Read Anything Interesting Lately?

Ever had one of those frustrating weeks where you just don’t get to curl up with a book as much as you’d like to? Yeah, me too. My day job pretty well ate my life last week and had me sitting in traffic all over northern Virginia as I went from appointment to appointment. On the plus side, I did get to catch up on blog reading in between all of the mad dashes and I found some interesting stuff over the past few days.

I like to read Jezebel every now and again because some of their writers do offer useful perspectives on women’s lives and they can be very supportive of women’s choices, history, literature and so on — except when they’re not. My general reaction to reading this article which somehow takes the idea of Jane Austen having both highbrow and lowbrow appeal and conflates it to the notion that her books are basically well-written Twilight. The author also takes care to get in a few slaps at modern romance authors, making sure to note that, “it goes without saying that Austen is way wittier and more talented than her modern day counterparts.”

Personally, I love Jane Austen’s books because I think she writes very observantly about romance as well as about a whole host of other things – which is, by the way, what some of our very best modern romantic fiction authors do. Some of the comments on that Jezebel piece are excellent, and even though I don’t agree 100% with everything the author says, I did enjoy reading this blog which unpacked that Jezebel article somewhat. I appreciated that because the Jezebel article drove me nuts not so much because I disagreed with the author’s conclusion but because the analysis to support it seemed so shallow.

And following links around that whole Jane Austen dust-up led me to this gem. This blog’s somewhat lengthy exploration of the idea of romance novels as a writing underground intrigued me. Having seen RWA tighten the reins and turn unwelcoming to those who do not fit what appears to be the organization’s narrowing definition of the genre, I found it refreshing to read this author’s perspective as she celebrates what she sees as a wide-ranging genre where an author can have “an enviable freedom within which she may permit her imagination to run riot.” There’s actually a lot of good stuff in that celebration of romance novels.

If you haven’t seen Sarah’s Romance Novel Reader Workout, check it out. It is hilarious. I somehow let a friend talk me into running my first-ever 5K next month, so I’ve been spending a fair amount of time at the gym. The other day I took my current assigned review book with me and I swear I thought I was going to die of leg lifts!

And then there was this fascinating exploration by Liz of how narrative can create identity, and how revelations to the reader and loss of privacy play into that. It’s a very thoughtful read.

And last, but definitely not least, this discussion of manners in history by Anne Gracie is wonderful reading. It will probably make me look at some of those Across the Tracks romance just a little bit more thoughtfully.

So, what good things have you read lately?

– Lynn Spencer

18 thoughts on “Read Anything Interesting Lately?

  1. I had to give up on the Jezebel site years ago because despite being a site for “women” all it ever seemed to do is have articles savaging other women. Women whose political views, writing, or whatever did not align with the views held by the writers on the blog. I remember they had to pull an article on Rhianna (long before the Chris Brown incident) because the headline and main point was “Rhianna isn’t even really pretty.” Yikes. Somehow I am not surprised their Jane Austen article managed to not only slam her but other female authors as well. It’s a personal peeve but why are all the articles about authors who write “drivel” always written about successful female authors? For some reason Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey seem to enrage people.

    • I haven’t totally given up on Jezebel because sometimes good things go up on their site(and I keep hoping they’ll run something like the Shelf Reflections columns again), but I don’t read there as often as I used to. I’d noticed the element of “We support women – as long as they make the same choices we do,” and I’ve also just clicked on a few too many articles that sounded interesting in the first paragraph but then had no real analysis to them,

      • I loved the shelf reflections column too back in the day. I will also admit that I am shallow enough to have thoroughly enjoyed the articles from a “Sephora spy” who worked in one of the chain’s stores and wrote about behind the scenes stuff like the Sephora “school” lucky employees were sometimes sent to. I find there is a meanness to many of the articles that I just cannot stomach. While I love some well written snarkiness it just got to the point where every column just seemed so negative. I agree 100% with your last sentence- a lot of times the articles toss out an idea with little to nothing to back it up.

  2. I seemed to have been mired into C or mediocre perdition. Luckily I found two books to break up my bad streak. Isn’t it Bromantic? By Lauren Baratz-Logsted and Dog Days by Elsa Watson both are fun reads. Reviews are in the works so I will leave it at that.

  3. LOL on the leg lifts – I did’t realize it was tied to cliche descriptions. I guess your review book isn’t all that good.

  4. Just got around to reading “What the Librarian Did” by Karina Bliss. Wonderful, wonderful emotional, character-driven romance. Yeah, the guy’s a rock star, worth mllions, if not billions, but so what…who says you can’t have your fantasy AND reality based characters
    mixed in together. He may be rich, doesn’t mean he isn’t human. This one’s a keeper.

