November’s reading…

The only thing I read in full was a re-read of Jilly Cooper’s Players.   I first read the book years ago, and found a used copy a couple of years ago at a library sale.  It’s one of those books that has not aged well IMO.  It’s very much a product of its time (late 80s/early 90s), with a very specific setting and characters (English monied set and wannabes).  It felt extremely dated in the way that episodes of Dallas, Dynasty, and the like (80s soap operas about wealthy people) would be.  One of the romance storylines was actually kind of squick-inducing.  Eh, into the bin as part of The Great Book Purge of 2013.

Also in November, I read more of Garry Disher’s Whispering Death, which I liked.  But I didn’t finish it until yesterday, so it goes into December’s book count.

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Apparently I’m crazy

According to a random commenter, who apparently wants to be a writer but can’t afford an editor or proofreader and doesn’t want to do the actual work of being in an online critique group, I am crazy for thinking that self-published authors should invest either the time or social capital in those things.

Whatever.  Maybe I am crazy, but I’m also a person with disposable income directed at books and a reader who kills Kindle samples when they demonstrate shitty grasp of punctuation, spelling, verb tenses, etc.  Make of that what you will.

Mostly I just wanted to roll my eyes at the commenter, who comes across as a whiny child who needs the Debbie Allen Fame speech.  Or maybe just Ursula the Sea Witch’s warning:  if you want to cross the bridge, you have to pay the toll.

 

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SBD: this and that

So, my reading…still not great.   Nothing I’m reading at various review sites appeals enough to even bother with the samples.  I did, however, buy another Soho Crime mystery:  Whispering Death by Garry Disher.  It’s set in Australia and the blurb was intriguing, and the first five pages grabbed me, so I’m feeling good about a new book.  I’m a sucker for the Soho Crime cover art/style though, really, and if it wasn’t for the distinct style, I probably wouldn’t have noticed the book.

At the time, I was wandering around B&N with a 20% off coupon burning a hole in my pocket.  I’ve been a long-term B&N member; the discount was worth it, because I spent enough there annually to cover the cost.  The annual renewal reminder arrived the other day, and I’m considering whether it’s worth it this year.  Last year it was:  I bought a copy of the Calvin & Hobbes collection and the discount there covered the cost.  But I’m not sure it will be this year.  The closest B&N to me now are university bookstores that accept the membership card but none of the coupons, and their fiction selections are not very good (understandably so).  *shrug*  I feel like this is emblematic of B&N’s problems generally:  what kind of store does it want to be?  Is it a cafe?  A gift shop?

AAR posted the results of the updated reader poll of the Top 100 Romance Novels.  I didn’t realize they were running the poll again but saw a link after the fact.  I have some thoughts (nothing original) and am going to try to post my opinion(s) on the results.  If I’m feeling ambitious, maybe I’ll try to come up with my own top 100?  Or maybe top 20?  I think I did something similar last time they polled, must look for it and see if my responses and top 20 have changed in the last few years.

Other things:

  • It’s like NBCSN  wants me to become a Pittsburgh Penguins fan.  Of the last five or six games televised, at least four have been Pens’ games.  Which, okay, fine, I’m not wedded to any team.  The two closest teams are Washington (no, sorry, Ovechkin squicks me even though his fiancee is awesome) and the Flyers (no, just no), but I have no particular loyalties, so… (Although I really do not get the facial hair.  Really.  Someone needs to pin Crosby down and remove that mess from his upper lip.)
  • Also on the television front, I’ve been watching The Blacklist on demand.  The premise of the show is problematic for so many reasons, but James Spader is worth it.
  • I made a pumpkin galette yesterday using the recipe posted at Full Fork AheadOther things:  .  It turned out pretty well, although cleaning the pumpkin was a mess — I ended up with pumpkin innards everywhere.  One smallish sugar/pie pumpkin yielded the galette, about 3 cups of roasted pumpkin chunks, and a bunch of roasted pumpkin seeds.  Yum.

 

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October’s book(s)

My reading for the month of October was the worst (in the sense of numbers) since I started keeping track eight years ago.  (Er, also since I started blogging eight years ago.  That anniversary has come and gone. Yay, me?)

The only thing I read was the In Death novella in the Mirror, Mirror Halloween anthology.  It was good, objectively speaking, but I’m ambivalent about the good twin/bad twin trope.

I tried to read Rush Me by Allison Parr, a New Adult book that came recommended but it failed the 3 chapter test.

