Worlds In My Head

Reading_1Since my last post, I’ve been giddy with reading possibilities. I picked up one book and set it down, swiped e-reader “cloud” pages, and flitted from book to book like a bee unable to settle on a flower. Now that I was free of my ARC schedule, I was going to read all the things. Except I didn’t. Work was fraught and till about mid-week, I was preoccupied with an important meeting I’d been pulled into. Without my steady ARC reviewing schedule, I was gleeful, but book-fickle.

*big breath* I thought about what I loved about reading, and it turned out to be somewhat like the comments I made in my previous post about being in church and experiencing Paschal services. What I love about it is I get to carry the book around in my head, characters, world, and concerns, while going about my everyday business of work, a sandwich for lunch, and traffic-ridden commutes. The bee-me settled on several flowers; it may not be the way forward, but bee-me is in a happy place. I thought about what worlds I wanted taking up space in my head and what worlds I could anticipate spending time in when I settle on the couch to read, post-workday.  

(I persist with MacCulloch’s tome, eking out a few pages every night. I’ve hit his Rome chapter, but haven’t made it anywhere near Christianity proper. Lest we forget, he deems the history of Christianity at 3000 years, not a smidgen over two. Starting with ye olde classical Greeks (he’s right: how can one write about Christianity without considering Plato?), it makes his work massive. But MacCulloch is a long-term reading commitment and near impossible to carry around in my backpack to whip out for a quick peruse while I’m munching my lunch sandwich.)

Whose worlds did I want in my head? What did I have in the TBR that I’d love and had been putting off to the reviewing schedule? What I needed, I decided, was the familiar and beloved. The author worlds most precious; neglected, yet missed.

I settled on C. S. Harris’s Sebastian St. Cyr historical murder mystery. I’d bought the second to last volume, Why Kill the Innocent, with a gift card and had been gazing longingly at its black-and-white cover on my ereader. Harris writes my favourite series. A Regency-set murder mystery series with a compelling, sexy, complex hero, a love between two intelligent equals, secondary characters who match hero and heroine in their compelling complexity, and a world where the weak, vulnerable, and defenseless find justice. I don’t have words to say how immersive I find Harris’s Regency aristo-detective-war-veteran and the world he inhabits. I carry Seb; wife, Hero; friend Paul; reluctant ally Alexi; Cockney tiger Tom; friend, magistrate Lovejoy; and antagonist Jarvis (to say nothing of Seb’s complicated family relationships), and Seb’s adorbs son, Simon, in my head with great contentment. I haven’t finished it yet, but I’ll return with my gushy verdict of the series’ latest iteration. It opens in an 1814 London beset by snow and ice, one of the worst winters in memory. It reminded me of the horror of our past winter (April snow storm, folks!). Harris’s novel feels like I’m plunging back into my own snow-and-ice-covered streets. I feel even closer to Seb and Hero for their knee-deep sinking into snow drifts.

I also started a reread of Dorothy Sayers’s Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, largely thanks to a new podcast I discovered: http://shedunnitshow.com, about classic detective stories. Podcaster Caroline Crampton has a soothing voice and great love for and knowledge about the genre and I’d highly recommend it to crime fiction and genre history lovers. I also remembered how classic murder mysteries helped me survive the soul-destroying experience of grad school, so I knew this was comfort-read supreme. I settled on The Unpleasantness At the Bellona Club and am about half way through. Because the universe coincides in amazing ways, Crampton named Sayers’s mystery as one of the ten novels that introduced the Penguin paperback series back in the day, 1935 to be exact! Stay tuned for my thoughts on Bellona and “memento mori”.

End_of_RainbowFor the past year (and it’ll take me years yet), I’ve been working on reading all 134 of Betty Neels’s romances. I read them for my #bathtubromreading hashtag Twitter project, long abandoned. I’m at #26 now and going strong. Over the past week, I finished #25, The End of the Rainbow, and loved it. Heroine Olympia is a poverty-stricken Cinderella-waif at the beck and call of cruel Aunt Maria. She is rescued by widowed Dr. Waldo van der Graaf who offers her an MOC. He comes with a daughter who needs a caretaker. Olympia’s response to Waldo is what I love about Neels: her hero’s and heroine’s integrity. Olympia doesn’t want to give up on love, or enter into a mercenary marriage, but when she sees an opportunity for service, the little girl (and the hero, heroic as ever, does some Aunt Maria arm-twisting, making her an offer she can’t refuse), she accepts. Olympia is an affectionate soul and the care, good manners, and affection Waldo shows her soon bring her to an “I love him” conclusion. Waldo takes longer to reveal his affections. There are two things I loved about The End of the Rainbow: Olympia’s seething, internal rages and the gaslighting, soft-voiced villainess and OW, Elizabeth. I hear over and over again how Neels is a comfort read and she is, for me as well. But we need give her credit that the relief of the HEA often comes at the end of cruelty and manipulation. The subtle portrait of the Machiavellian Elizabeth is brilliant.

