Tag Archives: rant

Song of Love by Rachel Elliot

As part of my very slow effort to clear out books that I’m never going to read, I’ve been going through all the cabinets and cupboards where books had been squirreled away (in case of the End of Days when no more books are published).  Yesterday’s bunch:  a basket of categories that I *think* I bought at a library sale, since a couple of them have old library barcodes or “discard” stamps.  A lot of older Harlequin romances, a few newish but battered mass market paperbacks.  Given the receipt stuck in the one new book in the basket, the contents have been undisturbed since 2006, which is hugely embarrassing to me.

Song of Love by Rachel Elliot caught my attention because although it appears to be (relatively) contemporary, the hero on the cover is wearing a kilt.  And I wondered, are kilts worn often in Scotland today?  In America, kilts are most often seen at Scottish festivals and as fine men’s wear at weddings — but I’m never sure if that sort of thing is just an American longing for old country traditions or if it has a contemporary counterpart in Scotland.  @McVane said that yes, ceremonial kilts are sometimes worn for events and balls.  So then I had to read this contemporary Scotland-set romance, just to see why/when the hero wore a kilt.

She was stranded at Castle Mackenzie

And it would have been a lovely place to be stranded — except for the presence of its unnerving young laird, Roddy Mackenzie!

Claire couldn’t fault his hospitality and his infectious good humor. But his teasing, suggestive comments, the gleam in his beguiling eyes and his undeniable charm were hard to resist.

She was more than tempted. A woman whose profession strangely spelled loneliness, she could use some honest affection.  Trouble was, she feared that when Roddy learned who she really was, he’d feel nothing for her but contempt…

Okay, that is a ridiculous blurb.  Laird?  Roddy is the younger son and co-owner of the castle; he’s basically a farmer.  Is the usage of “laird” accurate?  I don’t know, but it seems to imply (to me) a measure of control and influence that was absent.  The lonely profession?  Claire is a singer, just starting out, and she specializes in romantic old ballads.  She assumes Roddy won’t appreciate that since he says outright to her that he thinks the romanticization of Bonnie Prince Charlie is and was a waste of time and resources.

The answer to my original question about why/when the hero wore a kilt:  for a house party that wasn’t particularly formal or official.  Whatever.  That was perhaps the least irritating thing about this book.  Roddy was a rapetastic asshat and Claire was a spineless wimp.

Roddy “rescues” Claire when her car breaks down, and takes her home to the castle.  Which of course has a crusty old retainer, Mrs. MacPhee. There’s some “ladding” and “lassing” but no ochs or naes.  Claire finds the entire episode romantic, while as a reader I was completely creeped out by his behavior:  he enters her room without permission, invades her space, touches her mouth, all within the first hour of knowing her.  There’s hospitality and there’s overstepping, and as a single female who travels alone, his behavior made alarms scream for me — get out, go to a hotel, catch a train, do not hang around at the castle.  But apparently Claire has no personal space issues and was completely okay with all that.

Later that evening, when spooked by a dog in her room, Claire runs out into the hall and collides with Roddy, who takes the opportunity to ogle her skimpy nightgown and to grope her before sending her back to bed.  The next morning includes Roddy knowing better than Claire what she wants for breakfast (coffee vs. a full plate of food), followed by horse-riding and an interrupted interlude engineered by a dismount.  He casually dismisses the near-public sex and she complains of being half-raped (despite her enthusiastic participation) when she’s miffed by his dismissal.  He’s pretty condescending generally, too, calling her a dense woman, etc.  Claws and cat characteristics and adjectives are used to describe Claire’s potential romantic rival and also by Roddy when he’s chiding or criticizing Claire.

Eventually Roddy informs Claire that her car will take a week to fix — the part has to come from Glasgow.  That seemed odd to me and I made a note…but it turns out to have been a complete lie by Roddy: the car was fixed the first day and he just wanted to keep her around.  Until, of course, he realizes that she’s a scheming, manipulative, fame-chasing whore who intentionally broke down on his land to get a chance to meet his brother, Liam (co-owner of the castle), who also happens to be a big time London talent agent.

