This and that

My reading for the month was up, relative to the rest of my reading this year.  In addition to the books I read at the beach, I finished K.A. Mitchell’s short Just A Little Bad, which I liked as a supplement to other books in that series (it wouldn’t stand on its own).  I’ve heard a lot of good things about the Phryne Fisher mysteries, so I downloaded the first (Cocaine Blues) when it was on sale for $0.99; I found the narrator’s tone/voice to be not to my taste (it read as a combination of ennui and contempt for the world to me).  Also tried Rachel Bach’s Fortune’s Pawn, because it too has gotten raves.  Eh, maybe I’ll circle back to it someday but I haven’t felt engaged enough to get past the first chapter.

I did manage to re-read Whispers Underground, my favorite of the Rivers of London series so far, and will be re-reading Broken Homes next in anticipation of Foxglove Summer, which is due out in November.  But first I’m trying Sayers’ Strong Poison.


I think the romance blogosphere knows about the defamation complaint filed by Elloras Cave against Dear Author.  I went to the clerk of court’s website and downloaded a copy of the complaint (which is free, if you’re interested).  I am…not particularly impressed by the memorandum of law in support of the TRO request, but I don’t know enough about defamation/slander/libel/etc. to have an informed opinion about its substance.  I do agree with the general consensus that the suit looks like an attempt to gag criticism generally by targeting a higher profile community member.


An IKEA Kallax shelving unit awaits assembly in my spare room.  And yet I’m pretty sure I’ll still have books in boxes.  This despite the continuing Book Purge.


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Beach reads

The fall edition of the In Death series seems to come in the first or second week of September every year; invariably I’m at the beach, hunting for beach reads and succumb to the lure, even though I’ve stopped buying or bothering to borrow the February/March installment.  (What was it this year?)  Anyway, I cruised through Festive in Death on Wednesday.  It was okay at best: the murderer was predictable; Roarke acted as consultant (which just makes me cringe on  so many levels in terms of professionalism and chain of evidence, etc.); various interactions with their acquired family; “vital” appeared at least once; and various typos that should have been caught in copyediting were pretty glaring.  It was fine for an afternoon under the umbrella but nothing about it stands out from the series, unlike a few of the earlier books.

While it was raining on Monday, I read Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women.  I can see how it would have been groundbreaking when it was published in 1992, but now it reads as somewhat dated.  I found the “coded language” excuse for purple prose to be not particularly convincing, and would interested to read an update on the part of Kinsale’s piece regarding men on covers in light of the very common (now) male torso cover shot.  Several pieces seemed to be making the argument that romance heroines are drawn as “not like other girls”, which is frustrating because it turns out that in the end, romance heroines actually are just like other girls.

Apparently I am a pleb without taste, because I keep trying but just cannot get into the first Lord Peter Wimsey mystery, Whose Body?  The dialect or pronunciation as delivered in type to show education/class just makes me cringe, like other spoken dialect reduced to writing.  (This is a personal pet peeve — I hate it, regardless of who the author or character is.)  And I just don’t care about Wimsey enough to keep going: I don’t find him particularly interesting or engaging.

Meljean Brook’s Heart of Steel was a find in a B&N remainder bin, and I’m so glad I picked it up.  The heroine makes the book, and it worked so much better for me than the other Iron Seas books or serials.

The Golden City by J. Kathleen Cheney was an impulse purchase; the cover art caught my eye and the mention of “alternate Portugal” sold the book.  How often is Portugal a setting for anything other than Napoleonic War-set historicals – if even briefly?  The story itself was interesting and a good setup for a fantasy series, but I was disappointed with the Portugal or lack thereof in the story.  But for the use of Portuguese names, there was no particular sense of Portugal-as-place in the story; it could have been set in any turn of the 20th century post-colonial country in Europe.

It’s overcast and windy today, so I’m puttering around.  Maybe I’ll try to read the last book I brought:  Dunnett’s The Game of Kings.  I’ve tried several times to get into the Lymond Chronicles, and this time it’s either power through or give up permanently.


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China Beach on DVD

I vaguely remember China Beach being on television when I was a kid but I didn’t watch it.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that the only episode I’ve ever seen is the series finale as a rebroadcast.

