I’ve been doing so much re-reading lately that I began to wonder: is reading an old favorite a safety issue? That is, I know I’m going to love it, so there’s no risk involved? Is this the belt-and-suspenders, keep-the-training-wheels-on, don’t-go-out-after-dark version of entertainment? Because I’m rewatching movies, too (Red never disappoints) and TV (David Tennant’s Doctor Who, I’d forgotten how great he was), so I’m thinking yes on this. Which means I must become more adventurous. New stuff, Jenny, try new stuff.
How adventurous was your reading this week?
It’s also the Fourth of July, which is an insane holiday in the US when people injure themselves with fireworks. and grills and hold parades and yell “We won!” about an event that happened a couple of centuries ago. The best thing to do on the Fourth? Stay home with a cold drink and a good book. In my case, it’s a blog–I’m still reading and revising. my way through 2000+ posts–but you do you.
I’ve been reading new romances, trying to figure out what makes a good one for me (not trying to establish a baseline for “good romance” since that depends entirely on the reader). The thing I keep coming back to is that although I love romance novels, some of them make me wince and think, Oh my god, that’s trite. And yet I keep reading anyway. (And some I throw against the metaphorical wall, but forget those.) One trope that fascinates me is the “we’re pretending to be in love/engaged/married” plot, which is really the contemporary version of the Marriage of Convenience. That plot always hooks me even though I know it’s a cliche, even though I know it’s ridiculous, even though I know that never happens in real life, it still gets me every time. I tried writing it once when I was writing category romance, and it was fun but I kept banging up against “this would never happen” so I’ve never tried it again, although I’m coming damn close with Nick’s proposal to Nita in order to give her his money. Since they don’t get married during the book, I think I’ve dodged that bullet, but they do move in together since somebody is trying to kill her, so I’m firmly in the “Can he protect her?” trope, which is a plot I actively hate (she’s not a victim, damn it), but it does get them in the same apartment and eventually in the same bed, so oh just hell it’s a Marriage of Convenience plot. Well, I do like that one, I’m just kind of ashamed of it. Sigh. Cowgirl up, Jenny. Own your guilty pleasures.
What did you read this week?
Brenda Margriet’s Gateway Crescent, Book Two in the Bendixon Sisters Series, is available for only 99 cents! The ebook goes live June 26, so preorder now . . .
Jo Bendixon loves to sing, enjoys working in a coffee shop, and is secretly teaching herself to code. If only she could find a way to combine her varied interests into a career her sisters would approve.
Luke Donwell’s Catholic faith is the bedrock of his life. For as long as he can remember, he’s contemplated a vocation to the priesthood. Now it’s time to make a final decision about taking his vows.
When Jo and Luke end up working together, neither of them is prepared for the heat blossoming between them. Luke begins to doubt his calling, but Jo encourages him to continue seeking the truth. Her heart will break when he leaves her, but how can a girl compete with God?
I’ve been reading a lot of P. D. James’ later books, the ones I haven’t read because I’d stopped reading her years ago. She’s an elegant writer and a good plotter, but she is strangely devoid of humor. I’m not looking for comic mysteries, just for a writer with wit. Ngaio Marsh comes to mind, as does Allingham and Gilbert and Hill. The British are aces at dry wit that doesn’t ever become outright comedy (well, they’re good. at comedy, too; look at Wodehouse, Pratchett, and Monty Python), but somehow James just doesn’t have it. This may also be why I could never connect with Moby Dick. (Yes, I know Melville was American, but still not a laff riot unless you think Ahab got what he deserved, which I do.. . . where was I?). Anyway, I need wit in my writers, even the grim ones (like Stephen King, who is brilliant but who I cannot read more than once because nightmares. So I went back to Allingham and The Fear Sign/Sweet Danger and there was Albert and Amanda snarking at each other as they defeated Evil and I thought, “Oh, there we go.” Also James is terrible at romance, which isn’t a deal breaker since she writes mysteries, but her hero can’t bring himself to tell the woman he loves that he loves her (and since there is nothing on the page to tell you why except she’s extraordinarily beautiful you do wonder why) so he hands her a letter and then watches from a distance while she reads it. And she’s thrilled, although as declarations of love go, it’s mostly about him. I give up. I mean Albert was ten thumbs with Amanda, too, but I know why they’re together and that they love each other.
What good book did you read this week?
I’m a big Ben Aaronovitch fan, not the least because he does things I can’t do, like work with actual locations and incredible detail and deep history. But mostly I like his characters, especially his protagonist, Peter Grant, who is almost a young Sam Vines without the alcohol problem. He’s easy-going but dedicated, loyal and brave, with a dry wit and a worldview that’s fun to follow. Another thing I like about Aaronovitch is that his books are actually better on rereading. There’s so much stuff in there that I miss some of it searching for story–the first person narrator loves his info dump–but the story is there and it’s always fascinating (okay, he lost me with the unicorn and the train into faerieland, but everything else is excellent). So when I saw he had something new out, The October Man, I bought it even though it wasn’t a Peter Grant, and instead of being London-based was set in Germany. It’s not one I’ll re-read, although I applaud him extending his world outside the UK, and it was fun to see Grant’s German counterpart talk about him and his boss, Nightingale, as distant competitors. The big problem is that the protagonist is bland. I just now finished the book and I can’t remember his name, although his partner’s name is Vanessa and the river goddess in this book is Kelly. I think the problem is that it feels like a shadow of the Peter Grant books: he’s Grant’s opposite number, the female cop he works with becomes a new apprentice at the end of the book, he has a contentious relationship with a river goddess that foreshadows a love affair, there’s even a baby river goddess as a counterpart to Nicky from the Grant books. It feels like Grant Lite. None of which means that I don’t already have the next Grant book on pre-order (out in November). Grant’s been kicked out of the Force and he’s about to become a father, and his ex-partner, now a rogue magician is on the loose and dangerous, and I can’t wait to read what happens next.
So what did you read that was good this week?
I read through most of the Reginald Hill books I could afford on Kindle, then when they got too dear ordered used paperbacks. Eighteen bucks for an e-book? No. While I’m waiting for those, I started re-reading the Rivers of London books and the BookBub has a P. D. James for $2.99, and I know I read those back in the day but I can’t remember them, so I bought that one. In short, I’m wallowing in British mystery.
What are you reading?
I’ve been reading D. E. Stevenson thanks to all the recommendations here. She’s one of the gentlest writers I’ve ever come across. She just puts these interesting people on the page and lets them sort of wander around until they find the end. Normally, I’d be all “Get focused, woman” on her, but the books are just fine the way they are. Like pudding. Lovely.
What did you read this week?
I read a new book this week, but it did not enthrall, so I went back to some old stuff, more Michael Gilbert and Wodehouse’s Leave It To Psmith because sometimes you just need farce. I kept getting visual migraines, which are not headaches but these weird zigzag patterns in my vision, and that made it hard to read, too. I know: audio books. But I hate being read to. Still Psmith was a great comfort to everyone except Baxter, who deserves whatever he gets, including a flower pot to the head.
What did you read this week?
I read my way through all the Ngaio Marsh books–thirty-two of them–and loved the characters; she’s so good at establishing a small group and saying, “Somewhere in this half dozen people is a murderer,” and then playing out the personalities. I have no idea how good the mysteries actually were because I was so caught up by those mini-communities. It’s people that make a story, not plot, for me.
What made a story for you this week?