Late to the party

I ran across NPR’s list of 100 swoon-worthy romance novels and am sort of bemused by the list.  It’s pretty heavy on historical romances and on relatively recent work.

Historical

Lord of Scoundrels, by Loretta Chase – okay, seriously, I do not get the love for this book.  Meh at best.

Indigo, by Beverly Jenkins – haven’t read it

Outlander (series), by Diana Gabaldon – read the first one, have no interest in the rest of the series or the TV show.  Also, Gabaldon is a gigantic hypocrite regarding fan fiction, which influences my opinion/interest.

Texas Destiny, by Lorraine Heath  – haven’t read

The Serpent Garden, by Judith Merkle Riley – haven’t read

The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie, by Jennifer Ashley – read it, liked it well enough.

The Bedwyn Saga (series), by Mary Balogh – I really liked the book that spawned the Bedwyns, A Summer to Remember.  But couldn’t read more than 1.5 books of the Bedwyn series proper.

Ravished, by Amanda Quick – I think I read this?  Years ago.

The Wallflowers (series), by Lisa Kleypas – Nope.  (I don’t love Kleypas the way so many readers do.)

The Bridgertons (series), by Julia Quinn – The Black Mallet of Death!  The Duke and I seriously pisses me off, but The Viscount Who Loved Me is excellent.  I don’t think I’ve read the whole series.

The Brothers Sinister (series), by Courtney Milan – haven’t read it.

The Rules of Scoundrels (series), by Sarah MacLean – haven’t read it.

Flowers From the Storm, by Laura Kinsale – have never managed to finish it.

Spindle Cove (series), by Tessa Dare – haven’t read it.

Maiden Lane (series), by Elizabeth Hoyt – haven’t read it.  Although I think I read another series by Hoyt back when she debuted.

Pennyroyal Green (series), by Julie Anne Long – haven’t read it.

The Bride, by Julie Garwood – which one is this one? I used to have mad love for Garwood, so I’m pretty sure I would have read this but they all blur together in my memory.

The Pink Carnation (series), by Lauren Willig – Lost interest after the first couple of books.

A Knight in Shining Armor, by Jude Deveraux – Read this years ago as a new romance reader and it remains one of the few books to ever make me cry.  I’m not sure how I’d feel about it if I read it today.

Not Quite a Husband, by Sherry Thomas – I’ve read Thomas but I”m not sure about this book.

Desperate Duchesses (series), by Eloisa James – Haven’t read it; I think James is pretty overrated.

Something Wonderful, by Judith McNaught – Another early read that I think I’d hate if I tried to read it today.

The Windflower, by Laura London – Meh.  Another classic that other readers love that I do not.

The Spymasters (series), by Joanna Bourne – Okay.

The Duke of Shadows, by Meredith Duran – Okay.

Beast, by Judith Ivory – I think I read this?  Maybe?

To Have and to Hold, by Patricia Gaffney – Nope.  Not a Gaffney fan.

The Captive, by Grace Burrowes – Haven’t read it.

The Lotus Palace (series), by Jeannie Lin – Haven’t read it.

All Through the Night, by Connie Brockway – Okay.

Blaze, by Susan Johnson – LOVED this back in the day.  Footnotes!

Morning Glory, by LaVyrle Spencer – Read it, but it’s one of my least favorite Spencer novels, never reread it.

Simple Jess, by Pamela Morsi – Liked it, but not my favorite Morsi.

The Morning Gift, by Eva Ibbotson – DNF

A Lady Awakened, by Cecilia Grant – Haven’t read it.

The Summer of You, by Kate Noble – Haven’t read it.

The Rake, by Mary Jo Putney – Probably read it, but like Garwood, Putney’s historicals all bleed together except for her Fallen Angel series.

Classics

The India Fan, by Victoria Holt – liked it back when I glommed Holt as a teen.

