March reading

March was kind of meh for reading in the early part of the month.

As mentioned, I was less than impressed by the portion of the Captive Prince trilogy that I read.

Patricia Briggs’ Fire Touched came out early in the month as well.  I’ve given up on her Omega books set in the same world; as I mentioned when I read the last book, Anna’s dismissal of Charles’ desire to not have children Seriously Pissed Me Off and struck me as profoundly offensive in a way that would’ve had readers up in arms if their positions had been swapped.  Mercy…eh, I have mentioned before that her acquisition of a new power  or tool of power or conveniently powered/talented friend whenever one is needed seems lazy.  And it happens again here. Plus, Mercy’s internal monologing in which she knows better than Adam about how he feels about god/religion strikes me as profoundly patronizing in much the same way Anna “knowing best” about whether Charles should want to have kids did.    Yeah, stick a fork in me, I’m done.

I’m almost finished Rebecca Traister’s All the Single Ladies (non-fiction), which I’m really enjoying.

And I’ve got the first installment of Ms. Marvel to read next.  And the web comic Check Please.

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Random:  I was reading an NPR piece on “Boston Chinese” food and ran across one of my language pet peeves, the use of cache for cachet.  They are spelled differently; pronounced differently; and have completely different meanings.  How freaking difficult is it to use the right word.  Boston Chinese does not have “a certain cache”; it has a certain cachet.  FFS.

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Observations from Indian Wells Tennis Garden

 

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The view from the parking lot at IWTG.  Literally.

It has been a few years (3 maybe?) since I’ve gone to the tournament at Indian Wells.  Skipped because moving, then for Paris, and then because I had hockey tickets for a back to back that weekend.  So I missed all of the development that has gone on.  And there has been a lot, thank you, Larry Ellison.

First, Stadium 2 with its restaurants – Nobu, a steak/chops place, and an Italian/brick oven pizza place.  Each morning over the weekend, there would be a line of people to get in, because the seats are all good and the line up was excellent.  [Rafa Nadal and Fernando Verdasco played the Bryan brothers Saturday evening, and you can be sure that people staked out seats WAY earlier that the “no earlier than” start time.  Monfils, Mugaruza, a bunch of other good matches played there.]

Second, the Brita water filter stations at the base of both stadiums – best thing ever, far better than the limited water fountains I’ve seen elsewhere.

Third, the sheer volume of vendors is crazy.  Last time I was there, there was a big awning with a Corona sponsored bar.  Gone is Corona; now Moet et Chandon is in that spot.  Of course, there’s a different beer tent, and a RumChata tent, etc.  And the food vendors are better than average.  Ice cream, iced lattes, deli, seafood, CaliMex, salads, it seemed like you could find anything you wanted.  [Except maybe a ladies t-shirt in a size larger than XS or S.]

Actually, IWTG is the only sporting venue I’ve ever been to where the lines out the men’s bathroom are longer than the lines out the ladies’ bathroom door.  Uniformly.  More often than not, there was no line for the ladies at all.  I don’t know if it’s because the tournament designed the buildings with more stalls for the ladies or what, but I was totally impressed.

I saw some random matches, just because.  This time around, I went out of my way to see Inigo Cervantes, a Spanish player who was completely schooled by Raonic, just because I loved his name.  And Bjorn Fratangelo, who took a set from Djokovic.  Plus Venus and Serena and Andy and Rafa.  So glad to see Juan Martin del Potro back, even if he looked a little rusty against Berdych.

Also, because I’m a dork, I was thrilled that I got to use a line from one of my favorite TV shows ever:  “It’s raining in Indian Wells.”  It did! Followed by a dust storm.

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Huddled on the upper deck of Stadium 1, waiting for the rain and wind to stop so the Venus Williams – Kurumi Nara match could resume.

Actually, the dust was more noticeable than in the past because the wind was so high the whole time.  In fact, it was so cold and windy on Sunday after the first night match that pretty much everyone left…so the scattered fans up in the Loge were invited down courtside to watch Halep’s match, which I appreciated.  Driving back that night, I was confused by the haze in the distance that I could see off other drivers’ headlights; it wasn’t until I hit the highway and saw the dust/sand drifting that I realized what it was.

