Tag Archives: the great book purge

Recently read: The Wedding Ring Quest by Carla Kelly

Ms. Kelly has long been a favorite historical romance writer of mine.  I found her through a recommendation back when Signet was still publishing trad Regencies.  Her books were a little unusual for trads in that most of the heroes and heroine were not titled, or if they were gentry they had often fallen on hard times.  Ms. Kelly is now published in the Harlequin Historical line for “regular” romance, with inspirational romances published by what I believe is an LDS publisher.

The Wedding Ring Quest is the story of Mary Rennie, an orphan lady of spinster-ish age who has been sent off in pursuit of an heirloom ring that was tossed into the batter for Christmas fruitcakes by her feckless cousin to whom the ring was given.  As she pursues the ring, she meets Captain Ross Rennie and his son, who are en route to Scotland for the holidays.  Napoleon has recently been sent to Elba and Captain Rennie is ashore after long “employment” by the Corsican.  After comparing family trees, it turns out that Mary and the captain are distant cousins.  Intrigued by the idea of chasing a ring in a cake (and also perhaps looking for an excuse to avoid his sister’s post-war plans for him, they join in the pursuit, which takes them to York and beyond. 

Mary as a character confused me.  She has no significant dowry but is described as pretty.  Her guardians aren’t oppressive but they also aren’t engaging or encouraging.  She hasn’t been treated as a drudge but she also hasn’t been treated as an equal to their daughter.  She’s unmarried…because? Because of a lack of men due to war? She was sympathetic is a sort of generic way, but I never really cared about her.

Captain Rennie was also sympathetic: a fish out of water in a way, now that he’s on land, suffering from grief and also maybe PTSD.  His relationship with his son was lovely. 

The pursuit of the ring ended (for me) rather predictably.  The thing I had not predicted was the captain’s response, which came out of left field and was shocking.  Unless you chalk it up to PTSD maybe? And a later bit in Scotland felt not very believable.  The ultimate ending, while suitable in the sense of a fresh start for everyone, felt somewhat strained.  (I’m being purposefully vague because I don’t want to spoil anyone.)

As an example of Ms. Kelly’s work, the text or prose is fine — she has a talent for painting word pictures without being verbose.  But I never felt entirely engaged by the plot or the characters.  Still, I was very pleased to actually read a book (any book!) from start to finish without feeling bored or setting it aside for long stretches.

B- from me.

 

On The Great Book Purge:  PB Ryan’s Gilded Age Mystery series (Nell Sweeney) has been added to the “to go” pile.  As has my copy of Alex Beecroft’s debut Age of Sail novel (which I loved when first published) and several old Mary Jo Putney and Jo Beverley historicals.

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Drive by – new Patricia Briggs, ongoing book purge, etc.

The good news:  I managed to finish a book.

The bad news:  I was not impressed by the book and am taking the series off auto-read and auto-borrow at the library.

I love Briggs’ Hurog duology, and I really liked the Mercy Thompson series when it began.  I like Briggs’ voice generally.  But I’m bored by Mercy as Mary Sue who gathers ever-more magical powers out of the blue in order to permit her to save everyone single-handedly.  I could probably have let that slide, but ongoing “the Pack hates Mercy” and the glacially moving other-magical-beings politics just aren’t holding my interest, and the one-and-done villains are getting stale.  Add in an ex-wife who is villified for being manipulative (as manipulative as Mercy but in a different way) and the way she was slut-shamed?  Yeah, done.

Also on the former auto-buy front, I downloaded the sample for the new In Death book.  Meh.

I’ve cleared out another bookshelf (a small one) that had mostly been filled with the (aged) backlists of Susan Napier, Emma Darcy, and Robyn Donald Harlequin Presents.  I accumulated them over years via library sales and paperbackswap.com, but many of them were not worth re-reading (for me) once I buckled down and gave them the 20 page test.

I was sorry to read of the death of Clarissa Dickson Wright, one of the Two Fat Ladies.  Must dig out her memoir, Spilling the Beans, and finish it.

