Trash, Romance & Stuff you’ve ordered from my Bookshelf – UPDATED

Hey, I’m feeling a little better – not well enough to mix it up, but at least I’m capable of staring blearily at the computer screen while dabbing at my leaking left eye, and this is progress!

I was looking at The Bookshelf and realized it’s time for me to update the thing – pull out some books and CD’s to make room for more. (I’m sure my husband wishes I’d do this in real life, too).

But while I am thinking of it, I’m curious – I seem to get an email from almost everyone who buys Rumer Godden’s In This House of Brede (and they are always gushing and positive for that remarkable book), even though most of the recent buyers seem to be non-Catholics. That’s pretty interesting. Lately, I’ve had positive emails on James Martin’s My Life With the Saints, Theodore Dalrymple’s Our Culture, What’s Left of It and Nancy Klein Maguire’s An Infinity of Little Hours. And that is how it should be, because they’re all tremendously good books. I also get almost weekly emails from people thanking me for directing them toward the clear-as-a-bell soprano Sumi Jo, or toward my dear basso profundo, Bryn Terfel – and more than a few folks have written in asking me to tell Buster that they’ve enjoyed discovering Gerald Albright’s sax, Yoko Kanno’s whip-smart scores for Cowboy Bebop and, umm…The Zombie Survival Guide.

But I know that lots of you folks are buying lots of books and music that I’ve never heard of (I can see it in the report, and I thank you (as does the splendid hospice at Calvary Hospital, which gets a percentage of all the Amazon sales proceeds). I am wondering what you think about what you’ve purchased. What books, CD’s and DVD’s have you especially liked – whether I recommended them or not – and what have you found disappointing? I’d hate to think I was recommending stuff to folks that they ended up hating.

I’m in the mood to talk books, movies and music, and I want to hear what you folks are liking and hating.

Meanwhile, before I edit The Bookshelf, I may do something completely out-of-character and review for you a stack of trashy romance novels.

While I’ve been sick, I’ve found it hard to read anything halfway challenging. The Elder Brother recently read Mark Z. Danielewski’s creative and bizarre House of Leaves and loved it so much he begged me to read it. I got through the first 21 pages and agreed that the book is remarkable – truly riveting and intriguing – but one has no head for something that smart and learned when one is spiking fevers and running pinkeye, so I have been reaching into the grocery-bag full of “romance” paperbacks one of my neighbors dragged over to keep me amused while I’ve been sluggish, stupid and laid up. I’ve been plowing through them, one after another, (after a while they all seem to run together into some sort of Regency nightmare – I fall asleep and dream I’m not allowed to waltz at Almack’s because I’m too short and my breasts are not perky enough to heave, or something, and because my dress is always stained with whatever I’ve been eating…rather like real life, actually).

Some of them are just dreck – I can’t think how the writer’s have managed to find agents and publishers – and some of them are actually pretty clever, and some of them…welllll…some of them are just embarrassing and I am appalled at the cover art (is it the same pectorally-enhanced houseboy posing for all of these covers?)

Last night I tried to read one that was just so rotten (the adjective-happy author kept describing the hero’s “enamelled teeth” on the heroine’s silky skin…either she’s got a sexy dentist she’s dreaming about, or she thinks “enamelled” perhaps means something else.)

So if you’re in the mood, leave a comment or drop a line about what you’re reading/watching/hearing – that might be a fun thread – and in the meantime, I’ll try to figure out what exactly I think about these floridly-illustrated mass-marketed paperbacks which my neighbor says she “doesn’t want back” because they’re bad for her.

I’ll tell you how they’ve been affecting me – I went to the stupid doc’s the other day and he said, “you’ve got a bacterial infection, but you’re run down and you’ve got something viral going on as well, and that virus is having its way with you,” and I said, “it’s having it’s way with me? That sounds so much sexier than it feels!”

I never would have said such a thing had I not been reading the one about the dumb-but-reckless Lord helping the brilliant Egyptologist escape the bad guys and rescue her only-somewhat-smart brother…or was that the one about the beautiful but irresponsible Viscount helping the brilliant Armenian warrior-princess?

My neighbor is quite right – these books are bad for one, in the way a dazzling six-foot, three-inch, massively proportioned ne’er-do-well virus cannot be good for body or soul. I’ll tell you all about it, to warn you away from them. I’ll sacrifice myself and read them and review them…so you don’t have to! ;-)

UPDATE: You folks are cracking me up, and also giving me lots of good book suggestions (and not just for trash, neither). I see I’ll have to put Outlander in the Bookshelf. Co-incidentally, I had listed it among my planned summer reading in this NRO Symposium:
If there is any time left, I am going to re-read Diana Gabaldon’s wild time-travel romance, Outlander, because it has everything — history, herbal remedies, scourgings, torture, witchcraft, Eucharistic Adoration, two husbands and torrid (but married) romance. Summer reading to gasp by.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • stoutcat

    Okay, you got me. One of my favorite semi-trashy romances is the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. The first two are the best, but the whole series is a terrific if guilty pleasure. They’ve got everything: romance, sex, time-travel, religion, rippling muscles, fainting maidens, history, sword-fighting, great journeys, sudden death, philosophy, kilt-clad men… I tell ya, it’s great exercise just to read one of these.