North and South, by Elizabeth Gaskell – really liked it, although I have to admit that I probably wouldn’t have picked it up if I hadn’t seen the miniseries first.

The Far Pavilions, by M.M. Kaye – liked it a lot

Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen – not my favorite Austen but still good.

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte – oh, Jane.  Why?

Venetia, by Georgette Heyer – Meh.

YA

Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell – Haven’t read it.

Anna and the French Kiss, by Stephanie Perkins – Okay.

The Queen’s Thief (series), by Megan Whalen Turner – On the keeper shelf, despite the fact that I do not love the fourth book of the series.

Perfect Chemistry, by Simone Elkeles – I know I’ve read this but cannot for the life of me remember much about it.

Adios to My Old Life, by Caridad Ferrer – Really enjoyed this book.

Suspense

I-Team (series), by Pamela Clare – Haven’t read it.

In Death (series), by J.D. Robb – Good series, but I’ve stopped buying them and now wait to borrow from the library if I decide to read.  Somewhat repetitive.

Nine Coaches Waiting, by Mary Stewart – Haven’t read it.

Science Fiction and Fantasy

Psy/Changeling (series), by Nalini Singh – Haven’t read it.

The Iron Seas (series), by Meljean Brook – Really liked the installments I’ve read but I’m pretty sure I’ve missed some.

Kate Daniels (series), by Ilona Andrews – Really like the world building but find the editing problematic.  So many discontinuities and sloppy errors.

Ember, by Bettie Sharpe – LOVED this.

The Inheritance Trilogy, by N.K. Jemisin – haven’t read it.

A Civil Campaign, by Lois McMaster Bujold – On the keeper shelf.

Archangel, by Sharon Shinn – Haven’t read it.

Warrior’s Woman, by Johanna Lindsey – Read it as a teen; tried rereading later and found it unreadable.

Paranormal

Charley Davidson (series), by Darynda Jones – Haven’t read it.

The Black Dagger Brotherhood (series), by J.R. Ward – Loved it when it first came out, lost interest for a variety of reasons ranging from appropriation to crackpot author behavior.

Immortals After Dark (series), by Kresley Cole – Haven’t read it.

Fever (series), by Karen Marie Moning – Haven’t read it.

The Winter Sea, by Susanna Kearsley – Liked it.

Cry Wolf, by Patricia Briggs – Liked it.

Vampire Huntress (series), by L.A. Banks – Read one of the series, liked it.

Dark Hunter (series), by Sherrilyn Kenyon – Haven’t read it.

LGBTQ

The Magpie Lord, by K. J. Charles – Haven’t read it.

Fated Love, by Radclyffe – Haven’t read it.  Liked other Radclyffe that I’ve tried though.

Hot Head, by Damon Suede – DNF, thought it was nearly unreadable.

Cut & Run, by Abigail Roux and Madeleine Urban – DNF.

Keeping Promise Rock, by Amy Lane – Haven’t read it, although I think I have tried other Amy Lane.

Butterfly Tattoo, by Deidre Knight – Read it, thought it was okay.

Inspirational

Maid to Match, by Deeanne Gist – Haven’t read it.

Redeeming Love, by Francine Rivers – Haven’t read it.

Erotic Romance

Natural Law, by Joey W. Hill – Read it back when it was first published and liked it.

Liberating Lacey, by Anne Calhoun – Haven’t read it.

The Lady’s Tutor, by Robin Schone – Read it, felt ambivalent about it.

Contemporary

Bet Me, by Jennifer Crusie – Read it, really liked it.

Heart of the Falcon, by Francis Ray – Haven’t read it.

Something About You, by Julie James – I’ve read one James book (it was okay?) but I’m not sure if it was this one.

The Chocolate Kiss, by Laura Florand – Haven’t read it, but it is TBR.

A Bollywood Affair, by Sonali Dev – Haven’t read it, also TBR.

Dream Man (series), by Kristen Ashley – Nope, not interested.