Cookbook on my horizon:  Budget Bytes by Beth Moncel.  The Biochemist pointed me to the website when I was looking for a relatively simple but not boring menu for a birthday dinner (the guests included a very picky eater).  She likes the Honey Sriracha Chicken Thighs, but the Maple Dijon Chicken Thighs went over well with my guests, along with the Maple Roasted Sweet Potato with Pecans.  And the Banana Chocolate Baked Oatmeal is almost like dessert for breakfast.  I cut the recipe in half and bake in a cupcake pan.  Yum.

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The continuing book purge and other things

Well, my reading has continued to be Not Good lately.

Apparently I auto-wishlisted Josh Lanyon’s The Hell You Say at paperbackswap.com back when I still used the site regularly, so a copy arrived in my mailbox last week.  It was okay?  I mean, I read the ebook years ago when I was glomming Lanyon’s work.  My perspective has shifted a little bit and I’m not sure why exactly.  But my patience with Adrien as narrator has thinned, both in terms of Adrien as amateur sleuth and also with what I perceive as his passive approach to the people in his life (no, I’m not talking about Jake specifically but how he interacts with everyone).  Eh.  I’m kind of curious to see what would happen if I went back and re-read the entire series but I’m a little afraid of spoiling a series that I have recall with fondness in general.

In an effort to kill the slump, I’m extending The Great Book Purge of 2013 into 2014.  Sooner or later one of the books I skim for the keep-or-discard test will grab me.  Or that’s my hope/theory.

So I’ve pulled these books from the shelves:

  • The Courageous Heart by Jane Marnay — a Harlequin Romance from 1957
  • The Twilight of Imperial Russia by Richard Charques — from 1958, dated but of interest in light of a lot of things going on in what some people might consider the new imperial Russia
  • Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women edited by Jayne Ann Krentz
  • Walter Isaacson’s biography of Benjamin Franklin
  • Dana Stabenow’s A Grave Denied

Books already put on the discard pile are NR’s Whiskey Beach, The Wife of Martin Guerre, and Queen of Shadows by Edith Felber.  I thinned my collection of the backlists of Susan Napier and Robyn Donald’s Harlequin Presents before moving but may circle back.

I’m also reading the oh-so-fascinating (not really) The Law of Financial Institutions for a night class.  The lecture is pretty good, if kind of bouncing around at this point.

Cara Black’s Murder in Montmartre has been put on my nightstand, to keep Scahill’s Dirty Wars company (some day I’ll be finished with it, dammit, but I’m reading about 20 pages/week right now so it’ll be awhile).  I liked an earlier installment in Black’s mystery series set in Paris in the 1990s. 

Unrelated:  does anyone have recommendations for language acquisition software?  I would like to learn enough French to be able to understand airport/train/metro announcements, and to be able to ask people for directions to the closest metro/cab stand/bar/etc or for the check or to be able to order simple things at a restaurant or bar. 

 

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November’s reading…

The only thing I read in full was a re-read of Jilly Cooper’s Players.   I first read the book years ago, and found a used copy a couple of years ago at a library sale.  It’s one of those books that has not aged well IMO.  It’s very much a product of its time (late 80s/early 90s), with a very specific setting and characters (English monied set and wannabes).  It felt extremely dated in the way that episodes of Dallas, Dynasty, and the like (80s soap operas about wealthy people) would be.  One of the romance storylines was actually kind of squick-inducing.  Eh, into the bin as part of The Great Book Purge of 2013.

Also in November, I read more of Garry Disher’s Whispering Death, which I liked.  But I didn’t finish it until yesterday, so it goes into December’s book count.

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What I read on my (not-summer) vacation

I go to the beach after the crowds have died down, the week after Labor Day.  Technically it’s not fall yet, the weather is still good and there are still things to do, but the boardwalk is only sparsely populated and I’m less likely to be overrun by hoards of beach-goers.  (Yes, I am a misanthrope.  I have space and people proximity issues.  It drives me crazy to have people set up their blankets within inches of my little plot of sand, inflicting their conversations and kids on me when the whole point of the beach for me is being mellow to the point of hypnosis via the sound of waves and gulls.)

