I Don't Know Where I Am But I Know I'm At a Loss

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I am in a funk.

Drakeshelm has come to a screeching halt because I. am. dry.  I know Things I Want to Do With the Plot, but I don't yet know How to Get There, and at the moment I'm just sapped.  Usually, during this time, I'll go read a book.  I don't typically focus on reading and writing in equal measure, one usually ebbs while the other waxes.  But right now, nothing.  NOTHING. I scan my shelves and nothing jumps out at me.  I don't want to reread anything; I've spent the first two months of 2016 rereading books and, by jove, I'm ready for something new, you know?  Uuuugh.  I need fresh meat.  Fresh, tender, rare meat.

Okay, all is not completely lost - we just pushed the date of capitulation back a little.  I grabbed "The Talisman Ring" (Georgette Heyer) off my shelf.  It is one of the few Heyers which survived The Great Purge.  Not a reeeeally promising start; Heyer novels don't tend to grab me at the outset, I have to push through for a few pages.  So I pushed through a few pages, and so far it's been interesting.  I'm thinking I'm catching distinct whiffs of inspiration for Sutcliff's little novel Flame Coloured Taffeta, but let's pretend we didn't notice that.  I'm four chapters in and we've left my favourite character, and a potentially favourite character has only just shown up.  Neither of them appear to be The Main Characters (male and female, the author created them), but we'll see.  We'll see...
 this is where you come in
Yes, but wait.  The point of all this is, I've only got MAYBE one book that is interesting me right now, and after that I'm off into empty space again.   So...HELP ME OUT, HERE.  What should I read?  What do you recommend?  Give me some ideas, folks.  But don't just lob your favourite books at me, because I don't want to hurt your feelings by not liking your favourite books.  Have you read anything you think I might like?  I am super picky and judgmental and it's annoying but I need help right now, okay?  You guys read books.  I read books.  We have so much in common!  (Whimper.)
...i need help

12 ripostes:

  1. Okay, let me think. Have you read Suzannah Rowntree's Pendragon's Heir yet? I'll bet you would like that. Chesterton's fiction? I know you're familiar with his poetry...I've read the Father Brown mysteries and liked them quite a bit.

    This is slightly obscure and also a favorite of mine: Westward Ho! by Charles Kingsley. English explorers in the Elizabethan era tangling with the Spaniards in Ireland and South America, finishing up with the Armada—battle on the high seas, tragic romance, and quite a fair dash of humor and colorful characters.

    If you're in the mood for classics, have you ever read Anthony Trollope? I'd say his style is somewhere between Austen and Dickens—his characters and incidents are a bit livelier than Austen, his style more crisp and concise and more down-to-earth than Dickens. I ignored reader advice and plunged into his massive The Way We Live Now first, but if you just want a taste, The Warden (first in his Barsetshire series) might be better for starters.

    Which puts me in mind of Angela Thirkell, who set her books in fictional Barsetshire too—I'd almost draw a comparison to Heyer, in a between-the-World-Wars setting among the rural gentry/middle class. She had her hits and misses (I would not recommend starting with Pomfret Towers), but at her best is tremendously entertaining. High Rising or Summer Half would make a good introduction.

    I'm rather in a reading slump of my own right now—I'm reading WWII nonfiction for research and enjoying it, but running quite dry on the fiction side. I could use some suggestions for something light and entertaining myself!

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  2. Well, I'm in a nonfiction kick at the moment, and so I've been enjoying Lawrence and the Arabs by Robert Graves (T.E. Lawrence was a pretty interesting guy, and I found all kinds of inspiration in that book even though it's not what you'd call a riveting read). Also I'm making very slow progress in St. Bernard of Clairvaux's
    On Loving God and reading Isak Dinesin's Out of Africa. A rather diverse spectrum,but all books I am enjoying.

    Dunno, maybe you would, too.

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  3. I heartily second what Elisabeth says about Trollope! I believe you haven't read a huge amount of Mary Stewart yet? THE IVY TREE, AIRS ABOVE THE GROUND, and THIS ROUGH MAGIC are some of her best.

    I recently adored THE PERILOUS GARD by Elizabeth Marie Pope. There's also THE FLIGHT OF THE HERON by DK Broster, some elements of which made me think you might enjoy it. You have read THE PRISONER OF ZENDA, surely? Erin Morgenstern's book THE NIGHT CIRCUS had a flimsy plot and characters but some gorgeous things to say about art and beauty.

