March’s reading

Well, it doesn’t look like much but it’s a gradual improvement.

The Academy by Robert Dugoni – a short prequel that tempted me into trying…

My Sister’s Grave by the same – good until the last 10%, but a manipulative ending (that was somehow also predictable) left a sour taste in my mouth.

Concealed in Death – average Robb

The Heart Has Reasons by Maria Duenas – ambivalent about this one because I liked the writing style and the dual timelines, but it fizzled for me in the end.

I’m kind of stalled in The Demon’s Brood.  Somehow the author has managed to make a subject I love boring.  Meh.

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Browsing at B&N

I swung by B&N after running errands downtown the other day.  It was an impulse since I was walking by. A big chunk of floor space is still devoted to Nooks and Nook accessories, which confused me since I thought B&N was stepping back from the Nook.  Or maybe I misunderstood the years of Nook-related losses in their financials.  *shrugs*  The romance section is dwindling and there was a pretty big emphasis on New Adult and 50SoG-ish books (meh).  The mystery section was also a little smaller; the only section that seems to keep growing is the YA.  And also the vinyl section — I didn’t realize B&N was moving into that, but I guess it’s a growth area.  I was sort of entertained to find a mystery author named James R. Benn; presumably not Jamie Benn, captain of the Dallas Stars, despite the similar names.  (Actually, I have no idea what Benn’s full/real name is and I’m not going looking.) (Although I’ve seen hockey RPF in which a player publishes a novel under a pseudonym, but I skipped it because it was for my nOTP so I didn’t read it.)

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My two cents

Last week’s Big Brouhaha in romance, which has been dissected elsewhere, was Jane Litte’s disclosure that she had published New Adult romance under the name Jen Frederick.  Apparently the disclosure was prompted by the pending EC lawsuit against Dear Author, but Jane seems to have pretty effectively partitioned the JL/JF activities.

I’m mostly amazed that she manages to be a lawyer, blogger, parent, and writer.  Her time management skills and energy must be absolutely ridiculous.

As a reader, I don’t feel betrayed by Jane’s jump into writing romances.  I don’t feel like her advocacy for readers or being a reader-blogger foreclosed other professional options.

I’m kind of side-eyeing the writers wailing about her infiltration of “author-only” loops.  That’s a misnomer if ever there was one, I think, as nearly all working writers aren’t just authors unless they are extremely successful.  And absent a survey of every “author” (and all their pseudonyms) on a loop, I’m not sure how or why any participant could possibly assume that every participant was a single-role “author only”.

Ironically, the thing that keeps popping into my head is a line from a securities class I took once:  there is no general duty to disclose.  (The caveat to that is while there is no general duty to disclose, there are some specific disclosures prescribed by the 33 and 34 Acts and their Rules, but that’s not really relevant here.)  But.  BUT.  There’s an important case named Par Pharmaceutical (733 F. Supp 668 (1990)) that keeps coming to mind.  [A grossly simplified summary follows, and people with disclosure experience would cringe reading it, since disclosure is a complex, nuanced, heavily-litigated area; take it with a huge grain of salt.]  Anyway, Par bragged about its skill getting FDA approvals, but it turned out it got approvals by paying bribes; in shareholder litigation, the court basically said that once Par made statements about its skill getting approvals, those statements became fair game and could be alleged to be false and misleading (at least at the pleading/motion to dismiss stage).  There’s more to it than that, but the take away was that if the company hadn’t touted its legal/legitimate skill getting approvals, if they had been silent, Par would have had no duty to update or correct or disclose later investigations related to the bribery.  Circling back:  I think Jane had no general duty to disclose that she had published romance novels under a pen name.  Does her stance on conflicts of interest and transparency for author-bloggers make a difference, or create a duty to disclose?  Was it information that a reasonable reader would find material to the total mix of information available when selecting book recs or otherwise interacting with Dear Author?  Maybe, but that’s a question for the trier of fact/reader.