I packed a bunch of books for the beach, most pulled from the pile of potential purge books.  If any regular visitors would like to have any of the books below, drop me a note and I’ll send the book(s) to you rather than putting them in the boxes of books, CDs, DVDs, and clothes that will be going to the library and/or other repositories.

1.  The Hallowed Hunt by Lois McMaster Bujold.  This is the third Chalion book.  Although I love the first two of the series and re-read or listen to them periodically, I’ve never re-read this one.  My attempt this week was…less than successful.

2.  The Winter Prince by Elizabeth Wein.  Welsh-influence Arthurian tale.  I bought a used copy after Rachel recommended it.  I very much like the storytelling and writing, so I’ll try more of Wein’s books, but am pretty much over Arthur/Camelot.  My copy is an older one from the first printing (I think) by Baen Books.  And on the flyleaf, Elizabeth Wein has written a note to the original owner, dated and personalized to the owner, which is sort of charming in a “what is the history of this object” kind of way.

3.  The Wicked Gentleman by Ginn Hale.  Fantasy.  I’ve had this book TBR forever, it feels like.  When I bought it ages ago, I wasn’t in a fantasy-ish sort of mood and it languished.  I’m glad I pulled it off the shelf, it was a good beach read — done in one morning — but I’m not sure if it’ll go in the keeper pile or be passed on.

4.  Bronze Gods by A.A. Aguirre.  Fantasy.  Didn’t finish this one; I think steampunk is a genre or subgenre that doesn’t work for me; even books by writers that I really like (like Meljean Brook) have been a struggle for me to finish.

5.  Bloodsucking Fiends by Chris Moore.  Re-read, horror or fantasy.  Moore’s writing to so readable, IMO, and the humor is just right.  As much as I enjoyed this as I read it, it’s not really a regular re-read for me, so it’ll go into the donation bin.

6.  The Housekeeping Book of Susannah Whatman.  Nonfiction.  Interesting glimpse into the maintenance and staffing of a 18th century home.

7.  The Sandalwood Fan by Diana Brown.  Trad Regency by Signet.  Eh, it’s different from a lot of early trads in the sense of the heroine’s autonomy and independence.  I found the hero to be not very sympathetic, but then a lot of the characters were pretty unsympathetic, except for the heroine, her sister, and the sister’s eventual fiance.

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Browseabout Books, which is on the main street, has an okay selection of books.  Maybe it used to have more, but now less than 1/4 of the store’s floor space is spent on books; the rest is full of cards, gifts, etc.  Whatever keeps them in business, I guess?  They are advertising a book event on September 21st with Megan Hart, Ann Aguirre, Lauren Dane, and Vivien Arend.  I’m kind of sorry to miss it but next weekend is the National Book Festival and also I don’t think I’ll be driving the 200+ round trip for it.

Browseabout had the new JD Robb book (Thankless in Death) out already, even though the official drop date isn’t until next Tuesday (9/17), so I bought a copy of it and also a copy of the new Chelsea Cain book that was released last month.  Thankless was okay, about average for an In Death book, much more domestic than anything else, with the bad guy as a contrast to the Dallas-Roarke growing family and also as an ongoing poke at the nature vs. nurture theme that runs through the series (IMO).  Let Me Go, the new Cain book, feels a little repetitive; the Archie-Gretchen dynamic is getting a little stale to me.  And I’m kind of perplexed by how Gretchen is so amazing that she manages to get the drop on everyone, especially when they are professionals armed to the teeth and she isn’t.  Although technically since she’s a serial killer, she’s a professional killer too?  Dunno.  I enjoyed the book as I read but would not recommend it except to readers who like the twisted dynamic and ongoing mindfuck.  (I think my issue with the series is that it doesn’t advance or change, and Gretchen is related to every murder in some way, with a preternatural reach into all crimes in the Portland area; even Sherlock Holmes solved crimes unrelated to Moriarty but Archie gets no such respite.  Obsession gets old after a while — and I’m referring to both Archie and Gretchen.)

