When you don’t blog for a while, or at least when I don’t, one of the obstacles to getting back into a routine is the clutter of possible things to blog about, which becomes strangely unmotivating because it’s hard to pick one topic and just get started. This is an attempt to clear out some of that clutter!
I have been busy and kind of distracted lately, and I also am just getting over shingles (a relatively mild case, fortunately, but still an intrusion on my general well-being), so I have not been able to focus on much sustained reading beyond what I’ve had to do for my classes. Still, I have managed to putter through a few romances that I plucked more or less at random off the library shelves in search of undemanding distraction. (It’s not that I think romances are always or only undemanding distractions, but one good thing about adding romance to my reading repertoire has been knowing it can offer light diversion when needed.) Two of these were OK but nothing special: Jill Shalvis’s Chasing Christmas Eve, which I enjoyed for its interesting choice of careers for its protagonists, including the inevitably self-referential “successful author” role for the heroine (which, even more self-referentially, involves her ‘discovering’ that her new book is — gasp — a romance!), and Start Me Up by Nicole Michaels, which is blandly predictable but has a blogger heroine who at least raises some mildly interesting questions about online / off-line identities and boundaries. I started but didn’t get far in Sarah Morgan’s Holiday in the Hamptons: this is par for the course for me with Morgan, whose books always sound cute but feel very formulaic once I actually start reading them.
The one stand-out experience in my recent romance reading was Kate Clayborn’s Best of Luck, which I did not pick up haphazardly at the library but had pre-ordered on the strength of the first two books in the series, Beginner’s Luck and Luck of the Draw. I liked the first one just fine and then really liked the second one a lot; both have also stood up well to rereading. Best of Luck is a good finale for the trilogy. Like the first two, its biggest strength is its characters, who have both distinct and plausibly complicated personalities and histories and genuinely interesting work to do–something Clayborn gives a lot of attention to. I like that: I have a documented fondness for ‘neepery’ and each of her books offers it in spades. The books are not particularly funny or witty, but they are not ponderous, and they earn their angst rather than piling it on (which is what I thought happened in my one excursion into Alisha Rai). The pacing is good and the alternating points of view for each chapter keeps things interesting as the conflicts develop and then resolve. I realize these comments are sort of generic! But that’s because reading and liking Best of Luck after reading and either not liking or not caring much about a handful of other books in the same genre got me thinking about what makes a romance work for me. Voice has a lot to do with it, and so does freshness, and for me the ‘Chance of a Lifetime’ books get high marks for both.
The other book I was reading for a while (inspired by my not entirely successful experience with N. K. Jemison’s The Fifth Season) was The Hobbit. It turns out that The Hobbit (like Little Women) is a book I know so well from my childhood that it is almost impossible for me to really see the words on the page. It isn’t so much that I read it often as that my brother had the marvelous Nicol Williamson audiobook and listened to it often with me within earshot. After the initial pleasure of revisiting the people and places wore off, I found myself easily distracted because I knew all too well what was coming next, and after a while I just stopped going back to it.
Much more promising, as far as engrossing me even amidst other distractions, is Hans Fallada’s Every Man Dies Alone, which I have just started but am already thoroughly involved in. When I asked Dorian about it on Twitter, he described as “Dickens with fascism,” which is a marketing blurb that would probably always work for me! So far, that seems a fair description, and I am looking forward both to the rest of the book itself and to feeling myself back in a reading groove again.