Cue the accusation and bitter words on his part, plus a nasty dinner party (in which he wore the kilt) followed by the rape* of the heroine  and her escape back to Aberdeen, where she continues to sing and to write what readers are told is a heartbreaking song of love, her Song for Roddy.  Who later appears and bitches at her more about his brother, rescues her from a stranger rape and then wants to be rewarded with sex, while laughing and saying that what he’d done to her wasn’t rape.  Readers get a teeny bit of Roddy’s POV at this point:  he’s still bitter about her “treachery”, and “she’d deserved [being raped and rejected]”, and “she’d asked for everything he’d handed out to her.”  He’d been right to punish her for what she’d done to him, he thinks to himself.

Later, after he sees her sing in the theater, he realizes that he can’t live without her.  Also, a reporter who interviewed her before she met Roddy informs Roddy that she is ambivalent about fame and pursuing a career in London.  This information from a third party is MUCH MORE reliable than actually talking to her like a reasonable human being and asking her what was going on, of course!  So he stalks her after she’s told him to leave her be, manhandling his way into her home and seducing her without ever apologizing.  And she lets him back into what she thinks of as his “rightful place”!  All she says is “you must never doubt me again.”

OMGWTFBBQ?  No apology?  Taking the word of someone else rather than hers? And it’s just, okay, let’s have sex and I’ll give up my budding career and we’ll live happily ever after?  Doormat!

The fame-chasing accusation is particularly ironic since Claire has mentally wibbled about pursuing a singing career — her agent is pushing her to go to London to get more exposure but isn’t sure she wants to — but of course only the reader knows that.  Actually, the thing I found most frustrating about Claire was her wibbling and her waste of her talent.

Let’s see, there was a chauvinist, rapist hero and a bland, indistinct heroine, and the tropes included: country living is better than city living; Scotland is better than England; living in obscurity is better than seeking fame; better to waste talent than to use it; etc.  I can’t decide if this book is just a product of the 80s, or if it would have been just as offensive to readers then.

I’ve decided not to donate this book — I wouldn’t want to contaminate any other reader’s mind with the offensive mess.  Also, it pissed me off so much I ripped it in half (down the spine).

Not recommended.

* The text of the book makes it clear.  She is asleep in her room.  He enters and climbs into her bed, and when she partially wakes, she is “still half drugged from brandy and sleep.”  Afterward, he thanks her for keeping her side of the bargain and appreciates her being so accommodating, and being willing to use the casting couch.


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Nothing I wanted at B&N

I don’t really make serious resolutions for the new year.  Mostly because I’ve learned over the years that if something is important enough for me to be willing to change my behavior or to work hard on or for, the coming of a new year is going to be irrelevant to my engagement in the task — it usually takes some other motivation or kick in the pants, not merely the turning of a calendar’s page.  And the usual resolutions (eat better, go to the gym, etc.) all die after a month, so why pretend that this year will be any different?

My one resolution-ish thought was to make an effort to be more positive about what I read and the publishing industry.  After all, there are books that I love reading, and what would it hurt to focus on the things I love about books rather than the things that irritate me?

But apparently the gods are laughing at me or karma is a bitch or something.  Instead of the year’s opening SBD being positive, about the first read of the year, it’s a cranky piece on bookselling.  Or rather, not selling me books.

Exhibit #1:  My unused $50 Barnes & Noble gift certificate

After thinking carefully about which new paper books I might want to bring into my house in light of my ongoing but very slow purge, I had a short list of three to look for at Barnes & Noble.  All either released within the last month or reissued recently as part of a linked media campaign.  How many did I find on the shelves?  None of them.  When I checked at the service desk, the bookseller kindly offered to order them for me.  Thanks but no, the whole point of coming to the store was to leave with books in hand, otherwise I would have ordered them online myself.  (Except, wait, if I order them online, it will be from Amazon, because they are lower priced and ship for free and faster.  Lost sale for you, B&N.  Although I guess not really, since you’ve already got the money for the gift card I’d planned to use.)

Instead I drank tea and ate a muffin, then wandered around forlornly.  For a moment, I thought I might end up leaving with a book in hand — as I walked by the sports section, I remembered that there were two Borg/McEnroe rivalry bio-type books published this past year (High Strung by Steve Tignor and Epic by Matt Cronin).  Unfortunately, neither was in stock.  Even the post-holiday clearance wasn’t tempting and the remaindered books were blah.