    And, I don't know if you enjoy gory space opera, but I loved Pierce Brown's RED RISING series, which did right everything that THE HUNGER GAMES did wrong.

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  4. Hi Jenny! Well, I don't know if you may have already read any of those titles or authors, but have you read anything for Elizabeth Goudge? I think you may really well love her work, she is definitely a new favourite for me - so far I've only read "The Scent of Water" and "The Little White Horse" for her, but she has a huge backlist, all of which I want to read. Her writing is very beautiful, poetical and moving. There is the Eliot trilogy starting with "The Bird in the Tree", and "The Dean's Watch" is next in my pile (Thanks Anna for the recommendation!)

    A new author I discovered lately has been Marilynne Robinson - she wrote "Gilead" "Home" "Lila" and "Housekeeping"; so far I've only read "Gilead" but I LOVED that book! It's so philosophical and wonderful.

    A few months ago I read "Rebecca" by Daphne du Maurier and oh my goodness, that novel blew me away! Have you read it? IT IS WONDERFUL and full of Gothic Jane-Eyre-esque mystery, psychological twists, moral struggles, and beautiful literary writing! I haven't read anything else for Maurier, but she wrote lots, and I am keen to give her other books a go, like "Jamaica Inn" "Frenchman's Creek", etc.

    A famous writer in his day, A. J. Cronin wrote some really great 1930s/40s novels, and one of my all time favourites is "The Keys of the Kingdom", a sort of biographical novel about a Catholic Scottish priest who goes to China as missionary and his life struggle to follow God - so good! I've seen the adaption of "The Green Years" as well, and it seemingly is very good.

    I'm not huge on the modern Christian fiction genre, but lately I've found a few favourites, like "The Butterfly and the Violin" and "A Sparrow in Terezin" by Kristy Cambron (holocaust stories, but ones filled with poetic writing and beautiful reflections on art), "Until that Distant Day" by Jill Stengl is another favourite (mother of Anne Elisabeth Stengl). If you haven't read "Pendragon's Heir" by Suzannah Rowntree, then you probably should go and read it RIGHT NOW!!!! "The Acts of Faith" series co-authored by Davis Bunn and Janette Oke is remarkably very good; Penelope Wilcock's "The Hawk and the Dove" medieval monastery series is another good one to take a peek at: right now I'm reading "Saving Amelie" by Cathy Gohlke and to be honest I've been surprised at how good it is so far. . . some other Christian authors I'm keen to give a go are Susan Meissner (author of "A Fall of Marigolds"), Stephen R. Lawhead (author of the King Arthur series) - perhaps you may enjoy looking them up.

    Mary Rose Wood (author of the Incorrigble Children of Ashton Place) is a wonderful children's author, and so far I'm quite enjoying "the Lunar Chronicles" by Marissa Meyer (author of "Cinder").

    For a dose of humour, read P.G. Wodehouse - he's delightful just to cheer you up, but not really for inspiration I think.

    Have you read anything much for Elizabeth Gaskell? North and South is my favourite novel, but I think you may have read her other works. I haven't personally embarked on much Russian literature, but I am thoroughly curious about Fydor Dystovosky's books and a little of Leo Tolstoy. Have you read anything for them? I've heard some wonderful stuff about "The Woman in White" by Wilkie Collins!

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  5. Mmmm, yes, definitely second the suggestions of Mary Stewart and Elizabeth Goudge. Airs Above the Ground is my third-favorite Stewart (after Nine Coaches Waiting and The Moonspinners.

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  6. Oooh, yes, The Perilous Gard! I read that book probably four times.
    I'm reading Bleak House by Charles Dickens right now (progressing pretty slowly, but it's a really good book in an interesting style; it alternates between first person past tense, and third person present/past tense).

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  7. Have you tried George MacDonald? Personally, I've liked his "The Curate's Awakening", "The Fisherman's Lady" and "Wee Sir Gibbie of the Highlands".
    Those are some of his gothic fiction, he also wrote some fantasy, but I haven't read of of that

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  8. Hmm, well there's this really good book I read last year that I think you'd like... It has a dark cover, and a lady holding a sword, and some flames, and gold letters... hmm, trying to remember the title... there was a fox in it too, with a most fascinating name... Dammerung, perhaps? Oh, yes, the book was called Plenilune! I bet you'd like it. :D ...Okay, so maybe that's not very helpful. *cough*

    I'm trying to think of books you might like and am at a loss. However, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, The Night Circus by Erin Morginstern, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (I believe you recently mentioned something about not having read him) come to mind, because they're all dark shadowy elegant frightening but magical fantasy in a historical setting with rich writing, so that's probably why they make me think of you today... but that's a tricky business because you may loathe them and feel they're not your thing at all...

