shadowkat: (work/reading)
1. What I just finished reading?

[As an aside, someone on Good Reads tried to quiz me on a romance novel that I reviewed in 2013. Seriously you think I'm going to remember the details of a romance novel I read back in 2013? I'm lucky if I can remember reading it. That's why I write reviews of these books, so I can keep track of the fact that I read them and don't accidentally by them again or re-read. My mother and I joke about this, neither of us can remember the book six months after we read it. It's actually part of the appeal. Romance novels are really hard to remember...they are so interchangeable and the writing style tends for the most part to be rather non-distinct. I actually like reading them for that reason at's a nice light story, resolved by love, and caring, little to no violence, lots of sex (well sometimes depends), and I can delete from the memory banks. Got too much to remember as it is.)

Marry in Haste (Marriage for Convenience #1) by Anne Gracie

What works here, is the writer managed to subvert an incredibly annoying romance novel trope, aka the catastrophic misunderstanding, usually caused by the protagonists' stupidity.

The set-up? The heroine was disowned by her father because he believed some vicious rumors about her. Apparently she'd had an affair with a twenty-six year old stable hand when she was just seventeen. So when a neighbor who was after her inheritance found out, he decided to pass a nasty rumor about how she'd slept around with various stable hands and groomsmen, to everyone in town to convince her father to marry her off to him, to save her reputation. The father believed him. She took off to be a school-mistress. And eventually ends up married to our hero as a business arrangement to chaperon his sisters and niece through a season. He's adorable. They fall in love. But never say the words. And both doubt the other's feelings because they are too dense to realize actions matter not silly words. Even though everyone else can obviously tell.

So, of course throughout the entire book, I'm waiting for the hero to find out about the rumors and do the same thing her father did. Believe the vicious rumors and treat her horribly. They'll have a big melodramatic argument. She'll run off. Maybe gets hurt. He realizes he loves her, etc. Thinking, he'll probably find out from a friend or overhear it. (Because that's what always happens in these books or at least most of them.)

But that's not what happened. Instead, surprise surprise ...she tells him. He trusts her, doesn't believe a word of the rumor. Her friends and his family team up to kick the nasty gossip to the curb. And it all plays out the way it should. Zero misunderstandings.

Subverts the trope completely. Yay.

My only quibble about the story is...the author clearly doesn't like confrontations or conflict, because most of that happens off page, as does a lot of family scenes. There's a lot of paraphrasing and summarizing in the book. So I felt it was...rather passive at times.

That said, there is good, light banter. The hero is in a word, adorable. And incredibly kind. Not a jerk. And the heroine is equally adorable and kind. Actually with the exception of maybe two characters, which we barely even see...everyone is rather kind and likable.

Overall, an enjoyable read. It takes place just after the War with Napolean. So pre-Victorian period.

As an aside about historical romance -- weirdly the historical accuracy doesn't bother me the way it does in straight historical novels like Hillary Mantel's Wolf Hall. (Which I haven't been able to get into for various reasons but one of the sticking points is I know she made stuff up for dramatic effect. And people bought it as real. My problem with the more literary or straight historicals is often people read those for history, when they aren't accurate. I just read post on FB by a social friend a while back which stated this problem - Students take Hilary Mantels Tudor Novels As Fact

Guy recalled being out for the day after Mantel won the Booker prize for Wolf Hall in 2009 and returning home to find a stack of requests to write 1,000 words on how historically accurate the book was. He was also invited on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. He declined all the offers.

“It is a novel. It is just silly. When you are in a world of the novel, a world of theatre, you tell a lie to tell the truth.

“Let us get this straight, the genius of Mantel is that she is aiming to summon up ghosts and if you look at some of that dialogue, it is absolutely remarkable.”

But what makes for great drama may not make for good history. And, in fact, “Wolf Hall” has stirred considerable controversy among historians and critics, many of whom have wondered what responsibility novelists who write about the past have toward history.

- How Wolf Hall Will Entertain Millions and Threaten to Distort History in the Process

That's the problem I have always had with straight historical novels in a nutshell. It's not just Mantel, it's basically all of them. They lie to you and it's not always clear how, and a lot of people get their history from fictionalized historical novels, where the writer has done a lot research then embellished and reinterpreted it to make a good story or fit their worldview.

