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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April’s reading

My reading is inching up, which is a good thing even if I’m not finishing everything I start.  I think part of the reason for that is that I’m going to the library again.  The branch near my old house was not very good, while I’m now closer to the main library, with a larger selection.  (Yes, holds are always possible, but at a certain point, immediate gratification is an issue when borrowing books.)

1.  The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an IKEA Wardrobe by Romain Puertolas.  Literary fiction.

2.  North to the Orient by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.  Non-fiction, travel memoir.

3.  The Splendour Falls by Susanna Kearsley.  Mystery.

4.  The Liar by Nora Roberts.  Romantic suspense.

5.  Off Side by Manuel Vazquez Montalban.  Mystery.  DNF.

6.  One Kick by Chelsea Cain.  Mystery.  DNF.

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Most recent DNF

Today’s DNF, after five chapters and 63 pages, is Chelsea Cain’s One Kick.  As much sympathy as I feel for the narrator, I’m just not interested in reading her story.  And extra-judicial justice vigilantes do not thrill me, nor does the whole “friends in government” who share confidential information.

Next up: one of Susanna Kearsley’s books, borrowed from the library.

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I want to like noir mysteries…

…but somehow they haven’t worked for me.  Maybe I’m picking the wrong ones?

Off Side seemed promising – a mystery set in Barcelona in the years just before the Olympics.

Pepe Carvalho could care less about soccer, but then an executive from Barcelona’s world-famous soccer team pays him a visit. “The center forward will be killed at dusk,” reads the note the exectuvie gives to Carvalho.

With that, the detective, former communist and one-time employee of the CIA, must find out where this note is from.  Is the threat real? Is it the work of one person? Or is it one of the real estate moguls tearing Barcelona apart in their battle over the most important properties of Catalonia?

Here Montalban does for the game of soccer what he has done for food. In an exquisite portrait of Spain’s most beloved sport, soccer and politics mix in a gripping mystery about the reckless excesses – and limits – of power.

I only managed to finish 86 of 275 pages; I’m not sure how many chapters that worked out to be because although there are what appear to be chapter breaks, they aren’t numbered.  The writing was fine, but I was just not interested in the story or engaged by any of the characters.  Carvalho came across as remote, aloof, and condescending.  The women were all pathetic prostitutes or greedy prostitutes or drunk shrews or twits.  The characters all complain about foreigners a lot — they are a worse class of criminals than old-fashioned Catalan criminals.  Eighty six pages in, and I’m not sure why anyone really cares about the center forward enough to make him a possible target.

The book might get better.  But I’m beginning to think that noir mysteries are just not for me.

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