    Anyway I hope you find something to your taste to read, and get out of your writing slump!

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  9. Steal. Like. An artist.

    I don't care who you are, this book is for you. <3

    This is going out on a limb, but have you read The Kalevala? It's supposed to be the book Tolkien got the majority of his Lord of the Rings inspiration from, so though I haven't read it, that could very well be right up your alley.
    The House of the Wolfings, too (if you haven't already read it & I'm terribly sorry to be a bore if you have) is, I have heard, another fantastic source of inspiration for the author.
    Finally, I would recommend finding a Shakespeare play, whether an old favorite (force yourself to re-read. It's HEALTHY & all that) or one you haven't - he's a constant importation to me.

    This is probably all old hat and hackneyed advice, but it's what has helped me, so it's all I've got! Going back to roots is, at any rate, the best way to refresh the process: you've got to remind yourself where you're coming from.

    Best of luck!

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  10. Have you read "The Night Land" by William Hope Hodgson? I think you might like it. I read it last year. "The Island of Dr. Moreau" might also be cool for you.

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  11. Elisabeth Grace Foley - I have not read "Pendragon's Heir." (Italics are so. tedious.) I'm an idiot sometimes and forget that my friends write books. :/ And, let me think...nope, I haven't read any of your other recommendations. FODDER. Well, except for some Chesterton, of course, but not all of his works. O_o

    Also, Suzzanah - I have not read ANY of the books you just mentioned. None. NO. WAIT. I take that back. I tried to read "Airs Above the Ground," but I'm so sorry, I could not stand it. Hide my face in shame. It seemed thin to me and I just couldn't "see" what was going on; I had to invent things myself. I've actually been super disappointed in Mary Stewart as a whole. I enjoyed "Nine Coaches Waiting" (italics are so tedious, people! ugh!), but "Rose Cottage" was kind of lame and totally predictable, I couldn't get into "Airs Above the Ground," and when I tried "Touch Not the Cat," (purported to be Mary Stewart's most suspenseful novel) I couldn't read more than two pages at a time before I had to put it down or throw it across the room. It's serious.

    Everyone seems to be chirping "The Perilous Gard," so I guess I'm gonna have to look into that one!

    Anonymous - Ooh, let me see. I've read "Sir Gibbie," "The Princess and the Goblin," and "The Princess and Curdie" (fav!). Kudos for knowing about "Sir Gibbie," too, because it's not top of the charts number one New York Times bestseller. XD

    Deborah O'Carroll - I do need to read "Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell." It's been kicking about for months now, but it's just so HUGE that I'm daunted. I'm easily daunted by huge books.

    ...says the girl who, eh heh, literally wrote the book on huge books. Eh heh. Eh heh.

    Ahem.

    Carmel - "Steal Like an Artist" has intrigued me since I saw, I don't know, you or Rachel reviewing it once upon a time. I'll put it on my list! (Also, I don't think I've heard of "The Kalevala," but I do know "The Worm Ouroboros" was highly influential with Tolkien. Significant brow waggle.)

    Juliet Lauser - Would you believe it, I actually HAVE read "The Island of Dr. Moreau"! I know it's kind of out there, but woot, I've actually read it and know what you're talking about! Let me savour this moment; it doesn't happen to me very often... And there it goes. I haven't read of "The Night Land," so I'll put that on my list too. Thank you so much! :D

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  12. I think Mary Stewart can be a little hit-and-miss. TOUCH NOT THE CAT was a miss for me too, and ROSE COTTAGE is one I've been avoiding because it's one of her later novels and I've heard those aren't as good. THUNDER ON THE RIGHT is another I didn't care for. Then there is personal taste (and recommending books is always such a tricky thing!) - but I suspect THIS ROUGH MAGIC might be worth a try, if you ever feel up to it.

    Leaving Stewart aside, THE PRISONER OF ZENDA has the BEST swashbuckler villain ever. Named RUPERT. And everyone seems to love THE PERILOUS GARD.

    Oddly enough, I've read THE KALEVALA and I wouldn't recommend it unless you're in the mood for a real, long, epic poem with long flowery descriptions of nature. Tolkien took inspiration mostly from a small segment of it near the end, the story of Kullervo. The poetry is wonderful though.

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