The Chesapeake Bay Saga, by Nora Roberts – Read it, loved it at the time.

Lucky Harbor (series), by Jill Shalvis – Haven’t read it.

Chicago Stars (series), by Susan Elizabeth Phillips – Read the early books of the series, have stopped reading Phillips, found them somewhat problematic upon reread.

Troubleshooters (series), by Suzanne Brockmann – Really loved this series back when it started, long before 2001; I’ve since abandoned it for a variety of reasons, including my discomfort with the real-life contractorization of the military that is on display in the books and the complete disregard for constitutional rights and criminal activity displayed in the fiction.

Virgin River (series), by Robyn Carr – Haven’t read it.

The Mackenzie Family (series), by Linda Howard – Read and liked it way back when, although I’m pretty sure if I tried to read it now, I’d hate the books.

Blue Heron (series), by Kristan Higgins – Haven’t read it.  (I do not love HIggins’ work generally.)

The Madaris Family (series), by Brenda Jackson – Haven’t read it.

Wild Seasons (series), by Christina Lauren – Haven’t read it.

Intimate Betrayal, by Donna Hill – Haven’t read it.

Crazy Thing Called Love, by Molly O’Keefe – Haven’t read it.

Black Knights, Inc. (series), by Julie Ann Walker – Haven’t read it.

The Girl You Left Behind, by Jojo Moyes – Haven’t read it.

Category Romance

Doukakis’s Apprentice, by Sarah Morgan – Haven’t read it.

Sex, Straight Up, by Kathleen O’Reilly – I’m pretty sure I read this and liked it.

Her Hesitant Heart, by Carla Kelly – I’ve read this book, but would not consider it Kelly’s best work or even her best “category” in the sense of historicals published through HH.

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Rereading years later

A somewhat embarrassing confession:  I’ve never read Don Quixote in English.  In college, I read it in Spanish for a literature class.  I would not classify that as reading for pleasure, although I could appreciate it and deconstruct enough for discussion in class.  Since then, nope.  Actually, until I picked up a remaindered copy at B&N, I never owned a copy in English, although I’ve still got the Spanish one in a box of old college texts*.  I keep picking it up and putting it down.  It’s too big to carry comfortably as my commute read; let’s ignore the fact that I could just download a copy from Gutenberg or elsewhere for a nominal amount.

While browsing audiobooks at the library, I had the brilliant idea to listen to it.  Except I’m finding that my patience is pretty low.  Part of the problem is the narrator, whose voice and characterizations for different characters I don’t really care for.  But it is also the book itself.  While I can still appreciate the literary and historical allusions and the context in which it was written, I’m just not engaged by the first part.  I know that it’s basically a parody of contemporary romances and that the second part will be more to my taste.  But Don Quixote is delusional and he’s inflicting his madness on everyone around him, taking advantage of people of lesser status and intelligence, and imposing on them, and just wandering away from disaster he has wrought on others.  I’m struggling to keep listening.

*I probably ought to haul that box out of storage and either recycle or donate the books.

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*pokes at blog*

I’ve been mostly offline for the summer, in terms of keeping up with reader/bookish blogs. I sort of missed some things about it and sort of didn’t.

I owe Beth all the words about her book, which I loved.

Aside from Beth’s book, I’ve gotten a little reading done this summer:

The Road Beneath My Feet – Frank Turner’s memoir. One one hand, I like the narrative style, as tour dates beginning when he went out on his own.  It’s interesting to read about his life on the road and how he developed his band and touring philosophy, etc.  On the other hand, while he has clearly worked hard to get where he is, he sometimes comes across as cavalier about his opportunities (white, middle class English dude who attended Eton and London School of Economics) even as he occasionally acknowledges his good fortune. Which kind of circles back to my ambivalence about the lyrics/message of “Photosynthesis” about doing what you love vs having a job merely to earn a living.  Also, his editor really should have cut back on the use of “in the event” in the text. Worth reading if you like his music and can find a copy, since I don’t think it’s been published in the US yet.  [FYI, his new album, Positive Songs for Negative People, came out a couple of weeks ago and is pretty good.  Not my favorite, since England Keep My Bones is pretty awesome, but I like Get Better and Love Forty Down.]