The first season is finally out on DVD; I’m not sure why it has taken so long, since so many other 90s shows have been released.  I’ve watched the first three episodes so far.

1.  A drama all about the women. Who talk about men sometimes but mostly about other things (so far).  It passes the Bechdel test with flying colors.  (I wonder if this show would get made today.  Doubt it.)

2.  The volume of alcohol consumed by the main character is significant; again, would a female protagonist be permitted to drink that much and still be cast in a positive light today?  Doubt it.  I like that no one is drawn as all good or all bad, no matter how naive or cynical they are.

3.  The cast is good and the soundtrack is excellent.

4.  The film quality is…not great.

5.  Next three episodes, please?

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Currently reading

A while back, someone somewhere on the internet noted that a scholarly work on L.M. Montgomery’s heroines, The Fragrance of Sweet-Grass, had been updated by its author.  Well, Anne of Green Gables was *the* formative series for me as a girl, so I wanted a copy.  And while browsing, The Blythes Are Quoted was recommended as well; it was edited or forewarded by the academic who wrote Sweet-Grass.  It was pretty clear that this was the full version of a manuscript that had been significantly redacted after Montgomery’s death and published as Road to Yesterday…which I have read.

This “new” version…well, there’s poetry from Anne and Walter, along with some dialogue from the Blythes, but so far the stories are the same and the poetic interludes are kind of ~meh~.  I don’t feel cheated, because it was made very clear before I clicked and paid that the contents had been previously published.  But I feel like my perspective on how the new edition may be fuller or better is…divergent from the editor, perhaps because I’m reading for pleasure while she read and edited as an academic.

Other than that, not too much going on with the reading, although I’m tempted to buy a copy of Carla Kelly’s new “Brand” book.  I liked the first of the series well enough, although I did not love it.  Actually, I should look for it and maybe re-read before buying the next book of the series.  Unless I got rid of it during The Great Book Purge of 2013?

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Magic Breaks – meh

The new Ilona Andrews book came out last week.  I read it.  It was fine?  I mean, I like their voice/style in this series — unlike other work they’ve done that didn’t really wow me.  But as I’ve mentioned in the past, the world building is kind of wobbly sometimes and some of the copy editing and proof-reading has been less than impressive given who their editor is at Ace.  (The lack of commas when multiple adjectives are used to modify a single noun drives me crazy.  And I love how the sword’s name changes might sword-fight.)  This book isn’t a *huge* surprise, plot-wise, but in some ways it feels a little forced, as if the characters as originally established have taken a hard left turn.  There were signals in earlier books but it all just feels heavy-handed to me.  Other readers’ mileage may (and does) vary.  But I think I’m finished with the series.


I went to today’s game against the Mariners on impulse.  \o/ to Nick Markakis for his lead-off, game-winning HR and his 1,500 hit as an Oriole.  The game was excellent, but two ancillary things are stuck in my mind.  First, I stopped at the team store, thinking I’d buy a t-shirt since the last merch I bought (for myself) was a Mike Mussina t-shirt; he’s long since retired from the despised pin-stripe team, which tells you how long ago that was.  There’s a ladies section full of poorly made, overpriced stuff.  An Orioles bikini?  Uh, no, I’d like a plain t-shirt, no player name or number, no pink, no sequins, and reasonably priced.  By reasonably priced, I mean priced at about the same amount that men’s apparel goes for rather than 30-50% more.  Ugh.

Second, I really am not comfortable with the singing of God Bless America and accompanying kudos to the military during the 7th inning stretch.  That song reminds me of being in middle school, learning about “manifest destiny” and not really getting it — people really thought their god gave them a right to own the country from sea to sea? what kind of bullshit propaganda is that? — and the sports/god/military combination feels really creepy and infringing on my freedom of religion while pushing a model of patriotism that I do not subscribe to.  Church and state are (in theory) separate, and I don’t want either of them interfering with baseball.  (Or hockey or tennis, etc.)


