Reading: June is for Genre Jumping

Thus far in June I’ve read seven books, the latest three in the last three days, and so different were they a weaker reader might be suffering literary whiplash, but I am made of sterner stuff and, frankly, both my driving and mood swings have accustomed me to nerve-wrackingly abrupt lane changes and shockingly sudden emotional ups and downs, so it was nothing for me to start at Regency Romance, segue to hilarious, profane, up-to-the-minute/zeitgeisty essays, and then brake and veer left into serial-killer, crime novel land. And so, in that order, and in brief, here we are, going.

It was fellow book-bloggist (and Fredericktonian), Kerry McHugh at Entomology of a Bookworm [click here] who first turned me on to Regency Romance novels. It was a year or so ago (I think — my sense of time is as off as my sense of direction and distance — see above bad driving reference) Kerry offered a blog on exploring the Romance genre and so enlightening and persuasive was her column, I hied to my local used book store and started exploring. I am now a devotee of Regency Romance, and cycle one in along with my other favorite genre reads — literary fiction, British mystery cozies, LGBTQ fiction and non-fiction, short stories, essays, classic fiction — I could go on, but why? Here’s the thing, though it is convenient to divide reading material into categories, it is also, finally, meaningless. What I look for and love is good, interesting, committed writing. Sometimes I need it to help me escape real life (HELLO – WORLD NEWS NOW!) and sometimes I need it to connect me to and explain to me and make sense of for me real life (HELLO – WORLD NEWS NOW!) — so I turn to what I need at the moment to keep me going (or, keep me safe) and so, with daily news being what it is — the cluster-freak of unbelievable events day after day — genre jumping June it is.

The Heir (Windham #1), Grace Burrowes, Paperback, 471pp, December 2010, Sourcebooks Casablanca

Would that I were better at remembering from whom or where I was recommended books. I am not sure if this was a Twitter-pal recommendation or one of those titles I came across while web-surfing, following links here and there, as I do, and noticed that the author, Grace Burrowes, lived in rural Maryland — which I automatically assume means Frederick. However I found her, this, her debut novel, was wonderfully enjoyable.

Gayle Windham, Earl of Westhaven and heir to the Duke of Moreland falls in love with his housekeeper, Anna Seaton, a woman of obvious charms and breeding and mysterious past. Intrigue, eroticism, adventure and all variety of romance ensue. Many a fascinating secondary character is brought to vivid life — I know there are at least four more books in this series since 2010 and I hope to get to know the secondary characters better in some of those — and the 470 pages fly by.

We Are Never Meeting In Real Life. Essays, Samantha Irby, Paperback, 288pp, May 2017, Vintage

Dorothy Parker and Fran Lebowitz were my childhood idols. I longed to be that smart, that funny, that honest, that able to see the world and reveal it in all its dichotomy and hypocrisy and beauty, all with a sardonic, curmudgeonly affection, from a safe distance, mostly cozied up in my distant aerie, looking down on it all, wrapped in my irascibility.

So, of course, I loved Samantha Irby. Self-deprecating, laugh-out-loud hilarious, brutally honest, ribald and delightfully indecorous, suffering from intractable intestinal disorder and degenerative arthritis, depression, and being a woman, a person of color, a person of heft, and a member of the LGBTQ community in a world where just one of those would be enough to cause you trouble, Samantha Irby is a brilliant documentarian of life in these troubled, terrifying times.

Samantha Irby — who, like Dorothy Parker and Fran Lebowitz (and me) did not graduate college displays a level of erudition and insight, sophisticated and bawdy at once, proving that sometimes life experience is all the degree one needs to be brilliant. She explores everything from lousy parents to lousy taste in men, to finding (and being appalled by the requirements of) love, to her Satan-possessed feline, Helen Keller. Don’t ask. Just read it.

Little Boy Blue, A Detective Helen Grace Thriller #5, M.J.Arlidge, Paperback, 432pp, October 2016, Berkley

Whomever or wherever recommended to me M.J. Arlidge’s Little Boy Blue and its anti-hero, Detective Helen Grace, I thank you. This is number 5 in the series and I am happy to know I’ve the first four to explore. But, not right now.

This was an extremely well done, incredibly fast paced thriller. Its exploration of Helen Grace’s hidden side, her involvement in the BDSM community and thus connection to a series of murders in that underground world, a connection which comes to light in an unfortunate and possibly career-ending manner, all make for a great read.

But, it doesn’t really have a resolution, rather, it sets us up for #6 — and I’d like to be TOLD that is the case when I start a book, not find out when I’m near the end and saying to myself, “There don’t seem to be enough pages left for this story to be tied up — or, in this case, hog-tied and duct taped.”

Too, the reveal of the serial killer was a bit unexpected if one hadn’t read the previous installments — which I have not, so, I felt a trifle betrayed, as in, how could I have guessed this person?

Those minor cavils aside, I finished this in almost one sitting. Very speedy. Compelling. And great character building. Once I recover, I will, probably, read the first four I missed.

So, there it is, halfway through June and I’ve read far and wide so far. What I’m lacking is a classic, but I’ve got Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence waiting near the top of the pile. And quite a pile it is, plus nine books on hold at the library and two on order at The Curious Iguana, my gorgeous local indie bookstore [click here]. So, must get to reading (and, you know, the other things in life — but I only do those so I have time and opportunity to read) and thus, here I am, going.

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