Medieval vs Renaissance

So, those of you who know me know that I have a distinct affection for history. I will not say I am a history buff, but I am interested in almost anything historical – within reason, please, lol. Beginning early in my life, I have been fascinated by the thoughts, activities and stories of those who have passed before me. This includes ancient history through to modern history. I think because I am introspective about myself, looking back on past actions is easier for me than looking forward.

Anyway, one thing that does bother me is the abuse of history by authors of popular novels. This goes for everything from describing clothing incorrectly to having the wrong King on the throne in the timeline of the novel. I’m just a jerk that way I guess. I try not to let it bother me for the most part, but some things really really irritate me, mostly because I think these peccadilloes just show the author was lazy in his or her research. Especially in these days of Google and Wikipedia, there is no excuse for incorrect dates, fashion information, political events and social activities.

For instance, I used to read this one author who always described her heroines as “progressive” and said they didn’t wear a corset. While I allow this helps along the love scenes, not wearing a corset deemed a woman as a “loose” woman in the 19th century. As progressive as a woman was, it’s fairly unlikely that in the scenarios put forth of shop girls to high born ladies, they wouldn’t sacrifice their reputation for the sake of comfort. This one bothered me so much it inspired a “top ten” list of corset myths over at Who Were They?, one of my sister sites.

Now, I am the queen of suspending my disbelief. I can accept all the crazy stuff that happens in the vampire world, werwolves, fantasy worlds, Game of Thrones, witch craft, all of it, so I’m not saying poetic license or creative timelines are inappropriate. But, I refer you back to the existence of Google and Wikipedia for simple historical research.

Currently I am reading a book that is modern but set in a Renaissance fair. It’s quite fun, particularly since I spent enough weekends of my own working at the Ren Fair back in the day. I can totally relate to so much of what is happening, I really am enjoying the book.

But.

And there’s that “but.”

The author insists on referring to the time period as Medieval and Renaissance interchangeably.

There is a difference! The confusion may stem from the fact that the Renaissance began at different times throughout Europe, so some countries were in the Middle Ages while others had moved on to the Renaissance. England entered the Renaissance period later than most other European countries, and so Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) is a popular figure at Ren Fair, right along side Christopher Columbus (1451-1506). But while we all sort of know that Christopher Columbus and his contemporary Leonardo DaVinci are pivotal characters of the Renaissance, it is easy to forget that while they were discovering new worlds and painting masterpieces, other parts of the world were still mucking about in the Middle Ages and William Shakespeare (1564-1616) hadn’t even been born!

Granted, a Renaissance Fair celebrates the entire period (generally 1347-1605 or thereabouts), and seriously a Ren Fair is almost as far from historical accuracy as one can get, but it is not Medieval Times and that is what bugs me.

So there you go.

Book Review: Wind Through the Keyhole

I recently finished Wind Through the Keyhole, by Stephen King. This book is a recent addition to the Dark Tower series, in between Wizard in Glass and Wolves of the Calla. (If that means anything to you) Wizard was published in ’97 and Wolves in ’03, but Wind Through the Keyhole was published in ’12. King says in his forward that it is sort of like book 4.5. Sometimes a writer discovers that a story really isn’t finished after all, and it appears that is the case here.

If you haven’t read any of the Dark Tower series, just ignore this book and begin with The Gunslinger. The Dark Tower books are set in a futuristic/western/fantasy world that in some places overlaps our time line and in others deviates into bizarre machines that control the world. 

Wind Through the Keyhole is a story within a story within a story. Roland and his gang settle in to shelter from a stark blast – a terrible tornado/hurricane/arctic storm that will freeze everything in its path – and this reminds Roland of a story from his youth as a fledgling gunslinger (law man), and in that story he told the story of young Tim and his adventures seeking truth and also weathering a stark blast. In typical King fashion, this story reaches out and holds you from beginning to end, twisting and turning along a winding path that is all together fascinating and at the same time never losing its way. The writers talent is well known and his praises rightly sung. It isn’t necessary to read this book in order with the others, but it does help develop Roland’s character a tiny bit. He is alternately cold hearted and sentimental, a clash of his history with his conscience, and truly the much beloved anti-hero hero of the Dark Tower series.

Book Review: A Stolen Life

I recently listened to the audiobook of A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard, narrated by Jaycee Dugard. To say this book was difficult would be overstating the obvious. If you have lived under a rock for the past couple years, then you won’t know that Jaycee Dugard was kidnapped at the age of 11 and held in captivity by a convicted child molestor until she was 29 years old. At the time she was recovered, she had two children, aged 11 and 15. 

Just let that sit there in your mind for a moment. She was kidnapped at age 11 and when she was recovered she had a daughter who was 11. But Jaycee at 11 had been on her way to school when kidnapped and her own 11 year old daughter had never been to school. Ever. She had rarely been outside the backyard of her captor-father. Jaycee was younger than her 15 year old daughter when her 15 year old daughter was born. Her children had never been to the doctor, had never been to school, had not known the normal growing up that the rest of us Western families take for granted. They never played with friends next door, organized games of stickball or hockey in the street, didn’t have crushes on the cute boy in class, nothing. 

