Mysteries of the Universe & of the Heart: Romance, Black Holes, and Poetry

Since I haven’t been in the mood to write posts on individual books, I decided to do a list of the stuff that I’ve been reading in the recent past!

old fashioned girl betty neelsAn Old-Fashioned Girl by Betty Neels: I loved this one. Partly it’s because of the heroine, Patience, who while not exactly unflappable, has an equanimity that’s not very common to Neels’ heroines. I also realized why Neels is such a comfort read for me—her descriptions evoke this feeling of utter soothing-ness that I can’t help but love! The first third of An Old-Fashioned Girl is set in a small village which is beset by a snowstorm, leaving our hero, heroine, and the housekeeper trapped inside for days on end. The pages that followed were some of my favorite—I really liked the description of the minutiae of  their snowbound lives. (Which is why I think enjoyed Longbourn so much—because of the minutiae I mean). Then there’s the staple food and furniture renditions which is such fun to picture in the mind’s eye.

Light Years, Memoir of a Modern Lighthouse Keeper by Caroline Woodard: I’m making my way through this at a glacial speed. I like picking it up when I’m in the mood for it, generally before going to bed, and reading maybe half a chapter at a time. Like the Neels, I find the descriptions of the barely-tamed Canadian wildness very soothing, and also very liberating. Joy and solitude co-exist in this one.

Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase: I can see why this is such a reader favorite. It would have been very easy to thoroughly dislike Sebastian Dain, except that we keep getting glimpses into his inner workings, and the reasons why he does what he does, and in that process it’s easy to feel sympathetic towards him. Plus, Jessica! What a wonderful heroine! Another woman, who while not exactly unflappable, knows how to keep her head. Thinking back, it occurs to me that Sebastian is a hero who has all the feels but didn’t really know what to do with them!

The Poet, the Lion, Talking Pictures, El Farolito, A Wedding in St. Roch, The Big Box Store, The Warp in the Mirror, Spring, Midnights, Fire & All by C.D. Wright:

In a Word, a World

I love them all.

I love that a handful, a mouthful, gets you by, a satcheful can land you a job, a well-chosen clutch of them could get you laid, and that a solitary word can initiate a stampede, and therefore can be formally outlawed—even by a liberal court bent on defending a constitution guaranteeing unimpeded utterance. I love that the Argentine gaucho has over two hundred words the coloration of horses and the Sami language of Scandinavia has over a thousand words for reindeer based on age, sex, appearance—e.g. a busat has big balls or only one big ball. More than the pristine, I love the filthy ones for their descriptive talent as well as transgressive nature. I love the dirty ones more than the minced, in that I respect extravagant expression more than reserved. I admire reserve, especially when taken to an ascetic nth. I love the particular lexicons of particular occupations. The substrate of those activities. The nomenclature within nomenclatures. I am of the unaccredited school that believes animals did not exist until Adam assigned them names. My relationship to the word is anything but scientific; it is a matter of faith on my part, that the word endows material substance, by setting the thing named apart from all else. Horse, then, unhorses what is not horse.

The Outskirter’s Secret by Rosemary Kirstein: I decided to take a break while I was mid-way through the fourth in the series but I can say with utmost certainty that it’s this second in the series that shall remain my favorite. The outskirts in the second book are akin to endless grasslands, and Kirstein’s superb at bringing its inherent harshness to life. The tribes that inhabit these prairie like regions that are not exactly human-friendly have a rich culture. Kristein’s intricate details of their daily life and its routines, their society and its hierarchical structure, their modes of communication, their myth and lore, is magnificent in both its breadth and its depth. The plot moves slowly but steadily as the reader comes to know more about these outsiders. It’s also in this second book that the reader comes to have a sure sense of the nature of the magic in this world. Though to be fair, the third the in the series which by the way is VERY WEIRD—enough so that I made it a point to not read it before sleeping—did make me wonder if perhaps there was more going on in this world than what I thought I understood! So, ANYWAY! I’d strongly recommend this series. It’s one of the best SFF that I’ve read in a while.

Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space by Janna Levin: I should mention that one of my dream vacations is camping in the middle of the Atacama Desert in Chile while I gaze my fill at the astounding brilliance of the Milky Way, and make treks to the European Southern Observatory, to peek through their giant telescopes into the vast beauty of our Universe (and if possible wrangle an invitation to the other-wordly and yet so utterly inviting ESO Hotel). This is a compulsively readable account of the events and the characters who shaped the events that led to the discovery of gravitational waves late last year. It’s fascinating because till I started reading it, I realized I too had thought of the stars and the interstellar dust only in terms of the visible and not the auditory.

So that’s it for me! Which books made a strong impression on you in these past few weeks? Would love to know!

6 thoughts on “Mysteries of the Universe & of the Heart: Romance, Black Holes, and Poetry

  1. Steerswoman – I picked up the first one based on your previous post – and haven’t quite got to it – but I loved Elliot’s Court of Fives (SO good) so I am definitely TBR-ing it next!

    I LOVE Neel’s Old Fashioned Girl!!! I think it is possibly one of my favourite Neels. It’s not like some of the medical ones – (you always know where they’re going), I was entranced the whole time I read it. (MINUTIAE is some of the best things Neel’s books!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ooh, I WANT to read the Kate Elliott book BUT–IT IS JUST THE FIRST BOOK in a planned series, is it not? Does it end on a cliffhanger? Or is that particular story wrapped up by the end of the book? These are the questions which shall decide whether I read that book anytime soonish or mostly later! 😛

      And you know what, I think I like Neels’s non-medical books more than I like her medical ones! (I mean the ones where the heroine ISN’T the nurse or in the medical profession directly. ‘cus the other one that I enjoyed a lot was A Girl to Love which too features a non-nursey heroine, and actually the hero is an author in that case! I think I mentioned this one in your own Neels post too, come to think of it!)

      Anyway, yes on minutiae! As you say, they’re some of the best in Neels’s books!

      Oh, and I CAN’T WAIT FOR YOU TO READ THE STEERSWOMAN SERIES! (I hope you like it! But is of course ok if you don’t either! :P)


      • ooh – I would wait – you have just reminded me there WAS a cliffhanger and it made me cranky – plus there are another 2 to go (although 2nd one is coming out this year…)
        I HATE cliffhangers with the fire of a thousand suns…many a series has been ruined for me and I haven’t continued with it simply because they cliffhangers were so utterly horrific. COF wasn’t tooo terrible – but still – I totally appreciate the sentiment!

        Neels-Non-Medicals – like them sooo much better! A Girl to Love is GOOD. I also liked Henrietta’s own Castle – so cute.

        I’ve started The Steerswoman (I really like it!!)


        • Ahh, thank you for sharing that! I think I’ll wait till all three are out! BTW, have you read the Spiritwalker Trilogy (the whole of which has been published btw!)–I loved it!

          And ooh, I shall look up Henrietta’s own Castle. I also have my eye on Dearest Mary Jane.

          And yay! yay! yay! Do tell me what you think about it once you’re done! I’d love to know! XX

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Ah, Lord of Scoundrels! That was one of the first romance novels I ever read! Loretta Chase has this whole series now (well, I guess it might be finished at this point) about French dressmakers in London, which is a deeeeeeeelight. So many gorgeous descriptions of clothes!


    • yeah, I’ve read the first and the latest in the series, Dukes Prefer Blondes, both of which I enjoyed enormously!

      I also wonder now what you’d make of the Manus x Machina exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum in NYC–I went recently, and left scratching quite a bit of my head. I don’t think haute couture is for me! 😛


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