Other books whose samples I tried but discarded:

  • The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
  • Just Jorie by Robin Alexander
  • Agamemnon Frost and the House of Death by Kim Knox
  • Longbourn by Jo Baker
  • The Neruda Case by Roberto Ampuero
  • Parasite by Mira Grant
  • King of Russia by Dave King
  • A Spider in the Cup by Barbara Cleverly

I may eventually circle back to the bottom four on the list.

The only up side to this massive reading slump is that it is doing wonders for my budget:  when I was reconciling bank and credit card statements for the month, my Amazon charges (primary source for print and ebooks) were down significantly.  The only charges other than Mirror, Mirror and Rush Me were for some travel guides that were on sale for Kindle.

What have I been doing with my time instead?  Reading fan fiction, including hockey RPF and original fiction, and Peter Grant/Rivers of London stories.  I have Opinions about both fandoms but since I’m not writing and am new to both, I’ll just sit on my hands and bite my tongue.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to figure out what to do with this blog.  I don’t want to stop posting but since it is mostly about my reactions to what I’m reading, I am not sure how to use it when I’m reading so little.

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September’s sad reading tally

Aside from what I powered through (more or less) at the beach, the rest of the month has been pretty blah.

DNFs:

The Replacement Guitarist by Lori Toland.  Gay romance.  This was on sale for $0.99…which made abandoning it easy when the opening chapter was all tell-tell-tell and painful narration.

A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore.  Horror/humor/fantasy.  I love the humor and his voice, but somehow this book just didn’t hold my attention.

Magic Study by Maria Snyder.  Fantasy.  The first book of this trilogy, Poison Study, received very good reviews and I liked it a lot.  This book felt slow and plodding to me.  It may have improved but after 1/3 of the book, I abandoned it.

I’m not sure if the Mirror, Mirror anthology really counts as a DNF — I bought it on sale in order to read the JD Robb novella, otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered.  The other novellas are by authors I’ve tried in the past and don’t care for.  The Robb installment was fine, although I have to admit that if I had realized the subject matter involve twin bonds (and twin craziness), I might have skipped it entirely.

Books I finished:

Fall Hard by JL Merrow.  Sort of modern, mildly gothic romance set in Iceland.  Loved the setting, thought the narrator was a self-righteous twit who “stood by” his boyfriend for professional reasons that are kind of murky while adhering to the “letter of the law” re: fidelity but not the spirit of the thing.  Guessed the whodunnit early on.

 

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Because I have no will power

*pokes at WordPress*

I didn’t mean to abandon the blog, I just…got busy?  Well, not really, mostly I just didn’t have anything to say about my reading.  Or at least, nothing constructive.  I don’t necessarily subscribe to the “if you can’t say anything nice” school of thought when it comes to my reading, but I also try to not post negative things constantly.  And my personal reaction to a lot of my recent reading has been ~meh~ at best.  (Truly, when fan fiction is better edited — subjectively, in my opinion of course — than the stuff people want me to pay money for, I have to walk away from the books in question.)

Anyway, it was the National Book Festival a couple of weeks ago.  I meant to go but didn’t see any authors on the schedule that merited standing in heinously long lines for a signed copy of their most recent magnum opus.  Genre fiction writers were pretty scares.

And last weekend was the Baltimore Book Festival.  I was interested in hearing Lois McMaster Bujold speak and the panel on Jane Austen, but both were on Saturday and I had a scheduling conflict.  But I did manage to peruse the various stalls and booths Friday afternoon.  And because I have no will power, I bought books:  used books and new books since JHU Press was set up in the Peabody and selling works related to panels and of local interest.

Murder in Montmarte by Cara Black — mystery set in Paris in 1995; I liked Murder in the Marais enough to try another book in the series.

The Twilight of Imperial Russia by Richard Charques — historical/political analysis of the period leading up to the Russian Revolution

The Awakening by Kate Chopin — read this as a teenager for a literature class, and I’m pretty sure I’ll have a much different (better) perspective on it as an adult.

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen — one of the Austen books that I read in high school and never re-read.

Eat, Drink & Be Merry in Maryland by Frederick Philip Stieff — compilation of local recipes compiled by an amateur chef in 1932 with a new foreword.

Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity by Janine Barchas — how Austen used names of the day for comic (and other) intent.

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What I read on my (not-summer) vacation

I go to the beach after the crowds have died down, the week after Labor Day.  Technically it’s not fall yet, the weather is still good and there are still things to do, but the boardwalk is only sparsely populated and I’m less likely to be overrun by hoards of beach-goers.  (Yes, I am a misanthrope.  I have space and people proximity issues.  It drives me crazy to have people set up their blankets within inches of my little plot of sand, inflicting their conversations and kids on me when the whole point of the beach for me is being mellow to the point of hypnosis via the sound of waves and gulls.)