  • stoutcat

    P.S. Hoping your feeling better and up on your feet soon!

  • stoutcat

    P.P.S. That should be “you’re”, not “your.” Sorry!

  • March Hare

    I regularly review what I’ve read (or watched) on my blog. And I’ve been reading some quality stuff this summer.

    So, of all the books in my stack, what did I pick next? “The Glass Lake” by Maeve Binchy. It’s a story about a mother and daughter, the rest of their family, and the villagers of Lough Glass in Ireland. 755 pages of wallowing in other people’s lives, circa late 1950′s-early 1960′s.

    Binchy is not a bad writer and the subject matter is not deep. She’s along the lines of Colleen McCullough (“The Thorn Birds”), with a focus on Ireland and/or the Irish in other locations.

  • March Hare

    P.S. I agree with Stoutcat: “The Outlander” series has it all and is another of my “guilty” pleasures. As is almost anything by Judith Krantz!

  • http://none Darrell

    Does your doctor confirm these “suspicions” with actual tests? Has he identified the bacteria? If so, antibiotics for the bacteria, and Acyclovir for the virus–to give your poor immune system a chance to get in gear! If your immune system is like mine, spending its days attacking your good cells instead of attacking invaders, a drug that stops viral replication will be a big help. If your doctor is a “Dr. DoLittle,” it’s time to make a change!

    I am on my fourth week of dealing with shingles on top of everything else. And if you’re thinking “chickenpox, part deux,” you’ll be in for a surprise if it ever happens to you. This “sequel” involves nerve cells–cells that connect to major nerves. Since my body often overreacts with an out-of-proportion inflammatory response, it gives meaning to the term St. Anthony’s fire. Almost all my internal organs were affected. It’s been quite a month! I fought tooth-and-nail for Acyclovir(a seven day course was all I could get) and I think I could see where it worked its magic–pustules that started but never fully formed. 140 ‘hot pokers” are better than 200 in my book any day.

  • Gracie

    I love Maeve Binchy. My favorite books of hers are “Tara Road” & The Glass Lake. My husband always knows when I’m reading one of her books because my speech patterns change to resemble her phrasing and syntax. Strange but true. Also love the earlier works of Kathleen E. Woodiwiss: “Shanna” and “The Flame & The Flower”. From Nora Roberts, I have read and read her two Irish trilogies. The first trilogy is: “Born in Fire”, “Born in Ice”, & “Born in Shame”. Her second trilogy consists of: “Jewels of the Sun”, “Pearls of the Moon”, & “Heart of the Sea”. If you’ve not read these, enjoy!

  • stephanie

    Oh yeah…Binchy, Gabaldon and Roberts are all favorite reads. I am being amused, mcurrently, by rereading some nice, light romantic reading by Julie Garwood-great when you just don’t have the focus! Am very, very sad that Julia Quinn’lighthearted romances about the 8 Bringerton siblings has come to a close with the last one’s romance- delightful, every one. Romances I buy (and read) by the dozen. I have boxes and boxes of them. Other authors I’d suggest would be Amanda Quick, Jayne Ann Krentz (same person, 2 genres of romance), Mary Jo Putney, Jane Feather and Catherine Coulter. They are bad for you- like candy. But oh how I love them :-)

  • Fausta

    This: a dazzling six-foot, three-inch, massively proportioned ne’er-do-well
    doesn’t summon the next word: virus
    But never mind that.
    The most fun thing I’ve bought recenlty: The Pinky & The Brain DVD collection.

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  • newton

    I thought better of you, Anchoress!… ;)

  • newton

    Whatever this is that you have, you better get some anti-fever medication on you, quickly! You don’t want to delirate about Fabio in that state… ;)

  • Sensible Mom

    Janet Evanovich’s mystery series featuring Stephanie Plum (a hapless bounty hunter) are hilarious and a good pick-me-up when you’re sick. They’re pretty much romance novels with a little mystery and wacky family problems mixed in. The first is titled One for the Money. Evanovich’s latest is Twelve Sharp. Pick one up a be prepared to laugh (one or two in the series focused too much on dog doo, of all things which was really juvenile, but Evanovich, thankfully, dropped that angle quickly).

    Get better soon!

  • Ellen

    Anchoress, please read these romance novels:

    Flowers from the Storm – Laura Kinsale
    With This Ring by Carla Kelly
    To Love and To Cherish by Patricia Gaffney
    Beast by Judith Ivory
    A Bed of Spices by Barbara Samuel
    Lord Perfect by Loretta Chase

    These are far from being lite, silly or trashy. They are romance novels and they, and any other by these ladies, are the cream of the crop.

