Where’s My Mojo?

If I were the GIF kind, I’d find an Austin Powers one. I’ve lost my blogging mojo, my reading mojo, pretty much every kind of mojo. This happens to me pretty regularly at the end of the academic year. I am busy, I’m tired, and that plus the realization that once again I’ve failed to conquer the world this year makes me kind of depressed. Just to keep my hand in, some very random thoughts.

I beta-read Jackie Barbosa’s new novel, Skin in the Game. I like to think I was reasonably objective when reading it (otherwise I wouldn’t have been much use), but I’m not objective now. So I’ll just say that I really like Jackie’s voice–light and witty with a touch of sweetness. I like that the hero is a star athlete but not an alpha jerk, and I loved Angie, the high-school football coach heroine who is great at her work but struggles to be recognized. I know zilch about football but I loved watching Angie absorbed in her strategizing.

Rohan Maitzen is reading the complete novels of Dick Francis for a project (that’s something like 40; she has obviously hung on to her mojo). The other day, she tweeted this:

“It began in friendship and progressed to passion. Ended in breathlessness and laughter, sank to murmurs and sleep.” A Dick Francis Romance

That quote is a little poem. Also, it’s the kind of romance I want to read. I don’t think I’ve ever read Dick Francis . . . .

I am really grateful to Miss Bates for following my blog, which is how I discovered hers. I like her reviews, but her rating scheme is the best ever.

I am reading Helene Tursten’s Detective Inspector Huss. Very slowly. Partly because it’s a slow-moving Swedish-style police procedural, but also because it’s paperback and the print is tiny. Squinting at it makes me feel old. The book’s not bad, but pretty conventional.

When I am tired, I “read” more audiobooks. I have more or less given up on romance on audio, because I don’t like the most popular historical romance narrators. This has led to discovering more speculative fiction, which is becoming a much bigger portion of my reading. What I’ve heard lately:

Sharon Shinn’s Archangel. It’s a marriage of convenience/fated mates story in which the characters have to figure out how to work together in the relationship they are stuck with, and what kind of relationship they want it to be. My favorite trope! I have mixed (and hypocritical) feelings about speculative fiction that bases its world-building in Judeo-Christian mythos, but the questions of belief Shinn raises are interesting ones and I liked the world.

Jim Butcher’s Fool Moon. I like Harry Dresden the character but this series may be too gory for me. I might stick with it a while longer, but in print from the library rather than with precious Audible credits. If anyone has urban fantasy recs that are similarly noir but with a lower, less graphic body count, I’ll take them (even Ben Aaronovitch can be a little on the bloody side for me).

I’m now in the middle of Catherine Asaro’s Primary Inversion. It’s harder sci fi than I usually read, and I’m enjoying it.

Next might be Kage Baker’s In the Garden of Iden, which I picked up in Audible’s “First in a Series” sale after Natalie included it in a list of “speculative fiction for romance readers.”

Speaking of Natalie, I loved her post on “Criticism, Reader Shaming, and Problematic Books.” Discussions on this topic often seem circular and I am weary of them. But the comments Natalie prompted are great. Anything I had worth saying on the topic, I said there.

I finished Patricia Gaffney’s To Love and to Cherish. I am saving most of my thoughts for July and book club discussion, but I will say this:

1. I admired a lot about it, but it left me cold emotionally. I suspect this is because I knew too much about it going in and went into academic mode (which it richly rewarded, I might add). I am most looking forward to the third book in the trilogy, because I know nothing about it. If you’ve read it, don’t tell me anything.

2. I think it’s the first romance I have read that represents a devoutly religious person in a way that felt realistic. I’m still coming to terms with whether I think the book is preachy, but it explores questions of faith more deeply than the inspirational romance I tried. When I tweeted about this, I got suggestions for other historicals that do this well (it’s kind of telling that they were older).

I won’t declare a full-on hiatus, but I may not post much until July, when I hope to get my mojo back, firing the mental oven to finish off all the half-baked ideas I’ve got kicking around.

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12 Responses to Where’s My Mojo?

  1. willaful says:

    I highly recommend Shinn’s Angelica, which has some similar themes but very different characters, and the sweetest beta hero.

    I’m having the same trouble with historical narrators — I just can’t stand those plummy English accents. They seem to be very popular, alas.

    • Liz Mc2 says:

      I find them too . . . sappy? sentimental? and they don’t do male voices well. Thanks for the Shinn rec! I’ve liked both I read by her, and I think you were one of the people who suggested them.