So, I actually prefer genre - mystery, fantasy, sci-fi, romance historical hybrids, because it's pretty clear upfront that none of this is real. The history is not accurate.
The writer probably did a little research but not that much. So it's unlikely any reader will read genre for historical information or quote it.

That said, I have read historical novels and do like the genre on occasion, but prefer it when the characters in the historical are "fictional" and not based on real people.

2. What I'm reading now?

Still reading Let's Develop! by Fred Newman who is a somewhat controversial philosopher, political activist, psychotherapist, and teacher, that developed a new type of therapy -- social group therapy. He got into a bit of trouble with the political left, because while Marxist in some respects - more philosophy than economically, he's not anti-capitalism and supported Mayor Bloomberg's bid for Mayor and Ralph Nader.

Anyhow the latest chapter that I read discusses how therapy is not about problem solving or problem, solution, explanation. And states how too much emphasis has been placed on diagnosis. Or explaining dreams or why people act a certain way. And how this gets in the way of developing as a person and creating. I'm paraphrasing, because to be honest I'm still trying to wrap my brain around it.

The exercise at the end of the chapter is...the next time you hit a huge problem that you can't figure out how to solve or is making you crazy. Don't try to solve it. Write a poem about it instead. So I guess that's a poetry challenge.

Fortune Favors the Wicked by Theresa Romain which is about a blind navel officer and a courtesan who go hunting for treasure. I have no idea which historical period we are in. It feels post Napolean, possibly Victorian. All I know is it is pre-1900s.

Sous Chef - 24 Hours on the Line by Michael Gibney - this is told in second person close, which is not the easiest point of view in the world to read. I find jarring.
He's putting "you" as in the "reader" in the shoes of a Sous Chef. "You have these knives, etc". And it's rather detailed. But the voice and point of view are rough going.
Anthony Bourdain, who had a rather distinctive voice, and made the wise decision of writing in first person, was a lot easier and more entertaining.
shadowkat: (work/reading)
[Eh, I don't really have much to report. I finished White Hot, tried The Immortals, got horribly bored - the character's navel gazing and myth research kept putting me to sleep, and am now reading Marry in Haste. So instead, I'm doing a book meme sort of like the movie meme. Assuming of course I can answer my own questions. Which can be distressing. I have a tendency to blank on the book.

Oh...conversation with mother, worth noting.
Why I don't have plants in my apartment )

Book Meme

1. What was the most disturbing book that you read?

there's fifteen questions )
shadowkat: (Default)
[Because I forgot it wasn't Wed....I'm a day ahead of myself, this is not a good start to the week. ]

1. What I just finished reading?

See last week's post. I finished the Drakon trilogy by Shannon Abe, the last one was Queen of Dragons. And no, I don't recommend it. It was a mess. And I think it was traditionally published, which makes me wonder about the editors. Shame, the first book in the series, "The Smoke Thief" was rather good. It's weird some writers series get better as they go, others really don't.

Also, I've noticed some writers tend to write the same story, with the same style, regardless of what the plot or setting is. Other's you can't tell it's the same writer at all.
Jim Butcher was somewhat interesting in that his style did change from series to series. I couldn't get into his other series...outside of The Dresden Files, but I did try samples and his style is very different in each. While Illona Andrews style is the same, as is Margaret Atwood, Anne Tyler, and various literary writers.

2. What I'm reading now?

White Hot by Illona Andrews. It should be noted that Illona Andrews is actually a husband and wife writing team. She's a Russian immigrant, and he's ex-American military. They met in a creative writing course.

Read more... )

3. What I'm reading next?

No clue. Flirting with books. Bought The Immortals might try that, which is urban fantasy/mystery -- although there is a serial killer and I hate the serial killer trope with a blinding passion. So we'll see. The serial killer trope is why I stopped reading mystery/thrillers and watching them.

Also still flirting with two political ones..."The Hillbilly Elegy" and "The Road to Somewhere" but not sure I can handle either at the moment.