Exhibit #2:  the price of ebooks

Okay, look, as a consumer, I don’t care about the publisher’s costs or margins, in the same way that I don’t care about a grocer’s; I care about price and quality of the good/product.  And I also am tired of hearing about how the costs don’t change for ebooks because all the infrastructure is still needed.  That’s a sunk cost on the publisher’s part, and I refuse to believe that it is as expensive (or more) to produce an ebook than it is to produce a paper one.  So when I see that a book that is $7.99 in paper (with a 10% or more discount if I buy it in-store, assuming it’s in stock — which it wasn’t) is also $7.99 in e-format, that book drops lower on my TBB list, no matter how well-reviewed it is.

And seeing something like this is just enough to drive me crazy — it’s cheaper to buy the paper book and have it shipped to my door than to buy the ebook.  Another lost sale.



Once again I am left wondering:  does Barnes & Noble want to sell me books?  Do publishers?  Do they want my business at all?  Amazon seems to want my business in most cases, so I’m left wondering who set that ebook price.  Eh, maybe I’ll remember to check for a paper copy later.  Maybe I’ll borrow it from the library.  Or maybe the book will sit on my wishlist and eventually be forgotten in the flood of other potential reads out there.

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About the Author: what’s the point?

In which I am a judgmental bitch. Again.

“About the Author” — what is the point of these pages at the end of the book?

That sounds harsh, so let me take a step back and ask instead what purpose do the pages serve?

The reason I ask is that as I finished an ebook and paged forward to check for an epilogue or other situational wrap up for the characters I’d gotten to know, instead I found an “About the Author” page. Which shared information about the nationality, sexuality, hobbies, work history, and drink preferences of the author*. That’s all well and good, but part of me wonders why the author and publisher bother to include that sort of information in paper or electronic books. Does it sell more copies? Do readers want to know that sort of thing? Do the (often twee) blurbs lend some sort of legitimacy or gravitas to the author, making them (and thus their books) more appealing and marketable to readers? Is it just another example of the very personalized relationship that exists between the romance genre body of authors and their readership?

And don’t get me started on author photos! Do author photos sell books? Is the ROI worth it? Some author photos are lovely, while others look like vanity photo shoots gone wrong or quickly snapped photos by a family member.** And then there are the author photos that appear to conflate the author with characters. I didn’t have a problem with the Nora Roberts photo in NYC in a leather jacket but other readers did. Laura Lippmann had a photo that seemed sort of Tess Monaghan-ish to me once. Dr. Maura Isles seems to have a lot in common with Tess Gerritsen. Etc.

Speaking personally (obviously, because I’m not entitled to speak for anyone else), the author bio or blurb is…really not relevant to my reading experience unless there is something specific to the author’s background that lends her/him some additional authority or legitimacy. Writing a book in which a newly discovered Emily Dickinson poem is key? Then your Ph.D. in 19th century American Lit would lend a degree of authenticity to your writing for me. (Of course, that can always backfire; see Sunita’s portion of the joint review of In the Arms of the Marquess and subsequent post on “mistoricals“.) Otherwise, eh, not so much.

As anyone who has checked out my monthly reading summaries can tell, I read a fair amount of m/m romance, which for various reasons has required ambiguous pseudonyms for marketing purposes. One of the things that drives me crazy is women writing with male pseudonyms who openly admit on their blogs or elsewhere that they are not men, yet who still use “he” in their author bios. I absolutely understand the marketing decision about choosing an ambiguously gendered pseudonym, but using the wrong pronoun to further the ambiguity feels dishonest and disingenuous.

What is it then that I look for in an author blurb? Truly, all I want to know about it is the author’s backlist. Give me a link to a (current) author website or give me the names of a couple books in the author’s backlist. Tell me if there is another book following this one, if it’s a series. The information about hobbies, childhood writing aspirations, all that jazz, it could go on the authors blog or personal page of their website, where readers who want that personal connection with an author can seek it out.

An example of a brief, helpful author bio that works (for me) is Josh Lanyon’s in The Dickens With Love. It tells readers that he’s been a Lambda Award finalist (validation!); mentions his most popular series (marketing!); and gives links to his webpage and Yahoo! group, as well as listing the books he has published with that publisher (more marketing!). And that’s it.

Don’t give me a list of other authors published by the same publisher (wrong venue for that information, thanks). Preaching at me about social issues and including pages of social services data may be appropriate, depending on the content of the book, or it may just be alienating, and the line can be hard to find.