    And I agree with the recommendation of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series – it’s splendid!!

  • MaxedOutMama

    Oh Anchoress! When I am ill I read the Mysteries of Udolpho. It began the genre, and never fails to reduce me to laughter. It is now available at Project Gutenberg, too. Free, classic trash – could literary life get any better? It also has the following virtues: Sort of blink or fall asleep and miss 40 pages? No problem, because when you emerge from your fog, the heroine will still be recovering from a faint or about to faint. How can you mention House of Brede in the same post as heaving bosomage?

  • MaxedOutMama

    PS: The last paragraph of M of U is: “And, if the weak hand, that has recorded this tale, has, by its scenes, beguiled the mourner of one hour of sorrow, or, by its moral, taught him to sustain it–the effort, however humble, has not been vain, nor is the writer unrewarded.” That it does, because anyone reading this tale while sick will realize that she is the soul of vigor compared to every female character in the book. They weep and faint, or alternatively faint and wake weeping. A few pints of Guiness would have fixed Emily right up!

  • Piano Girl

    I’ve enjoyed the “Sisterhood” series by Fern Michaels ~ Vendetta, Payback, Weekend Warrior, The Jury, etc. A favorite of the Danielle Steel books is Bittersweet. Cameo Lake by Susan Wilson is very good. And my all time favorite romance book is A Minute to Smile by Ruth Wind, aka Barbara Samuel. These books aren’t in the “romance” category, but I thoroughly enjoyed the Mitford books (At Home in Mitford is the first) by Jan Karon ~ well written and very hard to put down once I got started on a new one. They do need to be read in order because the characters continue from book to book.

    Thanks for the great suggestions from those who posted. . .I tend to gravitate towards “light reading” after long commutes and even longer days filled with too many notes to learn at the piano!

  • skeeter

    I came (late) to the comments to recommend Diana Gabaldon’s OUTLANDER series. I see that I can only echo many other recommendations of this fine series.

    When they were given to me, my response was “But I don’t read romance novels!”, preferring Science Fiction for my trash reading. After picking up OUTLANDER I plowed through 5 of them nonstop in 4 days over the Christmas holidays. Inasmuch as each runs 950 – 1400+ pages, you can see that I did little else. I am waiting (only so my set matches) for the paperback release of her latest, BREATH of FIRE and ASHES due out the end of this month. I do know when I get it, nothing else will get done until it is devoured. So I guess I do (now) read romance novels. You may end up feeling about Jamie how you now feel about Bryn! And I hope that makes you feel lots better.

  • Ellen

    Gabaldon’s latest is A Breath of Snow and Ashes and it’s one of the best in the series.

  • Gracie

    I’m picking up the OUTLANDER series immediately! I’d not heard of this before and can’t wait to begin! By the by, there’s only so much news of the world one can read and see without the need to melt into the mindless …

  • TheAnchoress

    See my update on Outlander!

  • Gracie

    A, Read “Shanna” by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss. Ruark Beauchamp will sweat you out of your fevers!

  • Piano Girl

    Would someone who has the Outlander series please list the titles so I make sure I buy them & read them in order! Thanks.

  • GPE

    Gotta pitch my 2¢ in for Outlander and this coming from a guy who would rather be staked to a red ant hill in July than watch Bridges of Madison County. My late wife and I had a tradition of reading aloud to each other before bed. I read to her Tolken and various short stories and she read Harry Potter and Gabaldon’s books. Actually met Diana Gabaldon at a book signing and was very impressed with the scholarship behind the books. I hear tell even the Scots are impressed with her ability to weave fiction through historical accuracy.

    As far as music, check out “The Tao of Cello” by David Darling. Pop it in the CD player and look out your back window. The music fits just about anything you happen to be watching.

  • skeeter


    Sorry I screwed up the title of the latest in OUTLANDER, but put ‘em all up! Bet you can’t read just one!

  • Jean

    I second the Mitford books by Jan Karon.

  • skeeter

    Outlander series as I understand it.

    Outlander 1991
    Dragonfly in Amber 1992
    Voyager 1994
    Drums of Autumn 1997
    The Fiery Cross 2001
    A Breath of Snow & Ashes 2005?

    There is also a book called Lord John and the Private Matter. It contains a character from the Outlander series, but was, in my opinion, a disappointment. There is also a book called the Outlandish Companion, which appears to be a trivia/timelines/good stuff to know about the Outlander series; a book for the already confirmed fan. Not required to enjoy those listed above.

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  • natasha

    I second the recommendation for Laura Kinsale’s “Flowers in the Storm.” Very romantic, but not at all your typical genre formula — especially given that the female protagonist is a Quaker!

    Would also recommend the other books by this same author.

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