Weekend Update

Because the weekend is when I meant to write it, but I had to give myself an extension. I was grading research papers all weekend.

I give a final exam on Wednesday, and once that’s graded I’m done with the semester. I have plenty of work lined up through the end of June, but my time is also more flexible and I hope to have more energy for reading and blogging. Here is some of what I’ve been reading/will be reading, when not mired in end of term craziness.

Catherine O’FlynnMr. Lynch’s Holiday. This novel, O’Flynn’s third, confirmed me as a fan, though I still think her début, What Was Lost, is her best book (and I’m not alone). O’Flynn is one of those authors who returns to particular themes: loss, memory, and the importance of place–all of her novels center on buildings being developed or redeveloped. In Mr. Lynch’s Holiday, it’s Lomaverde, a Spanish housing development intended for ex-pats, but abandoned half-completed because of the economic downturn (it reminded me of the unfinished Las Vegas development in Donna Tartt’s Goldfinch; what richly symbolic spaces these are). Widower Dermot Lynch arrives to visit his son Eamonn and finds that Eamonn has lost his job, his wife (at least temporarily), and himself in this nowhere place. The book isn’t as dark as this makes it sound. It’s often funny, and also tender and moving as father and son find each other, and other things/people.  Continue reading

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The Divorce Papers, by Susan Reiger

Divorce PapersOne reason I love libraries is that I’ll try books on a whim: if I don’t like it, back it goes, no guilt involved. The cover of Susan Rieger’s début novel, Divorce Papers, caught my eye when I was browsing the library e-book catalogue; the blurb didn’t completely sell me on it, but hey, library! I placed a hold.

A few days later, Miss Bates tweeted a link to a HuffPo piece Rieger wrote on epistolary novels, and I was full of anticipation: I love epistolary novels. I zoomed through this book in three days, and I liked it a lot.

The Divorce Papers is a bit difficult to categorize: chick lit, women’s fiction, comedy of manners among upper-middle-class Northeasterners, workplace novel–it’s a little of all of those. And, of course, it’s epistolary: e-mails, notes, excerpts from the laws governing divorce in Rieger’s fictional state, and legal documents tell the story. (The epigraph is an appropriately legalistic passage from Dracula, also a novel-in-documents “given from the standpoints and within the range of knowledge of those who made them”). Despite the subject-matter, this novel is often funny; it’s also a comedy in the sense that the optimistic ending metes out justice in satisfying ways. It deals not only with the dissolution of a marriage, but with friendship, mentorship, parents and children, a web of happy, unhappy, vexed, complicated relationships. Continue reading

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The Space Between

Wait, that’s the title of a Dave Matthews song? Please note that my earworm right now is Roxy Music. In fact, where’s my iPod?

I loved Pamela’s post on “Romancelandia, Overthinking, and Balance,” as well as the discussion sparked by it and on the posts she links to as her inspirations. Like Pamela, I was struck by Olivia Waite’s comments kicking off her April-long discussions of intersectional feminism in romance:

 I want something more about symbols/motifs/mechanics than the reviews at Dear Author and Smart Bitches, but something more accessible than the high-critical work being done by IASPR and academic journals. And nobody’s itching to write that kind of criticism except me.

Well, actually I am. Or I was. That was how I initially imagined my blogging: writing in the space between “professional” academic criticism (which I don’t do any more) and reviewing. Just as I think of myself as reading somewhere in the space between “fan” and “critic.” Writing with a love of books and of (over)thinking about them.

Continue reading

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RITA Reader Response (Yours!)

Yesterday the Romance Writers of America announced the finalists for this year’s RITA and Golden Heart awards. I muted the dozens of congratulatory tweets, but I did enjoy it when my reader-friends started weighing in on the lists. On Twitter, though, the number of people being @ed soon left no room in the canoe for saying anything about the books. We needed a place to discuss at length and I volunteered to provide one.

It turns out I have read not one of the finalists (I read less romance, and fewer new books, last year), so I really need your comments! Continue reading

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Recent Reading: Successes

or, Books That Deserve Better Than They’re Going to Get From Me

Lately I’ve read and listened to quite a lot of books I enjoyed but haven’t felt moved to write about at length. Here’s a round-up.

Romance

Suleikha Snyder, Spice and Smoke 

OK, the next Snyder book I read, I’m going to choose a time when I can give it my full attention. I’d like to give her a proper review for once! This one I took a hiatus on when my cat went missing so I’d kind of lost the thread when I picked it back up. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Snyder’s first two Bollywood books, because glamorous and soapy isn’t normally my thing. They don’t actually focus on the glamour, but on the very human emotions of the characters. Snyder writes yearning really well. And I found the soapy elements of the plot fun (there’s quite the villainess in this book, and she gets what she deserves) because the language was never too purple. Like Spice and Secrets, this book has two romances intertwined. My favorite was talk show host Sunita and her British producer, Davey Shaw: Sunny is an ambitious woman who doesn’t have to compromise for love (like all the Snyder heroines I’ve read so far, yay!); her reasons for hesitating to fall in love felt real and I liked the way their sparring worked in jokes about colonialism (or were they jokes, exactly?). I was less in love with the younger couple–I couldn’t quite see what was keeping them apart, or had separated them in the first place, and just wanted to bang their heads together. I am old and cranky. I’m looking forward to the third book in this series, Bollywood and the Beast, which is in my TBR (I do like a Beauty and the Beast story). [Also: Samhain lists this as "Red Hot!" but I did not find the sex to be more frequent or explicit than a "regular" romance, nor was it kinky, and that was fine with me. It could be classified as an erotic romance in the sense that a big focus of the relationships is the characters' desire for each other, but if, like me, you're not in the mood for more erotic books, don't let the publisher classification put you off.] Continue reading

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