Oh and I have Whedon's Wonder Woman script to read -- got bogged down at page 21. Why? Thought it was silly and campy. (Diana is busy mooning after the man, and her girlfriend is mooning after the man, while they make googily eyes at each other. It brought back bad memories of the Buffy comics. While Trevor makes snarky comments about these Amazon women. And oh, they are keeping him from delivering necessary supplies to refugees, because they want to kill him for discovering their secret island. So stupid and somewhat offensive. Very happy this wasn't made into a film.) And Warren Ellis' Saga -- volume one. Both on the Ipad. They don't work well on the kindle.
shadowkat: (Default)
1. What I just finished reading?

The drakon trilogy by Shannon Abe, which included "The Smoke Thief", "The Dream Thief", and "The Queen of Dragons".

While she's good at witty dialogue, the writer sucks at plotting and structure. And while I adored "The Smoke Thief", the later two books don't quite work, in part because for some reason or other she feels this need to write a first person expository perspective that pops up intermittently in book. For example, first chapter (hero's pov), second chapter (heroine's pov), third chapter - brother's pov, fourth chapter -- some weird omniscient party commenting on everything in first person perspective. I thought it was the heroine for a bit, but then I realized it couldn't be, so I've really no idea. While certainly ambitious, it was mainly jarring and disruptive of the action, also added nothing to the story. I skimmed after a while.

The last book in the trilogy, Queen of Dragons, irritated me. There's a plot about the hero's brother (Rhys) and a little girl (Honor) being taken, and his sister (Lia) and her husband (Zane) (from the last novel) infiltrating the sanf ( the drakon hunter sect) in order to protect and save the sister's family of drakon. Also, the hero/heroine (Kit/Rue) from the first book have mysteriously disappeared without a trace -- to find the hero/heroine (Zane/Lia) from the second book. But...this plot sort of takes place off-page. And every once and awhile pops up. Also, there's subplot about the brother who was taken by the drakon hunters, Rhys, being in love with the heroine as well -- but this dropped when he's kidnapped. The heroine, Mari, finds him, but loses him when she's taken by the hunters, one of which is the hero from the previous book, Zane. Zane uses the Dramur or dreaming diamond to keep her from turning into a drakon. He's trying to keep everyone safe as a double-agent. But can't keep the sanf from torturing her. Before they do, she's rescued in dramatic fashion by the hero, Kimber. Kimber and Mari go back to Kimber's house, he recuperates, they swear their love for each other. The end.

And I'm thinking...okay, but what about Rhys, Zane, his wife, the missing girl Honor, the missing Marquess and Marchioness (the hero/heroine from the Smoke Thief).

Confused? Yeah, so was I. The damn book gave me a headache.

Like I said, bad plotting.

Also read a review in The Economist on a new book that I'd been flirting with by David Goodhart entitled The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics is published by C Hurst & Co.

And realized, I sort of agree with the reviewer, although I admittedly have not read the book. But mainly I don't think I agree with either on the depiction of the divide or I find myself heavily questioning it - which would pose problems in reading the book. It could just piss me off. And I'm trying to avoid things that piss me off. (grins)

And of course, now the silly Economist won't let me access it again without subscribing so, I had to go to the Guardian and read its review. Which sort of agreed with the Economist, interestingly enough and I found myself agreeing with. (I like The Economist slightly better, because it's less emotionally charged, and more objective in its analysis, at least for the most part. But the Guardian is cheaper and easier to access, so there's that.)

He argues that the key faultline in Britain and elsewhere now separates those who come from Somewhere – rooted in a specific place or community, usually a small town or in the countryside, socially conservative, often less educated – and those who could come from Anywhere: footloose, often urban, socially liberal and university educated. He cites polling evidence to show that Somewheres make up roughly half the population, with Anywheres accounting for 20% to 25% and the rest classified as “Inbetweeners”.

I don't agree with this categorization. Too many generalizations. Although it may work in Britain, (or not according to the Guardian) it doesn't quite work here.

Let me try to explain.

Read more... )

2. What I'm reading now?

Eh, a bunch of stuff.

* Let's Develop! by Fred Neuman -- basically a primer on social group psychology and emotional/creative developmental psychology

*White Hot by Illona Andrews

* Joss Whedon's Wonder Woman Script -- which I'm going to try to access on my ipad via email download.

And whatever else...catches my eye.
shadowkat: (Default)
1. What you just finished reading?

