Risky Regencies

Elena’s 2009 and 2010 Reads

My reading this year has been largely colored by what is going on in my life. As many of you know, my husband suffered a severe stroke in January. So I’ve had less time to read than I would like, though I still read over breakfast and in waiting rooms, etc… I could not live without the solace of books!

Of necessity, I’ve read a number of books on stroke and traumatic brain injury (TBI). A few of these stand out as fascinating, not just to those whose lives are affected by TBI, but to anyone interested in how our minds work. I’ve already mentioned MY STROKE OF INSIGHT, by Jill Bolte Taylor, the story of a brain scientist who suffered a stroke and recovered to write about it. It has a lot about the interaction of the left and right brain functions and insights into how to live a more “balanced-brain” life. BRAIN, HEAL THYSELF, by Madonna Siles, is the story of a woman whose friend and roommate suffered an aneurism that left her somewhat zombie-like after conventional rehabilitation ran out. Siles found creative ways to help her friend and their story is not only a page turner but full of useful advice for caregivers. THE BRAIN THAT CHANGES ITSELF, by Norman Doidge, deals with neuroplasticity—the brain’s ability to rewire itself. Doidge writes about recovery from brain injury, but also topics such as overcoming learning disorders, including a chapter on maintaining mental acuity as we age. The key, friends, is not only to stay active but to always be learning something new. Something I think we Riskies and friends are into anyway. 🙂

As for fiction, I feel a bit guilty to say that it’s been hard to read romance. If I were not a writer, I’d be gulping down romance novels as an escape. As it is, I find it hard to read romance without feeling the pangs of wanting to write again.

So for a time, I concentrated on reading my children’s favorites. One that stands out is the Percy Jackson and the Olympian series by Rick Riordan. It’s sort of like Harry Potter but with Greek mythology rather than magic as a backdrop. I say this just as shorthand, not to imply there is anything about this series that is not fresh and funny and delightful. I hear there’s a movie coming out in February and can’t wait to take my kids.

I’ve also read some general fiction. I was thrilled to read the published version of my friend Therese Walsh’s THE LAST WILL OF MOIRA LEAHY, which I’d already critiqued in several earlier incarnations. I also finally caught up with THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES, one of those books I’d always felt I ought to read. It is a beautiful book. Has anyone seen the movie and did it do justice?

I haven’t avoided romance entirely. I read one historical in which I felt the author aimed for a Kinsalean level of hero angst and fell short. I just wanted him to get over himself! But that is just my opinion; many readers loved this book. Since then, I’ve stuck mostly with authors who rarely disappoint and who inspire me to want to get back to my own stories. My favorites of this year are older books, so you may have already read them. One of them is BEAST by Judith Ivory–I was totally intrigued by what Ivory did with her complicated, beautiful, scarred hero. I would like to see Johnny Depp play him.

I mentioned a while back that Laura Kinsale’s FLOWERS FROM THE STORM helped me hold onto hope during the dark early hours of my husband’s stroke. Since there are long gaps between her books (though they are well worth waiting for!) I have been hoarding them. This year I dove into the last one, SEIZE THE FIRE. I loved her characters, the historical background that made their angst feel so very real, and the essential goodness that helps them survive.

I allowed myself to read SEIZE THE FIRE because (hurrah!) Laura Kinsale has a new book coming out in February, LESSONS IN FRENCH. And she’s going to be our guest at the Riskies on February 7th.

So here’s looking forward to much happy reading and blogging in 2010!


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The romantic query letter and the happy-ever-after

I hope 2010 is a better year for you and your family. I too read the “Lighting Thief thanks to my little sister. I write historical romance and find it difficult to read much from my genre when I write so I’ve been reading a ton of Jilly Copper novels. Every happiness in 2010 my dear and I pray your husband has continued progress in his recovery.
Warm regards,

Diane Gaston
12 years ago

Elena, I always want to cheer when you blog, because it means you have time!

I’m glad there is so much written on the brain to help you. I always think personal stories are the most useful and these books sound fascinating and above all, hopeful.

The Rick Riordan series sounds interesting, too. I like the idea of using Greek mythology.

Add me to the short list of those who have never read The Secret Life of Bees

Madonna Siles
12 years ago

I was “Googling around” when I came across your comments about my book, Brain, Heal Thyself. Thank you.
I’m sorry to hear about your husband’s stroke–hope my book helped a little. My new book, Eureka! Memories and Motivations, which is a sequel to “Brain”, talks more about our experiences with the challenges and unexpected rewards of at-home “brain” care.
It will be published Feb. 1, BUT I will be happy to send you one of my proof copies. If you’d like to read Eureka, just email your address to mms@eurekamaster.com I hope 2010 is good to both of you.
Madonna Siles

Elena Greene
12 years ago

Thanks for all the kind words, Simone.

Diane, it’s not so much I have time but I am making time once in a while to be with friends, including the Riskies. It helps me to stay positive.

Madonna, how nice to see you here. We chatted briefly after I posted to your message board many months ago. Congratulations on the new book and I look forward to reading it! I hope you and Eve are both doing well.


Louisa Cornell
12 years ago

Elena, I wish you and your DH a smoother journey in 2010. Any journey you take together will be an adventure and no matter how long and twist-filled the road you will always arrive home safe and sound when you travel together.

I am a big Kinsale fan so I am definitely looking forward to her latest.

I haven’t read The Secret Life of Bees, either!

Amanda McCabe
12 years ago

Elena, I definitely wish you a much smoother 2010!!!

And I wish I had thought to hoarde Kinsale books instead of reading them in one gulp. I’m very excited she has a new one coming out. 🙂

12 years ago

I just checked my TBR pile. I have 2 Judith Ivory books, but not BEAST. I’ll have to get that one.
I have a couple of the others. Now all I need is time to read them:o)

12 years ago

I haven’t read the Bolte book, yet, but I’d like to. Her TED talk was absolutely fascinating.

My son LOVES the Riordan series and Kinsale’s Flowers from the Storm is a favorite book of mine.

When I was in grad school, one of my fellow students was a woman who’d suffered a stroke. She had speech problems but in the years of our overlapping programs, her speech improved quite a lot.

My best wishes to you and your family, and happy reading!

12 years ago

My best wishes for a happy, healthy 2010 for Elena’s family and everyone.

Elena, I know a bit of what you’re going through, as my 24-y.o. son will undergo open heart surgery (probably this month but no specific date yet). I plan to bring many romances with me to read during his hospital stay — this is definitely a time when I need to believe in the possibility of the HEA (romantic or otherwise).

As for “The Secret Life of Bees”, I’ve read the book but didn’t see the movie when it was in theatrical release. We haven’t had a TV set in the past year (since the advent of digital)so I couldn’t even rent it. However, we bought a set so Noah would have something to do during his initial recovery when he will be pretty much housebound. The set is scheduled to arrive today, so I’ll put this on my list of movies to rent and will then be able to compare and contrast.

Elena Greene
12 years ago

Thanks for sharing that story. As we are getting close to the one year anniversary of Rich’s stroke, it helps to hear of people who improve beyond that. Some of the literature out there says the majority of the improvement happens in the first year but we hope for much more. He has come a long way. Initially, he could neither speak, read nor write but yesterday, for the first time, we played Scrabble and he was able to play with just a little help. 🙂

Susan/DC, my prayers go out for you and your son. Do seek solace in books and anything else that can help, because caregivers need rest, too.

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