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Recently read – the wrap up of a trilogy

It feels like a long, long time ago that I first read Kelley Armstrong.  It was back before she was *big*.  Back before paranormal was absolutely huge.  Her book Bitten was excellent, mostly because it was so different from a lot of the paranormal romance — it was emphatically not genre romance.  I kept up, more or less, with her Otherworld series, although I didn’t love the books with non-Elena narrators as much as I loved Bitten and then Stolen.  And then gradually I lost interest — too much PNR, not interested in YA, not thrilled with some of the PR.  But I really liked her Nadia Stafford books…which also got kind of shuffled off in the surge of YA-PNR.  I sort of knew that Armstrong planned one last Nadia Stafford book, but hadn’t realized it was out.  Poking around Amazon, I found Wild Justice among my recommendations (thank you, Amazon recommendations algorithm — normally you don’t do well but that one was a success) last week.  

On one hand, it was a nice wrap up of the series and it explained some things that had seemed off in the first two books.  But on the other hand, it was…somewhat predictable?  Overall, I’m glad to have read it and wrapped up the series, and I love that the narrator isn’t being wedged into a traditional HEA/ride off into the sunset while conforming to traditional family values.  But in some ways she sort of is?  Still, not sorry to have bought a copy.


Also on the media front, I saw Snowpiercer over the weekend.  It was creepy and weird.  Kudos to you, Tilda Swinton for that outstanding performance.  I…feel like there were some gaping plot holes.  And like the people who wrote the script have probably never actually ridden a train.  Yes, an eternal engine is wonderful, but how is the track kept in repair if the only living people are on the train?  Tracks need a lot of maintenance, especially in the winter.  (Look, it’s a metaphor, I get it, but come on – 18 years and no track work? Really?  Nuh uh.)  And don’t get me started on high speed trains, sharp curves, and objects on the tracks.


Dear fandom:  

ILU but I wish you’d learn a few basic rules of grammar.

1.  An apostrophe generally notes possession, not plurals.

2.  Adverse and averse are not interchangeable, nor are nonplussed and nonchalant.

3.  Should of is not a phrase.  It’s should have.

4.  Their.  There.  They’re.  Not the same.

And this last isn’t about grammar but language choice:  please think about the vocabulary you are putting in your character’s mouth.  There are certain phrases or words that are commonly used in British or Australian English that just aren’t in American English.  They wouldn’t play snooker, or probably even billiards; they’d shoot pool or play eight ball, nine ball, etc.  They have living rooms, dens, or great rooms, not loungerooms.  They might make turkey burgers using ground turkey but probably wouldn’t use mince.  And they’d get a wrench from the toolbox in the truck, not a spanner from the boot.



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Plugging away at a long(ish) book

I’ve been plugging away at Alistair Horne’s Seven Ages of Paris: Portrait of a City for the last month or so.  I bought a copy while on vacation in Paris (yes, yes, reading it before going *might* have been more useful) and have been reading a few pages at a time.  Despite liking the concept, which orients the ages to a particular king/ruler/political leader or event, I haven’t really been engaged.  It wasn’t until this past weekend, when I read a larger chunk of the book that I realized what was bothering me in terms of construction and tone.  First, the author uses a lot of quotes but doesn’t provide citations for any of them; yes, there is a bibliography for each chapter, but I feel like quotes need a source (yes? no?).  Second, all the women mentioned are described negatively:  Eleanor of Aquitaine was a promiscuous, power-hunger, glory-seeking slut and adulteress; various other queens are drab or stupid or breeding cows; Mme. de Maintenon put Louis XIV on the straight and narrow but was a dour killjoy; etc.  Apparently women in Paris historically were either fishwives or gold-diggers or perhaps both simultaneously, at least in his view.  I actually double checked the copyright date, wondering if this was an older book that might explain the undertone of misogyny (despite the author’s characterization of Paris as a woman and a city that he is fascinated by), but it was only published in 2002.

I was also a little bemused by the way the author skipped over seven years worth of revolution, from execution of Louis XVI to Napoleon, as if those years were irrelevant to the history of Paris.

I haven’t decided if I’ll keep reading, just to finish — and also because my knowledge of post WWII history in France is woeful — or if I want to find another biography of Paris or French history book to cleanse my reading palate.


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