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.

~~~~

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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So bored with this winter weather event

So I went to work on Friday, with a bag packed in case I decided to stay in DC.  There were a grand total of three people in my end of the building.  In fact, I had no idea there were as many as 100 people (out of 2,000+) in the office until 12pm, when the building closed and everyone except security was expected to leave.

In the end, I decided that I’d rather be snowed in at home, where I could be bored among my stuff for entertainment rather than in a hotel or couch-surfing.  Which is just as well, since the Pens-Caps game was postponed.  Actually, I was kind of entertained by the email that the Marc Train/MTA sent out in the afternoon (before the ANA-Caps game was postponed) that basically said, “The last train out leaves at 7:40p. We are not holding it for the Capitals game.  Be on the train or find your own way home in the snow.”  Not literally, of course, but that was the subtext as I read it.

So I took the 12:20p train home, which was PACKED.  When I boarded at 12:05, the last of the seats were being taken and by the time it left the station, the aisles were impassable in some cars and the vestibules were full, too.

Got home in time to run a couple of errands, including a run to Cafe Poupon for emergency rations.  (Seriously, croissants make being blizzard-bound so much better.)  They were closing early and were pretty much cleaned out of everything.  The only croissants left were ham and cheese (fine by me), with a few other pastries and a couple of quiches.  Lorelei said they were surprisingly busy, mostly people stocking up.  (Hah! I’m not the only person who likes to have Emergency Croissants on hand.)

Charles St in snow

Standing in the middle of Charles St., no cars to be seen.

I went out Saturday when NOTHING was moving except the snow.  I stood in the middle of Charles Street and probably could have made a snow angel without worrying about being run over.  The major streets had seen a plow (plough?) at least once but two or three inches of snow had accumulated since, and most of the cross streets hadn’t been touched.  On Sunday, I cleared the 20″ of snow that had accumulated on my balcony.  The power went out in my building; it was weird because everyone lost power to the stove and microwave and kitchen lights, but not to their hot water heaters, refrigerators, other outlets, etc.  BGE took care of it pretty promptly, which I appreciated.

snow pile

You have to walk in the street to get to the sidewalk on that side of the street. But the city said not to shovel into the street, so piles are going to appear on corners.

Today the streets are slightly better, and a fair amount of sidewalk has been cleared.  Feeling stircrazy, I walked down toward the harbor, and ended up having lunch at Cazbar (I’d highly recommend the pumpkin soup).  There are two lanes cleared on most of Charles Street.  Which would be great if people didn’t keep trying to park in a parking lane that isn’t clear yet, effectively reducing traffic to about 1.5 lanes.  There’s a giant snow pile on one corner that’s at least 9 feet tall.  Monument Street has not been cleared at all. I’m hoping that things will be closer to normal tomorrow.

Stuck

There is actually a car hiding under all that snow. It’s plowed in on the street side and shoveled in (the sidewalk was very well cleared by the business owner) on the sidewalk side. And the temperature has been high enough to cause melt, followed by freezing overnight. That’s not going to be fun to dig out. Unless maybe it gets towed, but I’m not even sure how they’d get it out to tow it.

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Wibbling through a blizzard

The DC Metro region is expecting a blizzard. Right now, forecasts say 16 to 30 inches of snow with winds up to 40 mph. White out conditions through Sunday morning. Metro has already announced they are closing up Friday night for the weekend, which may be unprecedented in its history.

I have a (relatively pleasant) dilemma. I have tickets to Sunday’s Penguins-Capitals game. Games are almost never canceled. I’m not sure how this game will pan out since the Penguins have a Saturday home game and thus have to fly or drive to DC during the white out. Do I just chalk up the game/tickets as a loss, assuming it won’t be rescheduled, or stay in DC for the weekend for it?

It feels irresponsible to be away from home during a blizzard. But it’s not like I’ll be doing anything constructive there.

Also, keep in mind that several years ago I went to NYC for a weekend despite a blizzard. (It was fine. And fun.)

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Borrowed from the library

I stopped by the library over the weekend and picked up a few of books, sort of at random.

The Telling by Jo Baker.  Her Longbourn didn’t really appeal to me, and the housemaid bit here may wind up being repetitive, but I like the idea of two timelines.

The Hairdresser of Harare by Tendai Huchu.  The cover art caught my eye, and I want to read more non-European and non-American writers.