ETA: Anecdotally, the sentiment among fans there regarding Maria Sharapova’s drug ban/violation seemed *much* less forgiving or lenient than what I’ve seen on social media from fans, sponsors, etc. In short, most people seemed really skeptical about extended use of meldonium for a variety of reasons and not particularly sympathetic.  Sorry she’ll be out of the game for some period of time, but not like she deserved a pass for failing the drug test.

ETA #2:  on the tennis kits.  Rafa’s kit looks less turquoise in person than on TV, almost like a baby blue with a hint of grey.  The outfit Bouchard had was weird – the colors were fine but it looked like a babydoll nightie…or a maternity shirt. Serena looked amazing. When did Berdych leave H&M for Adidas? (Whenever it was, it was not soon enough.)  That fluorescent Adidas shirt the men are wearing was tolerable when paired with brown/khaki shorts but awful when worn with red shorts.  The ladies’ version with darker colors that Halep is wearing is not terrible.  

Some less tennis-oriented observations:

  • The price of gas at stations along I-10 covered a span from $2.23 to $2.89, with the highest being more than $1 more than it is where I live and the lowest still being $0.50 more. Is that all state tax?  Ouch, especially given how poor public transportation seems to be locally.
  • I meant to stop at In n Out since some people I know have raved about their burgers. But the only ones I saw were off the highway, at hours when either they weren’t open or I wasn’t hungry.  Next time.
  • The bright green and clearly foreign species of grass cultivated for golf courses and high dollar neighborhoods looks really alien. And confusing, given the long term drought; how is watering lawns a priority?  I passed a billboard that read “Dejalo ir. El marron es el nuevo negro.” [Let it go. Brown is the new black.] Accompanied by a graphic of grass fading from green to brown.  Nice:)
  • The longer I live downtown in a city where good and sketchy neighborhoods commingle, the more confusing I find negotiating suburbia to be when I visit.  The number of gated communities was perplexing.
  • Pecan pie from Exquisite Desserts for Pi Day. Yum!
  • Oh, I forgot that See’s stores are a thing in the west.  I did not need to remember. See’s is dangerous for me.

 

 

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The Captive Prince trilogy – meh

At the library last week, the first and third books of the Captive Price trilogy were sitting right in the new/interesting releases.  I was sort of put off by the series history when they were first published by a mainstream publisher, but as free reads, sure.

They were very readable, in terms of easy flow of language and predictable plot.  As fantasy, they worked fine.  As erotic romance or any kind of romance, they were pedestrian; I didn’t believe or care about the protagonists’ relationship beyond the politics and plot.  HEA?  Eh, if you say so.

The bigger quibble for me was that they read like a single book that was broken into three pieces to sell more books.  If I’d paid for them, it would have seriously pissed me off, and prompted a return to the bookstore.  Since they were library books and were read during the commute, I don’t begrudge the time and there’s no money out.  But I doubt I’d bother to read more from the author.

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February’s reading

My reading is trending up!  No genre romance in there, but still.

  1. Brotherhood in Death by JD Robb.  I was tempted into buying this because Dennis Mira is mentioned in the blurb and I like that character.  He’s pretty tangential to the plot though, once the mystery is introduced.  Not great editing (Morse or Morris?, etc.).  Also, chain of evidence is a thing; prosecutors generally don’t handwave it away because it’s inconvenient.
  2. Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold.  I was pretty disappointed by this book.  At last, another book in which Cordelia is the protagonist. But instead of adventures or any actual plot, this is basically a domestic book in which she sits on the sideline while others grow/change/make major decisions.  All of her change or growth and decision-making was done before the book opens.  It’s really frustrating to me that Miles got to have personal growth + adventures while Cordelia gets neither of those on the pages of what is ostensibly a book about her.
  3. Day Shift by Charlaine Harris.  Library book.  Eh.
  4. Wood by Jordan Castillo Price.  Very short novella.  If this were fanfiction, I’d label it as PWP.  I’m not really sure what the point was, and if I had realized that there was no actual plot, I probably wouldn’t have bothered even at the $0.99 price point.
  5. Who Buries the Dead by C.S. Harris.  Another library book.  This series works better for me when I don’t read them back-to-back.  Liked the appearances of the Austen family and the mention of two Austen books.
  6. The Joy in Half A Cookie by Jean Kristeller.  Nonfiction.  Interesting and thoughtful, there are some things that I find useful in terms of how I think about and go about my own food choices.  But I’m never going to be a half a cookie person, unless I’m splitting it with someone.