I cannot tell you how many times I wanted to cry for Jaycee and her daughters while listening to this book. As a woman, a mother, a grown up girl, her story is horrifying. It is beyond comprehension that someone could be forced to endure the tortures and abuses that Jaycee endured. What is almost more incomprehensible is that Jaycee Dugard came through that experience with a seemingly positive outlook on life. She explained that she had some dark times, but the overall impression at the end of the book was one of an amazingly strong woman who just survived and did the best she could for her daughters.

That strength inspires me to do the best for my daughter when push comes to shove in my life. Frankly, I am a queen in a palace compared to Jaycee’s experience, and it really puts my complaints into drastic perspective, but if Jaycee can be strong, loving and optimistic for her daughters, then I can do my very best too. Each of us mothers – who feel strong enough in the first place – could benefit from a read through of A Stolen Life. It will cause you to realize that your shitty life really isn’t all that bad after all, but not in a way that makes you feel riddled with guilt and shame. 

Book Review: The Neighbor

I was tired of Stephen King, historical novels and histories of the Civil War. I needed something exciting that I could not put down, and happily I found what I was looking for. The Neighbor, by Lisa Gardner was my entree to an exciting readers’ list of suspense & thriller books. Lisa Gardner has been writing for many years and has numerous titles. However, The Neighbor introduced me to Seargant Detective Dee Dee Warren of the Homocide Division of the Boston Police Department. 

This is a contemporary murder mystery with an exciting climax and confusing back story. The way the story unfolds, the wife of a fiercely private man is missing. He is the prime – the only – suspect. He is reluctant for police to question his four year old daughter. His story is clean and tight and he always gets it straight. He knows his rights and that only serves to annoy the police. Throw in a local sex offender and an estranged relationship with the missing woman’s father, and it becomes complex without becoming convoluted.

The book is written in two voices, first person of the missing woman, third person for the detective and all other aspects of the story. It is an interesting method that will draw you through the book at break neck speed, but it doesn’t leave any detail out of place, no loose ends untied. Warren finds herself led along several theories as the story unfolds, some more plausible than others, and while you may find yourself wishing you could step into the conference room and correct her during one of the investigatory team meetings, you can’t and it’s tough to have to sit back and wait for Dee Dee to figure it all out in the end.

Which she does. She is the best detective BPD’s got, after all.

Happily, the book is not overloaded with police jargon and for those who enjoy true crime you will be satisfied that the rules of forensics aren’t ignored in favor of a better story line. It is a gripping read with a satisfactory conclusion which I recommend to those who already love the genre and to those who, like me, are looking for something new.

Book Review: Darkly Dreaming Dexter

You know how sometimes you read in the paper about some person accused of murder who gets away scot free? For whatever reason, either the case isn’t prosecuted, or heaven help us it is adjudicated and the jury cannot find them guilty. Don’t you ever think to yourself “someone will do us all a favor and take ’em out”? In real life that rarely, if ever happens. The acqitted person goes on a book tour or gets a reality TV show and we are all disgusted by the twist of fate that let them loose to potentially kill again. Well, in the book Darkly Dreaming Dexter, there is someone who does equalize the situation.

Thankfully, Dexter is just a character in a fiction novel, because he’s a bona fide psychopath. He has difficulty understanding people and social situations, he lacks deeper feelings like love and compassion, does not understand what motivates humans to do the things they do, and does not even consider himself human. He knows he is flawed, with a big empty spot where everyone else has a conscience. But Dexter hunts the bad guys. He is a serial killer, and a prolific one, taking out Miami’s garbage. He only kills the killers, though, and he must have proof of the ultimate badness of his quarry, otherwise, his code will not allow him to act.

You see, Dexter was raised and coached by a cop. His adoptive father Harry realized that Dexter was missing “that thing” other people have, and helped him to shape his need to kill into righteous vigilanteeism. Harry created a code, rules that would help Dexter survive in a world he did not understand; rules that would keep him out of the eye of the police and out of jail. Part of Dexter’s cover is to work for the police as a blood spatter analist.

The best predators hide in plain sight, and that is Dexter. He has learned, like many psychopaths before him, to play the role, say the witty sayings, and pretend to feel the feelings, that normal people expect. And while you might think Dexter is a bad guy himself, in this book, he is the “hero” protecting the city from those other murderers who cannot be proven guilty and preventing them from committing their heinous crimes again.

Darkly Dreaming Dexter is the first in a series about Dexter and was the inspiration for the popular Showtime television drama “Dexter.” If you are a fan of the show, be prepared for the book to have its differences that might not make you happy. The key characters are there: Dexter, Deb, Angel Batista, LaGuerta, Doakes, Masuka; but they are the originals as imagined by Jeff Lindsay, not the screenwriters. Dexter himself is as weirdly lovable in the book as he is in the show, and that is part of the guilty pleasure. You feel like you really should not like him, but you just can’t help it.

Darkly Dreaming Dexter is not terribly long, yet the pages turn at an enjoyable pace, drawing you through the story arc and toward a climactic ending that feels a tiny bit rushed. Did Lindsay come up against a deadline? I would have liked the ending to be developed a bit more, but otherwise this is a very good book. I will be seeking out the next installment soon.