    As far as Jezebel, if you are not a white, twenty-thirty something, city-dwellings liberal, a-religous woman, then the site is not for you. If they claim to speak for all women, the claim is false. Got disgusted with it looong ago.

  5. I’ve started and stopped several books recently, and the others I’ve read were just okay, so it was a pleasure to read two books that I rated A. One was The Other Side of Us by Sarah Mayberry. It’s a character driven book written with Mayberry’s usual flair. It takes a great deal of skill to balance a story about two damaged people trying to get back to “normal.”

    The second book is by a lesser known author. It’s No Such Thing As a Lost Cause by Shelly Fredman. It’s the 5th in a mystery/romance series. I got caught up in the characters when I read the first book and each book has gotten better. Some humor, some romance and mystery.

    Another winner for me recently was On the Island by Garvis-Graves. This one was a surprise since I didn’t think it sounded all that plausible. I was intrigued because of the good reviews I read. I listened to this on audio and really enjoyed it. The author does an excellent job with a storyline that could easily have been awful!

  6. Jane Austen is turning in her grave.
    Austen is incomparable IMO and the only author I can think of that rivals her is Georgette Heyer. Austen was not a romance writer, she was a comtemporary writer commenting on the female side of English daily life which centered around family, friends, who’s who and getting marriied.

    I start my morning reading with news and blogs. DA, SBTB, AAR, Salon and Popehat. After that it’s what’s new at the library.
    I also like two author sites: Lauren Willig and Ilona Andrews, both are funny and informative. Lauren’s site is how I found out about AAR.

    Now I’m off to check out Jezebel.

  7. I’ve been on a winning streak. Shades of Earth by Beth Revis. Touch and Go Lisa Gardner. Lady of Fairborne Hall by Julie Klassen. Frozen by Kate Watterson. There have been plenty of clunkers too but I am focusing on the good :-)

  8. It’s sites like Jezebel that give feminism a bad name. I felt like I was being shouted at by five year olds who are saying shit and fuck just to get a reaction from the adults.
    The author of the Austen piece was just yaking it up about Austen and decided to throw in Twilight because of Meyer’s association with Austenland. I’m surprised she didn’t try to twist Lena Dunham in all of this. She obviously is a Bronte fan which she confirmed in the last paragraph, which by the way was the only part of the article that rang sincere.

    • “I felt like I was being shouted at by five year olds who are saying shit and fuck just to get a reaction from the adults.”

      I definitely get an element of that sometimes, too. For a site that has some really good discussions of work/life balance, gender issues and sometimes just life in general, I often like Corporette. They’ve got some wonderful commenters over there.

  9. Recently finished The Emperor’s Conspiracy by Michelle Diener and thoroughly enjoyed it. And also The Steel Bonnets: The Story of the Ango-Scottish Border Reivers by George MacDonald Fraser, which was for research, but I enjoyed reading it regardless. :)

  10. Sorry, nothing good. Mostly re-reading at the moment. I have been reading a lot of Kristen Ashley and I do like them. But you just can’t read them one after the other.

  11. I read an absolutely fabulous fiction book – ME BEFORE YOU by Jojo Moyes. It’s being touted as a book that was a runaway bestseller in Britain – now published over here – and I believe it. Not a romance but I think a lot of romance readers would really enjoy it – though it isn’t light material.

    The book is told from the point of view of Louisa Clark who is a 26-year-old young woman who still lives with her parents in a smallish English town whose only claim to fame is the local castle. Louisa works as a waitress at the Buttered Bun restaurant and uses her salary to help support the family. When she loses her job, everyone panics. She’s not really trained for anything else, her dad lives in fear of being laid off from his job at a furniture factory and her sister Treena is a single mother who also lives in the family home. Louisa is desperate and when the only job she can get is as a companion/daytime caregiver to a quadriplegic man she is reluctant, but takes the job.

    Will Traynor was a powerful business man who lived life on edge both in his personal and professional lives. His hobbies included mountain climbing and bungee jumping so being paralyzed from the chest down is worse then a death sentence as far as he’s concerned. And the appearance of the cheerful, colorful Lou into his life is just one more thing he has no control over anymore.

    There is humor in this book as the two navigate a truce but there’s also tragedy and it’s all beautiful. I don’t want to say much more because I don’t want to spoil it – but I will warn this is Fiction.

  12. I love Jojo Moyes, and have purchased her older books from Better World Books. I’m glad her books are being published in the U.S. now, and will buy Me Before You soon.

  13. I guess the author of the article in Jezebel simply doesn’t like HEAs in her novels. That’s why she prefers “Tess of d’Urbervilles” and “Wuthering Heights”.
    As if drama was always better or more real than humour or happiness.
    Sorry, life is hard, but I have seen many people with real problems who can laugh and enjoy their lives.
    I find them more inspiring that those who are always frowning at you.

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