Some reading notes: hiatus update from the sporadic blogslacker

I’ve been reading so much all year, but changed day jobs and haven’t had time to do serious thinking about what I’ve been reading, never mind writing about it. Every once in a while I pull up the blog and see the most recent old post from last summer and it makes me anxious and sad about not participating in rich booktalk conversations here and elsewhere online.

Today as I was driving a daughter home from week 2 of her summer theater program and realized we’re already talking about the end of August, I decided I really have to put something up over the “Summer Reading” post from August 2015. To anyone who receives a notification and takes a minute to read this, my apologies that it’s such a lame post!

The other thing that is prompting me is that just two days ago I wrote an email in response to a friend who wrote asking “Do you read novels? I need something new to read. What have you been reading?” Actually it took me over a week to finish the response that I sent her (which is ridiculous because it was nothing brilliant, just that I am constantly interrupted these days and juggling too much at work).  And then today I realized, the thing about the blog was, it was just supposed to be like writing to friends about books I’m reading….

So anyway, here’s some of what I wrote to my other friend (we haven’t known each other very long):

I read a lot, across many genres and eclectically in terms of the literary/lowbrow divide.  I am always looking for the immersive reading experience and actively resist judgments about literary merit based on distinctions between genre and literary fiction.  I read mystery, romance, some thrillers like The Girl on the Train (though I didn’t much like it and don’t know why I stuck with it), lots of historical fiction, memoir (I am a huge fan of Barbara Ehrenreich’s oeuvre! especially how far out in front she was about the whole inequality conversation), and a smattering of nonfiction, along with novels that I think of as more traditionally “literary.”
I do care  (a lot) about the quality of the writing, and I love finding wonderful sentences, themes, and imagery in “unexpected” places (eg. the much maligned romance genre). I mostly read on weekends and early in the morning with my coffee (I should be exercising then, but have begun using it as reading time since I can’t stay awake reading at night as much anymore).  I don’t read much so-called chick lit, which just goes to show that even an open-minded reader may be prone to dismiss books according to various marketing categories and criteria.
How interesting that we all have a recent experience of All the Light We Cannot See!  I did read this book (in the traditional manner, with my eyes, not my ears) and loved the prose and the feat of it as sort of puzzle-box storytelling.  It wasn’t one of my top books of recent years, however, and I’m not even really sure why.  I remember thinking that the girls might like it; in spite of the serious subject matter, it had a fable/fairytale quality.
In no particular order, a short list  of books I’ve read in the last year or so that either (a) I loved, or (b) stuck with me to the point that I think about themes or characters long after finishing the book, or both.
(Blog friends may note that some of these are in fact books that have been mentioned here in 2015)
We Are Not Ourselves, by Matthew Thomas
The Traitor’s Wife, by Kathleen Kent
Overwhelmed, by Brigid Schulte (nonfiction)
Perfectly Miserable, by Sarah Payne Stuart (nonfiction)
The Likeness, by Tana French (and all the others in this series)
The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Children’s Crusade, by Ann Packer (I may have loved this so much simply because of its sense of place; it’s set in the 70s very near where I grew up in northern California)
 
I do love historical fiction and always have; I haven’t read Room, but I loved Emma Donoghue’s first big book, Slammerkin.  Have you both already read Caleb’s Crossing (Geraldine Brooks)?  I also think Sally Gunning is an underappreciated and beautiful writer of spare and powerfully moving historical novels set on Cape Cod. The Widow’s War is the first in a wonderful trilogy.
 
My aunt and cousins are all raving about the Elena Ferrante books, and I received the first one as a Christmas gift, but I haven’t started  it yet.  Another book I have on my TBR pile is Hild, by Nicola Griffith – probably appealing for a reader who already likes medieval historicals, and perhaps less so if not.
In a way, I think my email morphed into a draft catch-up post as I was writing it.  I think my friend probably just wanted a couple of titles to look for at the library, but she gave me the opportunity to get the wheels turning again in my rusty writing-about-reading brain.  Now I really am curious who else has been reading Ferrante?  Does anyone else wonder why they have such “romance novel” covers? And why was The Girl on the Train such a big deal?
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Romances to Read on a Roadtrip?

Badass Romance is On the Road until September

Most reliable bloggers no doubt announce any hiatus in their bloggery well in advance of taking time off.  But here it’s been weeks since my last post  – ack!  I didn’t plan to take a vacation from blogging so much in advance of my actual vacation. I suppose posting this now is pretty much a case of Closing the Barn Door After the Horse Has …. etc.   It’s been an incredibly hectic summer and Badass Romance has really already Gone Fishing.

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But today I realized I haven’t decided which books to take with me. Hoping you will forgive this brief post to tell you a bit about my trip and solicit suggestions for what should go in the duffel bag and/or on the iPad.