(My overdevelopped sense of obligation also picked up a romance from my still-guilting-me-from-afar ARC schedule, Megan Crane’s Sniper’s Pride. I’m not loving it. The heroine is wrong-side-of-tracks interesting, but the hero is one of those aloof, disdainful Iceman types, not my fave. Not sure I want this guy in my head. If he were a grump, maybe, but he’s a block of emotional stiffness. We’ll see how it goes. For now, I’m likely to stick with it because it’s set in Alaska and that’s a setting we don’t see often enough.)

What have you been reading, friends?

14 thoughts on “Worlds In My Head

  1. I understand the “bee” analogy perfectly. After I left Twitter, the relief was IMMENSE and all things felt possible. The TBR world opened up suddenly as it hadn’t in the past. But I’ve generally flitted from “flower” to “flower”, unwilling or unable to settle. Well, except for a very strange fascination I’ve developed for Sandra Brown rom/suspense/crime fiction. I’m sure it’s a passing fancy because I’m generally not satisfied what I read when I finish an SB rom/suspense is review worthy or comment worthy. My photography experiment continues, ye olde blog has been abandoned for now (I’m determined not to post because I feel as if I HAVE to but because I’ve got something to say, because I want to. As for the Twitterverse, I miss some of the people (YOU, of course!) but I found after I left I could finally breathe freely for the first time in months. I’m not besieged with the latest romance outrage (which always made me feel frustrated and ended with me examining whether choosing to/wanting to read romance was worth it if there were so many issues/problems/crises. Of course, it is WORTH it! I need my romance like …well, bees need pollen. But I needed to get away from all that drama day in day out. News of the political or otherwise is my choice now. When and how I want to be bombarded. Or not.

    I’m still continuing my Betty read. Stuck at Uncertain Summer. I like it a lot generally but I’ve been sidetracked by all the pretty in my TBR. Every time I settle down to US, I do a hummingbird and flit off to another blossom.

    As you, I relished Easter celebration this year and found without all the distractions I experienced a deeper and more meaningful experience than I’d had for a few years. Take care, and if it’s OK I’ll check in here from time to time.

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    • It’s more than okay. I missed you, but I also sensed that we both needed a Twitter time-out and a Paschal check-in. I lit candles for your good health, which I hope continues. The first week off Twitter was the grandest: I didn’t feel watched, I didn’t feel on the brink of being judged for my romance tastes and inability to recognize all the problematic elements. I didn’t feel checked. And not to say I felt hounded or harassed, but I think it’s the very ethos that makes one feel this way, not necessarily any individuals. Though I’ve also witnessed enough people being called out that lived in perpetual when’s it my turn? What an awful way to feel about a voluntary online space. So, off I went and recovered, like you, some equilibrium. You’re a more sensitive soul than yours truly, so I’m glad you’re able to breathe, click your camera and enjoy whatever it is you want to read. I’m back on Twitter, but have made my account private, no longer retweet, and am there only for friendly, book-loving book talk. I also curbed my actual time spent there.

      As for your blog, you write it when you like and want. I am doing the same: not going from book to book and review to review, but whenever I miss it and have something to say. I’m so glad you’re still here. (((hugs))) to you, my friend!

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      • Thank you for the candle, Kay! I’m in much better emotional/spiritual condition and physically I’ve never felt better. Still walking A LOT, but I was doing that before I left social media. I can only imagine my guardian angel as well as a few words from my Mom to God ears keeps it that way. 😊 To be honest, I light a candle for you and Mama B (and hubby, my parents, my furry and feathered friends, as well as my sister and my nephew who’s getting ready to graduate high school and has joined the Air Force! Yikes!!!) each time I visit the confessional or just stop by St Peter’s to enjoy the peaceful quietude.

        Hugs to you and Mama B! You two are always ALWAYS in my thoughts and prayers. Yes, I said THAT phrase the Twitterverse hates to see. Ha! I snap my fingers at their displeasure.

        *waves back at Barb in Maryland* 😊

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        • Now that I’ve set my spiritual house in order, it’s time I started to walk again and get fit. I get winded going up the stairs. The Lenten and Holy Week prostrations reminded me how unfit I am. Kathy, my friend, I was walking an hour every day before the ice set in. After that, it was over: it was walk and fall and break a limb. Poor mama wasn’t able to leave the house. Then, we had relentless rain and so many areas were flooded, we’re fine, thank the Good Lord.

