Jilly: Read a Great Book Lately? Pass It On!

Read a Great Book? Pass It On!Have you read anything amazing recently? I’m looking for recommendations to help me recharge my creative batteries over the next couple of weeks – stories of any genre so long as they’re fun, positive, uplifting and full of energy.

I think my productivity plan for the remainder of 2015 (Season of Fruitfulness) must have annoyed the universe, because the day after my post Life happened to me. Nothing bad, and entirely my choice, but some good friends needed help that I was qualified to give, and since then it’s taken all my time, and all my mental energy as well. I haven’t added a single word to my WIP and I didn’t participate in either of the workshops I signed up for, because I’ve been using every ounce of my creative wherewithal to solve their problem. Fortunately the Girls came up with a smart solution, so I reckon another week (maybe two) should put this thing to bed. If all goes to plan, by mid-October at the latest my friends will be in good shape, and I plan to celebrate by plunging back into Cam and Mary’s story.

I don’t want to power through the next couple of weeks and then get back to normal, turn on my laptop and find that my tanks are empty. When I don’t have the juice to create my own stories, I get a tremendous buzz from losing myself into another author’s story world. It’s as good as a holiday for my brain. I just have to find somewhere special to take it 🙂 .

This weekend, I’m going to try Lauren Willig’s The Secret History of the Pink Carnation. I’ve been thinking about this series for ages. When I first read about it I dithered, because it has parallel contemporary and historical plotlines, and that’s not usually my thing. Then regular 8 Ladies commenter Rachel Beecroft was so enthusiastic about it, and when I said hi to Lauren Willig at the RWA Literacy Signing she was so smart and nice, I knew I had to give it a go. I’ve been waiting for the right moment, because there are twelve books in the series and I’m a glutton. If I get hooked by the first one, I’ll have to read them all, so I have to choose my moment carefully.

As I mentioned last week, I’m also tempted to take a trip down memory lane and re-read Mary Stewart, the woman who invented romantic suspense and who had a strong aversion to TSTL heroines. Her Girls were smart, adventurous, resourceful, and ready to fight their corner. Lots of good mojo in her stories. She died last year – read this moving and inspirational obituary in The Guardian. I was delighted to discover that her maiden name was Mary Rainbow. Can you believe her publishers didn’t want to use it?

Lauren Willig and Mary Stewart will keep me quiet for a while, but I read fast and I’d feel happier with a much longer TBR list.

Any and all suggestions would be most gratefully received.

Thank you!

12 thoughts on “Jilly: Read a Great Book Lately? Pass It On!

  1. Jilly – it has to be the Legend of Lyon Redmond. Have you read it yet? I have and I’m dying to discuss it.

    Sorry to hear that you are still having to spend so much time away from Mary and Cam’s story – hopefully you’ll be really fresh and raring to go when you get back to it.

    • Rachel – yes, of course 😉 . I treated myself to it last week and have lots of thoughts – one big one being it’s a book that I think would read very differently as a stand-alone or to a reader who has invested in the whole Pennyroyal Green series. Would love to hear what you made of it. I’m just dashing out for a few hours but have been thinking quite a bit about the book in between bean-counting chores. Would gladly pick up the discussion this evening.

      • Note, for anyone who hasn’t got round to reading the Legend of Lyon Redmond, I’ve tried not to be too spoilery below, but, if you want to stay totally pure, then look away now (though I’m not saying anything you won’t get in any review of the book).

        Hmm, some things I loved (e.g. I think Julie Anne Long is brilliant at emotion and I was completely invested in Lyon and Olivia’s love story). Some things I personally would have liked to be done in a different way (e.g. although I thought it was important that to see what had happened when they were younger, JAL spent nearly 50% of the story on that, and I would have preferred to have more about the present. The present day story was too short and resolved itself far too quickly for my liking. Also, I thought that the reason Lyon went wasn’t nearly strong enough – we’ve been waiting for a million books to find out why he disappeared like that.) And some things I actively disliked (e.g. that bloody epilogue. Also the way the whole ending degenerated into a round up of previous characters – sort of like a big curtain call at the end of the show. No thank you.)

        So, I’m a bit mixed. What about you, Jilly? Or anyone else who’s read it?

        Btw, the other book I’ve just read is Bollywood Bride and I was totally down on that (after loving Bollywood Affair).

