Book Reviews

Music & Masks: A Book Review

As a true bibliophile, my summer reading list is quite long. . . or rather, the book stack is tall. The stack may be ambitious for the summer months when outdoor projects and Hulu competes for my attention, but I happily made reading the ARC of The Orphan’s Song by Lauren Kate a priority. When the book comes out next week, you should pick up a copy for your summer page-turning adventures.

The Orphan's Song

This historical-fiction novel is steeped in the culture of Venice in the 1700s. We find ourselves at the Hospital of the Incurables, an orphanage/hospital/music school/church that maintains a rigid social structure for its wards. The girls aspire to sing in the church coro (and swear an oath not to sing anywhere else) until they marry or become nuns. The boys are forbidden to practice music and instead learn the skills of tradesmen. That doesn’t stop the young coro-member-to-be Violetta from singing to the horizon on the Incurable’s rooftop, where she meets Mino with his patched-up violin. Their first song is is broken by the missteps of youth, but it echoes in their memories as they search for family and get swept away by the masked pleasures of Venetian society.  (Seriously, there were a lot of masks—or bauta—in the book. As the bauta allowed major characters to operate with certain anonymity, it was a great plot device.)

The Orphan’s Song is Kate’s first adult historical book. (You may recognize her name from the her bestselling title, Fallen, the first book in the supernatural YA series.) As someone who hasn’t read any of her previous books, The Orphan’s Song was a pleasant introduction to the author. This even-paced novel wasn’t earth-shattering, but I really appreciated the musical references and historical immersion. I’m pretty sure I shed a tear midway through the book (you’ll know where, when you read that part) and it wasn’t predictable, like so many historical-fiction romances can be.

I give it 4 out of 5 stars. . . and I really want a bauta of my own now.

Publishing

A Foray into the World of Genre Fiction

I love fiction of all genres. Right now, I’m hauling a beat-up fantasy novel in my purse. I’ve read everything from Pride & Prejudice to Harry Potter, and I heartily agree with George R. R. Martin, who wrote in the introduction to Warriors, “Books should broaden us. . . expand our horizons and our way of looking at the world. Limiting your reading to a single genre defeats that. It limits us, makes us smaller.” Sure, it’s great to have a favorite genre. I naturally gravitate toward fantasy and historical fiction. But it’s also exciting to venture into undiscovered worlds of fiction.

To understand the breadth of genres, I researched and created an infographic detailing 5 main genres, and their associated sub-genres. Each word cloud contains elements of the main genre, and within each subgenre I’ve noted the various stylistic elements and publication examples. Of course, this is not a complete list. It could never be. Genres simply categorize publications, and provide basic plot ‘recipes’ to meet the expectations of readers. Many good stories are solidly planted within their genres, while others defy genre stereotypes. They all inspire the imagination. I hope this visual representation of genre styles serves as a beginner’s guide to the many genres of fiction. Happy reading!