The Duke by Kerrigen Byrne which was good for what it was. It's a Victorian era historical romance. The lead characters are rather wounded in the novel, but the heroine, is no damsel and in many ways saves the hero from himself. There is an explicit sex scene that is...a bit rough, it's not rape, more seduction...or angry sex than anything else. But it may trigger some folks. Don't know.
The hero, or Duke, is a spy who got caught in the Ottoman empire during the April Uprising. He ends up losing his left hand and is imprisoned. After he's rescued, the heroine is assigned as his nurse and takes care of him. She figures out that he has septis instead of typhus. She's assigned to his care, because she's the only person in the ward that already had typhus and survived. They'd met previously, but he doesn't remember what she looked like. The woman he remembers was pale, with raven locks, and delicate bones -- he was rather drunk at the time, and she was wearing makeup and a wig.
This woman - he'd fallen for. Oh, and that night, he'd taken her virginity, but was kind and sweet about it -- considering he bought it for 20 pounds. After she saves his life, she's kicked out of the hospital because the head doc is upset that she overstepped his authority. And then she's almost raped by a customer at the bar she's been forced to work at to pay off her father's dept. (Instead she stabs the guy in the throat and thinking she killed him (she didn't) off she goes to rob the kindly Earl she'd been nursing. The Earl catches her and marries her. He's dying of cancer and is much much older. And he just happens to live next door to the Duke. The Earl dies and the heroine is now the Duke's next door neighbor...much chaos ensues. Oh and there's a serial killer wandering about that is targeting her.

This writer likes serial killers. The last two books in her series had them too. Personally, I find the whole serial killer trope a bit overdone and cliche. Which is my main quibble with the novel. Well that and I felt it sort of drooped or fell short at the end. Started out great, loved the first two thirds of it, but the last fifty pages...meh.

2. What you are reading now?

The Smoke Thief which is rather interesting in that it is a paranormal historical romance novel about people who can shift into dragons. Both the hero and heroine are rather strong and the banter is great between them. This writer is rather good at dialogue and banter. (Not all are, and I'm nit-picky about dialogue, more so than anything else. Possibly a result of reading a million plays when I was a youngster. Don't know.)

The story starts when the hero and heroine are kids, well after prologue explaining the verse is out of the way. There's some expository material in the beginning of the book which explains who these people are, why they can become dragons, and the central conflict of their kind. She does it rather quickly -- so it's not complex. If you are looking for Lord of the Rings look elsewhere. The main point of the story is the romance.

Anyhow, the heroine has a crush on the hero, until she accidentally finds him romancing her nemesis and the local mean girl -- who has chased and beaten her up on various occasions. Apparently he'd slept with the mean girl, Melanie, and the heroine, Rue, woke up and well happened upon them. They discover's humiliating, he let's her go. She's twelve, he's sixteen, and Melanie is sixteen at the time.

Years pass, Rue, manages to Turn into a dragon on her 17th birthday. No other woman has ever managed this in centuries. She runs, because she's terrified they will force her to wed the marquess, and he obviously doesn't care for her or notice her. He calls her "Mouse" at this stage, so yes, he noticed her. And from his perspective, is rather intrigued by her even at that point. But she's unaware of it.

The story has more than one point of view. We have the Marquess aka Kit Langford, the hero, Rue Hawthorn Hillard, the heroine, and for some odd reason Nick Beaton, a far. So we may get more.

Rue takes off...and becomes a jewel thief or the Smoke Thief of the title. The papers report her crimes, Langford and the rest of his group/tribe become suspicious and go searching for the thief, who they believe is "male" not "female". They plant a priceless diamond for the thief to steal as bait. When they discover the thief is a female drakon - ie someone who can change to dragon, they get excited and their purpose shifts completely. And while pursuing her, the diamond is stolen out from under their noses.

3. What I'm reading next?

No idea. I certainly have plenty of things to choose from. Including a nonfiction historical about women spies during the Civil War that I picked up on a whim.
shadowkat: (work/reading)
1. I'm enjoying "Witches of Karres" -- it's not the book's fault that I keep going to sleep on the train. Has zip to do with it. I'm just tired. Or my mind keeps wandering and telling itself a somewhat erotic sci-fi story. The commute is not always the most conducive for reading -- for one thing there are lots of noisy distractions.
about what I'm reading next or rather not reading next and why )

2. Best Books Every Written Meme Anyhow, Good Reads came up with another book list, some of their selections once again make me wonder about the folks on Good Reads and people in general. But I've been wondering about people a lot lately. I think people have gone crazy, too much media. Everyone needs to take a month long vacation to some destination that does not have any access to internet, social media, news, phones, television or any of that stuff. Also maybe away from other people.