I packed a bunch of books for the beach, most pulled from the pile of potential purge books.  If any regular visitors would like to have any of the books below, drop me a note and I’ll send the book(s) to you rather than putting them in the boxes of books, CDs, DVDs, and clothes that will be going to the library and/or other repositories.

1.  The Hallowed Hunt by Lois McMaster Bujold.  This is the third Chalion book.  Although I love the first two of the series and re-read or listen to them periodically, I’ve never re-read this one.  My attempt this week was…less than successful.

2.  The Winter Prince by Elizabeth Wein.  Welsh-influence Arthurian tale.  I bought a used copy after Rachel recommended it.  I very much like the storytelling and writing, so I’ll try more of Wein’s books, but am pretty much over Arthur/Camelot.  My copy is an older one from the first printing (I think) by Baen Books.  And on the flyleaf, Elizabeth Wein has written a note to the original owner, dated and personalized to the owner, which is sort of charming in a “what is the history of this object” kind of way.

3.  The Wicked Gentleman by Ginn Hale.  Fantasy.  I’ve had this book TBR forever, it feels like.  When I bought it ages ago, I wasn’t in a fantasy-ish sort of mood and it languished.  I’m glad I pulled it off the shelf, it was a good beach read — done in one morning — but I’m not sure if it’ll go in the keeper pile or be passed on.

4.  Bronze Gods by A.A. Aguirre.  Fantasy.  Didn’t finish this one; I think steampunk is a genre or subgenre that doesn’t work for me; even books by writers that I really like (like Meljean Brook) have been a struggle for me to finish.

5.  Bloodsucking Fiends by Chris Moore.  Re-read, horror or fantasy.  Moore’s writing to so readable, IMO, and the humor is just right.  As much as I enjoyed this as I read it, it’s not really a regular re-read for me, so it’ll go into the donation bin.

6.  The Housekeeping Book of Susannah Whatman.  Nonfiction.  Interesting glimpse into the maintenance and staffing of a 18th century home.

7.  The Sandalwood Fan by Diana Brown.  Trad Regency by Signet.  Eh, it’s different from a lot of early trads in the sense of the heroine’s autonomy and independence.  I found the hero to be not very sympathetic, but then a lot of the characters were pretty unsympathetic, except for the heroine, her sister, and the sister’s eventual fiance.

~~~

Browseabout Books, which is on the main street, has an okay selection of books.  Maybe it used to have more, but now less than 1/4 of the store’s floor space is spent on books; the rest is full of cards, gifts, etc.  Whatever keeps them in business, I guess?  They are advertising a book event on September 21st with Megan Hart, Ann Aguirre, Lauren Dane, and Vivien Arend.  I’m kind of sorry to miss it but next weekend is the National Book Festival and also I don’t think I’ll be driving the 200+ round trip for it.

Browseabout had the new JD Robb book (Thankless in Death) out already, even though the official drop date isn’t until next Tuesday (9/17), so I bought a copy of it and also a copy of the new Chelsea Cain book that was released last month.  Thankless was okay, about average for an In Death book, much more domestic than anything else, with the bad guy as a contrast to the Dallas-Roarke growing family and also as an ongoing poke at the nature vs. nurture theme that runs through the series (IMO).  Let Me Go, the new Cain book, feels a little repetitive; the Archie-Gretchen dynamic is getting a little stale to me.  And I’m kind of perplexed by how Gretchen is so amazing that she manages to get the drop on everyone, especially when they are professionals armed to the teeth and she isn’t.  Although technically since she’s a serial killer, she’s a professional killer too?  Dunno.  I enjoyed the book as I read but would not recommend it except to readers who like the twisted dynamic and ongoing mindfuck.  (I think my issue with the series is that it doesn’t advance or change, and Gretchen is related to every murder in some way, with a preternatural reach into all crimes in the Portland area; even Sherlock Holmes solved crimes unrelated to Moriarty but Archie gets no such respite.  Obsession gets old after a while — and I’m referring to both Archie and Gretchen.)

~~~

Also on the book front, it looks like Bujold will be at the Baltimore Book Festival.  I’m kind of disappointed that I won’t get to see her though: she’s being interviewed at 2pm on Saturday (9/28) (by Catherine Asaro, another author I’d love to hear speak) but I have a family party to attend at 3pm.  Given drive time (1.5 hours), there’s no way I can go the literary salon and make it to the party on time. :(

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