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Full Disclosure?

Scrolling through the new release post for the week over at Dear Author, I hit one contemporary titled Full Disclosure and my brain made a full stop.  I’m sure it’s a fine book and the title makes sense in the context of whatever the plot is.  But all I can think of is “full and fair disclosure”, which totally kills any kind of romance or sexy vibe that it might have been going.  [Unless maybe you work at the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance.  Which, okay, go you.  But not me.]

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A new comic book and gaming shop opened late last month.  There has been a sign in the window since maybe November announcing that it would open; it took over the premises of what used to be an antiques shop.  I stopped in today to see if they had any of the Rivers of London comics in stock.  Not currently but an edition is coming out in two weeks, so they put me down for a copy.

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I’m almost all the way through binge-watching The West Wing on Netflix.  Man, all the male characters are prone to pedantic asshole behavior and constant disrespect for the judgment and expertise of the female characters.  CJ Cregg is awesome, but she wibbles about men pretty regularly and is lied to and underestimated on the regular by Leo, Josh, Toby, and the president; only Charlie seems exempt.  Donna stays Josh’s secretary way too long and he punishes her professionally because she decided she was qualified to do more than take his lunch orders – after she tried repeatedly to explain to him that she wanted more out of her job/professional life but he ignored it because it was inconvenient.  Dr. Bartlett, who admittedly violated state laws, is punished far more and criticized more than her husband, the one who actually was the public official who failed to disclose his serious, life-threatening illness.  Ugh.

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Afterthought:  I opened a book at random on my Kindle while on the elliptical.  It was Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews, a series whose voice/tone I like but which is riddled with continuity blips and rather poor copy editing IMO.  And a passage struck me in this book:  Evdokia mentions Kate’s mother attending her own mother’s funeral.  Except, wait for it, in the most recent book, Kate is told by her father than her maternal grandmother is alive and in Seattle.  Now, maybe he’s lying.  But the continuity blips have been bad enough through the series that I’m not willing to assume that they intentionally wrote him as lying rather than making another blip…again.

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The new Bujold book

When the new Vorkosigan book, Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, was announced last year, I pre-ordered a hard copy for my brother-in-law.  He likes first edition hardbacks and there was a limited signed edition, so…  When his copy arrived last week, I quickly mailed it to my sister to squirrel away as a gift.  And then I downloaded a Kindle copy.

Although I pre-ordered and ordered copies, I didn’t actually read much about it.  Jole was obviously the fellow from earlier books, Aral Vorkosigan’s aide de camp, and the Red Queen would be Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan.  Set after Aral’s death.  But other than that?  Eh, I didn’t need to know.

I feel like maybe I had *expectations* for this book.  It isn’t a badly written book by any means.  It works as a bookend for the series, in the sense that it takes Cordelia back where the series began, Sergyar, and addresses topics came up in the first and second books but were left fallow when the series concentrated on Miles rather than Cordelia and Aral. [I could say a lot more about that but it would involve serious spoilers.]  But I kept waiting for an external plot to match the internal one, and it never happened.  As Miles went about becoming Admiral Naismith and then Auditor Vorkosigan, he got adventures to go along with the personal growth, while this mostly had Jole’s personal growth/change with Cordelia as…not puppeteer but conscience-nudger, maybe?

I don’t know.  I think I’m going to have to read it again.

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Noped right out of that

A bundle of hockey romances was recommended by a reader whose taste I generally trust, who has recommended sports-themed romances in the past that were okay.  And the bundle cost $0.99, so what was the harm?  I started the first book, but nope.

To start with, the heroine was a spineless cliche.

Next, book was set in Chicago.  And the team?  The Chicago Wolves.

The Chicago Wolves are an actual team.  Located in Chicago, they are the AHL minor league affiliate of the St. Louis Blues.  And they are the very first return when you search “Chicago Wolves” using Google.  They have a Wikipedia page.

Except the team in the book was clearly meant to be an NHL team. Because of the implied wealth of the hero (spendy watch, throwing cash around, apartment on Lakeshore, etc.), he was not on an AHL or two-way contract.  Plus, the team plays the New York Rangers.  And the player is gearing up for the playoffs and the Stanley Cup.