Best Books Ever According to Good Reads

At any rate, forget about that list, all it did was motivate me to write up my own list of best books ever written...many of which I have not exactly read. (So you are probably asking yourself this question right about now, how in the hell do I know it was the best ever written if I haven't bothered to read it? Well it appears to have lasting value, and I trust the folks who think it has...and I want to read it, and it's my meme. Go create your own.)

Rules of Meme, should you choose to play.

*. Come up with a list of books that you want to rec to people that you believe/think are the best books ever written (Granted this list may tell people more than you want them to know about you as a person...)

* It can be any book that has been written and published (this includes independently published books and self-published, it doesn't just have to be traditionally published works. But don't include fanfic published only on the internet. It needs to have been actually published as a book that is printed on paper.)

* You don't have to have read the book, but it does help if you know what it is about and whether you want to read it. You should be able to defend the choice on some level -- say you saw the movie? That helps. It's not the Best Books You've EVER Read, it's the Best Books Ever Written, after all.

* You can only include "one" book by an author. In other words, you can't take up ten entries with Harry Potter, or ten entries with Shakespeare Plays, or four entries with Tolkien books. You have to choose "one" work by that writer. Just one. (It's a lot harder than it sounds.) Although you can cheat and put "The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien" or "the Complete Works of William Shakespeare" if you so desire. Just don't have them take up more than one spot.

Okay, here's my list of best books written and everyone should try these, in no particular order because I hate ranking things

100 Best Books Ever Written )

So, what are yours?

Going to bed, fighting a sinus headache from hell.
shadowkat: (work/reading)
1. What I Just Finished Reading

* Royally Screwed by Emma Chase -- which reminded me of why I'm generally speaking not a fan of contemporary romance novels. This was recommended by the ladies at SmartBitches and on sale for $1.99 which is how I got suckered into grabbing it. Also I thought I needed to read it to appreciate the sequel. (I really didn't.)

For review?

Royally Screwed by Emma Chase )

* Royally Matched by Emma Chase

review below )

I won't be reading any more by her. They were okay. But not worth spending more time or money on. Flirted with "The King's Bought Bride" but once again, same trite tropes...broke elementary school substitute teacher/art gallery temp is hired by rich prince to pose as his wife for one year, in exchange for paying off her brother's debts and drug rehab. I found the set-up somewhat interesting, but the writing didn't work for me in the sample and ...I wanted a stronger heroine.

2. What I'm Reading Now

Witches of Karres by John Schmitz -- I think. On Kindle, I was reading Kerrigyn Byrn's The Highlander. But I think I will attempt Witches instead, if I like it, I might buy on Kindle. I don't like reading paperbacks, I find them tough on the eyes.

Also I'm hard on books and I'm borrowing this one from a co-worker.

I don't know what I'm reading next.
shadowkat: (Default)
1. Just finished reading Red Shirts: with Three Coda by John Scalzi -- which was surprisingly good. It would not have been quite so good without the three coda, which lifted it from a mild satirical meta-narrative, to literary levels. For anyone out there who loves philosophy, Star Trek, and has a wry sense of humor -- this is a must read.

I went in more or less cold, and I think that was a good thing. So won't provide spoilers. Just that it had some interesting themes, specifically in regards to how we control our own fate, and how we can change the narrative and not let the narrative control us.

2. What I'm reading now?

Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegurt -- which is also a sort of existential satire, but also a deadly critique of War and the human propensity towards pointless violence.

Apparently, I'm in the mood for meta-narrative, satirical, science fiction novels about violence.

3. What I'm reading next?

Most likely Douglas Addams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy -- I've heard it's good. Only seen the movie, which, was okay. I'm told the book is a lot better.
shadowkat: (work/reading)
Stayed away from the news for the most part today, and that helped reduce my anxiety levels considerably. Work feels a bit like pushing boulders up a hill with my mind. So been obsessing over my up-coming trip to Costa Rica and all the crap I apparently need. Because suffice it to say, I don't have water/active athletic adventure stuff. I hope the footwear is okay. I think my strap on sandals should be fine.

