What I Read on My Summer Vacation

I am one of the most regimented readers I know. I follow the same pattern every month: I read three books for review, read my book club book, and use whatever’s left of the month to read whatever I want to read. It sounds rigid, but I’m an order muppet, and this schedule nearly always suits me. In fact, I believe I’ve only taken a month off from reviewing twice in fourteen years. Last month was one of those. With various stresses in my life, I’d had little free reading time over the last several months, and I decided I needed a mental health break. So I allowed myself a month full of the heady freedom most adults experience all the time, and spent July reading whatever struck my fancy. Here’s what I read (mostly) for fun and just for me:

Timeless by Gail Carriger: I actually started this at the end of April, but kept running out of free reading time (hence my need for a little vacation). I have been faithfully following The Parasol Protectorate, but it took me a while to get into this one, which is why I probably spent three months reading the first half and then finished the second half in a matter of days. I enjoyed it, but the series is starting to feel a little top heavy to me; I felt like I was losing track of people and details, and I was current! My understanding is that the focus of the books will shift to Alexia’s friend Ivy. That might be a good thing.

Delusion in Death by J.D. Robb: Robb books are the only books I sneak a peek at before I send them on to another reviewer. I know I can read them quickly, and I’m always eager for the next one. But after reading this one, I realized that I was the reviewer; we take turns among the reviewers that follow the series. Vacation fail! So you’ll hear my reaction to this one in the full review, which should be posted soon.

Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James: My friend Danielle told me I had to read it. My barista told me I had to read it. Everyone who knows I read romance asked me what I thought of it. I knew it started life as a Twilight fan fic, and I’m not a Twilight fan. But I asked my AAR colleagues whether I needed to read it to be culturally relevant, and they said yes. So I did. My reaction was neither hatred nor adoration. The writing is less than spectacular, and as the aforementioned barista pointed out, Ana says either “Holy Crap” or “Holy Shit” about every five seconds. I alternated between finding Christian sort of hot and wanting to punch him in his stalkerish face. And for the love of all that is good and holy, why would anyone write a college graduate heroine in 2011 who has no email address until Christian gives her a computer? This is actually impossible for any college student in America (or anywhere else, probably), and is the type of stupid mistake that drives me absolutely crazy. But then I got to the end of the book and encountered the cliffhanger. Or more accurately, kept flicking my finger at the side of my nook, completely unable to believe the book had ended. Which led to my next read…

Fifty Shades Darker by E.L. James: Which is more of the same. More of Ana’s inner goddess, more sex, and then still more sex. I gobbled it up in the same fashion I had the first, and couldn’t help laughing out loud at the ending (was that supposed to be funny?). I couldn’t quite decide what I thought, until someone else (credit Lulu Belle from Wicked Lil Pixie) expressed it perfectly at an RWA cocktail party. I’m paraphrasing, but she said, “Oh, the writing is terrible, but they’re just great! A total hoot!” And suddenly I got it. They are a hoot. As farce, they work for me, and then maybe it doesn’t matter if Ana doesn’t have an email address and Christian is 27 and makes $100,000 an hour. Nonetheless, I needed something a little palate cleansing after that, so I turned to…

A Night Like This by Julia Quinn: Julia Quinn books are a major comfort read for me. Like cozy, furry Regency bunny slippers. I liked this one, but not as well as the first Smythe-Smith book.

At Your Pleasure by Meredith Duran: Which I haven’t finished. But there’s always the end of August.

Feel free to weigh in with your thoughts on any or all of these books, or the order muppet/chaos muppet classification.

– Blythe Barnhill

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8 Responses to What I Read on My Summer Vacation

  1. Leigh says:

    I am definitely not a order muppet. Per http://www.slate.com/articles/life/low_concept/2012/06/what_kind_of_muppet_are_you_chaos_or_order_.html

    I am a chaos muppet. However I am a contained (somewhat) chaos muppet – except I wonder about my highly organized drawers – and closet with clothes separated by colors. – although my disorganized dog filled house supports the chaos. I must be a mongrel muppet or a mutated one.

    I try to pick books for review that I would normally read so I don’t really classify my books as review or non review except when I get to a really boring or bad one that I can’t just say “this is stupid- I quit.”

    Funny because last night I started to read a book I thought I might like to review. I liked the beginning, but once I got to the middle the heroine turned into a harridan. Still I kept reading until it hit me that I could quit it.

  2. LeeB. says:

    Since I borrow a LOT of books from the library, I’m an order muppet for reading the books I borrow first and then reading books I have bought.

    Have no desire to read any of the “Grey” books so obviously don’t care if I am culturally relevant. :)

  3. M E 2 says:

    Bragging on being stuck in a rut is nothing to be bragging about. While readiing 50 Shades of Grey to be “culturally relevant” is just dumb.

  4. PatH AAR says:

    Since I’m a bookaholic, both print and digital, it would really be nice to be super-organized. But I’m not. The ONLY reading that’s organized in my house is review material. Super organized. The rest? Not so much.

    But, you know, Blythe, taking time to read just to read and not review is essential for a good reviewer. It’s like the water wine tasters cleanse their palates with between tastings. I’m SO happy you took the time and relaxed with pleasure reads.

    Having a lot of time to read and not being able to do much more (as I’ve had the last few months), I’m finding to be really addictive. So I’m having to force myself to do something other than read! Go figure. LOL

    (One of these days I’ll get to 50 Shades and More, but until then I still have at least 50 Kindle books to read, not to mention the review books!)

  5. Leslie says:

    Tomorrow we leave for our family vacation to hike for two weeks on the John Muir Trail. We (my three sons and I) are allowed to bring one book. All electronic devices, with the exception of one cellphone (in the possession of my tyrant husband) to be left at home. What books to bring, that is the question!
    I have piles of TBR’s, my sons haves piles of TBR’s, but we are scrambling to pick four books we will all agree on, it’s hilarious. My husband is bringing a play to read to us, which one, he will not say.
    Romance is out, being the thought of it makes all the males in my family gag.
    So far, but not entirely agreed upon is The Darmha Bums, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Golden Compass and my choice Our Mutual Friend. I think I am going to try and sneak Eloisa James’ latest in after my hubby checks my pack.
    Happy Summer Reading!

  6. Renee says:


    I like your order but my life is too chaotic. In fact, to get around not having the time to read, I now listen to between 1-2 books a week on my compute in addition to reading a book at home.

    I am looking forward to the next JD Robb book. Can’t wait for your review.

  7. Tahyun says:

    I’m glad you got some time to just read what you like. I have recently tried reading book club books, but find that I am a little too fickle when it comes to reading. I have been known to drop a book midway, not because I am not enjoying it, but because suddenly, the mood struck me to read something else. I generally finish the one I put down though.

    As for the 50 Shades discussion, I still haven’t read them, but I am not sure I will. I am a big character development reader. A plot can be slightly lacking and there can even be no sex (well, once or twice is optimal for me, but I’m not a stickler for it), but if there are great characters, I will be perfectly happy. Therefore, I don’t know how I will handle those books except to roll my eyes and wait for the end.

    However, I understand your need to be “culturally relevant” as you call it. You are a reviewer and therefore must keep up with the current environment. Every one in every field has to do the same.

    Not to mention, at some point, someone is going to be looking at romance readers of this generation retrospectively, and since this book has been such a hit, it will probably gain some notice. So, I think it’s important for people in the industry to be paying attention.

    Since I just read for funzies all the time, though, I’ll excuse myself for not being “au courant”. :D

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