A recent Victoria Thompson/Gaslight mystery.  I find this series to be of variable quality in terms of writing and mystery construction, but easily consumed.

Also TBR is an Oscar Hijuelos book I received as a Christmas gift.  The Joy of Half a Cookie (non-fiction) is my current commute book, to be followed (at some point in the distant future, given my reading pace) by Great Games, Local Rules: The New Great Power Contest in Central Asia.

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Goals for 2016

Inspired by Sunita’s post.

These are mostly life goals, because I’m resigned enough to the continued slump in reading that I can’t really make any really specific reading goals.

  1.  Read more.  Write about what I read (or watch or listen to).
  2. Career development.  I’m pretty good at my job, but there’s not a significant amount of growth or development potential there by its nature.  I mean, it gives me a really broad base of generalized knowledge, and I’ve managed to acquire expertise in a couple of specific areas but they aren’t necessarily what I feel most engaged by.  Also, to be perfectly honest, large chunks of what I see on a daily basis are pretty demoralizing, in terms of man’s inhumanity to man and how greed turns off people’s common sense.  Beyond that, I think I might want to transfer to one of our regional offices. The problem will be figuring out how to do so without burning bridges, because my director has undermined everyone in my group who has attempted to transfer or get a detail or secondment; he’d rather have staff who are miserable than be down staff numbers since we’ve been told that for every 6 people who leave only 1 will be replaced.  [He’s an HR lawsuit waiting to happen. I’m pretty sure a couple of complaints have been made already.  I especially love how he tells women that we are “too emotional” whenever we call him on his unequal treatment.  And then there’s blatant favoritism of his workout buddy, who gets special treatment while being barely competent and less productive than everyone else in the group.]
  3. Finances.  I’m saving but could save more.  And I feel like I’m not making my savings work enough, so…financial adviser time.
  4. Learn to knit a sweater, so I can use the gorgeous Blue Heron silk-merino blend yarn I was given for Christmas.  I’ve never made a sweater.  No pressure there; the giver is just very much looking forward to seeing me in a sweater made with their yarn.
  5. Eat better.  I’ve been not great nutrition-wise lately.  Part of it has been the holidays, with all kinds of sweets around, but part of it has also been overindulgence on my part with respect to lattes and pastry at Cafe Poupon.
  6. Figure out what to do with my spare room.  I’ve decided kind of generally that I want to install a murphy bed system, but it needs storage/shelving, too.  I’ve looked at units that I could assemble (in theory…bad theory) but think I’m going to have to find a local cabinet-maker or furniture place that does them.
  7. Continue winnowing the clutter.  A lot of things that fall into the clutter categories are books and knick-knacks and the like.  I used to think that since books never go bad, why not hoard them?  But I feel like that’s not the healthiest attitude.  Also, it’s stuff to dust and store.
  8. Watch less hockey. (This is entirely The Biochemist’s fault.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

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The Year in Reading

According to LibraryThing, I read or tried to read 42 books this year.  Scrolling through the list, a lot of the titles stir only the vaguest of recollections in my mind.

The ones that stand out as good (or very good) reads:

The Martian by Andy Weir.  As I mentioned on Twitter, I enjoyed this book even more than I enjoyed the movie.  The narrative style and the narrator’s voice *made* the book.

Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold.  This is a novella set in her Chalion world, and it made me wish she would revisit it and tell stories based around the other Quintarian gods.  Loved it; it prompted re-listening to The Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls.

Sean Kennedy’s Tigers on the Run left me feeling ambivalent; I enjoyed it while I read it as revisiting favorite characters but I did not love the plot.  Simon came across as petty and unprofessional, which was discomfiting since he was the narrator.

Non-fiction books King of Russia and The Road Beneath My Feet, both memoirs, were pretty good as entertainment but were not necessarily sterling examples of the craft of writing.  I’d recommend them to hockey and music fans but not necessarily to the public at large.

On the oops side, glomming Susanna Kearsley was a mistake; some of the books are reissues and are not so good, and none of them stand up to reading in close succession.

I’m mostly broken up with Nora Roberts aka JD Robb.

I’m looking forward to the new Vorkos-iverse book from Bujold in the spring, but otherwise I’m not sure what’s coming out soon or what I should be looking forward to.

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