Uprooted by Naomi Novik. This needed serious editing. The Eastern European fairy tale/mythology was interesting, but the story was not particularly original otherwise. And if you (like me) are expecting actual dragons a la Temeraire, you will be disappointed.

Magic Shifts by Ilona Andrews. It was okay? I wasn’t all that engaged by the Big Mystery. And the volume of little discontinuities or errors was irritating, but par for all of Andrews’ books. Also, why no commas when using multiple adjectives to modify nouns? Is that a dying part of grammar?

The Kizuna Coast by Sujata Massey. A Rei Shimura Mystery. I thought Massey had left this series behind, and so wasn’t looking for a new book when I ran across this in a display at the library. Set in Japan after the 2011 earthquake. I guessed whodunnit pretty early but not why exactly. It was nice visiting this series again but I found the domestic/relationship piece to be a little cloying, although I’m not sure I can articulate why exactly.  Maybe it felt like the narrator was trying too hard to show how happy/compatible Rei and Michael were?  I don’t know.

Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold. LOVED this short story. It’s set in her Chalion world but centuries before The Curse of Chalion. If you haven’t read the three other books and wonder if you’ll like the world, it might be a good place to start.

What else have I done all summer? I feel like I’ve worked a lot mostly, which is weird since summer tends to be slower.  Except it’s also when a lot of people are out on vacation, so even if volume is down, there are fewer people around to deal with things, so… When work and other things were not making me cranky, I went to Chicago for a long weekend. I’m working on a baby blanket for a friend. Hemmed and hawed and then ponied up for a 10 game ticket plan for hockey.  I picked games where I’ll be able to cheer against the Caps – Pens, CBJ, MTL, SJS, Preds, etc. Flirted with the idea of Istanbul for a vacation in November or February until there were more bombings in the tourist areas and gunfire at the consulate; I think maybe that window has closed for now.

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Sometimes reading order really matters

Finished Susanna Kearsley’s The Rose Garden last night on the commute home — our engine died so we had to couple up with a later train and then inch into the next five stations, it was incredibly slow.

I think if I’d tried The Rose Garden (2011) before reading The Splendour Falls (originally published in 1995), I would have been much more anxious to read the rest of her backlist. I’ve got The Winter Sea on audio, which I think I’ll try next.

Almost finished Dave King’s King of Russia.  The writing is pretty pedestrian, and there are some terrible stereotypes revealed in the writer’s expectations and worldview, in terms of Soviet Russia.  Which I guess in some ways is to be expected since his original experience of Russia was pre-perestroika and under the old system.  There’s a huge amount of privilege and judgment inherent in his commentary, and sometimes I think he’s aware of it but other times the arrogance is off-putting. I’m intrigued by his perspective of the KHL, especially in terms of team financing and management.  I’d be very interested in seeing if/how things may have changed in the 10 years since, including the last year with currency drop and rumors about player pay.  (I read something today about Ilya Kovalchuk, who retired from the NHL to play in the KHL and make more money with a better tax rate…but who is netting the same or less now than he would have under the NHL contract after the currency drop.) Mostly, I’m entertained by his perspective on Evgveni (Yevgeni) Malkin as fledgling hockey player in his pre-NHL days and his limited POV account of Malkin’s flight to the Penguins.

ETA: I don’t think Malkin gets more ink than other important players on Metallurg Magnitogorsk, especially the ones King calls his NHL Russians, but I see/imagine heart-eyes through some of the passages about him.