My own disclosures:  I’ve exchanged tweets emails with Jane in the past about things like fan fiction. I think I submitted a review for a favorite category novel several years ago.  I remember when Dear Author went online, and when Smart Bitches went online.  I still check DA periodically but don’t comment much there for a variety of reasons. I stopped checking SBTB several years ago when it went through a long patch of video posts and little meaningful content (I think that was about the time Candy left and also when SBSarah was either writing a book or maybe doing some kind of marketing thing).  Both blogs are big enough and influential enough that they feel like industry participants to me now, even if they don’t have a traditional role in the publisher-author-reader relationship.  Also, I read Jen Frederick’s Undeclared in 2013; my notes at Librarything.com (two stars) are that it needed a good editor and coherent character arcs — I remember thinking both the hero and heroine were twits.

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The library haul

The closest “branch” to me now is the central Enoch Pratt library.  It’s got a huge selection but limited shelving, which means that if I don’t know what I want, there’s a limited amount of browsing space.  Still, I found several books when I visited on Saturday.

Concealed in Death – I hadn’t read this one.  It was fine.  Standard Robb.

I’m about 80% finished with Maria Duenas’s The Heart Has Its Reasons.  It’s pretty women’s fiction-y and I was enjoying until the melodrama was amped up to 11.  Now I’m basically rolling my eyes.  Eh.

Other books I checked out are:

  • Susanna Kearsley’s The Splendour Falls
  • The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in An IKEA Wardrobe  by Romain Puertolas — I couldn’t resist it based on the title alone.
  • The Demon’s Brood by Desmond Seward.  Is there that much about the Plantagenets, in terms of general history, that I don’t know?  Eh, maybe not since I was obsessed with Eleanor of Aquitaine and her descendants years ago, but it still caught my eye.

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Flailing with glee

I just saw that there will be a new Vorkosi-verse book out next year from Bujold!  I had to do a flail-y happy dance!  (It’s a good thing today was a telework day, because my dancing would probably scare my colleagues.)

From Bujold’s GoodReads blog:

I am pleased to report that a new Cordelia Vorkosigan novel has been sold to Baen Books for publication, tentatively, in February of 2016.
The title is Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen.
It is not a war story. It is about grownups.
And that is probably all I ought to say right now in a venue read by the spoiler-sensitive. It is, after all, a long haul till next February.
2016 will also mark the 30th anniversary of my first publication by Baen, which ought to be good for a little PR fun.
Ta, L.

On the reading front, a friend recommended Robert Dugoni’s My Sister’s Grave.  I enjoyed it, but as the end approached I felt pretty manipulated in a cheap way by the author.  I’m not sure I’d go out of my way to read other Dugoni books (he has another series and may be planning more for this one).

C

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Documentary: Red Army

A week or so ago, Slava Fetisov was interviewed in the pre-game or intermission of a Red Wings game; I can’t recall if it was an NHLN broadcast game or NBCSN.  It was to promote the documentary, Red Army.  I missed the full interview, mostly because I tend to tune out during pre-game and intermission bloviating.  (Seriously, Mike Milbury, Don Cherry, and others need to stop talking.)  But I was reminded this past weekend as I checked out listings at my local independent theater.  Still showing Oscar Shorts and Birdman – nope – but also Red Army.

The title probably gives a hint about the material, yes?  It’s the name of the Soviet Army but was also the name of the army’s elite hockey team.  The documentary centers around Viacheslav (Slava) Fetisov, defenseman and captain of the Red Army hockey team.  It also covers the development of hockey in the Soviet Union, competition with the NHL, and the transition of Russian hockey players to the NHL following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

In some ways, the film is heavy-handed and unoriginal:  do viewers need to be spoon-fed tales of how hard life was in the Soviet Union post World War II?  Possibly not, especially in the way the director/narrator did the voice-over as he talks to Fetisov.  On the other hand, there is a lot of Russian hockey history packed into the documentary that I was unaware of.  I’m looking for books on Anatoly Tarasov now.  And, dear godlings, the skating of the Russian team was gorgeous.  (I love beautiful skate work and passing, and would be happy if fighting and boarding disappeared from NHL hockey forever.)