No.  Just no.  Do not name your fake NHL team the exact same name as an existing minor league team in the same general metropolitan area.  It’s lazy and sloppy.  If the author couldn’t use the Blackhawks (actually located in Chicago) as her team for trademark reasons (or other legal reasons), why not do a modicum of research about the names of other actual hockey teams?

Beyond that, the team wore red, brown, and black jerseys….coincidentally, those are the colors of the Blackhawks’ (racist) jerseys.  The jersey colors made me wonder if the hero was originally written as a Blackhawks player but then edited to be other for trademark/legal reasons.  Which also made me wonder about the origin of the book (RPF?), but not enough to waste time doing any research.

The other books in the series (brothers, I think) might be better, but nope, I’m done.

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Last week Courtney Milan asked a Kirkus Reviews blogger some pointed questions about race/diversity in romance following a post by said blogger.  One of them was about the whiteness of athletes in sports romances.  (Check out Milan’s blog and Twitter for a really frustrating/disturbing example of structural racism and willful ignorance.)  Tangentially, it occurred to me that I don’t remember there being many hockey romances in the past. [It’s entirely possible that my memory is failing or that there is a plethora of older hockey romance out there that I missed.]  Some baseball and football, but the only hockey I remember were Rachel Gibson’s books.  But hockey seems popular now…possibly because it is the whitest professional sports league in North America?

While there are some POCs in the NHL, most of them are not huge stars or widely reported about, except when there’s something negative to be said.*  The exceptions being probably PK Subban (Jamaican) and Carey Price (First Nation), and I don’t think any team has more than two players who are POCs.

I went and looked at rosters after typing that last sentence.  MTL has Price, Subban, and Devante Smith-Pelly, so one team has three (\o/?).  San Jose has Matt Nieto (Mexican-American) and Joel Ward.  PHL has Wayne Simmonds and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare.  Buffalo has Evander Kane.  CBJ has Rene Bourque (Metis) and Seth Jones.  NJD has Jordin Tootoo (Inuit). NYI has Kyle Okposo. Pittsburgh has Trevor Daley.  Tampa Bay has JT Brown.  Anaheim has Chris Stewart. Arizona has Anthony Duclair. Colorado has Jarome Iginla.  Minnesota has Matt Dumba.  Dallas has Johnny Oduya.  Edmonton has Darnell Nurse.  Los Angeles has Alec Martinez (Latino) and Jordan Nolan (First Nation).  St. Louis has Ryan Reaves. Vancouver has Emerson Etem.  Winnipeg still has Dustin Byfuglien…for now, but his contract talks are apparently not progressing.

These are just the visible POCs, and the list doesn’t include any players who might “pass” but are not necessarily of WASP/Caucasian/European descent, like Brandon Saad (Syrian), Mika Zibanejad (Swedish-Iranian), Nail Yakupov (Tatar Muslim), Nazem Kadri (Lebanese), or other First Nation, Metis, or Indigenous players.

It looks like there are eleven teams with no POCs on their current, active rosters: Detroit, Boston, Carolina, Florida, NY Rangers, Ottawa (unless you consider Zibanejad), Toronto (unless you include Kadri), Washington, Calgary, Chicago, and Nashville.  Maybe they have POCs in their affiliates; after all, off the top of my head I can point to two more Subbans in development at the affiliated minor league teams for Boston and Vancouver, plus Josh Ho-Sang (whose rocky relationship with Hockey Canada and the NHL could get 1,000 words of its own), Jaden Lindo, and Andong Song (the first China-born player to be drafted, currently playing in New Jersey at a prep school).  Auston Matthews, widely expected to be the first pick of the 2016 draft, is Mexican-American.  But that handful above, 25 out of approximately 650 players?  So very white.  And thus “safer” as a sports setting for mainstream romance?

Right now, I want someone to write a hockey romance with a POC hero.  Or – hah! – a POC hockey heroine (Blake Bolden! Julie Chu!).  I would read either of them!  Both of them! And buy copies to hand out to every hockey fan I know and to non-fans who are just readers.

 

*For example, Byfuglien was suspended for a crosscheck to the neck but Marc Staal has done the same or worse repeatedly without even a side-eye from DoPS.  Brandon Dubinsky did the same thing and got a single game suspension in comparison to Byfuglien’s 4 games.  Was his crosscheck objectively worse than theirs?  I don’t know, they all looked bad to me.

 

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