Happy New Year!

new-years-baby2 Happy 2010! It’s hard to believe we’re this far into the 21st century already. Last year – heck, the last decade – gave us some wonderful books, and from what I’ve seen of books this year so far, it promises to be a good reading year. I’ve read a good 2010 release or two so far (more on that tomorrow), and there’s still a lot to look forward to.

As with every year, there will be plenty of debut authors. I always try to pick debut books from our list of books for review here because every year I end up discovering an author or two whose voice I really enjoy. This past year, I enjoyed debuts from Tessa Dare, Kris Kennedy, Carla Capshaw and Lavinia Kent, among others, and I am excited to see what treasures are in store for this year.

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Reading Resolutions

HPIM1517 In my work life, I couldn’t survive without being relentlessly organized. My office bookcase is alphabetized and arranged by subject. My home? Um, not quite so orderly. The books in that picture on the left may not have been stacked up quite like that until right before I took the picture. Also, Laura Lee Guhrke and Cheryl St. John apparently have a feline fan who needed to be flushed out of the TBR, where she was curled up around their latest releases. So, while I’m not normally into New Year’s resolutions, I did find myself getting very into the idea of reading resolutions. Here are mine:

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And Now to Give Thanks

cornucopia I spend a fair amount of time calling out some of the things in romance that hurt the genre and absolutely make me crazy. However, having read romance since the early 90s (ah, the days of sneaking books past my mother!), I’ve also noticed a lot of things about romance for which I’m truly thankful. It’s almost Thanksgiving here in the USA, so here are some of the Romanceland things I’m grateful for:

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A Solution to the Reading Slump

The Book of LifeI never thought I’d say this, but here’s my answer to the reading slump:  Stop reading.

About three weeks ago, I had a period of major crunching, and for two solid weeks I didn’t read a thing.  My review books lay sulking on the table.  The books I’d borrowed from friends were abandoned.  Comfort reads were no longer a comfort – how could they be, when I couldn’t even face opening their covers?  No newspapers, no magazines, and had the Bernstein Bears appeared I would have shunned them too.  In short, I went into total reading freeze.  For me, that’s huge.

The main reason was simply a question of fatigue – I’ve been too tired to do anything except work, eat, and sleep, emphasis on the latter.  But when it was over, and after getting a solid ten hours of sleep, I successfully opened a book.  And from the ashes arose an interesting realization: I was glad to take a break from reading.  I was satisfied that I had stopped.  I read that book enthusiastically, even though it turned out to be a dud.  I was once again happy in the world of literature.  All because I’d stopped reading.

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The Lover Scorned

libby Recently, I reread Thornton Wilder’s The Ides of March. It’s a book I’ve read with great pleasure before; this time I was particularly struck by the way the relationship between the poet Catullus and society lady Clodia is portrayed. He loves her with all his heart and writes great poems to her and about her; she sometimes admits him as her lover and spends time with him before jilting him again in favor of a rival. The novel leaves no doubt that Clodia is cruel and capricious; however, at this reading, I suddenly felt that I understood her right to jilt him, and her urge to do so. In spite of the undoubted depth of Catullus’ feelings, it is quite clear that Clodia does not feel as deeply for him. Yes, she might have treated him with far less cruelty, as Caesar points out to her, in ending the affair. But for the first time, my reaction as a reader was sympathy with her desire to regain her autonomy in the face of Catullus’s overwhelming love and of his general wonderfulness.

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Categories: The Bastard Children of Romance

Harlequins2 Last week on our message boards a discussion arose about category romances – specifically, whether or not one reads them and why. For those of you who don’t know, categories (a.k.a. “series romances”) are the shorter, usually numbered books released each month by Harlequin, Silhouette or Love Inspired(Steeple Hill) in the U.S., and Mills and Boon in the U.K. Currently, Harlequin publishes more than 2 dozen different category lines, and there are numerous obsolete lines in the publisher’s history. (Harlequin also publishes single-titles under the MIRA and HQN imprints.)

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Storing All Those Books

book stacks Recently, I sorted some of my bookshelves. Truth to be told, I mostly did it in order to procrastinate doing some other work, but when I had finished, I was really pleased: The books looked so neat, with many from the same publishing house standing next to each other, and next time it won’t take me ages to find a specific book. An added bonus, I unearthed my copy of Meg Cabot’s The Boy Next Door, which I had been hunting for the last two years and which I accused both my sister and my father of having borrowed and forgotten to return.

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The Art of Love

jatteFinding a balance in life is challenging.  The routines, the career, the relationships, the finances, and family and friends – it isn’t easy compartmentalizing as well as merging all of these together, and too often we become over-involved in one area while others, especially personal relationships, suffer.  But it must be particularly difficult for those in the creative arts.

I was thinking about this while listening to Sunday in the Park with George, Stephen Sondheim’s musical about Georges Seurat, the Impressionist pointillist painter.  Dot, George’s unsophisticated mistress and muse, struggles to compete with his art for George’s attention and finally gives up, marrying Louis the Baker instead; so it usually is.  Art is possessive and artists are obsessive and for many of them, love and art are mutually exclusive.  When I encounter artists, musicians, actors, and such in romance novels, I often wonder how likely it is that characters of such creative brilliance can find equilibrium between their soul mate and their artistic soul.

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The Book Police Strike Again!

madnessoflordianweb For the third time in five years, I’ve actually been asked to either put up my book or leave a public place because people find my reading material offensive.  The most recent offender? The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie (a fantastic book, by the way). Now, as romance covers go, this one really isn’t so bad - not nearly as racy as Must Have Been the Moonlight, which got me a lecture on the treadmill at my gym.  These incidents sometimes make me want to break out the worst 80s clinch cover I can get my grubby paws on, but more seriously, they also make me think about the disconnect between why many of us read romance and what people think when they see us reading romance.

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