        • I’ll try not to be too spoiler-y, but same caveat as Rachel’s above. I was mixed, too. I love Julie Anne Long’s writing – as you say, she writes emotion brilliantly. I love the world of Pennyroyal Green, the two feuding families, the cast of characters and the fact that the stories have plenty of trade and socially dubious characters as well as titles and ballrooms. The writing is full of humor and heart, and because this was Lyon and Olivia, who have been trailed throughout the entire series as the great love of their generation, I was invested before I’d even read a page and I devoured the book with great enjoyment. And yet…

          If I’d read this book as a stand-alone I might not have loved it quite so much and if I’d had a choice there are a few things I would have changed. I agree, for me there was too much back-story, especially in the first part of the book. My other big problem is that the thing tying them together is Chemistry. I really loved It Happened One Midnight (Jonathan’s book) because the couple had a strong and compelling reason to be together. I did not feel the same here and I think part of the problem is that Olivia has no arc and no agency. She has strong feelings but no action – she does more to act on her principles as a young woman than she does as an adult. I felt that was a missed opportunity, especially as there were hints in previous books of an important obstacle that was neatly disposed of. I’d have preferred it if she’d had to face something that really put her principles to the test. She just found another great guy to marry. I also felt the alternative love interest was a missed opportunity – could write a whole post on that. I did not mind Lyon’s reason for leaving – actually I totally bought into that wrt his father – but I was quite frustrated that he gave up his successful ‘career’ but hadn’t put anything in its place by the end of the book. I could picture Jonathan and Tommy’s HEA much more clearly than Lyon and Olivia’s.

          Long comment here, and I tried to keep it brief 🙂 . Oh – and the epilogue. I honestly thought JAL was setting up a contemporary equivalent to Pennyroyal Green and I got quite excited/interested. Then I thought it wasn’t that at all, and I was really baffled. I still am!

        • I completely agree with your comments about Olivia. She should have had so much oomph, as an abolitionist etc, but just didn’t. Re Lyon – it wasn’t so much that I thought it wasn’t enough reason for him to leave (because it rang true to his character), but that a) if you’ve trailed it for a million books, then I thought it should be a bit more dramatic than that; b) I thought after he’d calmed down, he would have contacted Olivia. That was the bit I didn’t get. If she was his one true love, then really he should have trusted her more, after his initial anger had died down. Really, would you stay angry for 5 years? Which leads me to c) it annoyed me that she was mostly blamed for that even in the ‘present day’ story, because his decision was just suddenly thrust upon her and he gave her two seconds to make up her mind. (Actually, if you look at the story in another light, Lyon’s behaviour is pretty bad – disappearing like that, not giving Olivia a second chance and then finally, after all those years she waited for him, when she has another chance at happiness, to swoop in and take her off like that. Of course, none of that occurred to me when I was enjoying the story.)

        • Hm, all totally fair comment about Lyon – at least he’s consistent, I suppose. And as you say, none of this crossed my mind as I was enjoying the book 🙂 .

  2. Mary Rainbow? Oh, that is a great name! I can see why it wouldn’t fly in the 70s, though. Baggage attached.

    I’ve been re-reading lately, and I think you may have already read what I’ve read. But, I was pleasantly surprised by Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, which was a new read for me, I think. It’s a lot more polished than her juvenalia, and captures some universally acknowleged truths: boys like drinking, transportation, and girls. Girls like boys and cute clothes. There are a few less-than-classic slips in there, but just enough to make one realize that Jane Austen did not spring from Zeus’s head like an Athena. It took her time and work to get where she got.

    Oh, and I read a convoluted short story by Heinrich Von Kleist about a horse trader who is pushed by his sense of justice into arming himself against the authorities and rebelling. It’s not really a three-act structure. And coincidences? Whoo-boy, they come as regularly as a Tokyo subway train. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s interesting to see how Kleist takes just a few words to set up a direction that must be taken. The characters take a most reasonable path into tragedy. The story is called “Michael Kohlhaas.”

    I rewatched My Fair Lady over the weekend, too. Good for my story, but Eliza really should have taken Freddy. She was too good for Henry.

    • I haven’t read Northanger Abbey in years but maybe I should – the gothic feel would work well alongside some of the Mary Stewarts. I know P&P off by heart but I don’t have the same big love for the other Austens – Lizzy is fabulous, but Emma needs a good slap, Fanny is a drip, Elinor is a wet blanket, and so on. Maybe it’s time to try Northanger again.

      Totally with you about My Fair Lady. That would be a great story to re-write.

      • (-: I always feel guilty about not liking the other Austens as much as P&P. But you are so right. Emma is so painfully know-it-all that it hurts to read her story. I can never remember what Sense and Sensibility is about even though I’ve read it two or three times. But Northanger was fun. Not masterful, but pretty fun. Especially after reading . . . what was it? Cecilia? One of Austen’s influences. No, it was Evelina, by Frances Burney.

        They say you should also read The Mysteries of Udolpho before Northanger Abbey, too, but . . . not lovin’ it. I’m only about 15 percent done, and have found many things to do instead.

  3. This isn’t ficton, but I’ve been reading Wired for Story, which explains what humans want from a story (plot) based on neruoscience. It’s fascinating and reinforces so much that Jenny taught us.

    • That looks great, Jeanne! I’m going to take a look at it, as well. My brain has been craving story the past several weeks – not only reading/seeing it, but deconstructing/analyzing it as well. I think it’s part of working out the kinks in the plots in my current series, and dealing with some unexpected feedback on my completed WF project.

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