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So far out of my budget

I am currently reading Dave King’s King of Russia, which makes me really want to read more about Anatoly Tarasov, the architect of the Soviet/Russian hockey program.  There’s not a huge amount written about him in English, bookwise, as far as I can tell, mostly short mentions in books about the Summit Series, Miracle, hockey encyclopedias, etc.  ABE and Amazon both show a 1997 biography, which I’m very curious about…but it is OOP and costs more than $900, well over my book budget :(  It looks like at least one of his dozen books on tactics has been translated but is also OOP.  (And, tbh, tactics are generally beyond me, although I love looking at the beautiful skating and passing.)

I love this quote from his NYT obituary:  a hockey player “must have the wisdom of a chess player, the accuracy of a sniper and the rhythm of a musician.”

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Bourbon kings?

JR Ward has a new series coming out, starting with The Bourbon Kings.  Without going to look at the blurb, my first thought was, she’s changing sub-genres completely?  Because when I see Bourbon + kings, I think of the House of Bourbon, which ruled vast swathes of Europe from the thirteen century through the early twentieth century, with domains abroad in the Americas and Africa via colonization.

Apparently Ward’s kings of bourbon are actually involved in the whiskey business.  I’m pretty much over Ward; once I was weaned off the crack, the flaws in her writing were too painful to bother continuing to read her vampire books. So I’m not going to be reading this one.  But I’m interested to see, based on the reviews of others, if she’s better at world-building in a straight contemporary than in her paranormal world, where her rules were inconsistent and she killed women characters or rendered them spineless and useless.

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On fractures and changing communities

Superlibrarian wrote a really good post on the fracturing of the Romland online community last week, and Sunita followed it up with a second post.  I don’t have anything material to add to their posts or the thoughtful comments.

Both posts made me think about my participation in the community online over the last several years. (Dear godlings, I just checked my archive, I’ve been blogging intermittently since 2005…I am a crone in internet years.)  Some very thoughtful reader-bloggers have come and gone as I’ve stood on the sidelines.  (I hope they left in good health and are doing well in real life, and just left Romland as their interest/time waned, but don’t always know.)  Other bloggers, like Superlibrarian and Rosario, just keep reviewing with a consistency that I find amazing.  AAR went from being Laurie Gold’s to not.  ATBF changed its board/commenting.  Authors had message boards that got closed down due to flame wars.  First the big blog platforms were LiveJournal and Blogger, and then it was WordPress.

Later came other platforms and social media, both of which integrated marketing and selling to a degree that was much more obtrusive than earlier platforms, IMO.  GoodReads never felt particularly welcoming to me, so I didn’t join the migration there.  Amazon boards felt like a free-for-all when I visited, so I clicked back as fast as I could.  I used to be much more active on Twitter, but have mostly let that go over the last year or so; all the romance Twitter-folk I followed seem to RT a lot of promotional material that I just was not interested in.  For all the community noise about DA and SB being reader-blogs, I’ve felt like they were author (SB) or industry (DA & SB) blogs for a long time now, well before the Jen/Jane brouhaha.

My impatience with the constant promotion on social media corresponded with a giant reading slump.  Add in a market shift to subgenres I’m not interested in, and a marked drop in editorial values across the board, especially noticeable in self-published work?  Well, I’ll find some other entertainment, thanks but no thanks.

I’m spending probably the same amount of leisure time online…but it’s less likely to be in Romland spaces.  Instead it is in fandom spaces.  Someone getting the geography of Pittsburgh slightly wrong in a 100k fic might make me roll my eyes, but doesn’t make me want to bang my head on my e-reader the way a content or continuity error like that in a boutique-pubbed $8.99 ebook will.  (And that kind of things is *definitely* out there; it’s the reason I delete samples and return books.)

I’ve sort of lost the thread at this point.  Which means it’s a good thing I am posting this on my own blog, where I can be self-indulgent, rather than wasting comment space on Superlibrarian’s or Sunita’s blog.

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