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Also on the book front, it looks like Bujold will be at the Baltimore Book Festival.  I’m kind of disappointed that I won’t get to see her though: she’s being interviewed at 2pm on Saturday (9/28) (by Catherine Asaro, another author I’d love to hear speak) but I have a family party to attend at 3pm.  Given drive time (1.5 hours), there’s no way I can go the literary salon and make it to the party on time. 😦

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Is that being classified as genre romance?

Amazon sent me an email advertising its Romance Newsletter.  And the four books used in the ad were:

  • Sylvia Day’s Entwined with You
  • Janet Evanovich’s The Heist
  • Laurell K. Hamilton’s Affliction
  • Kresley Cole’s MacRieve

I found the combination to be a little peculiar, to be honest.  Day is a romance author and that series is probably a romance taken as a whole but I’m not sure the individual installments count as such — more like a soap opera.  Evanovich hasn’t written romance in years and has basically disowned any romance roots.  Hamilton has never written romance; maybe erotic fiction or maybe just bad porn, depending on your perspective.  Cole is a romance author, and I think that book is a genre romance.

  • What algorithm was Amazon using to generate the email/ad, I wonder?

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On the reading front, I didn’t do much this weekend.  But inspired by Beth, I’ve packed up six boxes of books and another box of CDs and DVDs for donation.  There’s a stack of about 20 books that I need to sort through still, and I’ll probably do a second culling, because I wasn’t as ruthless as I should have been, I think.  There’s one bin of language/text books that I need to get through still, but my spare room is beginning to look more like a room that I can put a sofa and maybe a desk in, rather than being a store room.  (Which is a good thing since I bought a new couch today.)

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In which I am cranky

Sometimes, as I tap away at my computer at work, I wonder how on earth people did my job without computers.  And then I remember that even as the computer makes my job easier, it also makes the “job” of the people I’m scrutinizing easier.  And by “job” I mean scam.

And then I open up a sample on my Kindle and read a sentence that even a nominal amount of internet research (i.e., a web search of a public agency’s website) would have rendered impossible.  How freaking lazy is that, in terms of background research?  And the sample is deleted immediately.  The author might have some sort of background story to make the error plausible, but I’ve got a limited amount of time and a limited reading budget, and sloppy research is not a winning attribute for me as a reader.  Next?

Also pinging the crank-o-meter:  changing the name of a character mid-series.  In Magic Bleeds, Dr. Doolittle’s name was George (see page 244).  But in Magic Rises it is Darrien (see page 197).  Seriously?  The book hit number 1 on the mass market paperback list and the next book of the series had already been scheduled to move to hardback before that high point.  Am I supposed to believe the last few books didn’t get the attention of a copy editor and one of Ace’s best editors in general in Anne Sowards?  That kind of thing is irritating as hell, and also sadly common in the Magic series, as I’ve noted in posts about earlier books.

On the reading front, I added Jo Beverley’s The Secret Marriage and Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty to the donate pile for this week’s installment of The Great Book Purge.  Beverley used to be much more to my taste, but I found during the Purge that older keepers aren’t so much now, and more recent books don’t really appeal for reasons I can’t really articulate other than to say ~meh~.  The Bray book…probably would have appealed if I’d read it when I bought it.

Otherwise, I didn’t get much new reading done in the last week — instead I’ve been re-reading Aaronovitch’s Broken Homes, because I wanted to see how I’d been so blindsided by the ending.  And there are some hints or breadcrumbs but I…still didn’t see it coming.  My copy of the book is full of post it notes on pages with hints and also with passages that I like or that I think are very typical of the narrator’s voice.

The only other book I read was Carla Kelly’s new historical, The Double Cross.  (FWIW, the title isn’t a religious allusion.)  It’s set in New Mexico in the 18th century.  It reminded me a lot of her early trads:  a sweet romance with some adventure thrown in.  It’s not inspirational fiction per se, although the Church plays a role in the daily life of the main characters, which I’d expect for the setting.  I’m not sure how the series will go; there’s a personal mystery or conflict that will need to be resolved, but I’m also wondering if there will be outside mysteries related to Don Marco’s position as juez de campo.

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