          Keep walking, reading, praying, and writing: that’s my motto. Thank you for the candles and prayers: you’re always in my thoughts and prayers too! That makes two of us, naughties! 😉

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  2. “waves at Kathy”
    Miss Bates–You managed to pick several of my favorite books to celebrate your freedom. The Betty Neels End of the Rainbow is so full of angsty goodness. I have loved it forever and am now on my third? pb copy; the earlier copies fell apart from over-use. The paper pages don’t take too kindly to being cried on, either. Poor Waldo suffers from a common Neels malady–Dense Dutch Doctor Disease. His obliviousness to Elizabeth’s machinations was soooo frustrating. I think he didn’t grovel enough, however, I did love Olympia’s response.
    I know you will love the CS Harris. Please read the newest one (Who Slays the Wicked) soon–I would love to read your review.
    I’m just finishing the newest Anne Perry–the second featuring fledgling barrister Daniel Pitt (son of Thomas and Charlotte). These first two have been excellent–she has always done courtroom drama well.
    I hope that you are finally experiencing Spring. All that snow couldn’t have erased your memory of flowers, birds, greenery, could it?

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    • Truly, today is the first day which actually feels like spring. The thermometre climbed up to 16degreesC and the sun is out. Even though the denizens of most cities wouldn’t do this, Montrealers are out and about on the terrasses, enjoying beer, wine, or a coffee. So, we’re hopeful that we’ve seen the last of winter.

      I did?? Then, we are, as I suspected, truly kindred spirits. Isn’t End of the Rainbow marvelous? Waldo, I agree, you said it best, is a dufus of the first order. There should have been MOAR grovelling, but Olympia is such a wonderful person, so starved for love, not in an icky way, but mature and giving, that it’s no wonder she jumps at the chance to forgive him. And he is contrite. I really really wanted to know if she ever finished knitting him that sweater? It made me happy how Olympia’s knitting projects coincided with the tensions and conflicts of the plot.

      I’m going to read the newest one: I may just go ahead and order the expensive paper or get it on Kindle. But as soon as I finish this one (Hero’s doing a lot of sleuthing in it and I love it for that so far, but I’m only at 15%). I also may bite the bullet and get the next Veronica Speedwell.

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      • Oh, I had forgotten about all the knitting in End of the Rainbow. I suspect that Olympia will finish the sweater for Waldo and then progress to baby booties. Elizabeth will meet some rich American and never darken their doorstep again. At least, that’s how I imagine life beyond the end of the book for these characters.
        My Cadfael paperbacks have arrived.(I broke down and ordered a complete set off ebay) Now I get to shuffle my books around (and maybe do some weeding) so that they can be front and center–the better for me to re-read them, n’est-ce pas?

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        • Ha, that sounds just about right: baby booties. Having burned her bridges, I hope Elizabeth marries a bald, pseudo-rich American and moves to Florida.

          Gah. A whole set, I’m envious. But they’re such wonderful books, so glad you have them back in your possession.

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  3. I am putting “End of the Rainbow” on my TBR list. I recently read Eve Ibbotson’s “A Song for Summer”, and loved it. But every time I read one of her books, I wonder why the covers look as if they were written for teenagers. They are really are adult stories, even if the heroine is quite young. I’m always in the middle of about half a dozen books, among them “A Modest Independence” by Mimi Matthews and “The Winter Sea” by Susanna Kearsley. Matthews is an auto-buy for me. I know everybody loves Kearsley’s books, and I want to love them too, but I feel like there is a loss of intensity with the dual story line. I can put it down, and then forget to pick it up again for a couple of weeks, until I suddenly notice it in my Scribed saved book list. I am also desperately trying to catch up with back issues of The New Yorker. I have a very strict rule about reading every one pretty much from cover to cover, but right now I am about 7 issues behind.

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    • I adore Ibbotson … *trots off to her shelves* And yes! I have it. I know exactly what you mean and I don’t get it with the juvenile covers. I have a stash of books next to my reading couch and I add to it as I go along. Just added The Secret Countess as that’s next in the Ibbotson queue.

      I didn’t like the first Kearsley I read (Season of Storms, I think) and I know what you mean: sometimes, reading her feels a little bit like eating a good-for-you (that is, no sugar and fat) cookie, a bit dry too. BUT what I find I like about her is the rewarding memory of what she wrote. I actually think that reading The Winter Sea is the most challenging of her books. I whizzed through Named of the Dragon and it may be my favourite. *trigger warning: loss of baby* And I also loved her latest, Bellewether. Also, may Kearsley is your leisurely read??!!

      I think one of my happiest reading periods was my subscription to The New Yorker and reading it cover to cover, except for the NYC bits. It’s such a consistently quality across the board mag, iconic really. I would skip sports stories, to be honest.

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  4. Well it’s totally your fault that I went to Paperbackswap.com to see if there were any used copies of “The End of the Rainbow” available. It turned out there was just 1, but the person who had it must be a big fan because she had a lot of other Neels to swap. Long story short, I will be getting a package in the mail with 6 Betty Neels books!

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    • YAY!!!! *throws confetti at you* (*palpitates* Can’t believe anyone would give up even ONE copy, must less a set. But win-win for you. Whatdjaget?)

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      • Hannah, The Little Dragon, The Promise of Happiness, Sun and Candlelight, and Waiting for Deborah! I used the reviews at The Uncrushable Jersey Dress to make my choices.

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