I’m kind of curious now: when did author bios become standard in books? Setting aside the different privacy zones and expectations of the times, would Charles Dickens or Jane Austen have included a blurb about their childhoods and non-writing activities in the backs of their books?

What do other readers look for in author blurbs? Do you read them at all or are they just padding at the back of the book to increase the page count?

*I have some of these things in common with the author, and am not offended/shocked/disgusted/negative-adjective-of-your-choice-here by any of them. My query is related more to the marketing purpose of the author blurb, and more general speculation about what readers want or need to know about an author in order to buy their books.

** I ❤ Nora Roberts, I do, for so many reasons ranging from her immense backlist to her firm position on what she writes and how. But an examination of her author photos in the original editions of her books dating back to the early 90s shows a progression of hairstyles and colors that are not always flattering.


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+  Clusterfluff ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s — yum.  If you like fluffernutter sandwiches, you’ll probably like Clusterfluff.  PB ice cream with swirls of peanut butter and marshmallow and chunks of peanuts and caramel.  I accidentally melted a pint of it today while grocery shopping and running errands.  Fortunately for me, is refroze fairly well 🙂

–  What happened in Norway is terrible.

–  Seriously, American politicians?  

–  A person who had a large impact on American politics and foreign policy in terms of use of the military for humanitarian aid died over the weekend.  But since he didn’t OD or get headlines at TMZ, very few people seem to have noticed.

+  Friends with Benefits wasn’t bad.  Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake have pretty good chemistry on screen.  The repeated use of a flash mob?  Eh.  The editing was a little choppy, too.  But it was mildly entertaining and a good way to avoid being outside in 110F weather.  

–  Straw Dogs remake?  Why?  The trailer alone is full of offensive, sexist, ugly tropes.  Country > city. And yet the country is full of losers leading disappointed/disappointing lives.  Education = effete.  Critical wife = bitchy, deserves to be punished.  Being fired for being an asshole always should be responded to with violence.  And attacking your former employer at night with high powered rifles is the most reasonable response.  I think a lot of True Blood fans (women) are going to go see this movie for Alexander Skarsgard, and they are going to be unhappy with the character he plays, who is a redneck rapist.  (I say this because the PR seems to frame his character ambiguously, and when asked about the character, he said it isn’t fundamentally a bad man, just disappointed with how his life has turned out.  Because, y’know, being disappointed with your life makes rape acceptable?)  Yeah, not a movie I’m going to be paying to see, thanks.

–  Also, WTF, LJ?
–  I’ve watched a couple more episodes of the third season of True Blood.  What a train wreck.  Stick a fork in me, I am done.


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My name is Inigo Montoya

To borrow Inigo Montoya’s line to the Great Vizzini, I do not think that word means what you think it means.

Cult classic: A work of fiction that is extremely popular with a select audience but may or may not be successful at the time of the work’s original publication;a film or other media production that has acquired a highly devoted and small but specific fanbase, usually outside the mainstream and without significant commercial success.

Today in my inbox, I found an Amazon ad for “Cult Classics on Kindle”. Curious to see what books Amazon defines as cult classics, I opened it and found blurbs for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Android Karenina, and Sense and Sensibility and Seamonsters, among others.

In what way are any of the literature masterpieces and monster mashups cult classics? They’ve generally been commercial successes and are extremely well-known (and often derided), which would seem to preclude cult classic status. Unless the “classic” label is derived from the original work’s classic designation?

Yes, yes, I get that Amazon was going for the alliterative effect with the K sound. But cult classics? I don’t think so.


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Protected: Hating “the government”

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there are times when I don’t understand why the city isn’t already bankrupt

The finance office in Baltimore City is ridiculous.  

I paid my quarterly water bill and an alley paving fee last month.  Separate checks, separate envelopes, separate account numbers, separate invoices.   And on Thursday, I got a delinquent notice for the alley paving bill.  WTF?  The check cleared!  So I checked my account online.  My water bill shows the payment I made PLUS a credit in the amount of the alley paving payment.  Obviously, despite noting the account on the check and sending it separately AND including the invoice, the finance clerk applied the payments wrong.

So I called to get them to apply the alley paving payment properly, since I do not appreciate getting a delinquent notice.  Their answer:  provide proof of payment and request that the payment be transferred.  

