Those library books

I finished A Corner of the World.

In contemporary Havana, “Do I stay or do I go?” is always the question, and love doesn’t necessarily conquer all.

A cautious, reserved professor of Spanish Literature, Marian has no idea that her quiet life is about to be turned upside down.  When she’s asked to review a new book by a young, ambitious author, she meets Daniel, and their love affair leads her to question both the choices she’s made so far in her life and the opportunities she might yet still have.  Theirs is the story of an intense and impossible love, set in today’s Havana, a city where there can be no plans, where chance is the the order of the day and a fierce sense of loyalty and pride coexists with the desire to live beyond the island’s isolation.

The blurb is somewhat misleading. Marian doesn’t question her choices and clings tightly to what she knows and where she feels comfortable.  There are people who come and go from Cuba and Marian’s life, but she’s frozen geographically and professionally, and she does little to move beyond that even with the urging of those around her.  There’s nothing wrong with that, I suppose, but it doesn’t really make for an interesting narrative.

Actually, one part of Marian’s past made me extremely uncomfortable and also painted her (to me) in a less than pleasant light:  her mother was terminally ill, but Marian withheld the diagnosis from her for her own good.  Which read as patronizing, controlling, and selfish to me, rather than the selfless, kind act that Marian (and the author?) framed it as.

Essentially, this reads to me as (Cuban) women’s fiction.  Which is fine, but to be honest, I’m not really in the WF reading mode at this point.

There was a noticeable amount of missed punctuation, including lack of closing/opening quotation marks (which is pure sloppiness IMO) and also a lack of direct address commas.  The prose was fine; I’m a terrible judge and never really understand what people say when they talk about lyrical prose, but this was fine in the sense that it was consistent and undistracting from the story.  Although I wonder a little about the translation quality: one character is referred to as both ex-boyfriend and ex-husband.

Leaving Atocha Station is going back to the library as DNF.  The author’s voice/style is engaging and I enjoyed the opening pages with the mentions of streets and neighborhoods in Madrid that I’ve visited, but I was bored by the narrator’s pretensions and pomposity.

Next I’ll try Travels in Siberia.  All six books are due back at the library next Saturday, but I’m pretty sure I won’t have finished the last three by then (unless they are all DNFs, which I doubt).  I hope no one has them on their wishlist, so I can renew the unfinished ones.

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In which I am a book snob…

…but in the reverse of the usual way.

In my experience, most people who are book snobs tend to prefer literary fiction and deride genre fiction as less than.  (Until something like the dreck that is 50SoG becomes mainstream…don’t get me started.)  That’s not so much what happened with me, since I don’t feel any need to either deride genre fiction or differentiate lit fic from it.

Anyway, I was poking around on a book review site and saw that a new book is coming from an author I’ve read once or twice before.  So I hied me over to Amazon (Despoiler of Indies and Bricks and Mortar) to see if the blurb was of interest.  Eh, maybe, maybe not.  But the mention of a reader’s guide was a killer.  That screams pretension or an attempt at the “legitimacy” of lit fic.  “Check it out! There are themes in this book!  See, it merits thought- and conversation-provoking questions!  It’s not mere pink-published chick lit or women’s fiction!”  Blah blah blah.

Maybe I’ll borrow it from the library.  Or not.  I’ve got enough unread material on my Kindle and my shelves to last a good long time without adding stuff I’m not fully engaged by.

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Plus and minus

On the plus side:  I finished a book!

On the minus side:  It was kind of ~meh~.

The book in question is Why Kings Confess by CS Harris, one of the library books I picked up on Saturday.  It read well enough that I managed to finish it by Sunday evening, so it can’t have been terrible.  It was just…predictable.  As in, it was clear who and why, although not necessarily how, fairly early on.  But then again, it’s a 19th century police procedural, so maybe I should cut the author some slack.

Next up is A Corner of the World, which opened well.  The Richard Castle book is still sitting on my coffee table, so maybe I’ll circle back to it eventually.

And there’s tennis to watch (because #sleepisfortheweak) and the next few episodes of Orphan Black.  On the plus side, it’s different.  On the minus side, the science is kind of ridiculous even for a non-science-y person like me.

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Library haul

In an effort to combat the ongoing reading slump, I visited the library.  I used to visit the library much more often — weekly, in fact — but since I drive less, I am limited to a branch that is not great for browsing.  It actually is the main branch of the library and is great for research; and if you have a list of books to check-out, you’re fine, but since the majority of its books are stored in stacks that aren’t public, browsing is limited.  If there’s a title you want, the librarians are happy to pull title…but that makes accidental discoveries less likely.

Anyway, I left with six books.  The question is, will I finished all, some, or none of them before they have to be returned?

  1. Why Kings Confess by CS Harris – March 2014 installment of her St. Cyr series.
  2. Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner – on the “recommended” display, the title caught my eye (Atocha is Madrid’s big train station).
  3. A Corner of the World by Mylene Fernandez-Pintado, translated by Dick Cluster – also on the “recommended” rack.