I am heading out to drive about 3,000 miles with daughters in tow — from our home in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts we will journey through the states of Connecticut, NY, NJ, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia (only a corner), Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, and West Virginia (and then home again after visiting friends in Washington, DC).  I’m a homebody who loves to visit new (to me) old places.  I’m also a sucker for the romance of the open road itself. Continue reading

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Photo: near Brimfield MA
pamela1740, April 2013

I don’t care what anyone says about weddings, or the summer solstice, or the Stanley Cup, or anything else — June is hell. When it comes to my regular reading, and my blogging efforts here, I feel like Rip van Winkle. I’ve missed so much… but I certainly haven’t been getting enough sleep!

These last two weeks are going down in Badass Romance history as the Romance-less Fortnight. It seems crazy, but between major day job deadlines and related work travel, extra weeks of school for the badass daughters, and the onslaught of packing for camp and other summer chores, I think I read — and wrote — less this month than any other time in the last 10 or so years.  Not even comfort reads, or books I was eager to get my hands on could withstand my crazy schedule which has had me falling into bed and falling asleep before I can even turn a single page.

But it’s not like I wasn’t thinking about all the books I wanted to be reading and recommending!  Here’s a short list of what’s been on the top of my TBR, and on the front burner for blogging:

I wanted to be reading Less Than a Gentleman, the new historical (American Revolution – my favorite!) from Kerrelyn Sparks, but instead I’ve been More Like a Slacker Mom, vainly attempting to stay cheery and upbeat as the girls face dreary extra days in un-air-conditioned sweatshops, er.. classrooms, and seem to need different attire and obscure accessories every freaking day (field trips, 4th grade luau (??), concerts, etc.).

I had hoped to finish my review post of Brave in Heart, from Emma Barry (another new historical, this one with an unusual US Civil War setting) but instead I am Cowering in Fear from the chore of twin packing lists for overnight camp.

I had been breathlessly anticipating and planning to read A Woman Entangled by Cecilia Grant, but instead I am simply A Woman In Need of a Nap.  Sigh.  School finally ends tomorrow, and then I drive the girls to camp in Maine this weekend. First time for them at sleepaway camp: this means next week I will celebrate Liberty with my own personal Independence Day!

I’d Rather Be Reading Romance

Five Fast Reasons to Love Loretta Chase All Over Again

… and read her new e-novella, THE MAD EARL’S BRIDE

It’s been a while since I’ve read a new Loretta Chase romance.  Well, about exactly as long as since the last one was published (2012). It pretty much goes without saying for this historical romance junkie that LC is on my DIK, must-read, auto-buy, and every other tip-top book list I’ve got.

The Mad Earl's Bride

So I was pretty excited to get my hands on the new re-issue of The Mad Earl’s Bride (originally anthologized in Three Weddings and a Kiss, 1995).  Something to hold me over until the next Dressmakers book is out!

While it’s not Lord Perfect, which was, for me, well…. perfect, this fun and funny novella is reminding me of all the reasons LC remains at the pinnacle of the genre for me.

Five fast reasons…

  1. There will be banter. And delicious long conversations. This one has steamy dialogue in a deliciously long steambath!
  2. The hero will somehow be both maddeningly and hilariously juvenile, and devastatingly badass.
  3. The heroine will be a self-directed, managing sort of female with the ability to deflate the hero’s ridiculousness at all the appropriate moments.
  4. The emotional connection will be potent, and forged from moments where H/h reveal layers of self-awareness which they usually mask beneath the trademark LC banter.
  5. If you are lucky enough to meet her in person at a book signing, she is gracious and charming and lovely and may not even mind if you are clutching a dog-eared, vintage copy of a treasured title from her backlist….

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In May at the NECRWA annual conference she signed my copy of Mr. Impossible and even told me it’s one of her favorite covers!!!  Love. That.

As an aside, I realized last night that the title of LC’s  new novella fits a certain category of title that might be called a “Possessive Hero Title” — there’s been a very interesting twitter conversation on this topic over the last couple of days.  Is it significant that there are literally hundreds of similar romance titles where a word representing the hero is used in its possessive form, and so few titles where the heroine receives this kind of titular signifier of ownership?

Disclosure: As a newly-minted Avon Addict, I received The Mad Earl’s Bride as a free download via Edelweiss, in exchange for honest review and/or commentary. I would have been purchasing this book regardless!

A Few Brief Thoughts About Non-Fiction: Armchair BEA Day 4

Armchair BEA 3

Design Credit: Nina of Nina Reads

As discussed yesterday in my post about genre fiction and romance, I mainly read for sheer enjoyment and escape. I’m happiest when a romance novel so thoroughly engages me that I can’t wait to talk about it, and if it provokes or challenges me in some way, so much the better.  So mine is not a pure escapism; I enjoy the fantasy, yes, but I also enjoy critical and/or contextual analysis, and I’m willing to look at problematic aspects of the fantasy/ies I’m reading.

Which brings me to today’s Armchair BEA topic.  Although I’m mostly reading romance, and don’t read much non-fiction anymore, I do still make time for reading history. Really, it goes hand in hand with my love of historical romance, and provides context for looking at challenging themes such as colonialism or other forms of oppression that historical fiction sometimes raises or addresses. I’m going to keep today’s post very simple and just suggest a few works of historical non-fiction that have captured my attention and/or imagination in the last several years.