To distract myself on my commute, I'm reading books on the Kindle. The Kindle Paperwhite has advertisements for movies and books that Amazon thinks I'd be interested in. The current one that keeps popping up is entitled "We Have Lost The President", and every time I see it, my first thought is "if only that were true. But alas, it's not."

What I just finished reading

Against the Tide by Elizabeth Camden which apparently won a Christy and a RITA at some point. I don't know why. But I don't understand why most things get awards. Awards in the arts are purely subjective and based purely on the subjective tastes of whomever is voting for them.

That's not to say that I disliked it, it was okay. Just two-three star material. I guess I should have realized that if it won a Christy, it was in the Christian fiction genre, or rather a historical Christian romance. I did figure it out by about a hundred pages in. I think this book would appeal to anyone who is a devote Christian and a linguist, and also likes historicals that take place in the 1800s, and are a bit of a thriller, with a mystery or puzzle.

The Christian didn't bother me so much, as...well, I'm not a fan of religious fiction. Christy is one of the few religious fictional novels that I've read and liked. It's not "Christianity" that bugs me, it's religious that does. It can be a bit on the sanctimonious side.
And I felt that the writer was a bit repetitive. My mother who read the same book, didn't. So mileage varies.

I'm not a historian, but the history played well here, and the author clearly did her research. The main character is a linguist working in a Navy Yard in Boston during the late 1800s, and she's addicted to opium. But doesn't realize she's addicted because she's been taking it over the counter in a headache medicine that she'd been given as a child. In the 1800s, a British company, Mrs. Winslow's, developed a formula called "Mrs Winslow's Soothing Syrup" which calmed teething babies and small children, also helped with other ailments. Many orphanages used it. The heroine is an orphan and spent her childhood in an orphanage which spoon fed her Mrs. Winslow's. Little did people know that the soothing property in Mrs. Winslow's syrup was opium. The hero is working to stop the opium trade and uses the heroine to help him in his quest. He's your wounded hero trope. I normally like the wounded hero trope, but he irritated me. Actually all the men in this novel irritated me, they were portrayed as selfish, manipulative, and somewhat stupid.

There is no sex in the book - for two reasons, one - the writer is adhering to the period, two - it's a Christian romance.

The writing? It was okay. Found the dialogue to be a bit stilted. But you know I'm picky about dialogue, it's all that theater and play-reading background. And the villains seemed to be a tad one-dimensional and underdeveloped, which bugs me more than most people.

All of that said, I did get something out of it -- the main theme seems to be the pitfalls of self-importance and arrogance. spoilers )

What I'm reading now

Red Shirts by John Scalzi -- this is an interesting science fiction novel, that in some respects reminds me a little of Ready Player Now, but I think I like this one better. It's a meta-narrative satire of Star Trek and fictional television serials similar to Star Trek. And in the larger scheme of things, an adept critique of our ego-driven narcissistic society, where the stars matter and no one else does. If you are a star or the lead in the show, you live, and everyone else's life and purpose revolves around you. They validate your existence. Instead of the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few, the needs of the elite or top few outweigh the needs of the many. Like I said, a deft critique of our culture.

This book in some respects, oddly enough, echoes the themes of the prior one.

Also reading a lot of newspaper articles online. They discovered a solar system with seven planets, including one like earth, orbiting a dwarf star. So, maybe aliens will invade us after all?
OR after the Doofus destroys Earth, we can escape to this distant solar system?

And the New Yorker had a rather interesting article... Why Facts Don't Change Our Minds.

Read more... )
Well it appealed to the frustrated psychology major inside of me, at any rate.
shadowkat: (Default)
I'm trying to find a new carry-on bag for the trip to Costa Rica. Should be a roller-duffle or so I've been told. Currently have soft carry on bag, and a work back-pack which could double as a day-pack. Also need to get a waterproof fanny pack for wallet, iphone, and passport to carry when I don't want to lug around the day pack.

