This year, it was all about reconnecting with my roots. First, there was a cousin’s wedding in Chicago. My son described this portion of the trip as two days of “enthusiastically hugging people and then being told how they are related to you.” My extended family on my mom’s side is big: my 93-year-old grandmother, 6 in my mom’s generation, 13 in mine (I’m oldest), and 14 so far in my kids’. Almost all of us made it to the wedding. Since I am The One Who Married a Canadian (and moved to the West Coast) I don’t get to see them often. It was great, although there isn’t much chance to catch up in a crowd.
We also took in a couple of museums, including the Daniel Clowes show at the Museum of
Contemporary Art for my husband, and drove by the house where I lived until I was 12.
Then we spent a week with my parents and sister in the Lake Michigan beach town where my grandparents rented a summer house for many years. I’ve always been deeply attached to places, but I’d have said that was one I didn’t really miss–and also that I’d pretty much gotten over being homesick for the Midwest, where I haven’t lived since high school. But as soon as I stepped onto the
beach I was filled with memories from childhood, and I missed it like crazy. All the places that meant “home” to me as a child–our house, our Wisconsin cabin, that Michigan beach, my grandparents’ houses–are lost to me now. I love where I live, but I do feel cut off from the places, and to some extent the people, that are the bedrock of my life. I brought back a collection of tiny beach rocks so I can have a little bit of “home” in my office.
I always get less reading done on vacation than I think I will, but here’s what I did read:
Assignment in Brittany, Helen MacInnes: MacInnes had been recommended to me by a number of readers, including Janet Webb, so I was glad to see some of her books being reissued. I really enjoyed this classic WWII spy story, which is lowish on action, high on psychology, with a great portrayal of a village in occupied France. I mentioned to a friend of my dad’s that I was reading this, and he said he’d read all her books years ago–and is currently rereading Mary Stewart.
A Woman Entangled, Cecilia Grant: I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book, because I knew a number of Grant fans found it a bit of a let-down. I loved it. On Goodreads, Molly O’Keefe called this “the most human” of Grant’s books, and I think that’s a good way of putting it. The action is internal (much of it takes place indoors, and inside the hearts and minds of the characters). Where her first two books were obviously doing Big Things with the genre (and I loved that about them), this one is quieter, though no less ambitious in its way–and ambition is one of its themes. For much of the novel, Nick and Kate are not really in a romance, or don’t realize that they are–they are each working out their own issues, and the way they bounce off of each other is an important part of doing so, but their issues aren’t really about each other, or caused by their relationship. I think this would be unsatisfying for some romance readers, but I enjoyed it, and the way their connection built slowly. It’s also appropriate for a novel that takes Pride and Prejudice as an intertext. I’m still working out what I think about this one, and would love to discuss it (perhaps I can even work up the energy for the proper review it deserves).
Just for fun, here’s a passage in which Kate’s sister, Viola, explains why she harangued a man in the library (much to Kate’s embarrassment):
“The more library clerks and booksellers I make aware of my project, the more likely it is that they’ll mention me in discussions with one another–perhaps even in discussions with publishers. . . . One day I may well be overheard, and approached by some enterprising man who sees that the time is ripe for a book like mine.”
My e-book annotatation: “LOL! Regency author spam!” This wasn’t the only moment where I felt the presence of Romancelandia and its debates in the book.
Fearless and Ruthless, HelenKay Dimon: I enjoyed Dimon’s 5-book Harlequin Intrigue series Mystery Men, so I was happy to start a new one. Her suspense pacing is great and fits the small package, her alpha heroes are never too jerky, her heroines not TSTL. These were perfect airplane reading, and I mean that as a compliment: they kept my attention engaged. I thought the romance worked best in Fearless, because re-united lovers are more convincing in such a short space. Reading them back to back reminded me of why I don’t glom, though, because I became too aware of the patterns in Dimon’s characters and tics of her writing, like gazes bouncing around. I often find her sentences awkward, and that began to bug me:
“Thanks for bringing dinner,” she said, verbally pulling Pax in another conversation direction with all her might.
But her story-telling is really solid. I can see three more potential heroes for this series (thankfully, they didn’t feel like sequel bait) and I’m in for their books.
I listened to another Amelia Peabody book, and am on to #4. I love this series, especially the first, which I’ve reread many many times, and was saddened to hear today of Elizabeth Peters’ death.
Now it’s on to reading books for class and for the literary magazine review I’ve agreed to do, as well as Gaffney’s Forever and Ever (I’ll do a discussion post on that for August 15). I’m also listening to The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith aka J.K. Rowling. I was not thrilled about the fake author bio, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the revelation of her authorship was a deliberate publicity stunt, but I figured if I’d heard of the book before all that came out I would have wanted to read it, so what the heck. I’m about halfway and enjoying it very much. Ironically, I don’t think the fake military/law enforcement experience attributed to Galbraith is significant in the story, but Rowling’s own experience with fame is.