Still Here, Really

So summer rolls around, good intentions disappear, and I find myself writing blog posts like this one…

It’s a combination of reeeallly long hours at work (less said, the better) and now the tennis season is in full swing (yes, I’m keeping an eye on the French Open as I write this), I’ve just about enough time to lurk on other people’s blogs.

I’ve been reading though.

I stayed up way too late this week reading Ellen Emerson White‘s “Long May She Reign”, the fourth book in her President’s Daughter series.  I read the first three books a couple of years ago now, and while I’d been meaning to get the fourth for ages, I never got around to it until now, which was rather silly of me.  I finished it in one go, and it’s not a slim book by any means.

But.

The reason why I’m still pondering my final feelings about this book is perhaps the overall tone and subject matter – LMSR essentially deals with the impact of the previous book’s traumatic events, and not just how they affected Meg, but also the fractures created in her family as a result.  So it’s not always an easy read, but it was incredibly well-written and, I think, realistic – I felt as though I was there with Meg and I loved her wry sarcastic voice (I have to say at times, I was reminded of Ms White’s very different “Romance is a Wonderful Thing”).  I closed the book believing Meg would triumph, partly because she (and her parents, brothers, and friends) had started to heal – but also because I had to, the alternative would have been too difficult to imagine.

I’ve also been reading James Anderson‘s country-house mysteries (“The Affair of the Bloodstained Tea Cosy”, “The Affair of the Mutilated Mink Coat”, and “The Affair of the 39 Cufflinks”) and I’m sad there’s only three of them.  Lovely 1930s set whodunnits with an incredible number of red herrings, with the end solution brilliantly deciphered by the self-deprecating Inspector Wilkins.

And finally, on a completely different note, I read an article about reader doorways which fascinated me (apologies, this is not the actual article I first read and I (obviously) can’t remember who originally linked to this concept).  The summary is that individuals are generally drawn to one of four aspects of a book (character, story, language, or setting), which act as their doorway to the book.  Understanding your primary doorway is the key to figuring out what other books you would like (and possibly why you just didn’t get a book someone else loved – you just have different doorways).

You can identify your doorway by thinking about how you describe a book – for instance, do you start by talking about the sense of place (setting)?  Or the prose used and the flow of language (language)?  Or the plot (story)?  You get the idea.

I’m starting to think my primary doorway is setting, with character as a close second, which is making a whole load of sense.  I used to think I was all about the characters, but when the world-building and background details are just right, I’m hooked.

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14 thoughts on “Still Here, Really

  1. I’ve read all the Meg Powers books except Long May She Reign. I started it last December right before Christmas/moving into a new house/giving birth to my baby girl and apparently that wasn’t a good time. I couldn’t deal with all of Meg’s pain. I’m sure it was just the wrong time so I’ll pick it up again sometime soon. I did read Romance is a Wonderful Thing just a few weeks ago and found it charming.

    I love the idea of reader doorways! Very fascinating indeed. Do you mind if I write a post about it? *analyzing* Not sure (yet) which one is my main doorway. Interesting. Thanks for sharing!

    • I would love to read your thoughts on the “reader doorways” concept, please do write a post on this! I’ve been thinking about this on and off for a while now and had a lot more to say – for instance, do your doorways change over time, actual examples (!) – but umm… coherent blogging does not always combine well with keeping an eye on the tennis 😉

      Re the two EEW books, there were times when Meg’s interactions with her parents sounded eerily similar to Trish’s. Both are similar characters, but I found it interesting seeing the books were written more than 15 (?) years apart. Long May She Reign is definitely not a light read, so completely understand why you put it aside.

  2. Yup, I feel you re: work. So I’m on the side of “if you can’t blog because you’re brain is coming out of your ears, you can’t blog”.

    And I think I’m a world-building girl too, with character coming second. If a world has me amazed, I’m seriously in LOVE with a book. After that I need great characters to keep me interested. I’ve noticed that of the books that have blown me away, most have great world building or at least an excellent sense of setting, with several details that re-enforce the sense of where the characters are and what they’re doing there, their everyday lives, and the feeling like there’s a much larger, deeper world just beyond the pages I’m reading.

    • …feeling like there’s a much larger, deeper world just beyond the pages I’m reading.

      This.

      And this is probably why your recs work so well for me 😉

  3. The idea of “doorways” is fascinating, Li. I would say that it is true. However, for me it depends on the genre I’m reading at the moment. World building becomes my primary focus when reading fantasy or science fiction , then characterization and plot. Yet when reading a romance I want those characters to take center stage with plot becoming secondary. But have you noticed that there are other books, like mysteries and historicals where setting and atmosphere can be the key to success?

    I guess what I’m saying is that if you read one genre you can choose one doorway. But as a multi-genre reader, I think there’s a necessity to adjust.

    • Interesting point, Hils. I think my expectations do change somewhat depending on genre, so yes, for romance, I need to *believe* that the main characters have fallen in love, and I possibly give more leeway to, say, the setting. But if the background is “wallpaper-y” in a historical romance for example, I find it much harder to sink into the story.

      Romance was an easy one, must think about what my expectations are for other genres…

  4. Hey Li!

    So who do you think will win the French Open? It’s so wide-open in the women’s draw… All I ask is not Maria Sharapova ^_^; As for the men… it’ll definitively be interesting 🙂

    Hmmm, i guess for me it’s usually characters or setting 😛

    • Hey Nath – I was rooting for Na Li, so really really pleased she won!

      And a Nadal-Federer final – it’s like going back a couple of years… I caught a bit of the Djokovic-Federer match, and have to say he was playing really really well. Didn’t manage to see the Nadal-Murray one though.

      • I forgot to add originally that I love watching tennis too. Played when I was a kid through my teenage years. I’m a pretty avid Nadal fan and am excited to watch the match tomorrow. 😀 Did you get to see the classic Nadal-Federer match at Wimbledon a few years ago when he beat Federer in 5 sets? I feel lucky to have witnessed such an amazing level of tennis.

        Btw I’m working on a reader doorway post. 🙂

      • Ugh, Nadal wins it again. Sigh. Ah well, what can we do?

        I’m glad Na Li won 🙂 It’s great for her and for tennis. I was really pleased to see how open the draw was 🙂 I don’t know, domination is boring…

      • Holly – I really liked your thoughts on reader doorways and how yours have changed over time, will add my 2p on your post soon. And you must be really pleased with Sunday’s result. Just saw pictures of Nadal posing with the trophy and Mickey at Disneyland Paris 🙂

        Nath – I read this comment along the lines of “Right now, all over China, parents would be giving their kids tennis rackets and sending them out to play…” which is so true! Re Sunday’s final: Federer’s never really cracked Nadal, especially not on clay, and it just wasn’t his day.

  5. Li, so glad you read LMSR. And I know what you mean. There’s certainly a crapload of pain in that book. But I love how you put it at the end. You had to believe in the healing because the alternative doesn’t bear thinking about. I completely agree. And I believed in it, too. I’m such an EEW fangirl and Meg is such an unbelievably strong character that she reels me in every time.

    • I am really glad I finally got around to reading it, LMSR was definitely worth it. I’ve managed to get hold of the two Friends books as well and am looking forward to them, especially reading about Susan in a different guise!

  6. Pingback: Mixed Bag | Me and My Books

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