Fetisov is an interesting interview/subject; he more or less ignores the interviewer, busy on his phone, until he wants to talk, and then he talks around some uncomfortable things.  By the end, the Minister of Sport appointment and photo opportunities with Putin kind of explain how he responded sometimes.  Of course, he was open about some really uncomfortable topics, like how betrayed he felt by his defense partner, Kasatonov, when he quit because the Ministry would not let him play in the US after promising publicly that they would let him.

The interviewees include Victor Tretiak, as well as Kasatonov, Krutov, and others.  Borrowed footage shows up from a variety of sources, with some amazing clips of kids being trained in hockey camps, etc.  Young(er) Lou Lamoriello has a brief appearance, and the announcing of Doc Emrick can be heard at one point :)  And once again the pronunciation of Russian last names and the mangling by North American announcers pains me.  Really, is it that hard to get the emphasis right?  Fet-EE-sov, not FET-i-sov.

All in all, I’d say that Red Army is worth seeing if you are a fan of ice hockey or if you are interested in mid-to-late 20th century politics and history in general.

From a purely personal perspective, I found the selection of the few recent Russian draftees odd:  Ilya Kovalchuk, first overall pick in 2001, but currently retired from the NHL and playing in the KHL; Alex Ovechkin, another first pick who is shown negatively in the documentary in terms of PR; and Nail Yakupov, another first pick who is really struggling in the NHL.  No mention of Pavel Datsyuk, who has ridiculous hands and speed, two Stanley Cup rings, and a boat-load of awards.  No mention of Evgeni Malkin, second overall pick behind Ovechkin, with a Stanley Cup ring to go with the Conn Smythe, Calder, Hart, Art Ross, and Ted Lindsay awards.  But then again, maybe the point being made was that perhaps Russian players would be better off playing in Russia, where they’d be more respected?  I don’t know.

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Recently read

Finished in February:

Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier.  I have mixed feelings about this book.  The subject matter is fascinating and I liked Frazier’s writing style generally.  But I felt like he never really figured out what he wanted the book to be:  travelogue, social commentary, history?  To the extent that it tried to be all of those things, it failed.  But I enjoyed it enough that I’ve downloaded samples of Midnight in Siberia and To the Edge of the World: The Story of the Trans-Siberian Express, the World’s Greatest Railroad.

Just read:  Patricia Briggs’ Dead Heat.  This book was a C- book at best, and it seriously pissed me off.  Why the C-?  Because the plot was thin and the new characters were not particularly well-drawn.  And to pad what was essentially a very, very brief mystery with little or no suspense or tension, Briggs wasted pages on horses, the horse community, showing, blah blah blah.  The horse minutia contributed almost nothing to the story.

What really pissed me off was Anna’s approach to Charles and his desire to not have children.  She basically patronized him and whined, verging on what felt to me like battering with her desire to have kids.  At one point she actually says in the narrative that she’s going to weed out all of his objections to having children and persuade him that he’s wrong.  [There is no “wrong” to wanting or not wanting children; just because you want children does not mean others’ desires to not have children is wrong.]  It read (to me, YMMV) as putting her desires above his legitimate objections and failing to respect what he wanted when it was inconvenient for her or inconsistent with what she wanted.

Also:  if their roles had been reversed and Charles pressured her to have a child she did not want or to be childless when she wanted children, reviewers everywhere would be talking about this.  But no.  Radio silence as far as I can tell.  The Dear Author review merely says that Charles isn’t immediately on board with having kids.  That is an understatement at the very least.

Between this and the slut-shaming in the last Mercy book, I am done.

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