Badass History Books I’m recommending:

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The Name of War: King Philip’s War and the Origins of American Identity, by Jill Lepore

Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community and War, by Nathaniel Philbrick

Liberty Tree: Ordinary People and the American Revolution, by Alfred F. Young

The Wars of the Roses, by Alison Weir – this one I just read last year, in concert with all 5 Song of Ice and Fire books by George R.R. Martin. Epic fun!

3085271Out of bounds for today’s consideration of non-fiction, but very much worth your consideration as a captivating work of historical fiction, with a strong romance at the center — and a lengthy, almost-believable-for-once cross-dressing deception! — is Blindspot, by historians Jane Kamensky and Jill Lepore.

One of my favorite things about this book is that it’s an epistolary novel, like Pamela!  And the authors apparently also wrote it in epistolary fashion.  An absorbing, fun read for anyone who enjoys 18th century American/ Revolutionary history and/or romantic historical fiction.

As an aside, I do also occasionally read a non-fiction book about parenting or child development.  I am currently reading the excellent  Teach Your Children Well, by Madeline Levine, about raising resilient kids and avoiding the “extra-curricular credentials” trap.

Introducing Badass Romance for Armchair BEA

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Design Credit: Nina of Nina Reads

I admit it, I love going to conferences.  I love the chance to get away from home, and laundry, for a few days and hang out with a big group of people who are all pumped up to get motivated and recharged and who share a commitment to a common field of endeavor.  Since my kids arrived on the scene almost exactly a decade ago, I don’t travel for work nearly as much as I used to, but I still make it a point to attend a couple of meetings a year, for the inspiration and connection they yield.

sfly3But as a new blogger with no other connection to “the industry” the idea of attending a literary conference is still just a pipe dream.  Sort of like my daughters’ active fantasy that  when they turn 11 they will receive letters from Professor McGonagle with instructions for Hogwarts matriculation.  Or perhaps just slightly more within the realm of possibility – that I will eventually break down about Disney and take them to Orlando for Harry Potter World.  It could happen, and we really want it to happen, but no one’s holding her breath.  Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure my fantasy book convention trip probably gets more and more wondrous, in my mind, in direct proportion to how much the daily grind of single mom-hood is getting to me in any given week.

But just when I was thinking how I’ll probably never have time to go to a big book convention, due to minor obstacles such as my job and my children, I heard about Armchair BEA — an online version of Book Expo America, which is happening this week in NYC.  For bloggers who don’t attend, Armchair BEA is the next best thing; a way to get connected, without leaving home.

Here are my answers to 5 of the Introduce Yourself post questions:

1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging?

I’ve been blogging here @ Badass Romance for about two months. I do feel as though I’ve arrived rather late to blogging and I’ve also been forcing myself up a pretty steep learning curve with tweeting (which is how I heard about Armchair BEA).  I started talking about books online in fan forums  back in 2004-2005 when my daughters were babies and I was pretty much trapped at home all the time.  I didn’t have time or energy to be in a real life book group, but found a wonderful community of readers to engage with online. Now the girls are about to turn 10, they’re more independent, and I have some scraps of time back.  I have been kicking around the blog idea with my friends (both IRL and online) for about a year, and finally decided to jump in with it. We’ll see how it goes — so far, it’s been a lot of fun. The only downside is that the more time I spend reading posts, tweeting, and talking with other book bloggers and authors, the faster the TBR stack grows. I’m starting to accept that it will always be full, and full of promise.

2. Where in the world are you blogging from? Tell a random fact or something special about your current location. Feel free to share pictures.

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in Lexington, 2012 @ Badass Romance

I’m in New England, near Boston. Revolutionary history is one of my other passions.  We love celebrating Patriots Day by attending re-enactments in Lexington and Concord. As a romance reader, for me the ultimate in perfection is a 5-star historical set in 18th-century America.

3. Have you previously participated in Armchair BEA? What brought you back for another year? If you have not previously participated, what drew you to the event?

I never heard of Armchair BEA until this week.  After the blog had been up for several weeks, I joined Twitter right around the time of the big Romance Times conference (RT13) in Kansas City, and spent a week watching the tweets and realizing how much I’d love to attend a book convention.

4. Which is your favorite post that you have written that you want everyone to read?

I jumped in to the recent spate of interest in the fate of historical romance and met some amazing reviewers and bloggers via my newbie post: Historical Romance: Lament, or Let it Die?  It’s by no means the most eloquent or my last word on this topic, but it was fun and I loved all the wonderful comments.

5. What are you currently reading, or what is your favorite book you have read so far in 2013?

I’m currently reading several books, as usual. Just finished Untamed, by Anna Cowan, and I’m working on my review post (so excited about this one — it’s really different!). I’m also reading Silent in the Sanctuary, by Deanna Raybourn, and Teach Your Children Well, by Madeline Levine.