Okay, they HAVE proof of payment on their books.  This is their error.  Why do I have to get copies of my canceled check and take it to the finance office in person to get it fixed?

If I hadn’t labeled everything carefully and intentionally sent the payments in separately, this wouldn’t be so irritating.  But I was very careful, mostly because I’ve dealt with the finance office for years in a professional capacity and have never been impressed by their performance.

There are times when I wonder if the city hires incompetent people intentionally.

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SBD: still more typos

Neither rain nor sleet nor snow shall keep me from posting for SBD!

Actually, all the snow gave me a valid excuse for doing nothing but reading and watching DVDs all weekend, in between bouts of (futile, Sisyphean) shoveling.

I read a historical romance by Bonnie Dee and Summer Devon (a/k/a KateR of the SBD), which was pretty good.  I may even get organized enough to tell you more specifically what was so good.  I mean, other than in addition to the writing, the plot and the characters and the setting.  Really, you should just read it and see for yourself.  If I could figure out a good (legal) way to share or gift ebooks, I’d offer to give a copy to a random commenter.  

Anyway, I also attempted to read a contemporary anthology.  DNF.  Have reached the point where I have to wonder about the perception of the reviewer who praised this book.  Taste is variable, which I’m cool with.  But how on earth did s/he *not* notice the typesetting problems?  The grammar?  The outright WRONG words used?  

Some examples:

  • feeling "self conscience" instead of "self-conscious" (twice!)
  • missing direct address commas fairly regularly…but making up for them by inserting random commas elsewhere
  • referring to a "gallop" poll, rather than Gallup poll
  • use of possessive pronoun "your" and "their" when the sentence actually needed the subject and verb contraction "you’re" or "they’re"

And so on. 

Also, in terms of word choice and usage:  there is no such thing as a "vice grip", although a "vise grip" is a handy thing to have in a workshop.  And "whelp" may be a noun meaning young canine or a verb meaning to give birth; it is not a sound.  Perhaps yelp or whine would have been more appropriate.  One last thing:  how does one snarl up one’s lip?  Is that short hand for saying he turned up his lip in a snarl?

The typesetting…well, the wonky pagination could be a function of the Kindle.  But I’ve never seen typesetting this bad on the Kindle before.  It leaves the FL problem of last week in the dust.  No paragraph breaks in dialogue, single words on a line for no apparent reason, etc.

I’ve begun a mental list of ebook publishers that seem to have little or no editing.  This is not the first book I’ve bought from this publisher with poor editing, so it’s being added to the list.

I might’ve been more tolerant of the poor presentation if I’d been engaged by any of the characters.  But no. 

Also for SBD, since it’s Valentine’s Day between now and the next potential SBD:  what is up with the Lyric Opera having Bizet’s Carmen as its show on Valentine’s Day?  Yes, it’s a passionate love story of sorts, but, hello, Don José kills Carmen in the end. What message does that send? That it’s okay to kill a woman when she dumps you?  I have a love/hate relationship with this opera that dates back to the first time I saw a film adaptation of it, Carlos Saura’s Carmen as part of his flamenco trilogy (see also Boda de sangre and El amor brujo). ( My favorite lines of the film are mentioned here.)  Carmen is a not-entirely admirable character, but she owns herself and her sexuality, which I appreciate, so killing her in the end because she has chosen another bothers me.  A lot.


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FL? F-L?

How often does the digraph "FL" occur in English?  Not *that* often, you are thinking to yourself. That’s what I thought when I first noticed that Kindle didn’t seem to like the two letters side by side in Laura Kinsale’s Lessons in French. 

Not a big deal.  Having words like "flounce" appear as "f lounce" wouldn’t be too bad, would it?  After all, how often would it happen in the book, a half dozen times?  It feels like I see it on every page!  (That’s my imagination I’m sure.)

You know, it’s irritating as hell.  And distracting me from the novel, which is pretty good but for that one minor thing that is turning into the buzzing of a fly.

Tried the program on my iPhone first.  Then my Kindle.  Then Kindle for PC.  Just in case, you know, because sometimes the formating is just wonky on one device but not the others.  But no.  The problem exists across all three.  

Whatever glitch in the conversion program exists?  Kindle needs to fix it, because separating the F and L is no mere "trif le". 



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Protected: Today was monumentally crappy

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