Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Book #1: Italy

Part of what I love about fantasy books is finding yourself in places that exist only in the imagination of the author and his or her readers. I like the idea of this imaginary world growing and changing in people’s heads, being shared between them, a meme transferred through the written word.

Unfortunately, sometimes being able to imagine this world is not enough. Think of all the tours based on real-world or semi-real-world books. We want to follow our favourite characters through towns and cities. We take pictures of the entry to Platform Nine and Three Quarters (which doesn’t actually exist as Rowling describes it, but people still try ramming various bits of the station with their luggage trolleys) and re-enact sword battles on bridges. It must amuse the locals.

This week I’m looking at Italy, and the book (or series) I have chosen is Stravaganza, by Mary Hoffman. Each book is set in a different parallel-Italian city, and part of the fun is trying to figure out which cities the characters are in. Teenagers from our world ‘stravagate’ to sixteenth century Talia and engage in Adventures involving mysterious masked ladies, horse races, scheming dynasties, pirates, sculptures and medieval universities. Each book is from a different point of view, but I like that we get to revisit previous characters and their stories continue. Talia seems alive and exciting and cultural, with rivalries between the cities and their distinct identities.

This all makes me want to visit Italy. My inner traveller doesn’t seem to understand that the Italy I find will not be a fifteenth-century version where magic and science mix together and silver is more precious than gold. I want to see Arianna and Rodolfo, ride horses in Remora and watch sea battles from a safe distance. And if I get to Italy and don’t find these things, I’ll have to resort to sock puppets.

(If anyone has ideas on re-enacting realistic sea battles with sock puppets, feel free to suggest them.)

Despite this, I will make a special effort to see all the real-world versions of the Stravaganza cities. I’ve been to Venice, Florence and Ravenna (but you can always go again...) and I’d love to see Siena and Padua. Apparently the next book will be set in Lucca, which I hadn’t heard of. Apparently it’s in Tuscany. It shall be added to my itinerary.

To do list: win Lotto. 

Do you have any favourite books set in Italy?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

technology woes

My faithful laptop is hearing its death knell. It's been at my side for four and a half years, but it won't stay on for longer than 15 minutes and its screen is held up with a piece of string. So I think it's time I let it move on to Silicon Heaven (see Red Dwarf... best line ever: 'but where do all the calculators go?').

This means that I am on the lookout for a new laptop. I'm pretty sure I've figured out which one I want (one with a great keyboard and 10'' screen), but it's about half an hour's drive away or several frustrating bus or train trips. Which brings me to my next technology woe:

My car has no foot brake. So, I will not be driving it to pick up my awesome new netbook because I'm not confident driving around using only the handbrake.

At least my phone is fixed. My accelerometer wasn't working (which meant I couldn't show off how I can play Monopoly and roll the dice by shaking the phone) but I reran a software update and it seems to have fixed it. My one victory against the tech jinx...

Anyway, this all means that I'm waiting with bated breath for my new netbook, which will solve all my problems and allow me to write blog posts to my heart's content.


the rules

These are made to be broken.

  1. I must have read the book representing the country
  2. The book does not have to be written by a native author, but it’s good if it is (-: It should definitely be set in the country it represents.
  3. The book may be set in an alternate version of the country. Which makes it harder to visit the places you’re reading about except in your head. Which possibly reduces air miles.
  4. Each country should only be used once. I’m considering cheating with this and possibly counting different states as different countries, but we’ll see how we go… by my count, about two thirds of native English speakers are American, so lots and lots of the books available to me will tend to be set in the United States…
  5. The category ‘YA’ may be stretched at times if I want to include a totally awesome book.
  6. I will aim to do one book a week. My goal. One book. Per week. (Apparently it helps if you write goals down and get other people to witness them.

Please don’t get offended if the book I put up for a particular country isn’t what you would have – tell me which ones I could have used! It would be great to get a set of books for each country, and I’m always happy to discover new books :-D

I foresee running out of books eventually, so feel free to suggest books you've read and loved that are set in exotic (and not so exotic) places!