Non-fiction — I sat down at a table in the non-fiction stacks to see if the books with interesting blurbs would pass the 20 page test (the three above did, four others did not) and was intrigued by these titles enough to add them to my stack:

  1. Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier
  2. Spanish Recognitions by Mary Lee Settle
  3. A Vanished World: Medieval Spain’s Golden Age of Enlightenment by Chris Lowney

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Lament for lost auto-buys

Going through my shelves and continuing The Great Book Purge has reminded me of several authors who were auto-buys who just…stopped being auto-buys after either a series of clunkers or general decline in my reading enjoyment of their work.  (Maybe their work changed to suit market conditions or maybe my taste did.  Either way *shrugs*)

Suzanne Brockmann  — I wish her old Silhouette series had finished.  The outright illegal and unconstitutional stuff that she has her Troubleshooters do in later books really bothers me; if I wanted to read about that, I’d read the papers filed against Blackwater, et al., not what is supposed to be fun fiction.  I get that she participates in a niche market but a decade of war and militarization in reality does not endear uber-patriotism and more militarization in fiction to me.

Patricia Briggs — please just keep giving Mercy powers to fix every problem, and also please slut-shame Adam’s ex-wife while you’re at it.

Nora Roberts/JD Robb — Same same same.  The home improvement porn and witches and twee Irish (look, I am of Irish extraction, have visited Ireland, love Ireland, but her Irish characters are caricatures at best) are just worn out for me.  Also, her editor needs to remove “vital” every single times she uses it.

JR Ward — okay, her first couple of books were like crack, but by the fourth her worldbuilding was exploding and she was denying the racial appropriation and the series had jumped the shark.

Kelley Armstrong — I liked her Otherworld series mostly for the werewolves, and stopped reading about all the other characters.  She’s got some shorts out now that are back to Elena and Clay and the wolves, but I’m not ready to buy in again.

Janet Evanovich — I loved the first six books of her Stephanie Plum series; then she basically said that Stephanie was never going to grow as a character, either become a better bounty hunter or actually have a functional adult relationship with either Morelli or Ranger, and I noped out of that series.

Chelsea Cain — It’s time for the Archie/Gretchen saga to end; it’s just not interesting anymore and the plots, always a little far-fetched, have gotten pretty attenuated.  It’s like watching a friend keep dating and breaking up with a jerk (or worse) — it keeps screwing them up and they keep doing it anyway.

Mary Jo Putney — Her historicals were auto-buys, but her contemporary series — especially The Spiral Path — was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Carla Kelly — Her trad Regencies were auto-buys, but as she publishes more through an LDS publisher, I’ve been less interested.  Her North American Western settings are unique, but I’m just not interested in gods/religion in my fiction.

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Reading homework

Pending the posting of grades (knock on wood), I think I’ve finished the ten credits for the certificate offered through work with Georgetown.  At the point, I don’t think I’m enrolling in the LLM program; even with the 10 credits already earned, I’d have to take 14 more credits at $2,160 per credit (and climbing steadily), which is ridiculous, economically-speaking, since I’m not sure the LLM would necessarily earn the cost back.  Over time, maybe, but it would only be done by changing jobs, which I’m not entirely sure I want to do at the moment or in the immediate future.

Anyway, although I hope to be finished with the certificate, I enrolled in one of the spring classes because I think it will be useful.  And yet again Basic v. Levinson is assigned.  It’s good law and I feel like I get better insight every time I read it.  But I also feel like the dissent about fraud on the market theory’s idea that capital markets are efficient  and/or rational is key.  Maybe market structures are, but the actors in the market are human beings, who generally are not always rational or efficient.  Which makes the theory wobbly for me.  I mean, all you have to do is look at all the things the market got wrong, for one reason or another, in the last century, and the idea of efficiency and rationality kind of fades IMO.

But I’m not an economist or theorist, but a pessimist, so maybe this is just me being glass half empty.

And now that my homework for the week is finished, I can find fiction to read :)

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Trying to read right now

While family was visiting over the holidays, we browsed at B&N.  I hadn’t been in the store in a while, mostly because the one closest to me is associated with a university (and thus has a poor fiction selection but a lot of uni paraphernalia) and I wasn’t interested enough in any new releases to walk the extra mile to the large store in the harbor.  But we stopped in while meandering around and working off lunch.

I bought a remaindered copy of Heat Rises, the third Castle book.  I read the first one way back when and I liked the TV series…although it is yet another show that I’ve lost track of after 2 seasons.  My attention span is ever-dwindling.  There’s nothing wrong with the book, it’s exactly what the show/series is advertised as:  mystery-lite with humor and R/UST.  But there’s nothing that compels me to pick it up and keep going, which is why it has taken up residence on my coffee table, languishing until intermission during hockey games.

I am going to finish it though.  *nods determinedly*

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