Ugh. Trip planning. Not a fan. I hate making decisions, I always second guess myself. I inherited this tendency from my mother. Today I asked my co-workers with iphones, how they changed the time on their phones when they traveled. They informed me that they didn't have to, it automatically did it - on it's own. Which is freaking weird. Worse, one of them told me that he was looking in the window of men's warehouse checking out coats, with his phone in hand, went to bed bath and beyond, then when he returned to his home, hours later and went to check email -- the ads on the side of his email featured "men's warehouse" and the coats that he was looking at. Freaked him out. More proof that evil marketing people rule the world.

Anyhow...Wed Reading Meme

For a bit of flavor, What was the best book by a non-white author that you read in 2016?

First of all, I would have to remember all the frigging books I read in 2016. Then figure out what the race of all the authors was, because I don't really pay that much attention to the author. I often forget their name. I know, this is a weird thing to admit as a writer, but there it is. When I'm reading books, I forget the author exists, more interested in the story. The gender, race, etc of the author is sort of meaningless to me. I think that's what I like about livejournal and dw blogs, there's a bit of anonymity to the don't always know their gender, sexual orientation, race, etc. I used to love that about fanboards. I'd have no idea half the time if I was corresponding with someone who was black, male, and in his 50s or someone who was white male, and in their teens. You really can't always tell by the writing style.

I know people couldn't always tell with my posts. A few people thought I was male. One or two that I was far younger than I actually am. I liked that anonymity. It meant that my words weren't defined by arbitrary stereotypes.

Having read authors of various races, genders, ages, I'm not sure it matters. Sometimes it does. Sometimes the writer writes about being female, fifteen or their race. But in fiction that's not always the case. There's a lot of male writers who write effectively in the female voice and vice versa. Also I'm writing a novel with a black heroine. And many people of color write about white people. Old people write in the voices of the very young, the very young write in the voices of the very old (I certainly did when I was young). I know a lot of homosexual and lesbian writers who write heterosexual sex scenes and do not write about homosexuality. And a lot of heterosexual writers who write about homosexuality. There was an interesting article that I saw flit by on FB a while back on all of this, which I can't remember the name of, so can't share it. Sometimes, I think, it is better if we know nothing about a writer/author when we read their work. Aren't given their name or anything about them. And then, see, if we can guess? Bet we'd get it wrong half the time.

Anyhow, what was the best book by a person of color that I read and remember? Probably either Trade Me by Courtney Milan or His at Night by Sherry Thomas. I actually liked Trade Me better, so going with that one. As an aside, Trade Me featured an asian american heroine in a contemporary romance novel -- which is a rarity. His at Night, was your standard Scarlett Pimpernel trope.

Speaking of Milan, she made an interesting comment on Twitter, which is why do people always use the romance genre to put down the publishing world or books in general? The Twitter remark she was responding to was : "Drugstore romance novels have publishers." Well, one could say the same thing about James Patterson novels, which really are just a step below the dime store pulp novels. He doesn't even write them. It's a brand. I actually have more respect for Nora Roberts and Danielle Steele than Patterson. Why? They write their books. He doesn't. He writes an outline and gives them to other people to write. Not that you should feel guilty for reading them. Read what you like. It's a free world, at least at the moment.

Also this just occurred to me -- but was that Twitter comment meant to disparage self-published writers or non-traditionally published writers? Sigh. The publishing industry continues to annoy me. So happy I don't work in it any longer.

What I just finished reading?

The Spymaster's Lady by Joanna Bourne -- a bit slow in places, but a notch above others in the genre in regards to writing style. She also has decent editors, since there are relatively few typos. I rather liked the plot -- which was about a French spy during the Napoleon War who discovers she's really a British spy and has to deal with that. To add to her confusion, she falls in love with the head of the British Secret Service.

It has sex scenes, but not that many and fairly understated. Focus is more on plot than romance.
Although the writer has pacing issues. I kept wanting to smack the writer and say, okay, I get it, can we move on now? Also it put me to sleep at various points.

What I'm reading now?

The Black Hawk by Joanna Bourne -- also in the Spymaster series, about the 4th book. It's a stand-a-alone though, like most romance novel series. You don't have to read the other novels in the series to figure out what is happening. Good thing too, because I really don't want to. My mother adores this book.

It's okay. Also has pacing issues. I like the characters a great deal, but the plot plods along. They spend a lot of time talking about nothing or ruminating on whether or not they should have sex and stay together, if it's too dangerous, and what the meaning of the riddle they are attempting to figure out is. Is it Tarot or Chess?

