Figaro here.

SHARE YOUR WORLD – Marilyn Armstrong

Share Your World -10-22-18

QUESTIONS FOR THIS WEEK

Credit for this first question goes to Teresa of The Haunted Wordsmith.   She asked for TEN books, in her challenge, so the SYW folks got off a bit easy..)

Name two books that have influenced you and share how.  
O Jerusalem: Day by Day and Minute by Minute, the Historic Struggle for Jerusalem and the Birth of Israel by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre

I first read the book when I lived in New York. It’s a great book for anyone who likes history. But later I read the same book when I was actually living in Jerusalem. When they wrote “… and then they charged up the hill …” and I looked out my living room window and realized — that WAS the hill. Suddenly, I realized there’s a no comparison between wars fought thousands of miles away and a war fought in your backyard.


Angelique, by Ann Golan.

I was 13 when I first read the book and in my fifties when I read the last one that had been translated into English.

With all the power of Crown and Church arrayed against her, Angélique finds a way through every imaginable personal tragedy and emerges victorious. Bowed, but never beaten, her defeats are temporary setbacks. Her triumphs change the world.

She is deathlessly beautiful, but Angélique doesn’t win the day using sex.

When she leads, she carries a gun and a sword. She will kill in defense of her own and does. She fights for her family, her home, her beliefs, her rights.

She became much more than a fictional character to me. At a time when female role models were few and far between, Angélique was fearless. Unstoppable. No simpering lady of fashion, she was tough. Smart. She suffered the worst life could dish out. She faced down unspeakable challenges. And there were casualties. She became a kind of mystical image of perfection for me. A dream woman whose feet were firmly planted on the earth.

In your opinion, where is the line between art and not art? 

I don’t think there is a line. Each person has their own version of “the line” between what is and isn’t art, but it’s not a real thing. It’s just where each individual puts it.

This doesn’t mean that I like everything. I don’t. There are many things deemed artistic that I find repulsive, even ugly … but I don’t define art.

Two Acoma seed pots

But on the other hand, if someone gives me a museum, I know what I wouldn’t put in it!

Trivia for Halloween:   What item is banned only during Halloween from 12am October 31st to 12pm November 1st in Hollywood California?   

Silly String. And I don’t know why either.

What is something that really annoys you but doesn’t bother most people? 

Stupid people. But that bothers a lot of people. People who use bad grammar — but that hardly makes me unique. Actually, I don’t think I have an answer for this one. I think I get annoyed by the same stuff that annoys most people. The only difference is that I write about it.

Instead of our usual gratitude question, I’m posing this one for this week: What or who in your life brings you the most joy?

Garry. Maybe it has always been Garry. He aggravates me, annoys me, frustrates me. He’s the soul of my soul and heart of my heart.