  2. Ros says:

    I read the entire Dick Francis backlist as a teenager and used to eagerly await each new book. I love horseracing anyway, but I think his books work even if that’s not your thing. There is usually a minor romantic subplot but the books are basically thrillers/mysteries. Don’t try anything published after about 2008. Even if it has his name on, it’s not really his at that point. He died in 2010. Some of my favourites are High Stakes, The Danger, Banker, Bolt, and The Edge. The Edge is set on a cross-Canada train ride. Enjoy!

    • Liz Mc2 says:

      Everyone’s recommending different Francis. I’ll end up reading 40! I haven’t read a horsey book since my own teens, I think, but it’s a world I enjoyed a lot.

  3. Jessica says:

    I definitely want to read the trilogy when it comes out in E. Who is having a discussion of it?

    This is kind of a tangent, but I recently read a review of A Big Enough God by Sarah Maitland at A Striped Armchair (http://astripedarmchair.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/a-big-enough-god-by-sara-maitland-thoughts/) and I thought of you, although I don’t know if you do any nonfiction Christian reading.

    • Liz Mc2 says:

      Janine and Angela are doing joint reviews of the Gaffney trilogy at Dear Author, and I’m planning on hosting a discussion in July/August (probably one book at a time, not sure).

      I do sometimes read Christian non-fiction, and that Maitland book sounds really interesting. Thanks!

      • Jessica says:

        I knew about the Janine Angela but I missed you were hosting a discussion. Look forward to it !

  4. Barb in Maryland says:

    Re: Sharon Shinn–one of the best parts of reading her Angel books is discovering just ‘who’ and ‘why’ the angels exist. The original trilogy (and the later add-ins) take place over a long time (a hundred years or more) and she explores the changes in the world brought about by those revelations.
    Almost all of her books explore ‘belief’ in one way or another. Her 12 Houses books are on my comfort read shelf, but my single favorite of her’s is “Wrapt in Crystal”–a murder mystery with romance.

    Re: Kage Baker. Oh, you are in for a treat. I loved, loved, loved her Company books. Wicked sense of humor. We lost her too soon (but at least she finished the series!)

    Having read all of Dick Francis’ books I can say I enjoyed most of them. However, his heroes often got the snot beat out of them, often because they were a touch TSTL. Just my humble opinion, of course.

    I’m going through a reading slump myself–I am hoping the new Susanna Kearsley will snap me out of it.

  5. rmaitzen says:

    I dunno about that mojo thing. I keep staring at my blog thinking “I really ought to write something” — and then not! But one problem is precisely that most of my reading is Dick Francis and I’m kind of saving up my thoughts there for the actual essay. That is a lovely little snippet, isn’t it?

  6. I’ve missed your blog posts. My mojo is fading too. This morning I spent hours writing something in response to something else and then thought better of posting it. I also have another something on my hard drive that I keep second guessing and revising.
    Re. Sharon Shinn. I like the world and the questions too. I love most of her Samaria books, even though there’s appropriation of my culture in the mix there, and the portrayal of the Jansai is troubling to say the least. Archangel is also heavily influenced by Anne McCaffery’s Dragonflight. Despite all these problematic aspects, I’m very fond of this series.
    Re. To Love and to Cherish, I knew very little about the book going in, but I still felt at an emotional remove from it when I first read it, and in subsequent readings as well. I’m slowly reading it now though, and so far, I’m enjoying it more this time than I have in the past.

  7. victoriajanssen says:

    The cool thing about Dick Francis is there is always neepery about the hero’s profession – which is usually related to horses, but not always, and it’s almost always interesting. I think I remember reading his wife actually did all the research and collaborated with him to some extent. Anyway, I loved the neepery. Also, his characters get beat up a lot…as a former jockey, Francis can get pretty graphic in describing the results.

    I plan to get to the third Wyckerley book pretty soon – like you, I am unspoiled except for I think someone told me who the heroine is.

  8. Erin Satie says:

    I went through a really devoted Dick Francis phase as a teenager, too (Holla, Ros!). Read every book I could get my hands on, which, at the time, meant special orders and used bookstores. He writes a lot about people who live & work in a very glamorous atmosphere without ever really belonging to it, so that the main characters are always both fascinated & terrified by the trappings of wealth. Snappy books, as I recall.

    If you haven’t tried Kim Harrison’s Hollows books, you might give those a try. I think that’s my favorite urban fantasy series, and I’ve tried most of them. I had a really hard time getting into the first book, but the series is winding to a close right now & I’m finding it tremendously satisfying. I’d put the gore factor lower than Dresden, though it can be quite grim.

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