What a good start to the year! I read something for the January TBR Challenge, which Wendy decided to keep hosting (yay!), and thanks to a snow day I have time to write up my post on the due date. This month’s theme is “We love short shorts,” so I chose a category romance: Cosmic Rendezvous, by Robyn Amos, from Harlequin’s late lamented Kimani line. (I think I learned about this from an Olivia Waite newsletter).
Amos’ title might suggest a sci fi romance, but this is a contemporary enemies-to-lovers story about an engineer and an astronaut working on a NASA mission. Shelly London is a talented engineer who has designed the spacecraft for this mission (whether this is really possible at 30, I don’t know, but it’s the kind of fantasy element I’m willing to go with in a romance). Lincoln “Lightning” Ripley is a famous astronaut. Shelly, who has been trying to get accepted into the astronaut training program herself, thinks he doesn’t appreciate what he has or take it seriously. Linc doesn’t understand why Shelly’s so short with him. What woman can resist his charm? There’s a bit of a pride and prejudice vibe in their opening sparring, with Shelly prejudiced against Linc because of assumptions she makes due to his fame, and Linc too proud to explain some of the circumstances that make him seem he’s not taking the mission seriously.
I have a fairly low tolerance for the “enemies” part of enemies to lovers these days, if the battle between the protagonists is too hurtful or protracted. Luckily, this wasn’t. The boss tells Shelly and Linc to work together for the good of the mission, and they quickly learn to respect each other. And then, of course, more, because this is a romance, and one I enjoyed. Continue reading
It was a pretty good reading year for me, though once again it didn’t always feel that way as I was living it. My main impetus to get back to blogging more regularly is that I want to reflect on and and engage with my reading better.
Here are (some of) this year’s highlights/most memorable reading experiences, organized more or less by thematic connections I made between them:
Milkman, by Anna Burns, was last year’s Man Booker winner, and I thought it as a 2018 read until I looked over my reading year at Goodreads. (2019 was a looooong year, and February feels at least 5 years ago). I’m still thinking about this novel, remarkable both for its style and for its depiction of a young woman’s life in the Troubles and the constraints imposed by living in the midst of conflict.
I followed the thread of the Troubles to Patrick Radden Keefe’s Say Nothing on audiobook, which also focuses a lot of its attention on women. It deserved its place on many year-end best books lists. Continue reading
Today while I was out running errands, I made myself return a library book I hadn’t finished. It was a collection of short stories; I read three, but they weren’t really grabbing me. But . . . I had read three. Wouldn’t that time be “wasted” if I didn’t finish the book? Did those stories count if I couldn’t record the book as “read” on Goodreads or in my reading notebook?
Yes, these are the questions that plague a reader whose reading is too often governed by guilt, or a misplaced sense of responsibility, or rules–or just a lifetime of doing and assigning homework. Can I skim? Can I start a series in the middle? Read it out of order? Just read some of a collection of stories or poems? Does my reading have value if I didn’t finish the “assignment”? Of course it does! I advise my students that they can’t read every word they’re assigned and teach them how to read strategically. Why not take my own advice? (Never my strong suit….)
Of course reading for pleasure isn’t the same as reading for school. But just like my students, I may get something of value out of “incomplete” reading. For example, I don’t regret reading those three stories in the book I returned today; I just don’t feel like reading more. Continue reading
I feel as if I haven’t read a thing since the semester started, but that isn’t really true. I haven’t read as much as during the summer, and I’ve been very slowly pecking away at a long novel (Homeland by Fernando Aramburu), but I have been reading, including poetry, some mysteries, more Dick Francis audiobooks (though the binge has slowed way down), and some non-fiction about, as Ibram X. Kendi’s book has it, How to Be an Antiracist. Continue reading
A few years ago I read and loved Melissa Harrison’s At Hawthorne Time, so I have really been looking forward to this one, which finally came in at my library. Harrison seems to be an author who works a groove, as the themes of this book reminded me of her previous one: life in an English village during a time of change (but when is not a time of change, as she reminds us); a love for and connection to the land; characters who are social outsiders, at least to some extent. All Among the Barley reminds me not just of Harrison’s previous novel, but of books I’ve loved like Reservoir 13 and Ghost Wall. Like the latter, it is astute about the ways nostalgic nationalism ill serves women, and can be read at least in part as a Brexit novel, as it’s set in 1933 with both echoes of war and a faintly looming political threat. (I don’t think this book is quite as good, though).
The narrator of All Among the Barley is Edith Mather, the 14 year old daughter of an East Anglia farmer. Edie is bright, but she has just left school, as her parents expect; she has little sense of what she wants from life, or even that she can want something. She loves the farm and its landscape, but what future do they offer her, especially under threat from an economic depression? Continue reading