And the writer, like most romance novelists, isn't great at action scenes. Sex scenes, she can do well. Action, Bourne struggles with. The action plods. And feels awkward. There's a bit too much description and of the wrong things, like placement of furniture and doors.

The plot itself is rather interesting -- again, about a French and British spy. In this instance, the French spy works for the Police Secrete in France. She's been a spy since she was 11. Prior to that she was in a child brothel. (Trigger warning, there are references to child rape and molestation, but nothing graphic -- it happened in the distant past not the present. So it is referred to.) The hero has been a British spy since he was 14, prior to that he was a street thief and pickpocket working for a gang in London. (Yes, a little bit of the Artful Dodger in Oliver Twist). They meet when he's about 15 and she's 11. And over time, fall in love. He goes by the name Hawker, and she's Owl. Their conflict is that he's a British spy and she's a devoted French spy during the Napoleonic Wars. And the book does a good job of showing both perspectives, instead of painting one as better than the other. A lot of historical romance novels idealize the British a bit more than they should.

What I'll read next?

No clue. Although I'm flirting with Daniel Silva's spy series. Or might try something by Milan, or maybe a non-fiction by Le Carre, my father was raving about Le Carre's autobiography.
shadowkat: (clock)
Been struggling with depression this year, because it has been disappointing on multiple levels. But there are some really inspiring things happening (ie. Standing Rock) must focus on that. Also, this is why I've decided to read romance novels again, specifically historical romance adventure novels. Pure escapist fair, with love as a heavy theme.

Before I discuss further? I ventured into my local Barnes and Nobel, or rather the one on 5th Avenue near my workplace. It's huge. Think "department store" for books. Which cool as that might sound? Lately, B&N has been irritating me. Mainly because they shelve and market a lot of books that..feel mass produced. I wandered through the romance section, which is really tiny, and discovered none of the novels that I read, nor any of the authors I've read were shelved or available in the store. This disappointed me. Not that I'd buy them in print, no room, and I can't read the tiny print. Read everything on e-book at the moment. Will not rant about this. Ranting in lj is a bad idea.

1. What I just finished reading?

The Raven Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt -- it's a story about two not overly attractive people, who fall in love in Georgian England. He's a widowed Earl, she's a widow of a lawyer who was cheating on her. She becomes his secretary, and eventually they fall for each other. There's lots of banter, and it is rather funny in places. Can't tell if it is historically accurate, for two reasons 1) I'm not an expert on Georgian England, no real clue when that is to be honest, guessing sometime in the 1800s? 2) Not clear when this is taking place, she doesn't provide dates, which is admittedly slippery of her. But it is a historical "romance", emphasis on the romance, so it hardly matters. I only care about historical accuracy in straight historical novels, and mysteries. Romances? Not so much. Particularly if the writer is scant on details and I've no clue what period I'm in. This story, like most of Elizabeth Hoyt's novels has a heavy emphasis on fairy tales, actually Hoyt makes up one and sort of tells is within the story. The Title is taken from the fairy tale that Hoyt made up.

2. What I'm currently reading?

His at Night by Sherry Thomas -- another writer that I've read quite a bit of. (I have about five or six go-to writers in this genre.)

Reminds me a lot of The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orzy, except that was better written. Thomas sucks at plotting. Also, this is book three of her London Trilogy. I've read all three books in the Trilogy, this is the third, and to date my least favorite. The first was Private Affairs, the second The Luckiest Lady, and now His at Night. In all three, I wanted to smack the hero upside the head for being a monsterous twit to the heroine. And in all three, I wanted the heroine to leave him in the lurch, and make him come crawling, begging, on his hands and knees to her. Which of course doesn't happen. Except for possibly The Luckiest Lady, which I liked the best of the three.

The book is compelling, but the plot rambles and doesn't make a lot of sense. Not helped by the distracting and uncompelling romance between the hero's artist brother, Freddie (a hold over from Private Affairs) and their childhood friend. I kept skimming over this romance, mainly because I found it to boring. Freddie isn't that interesting, and his paramour, Angelica, isn't developed enough to be. It was a subplot that doesn't really add much to the central story and I could have done without. Thomas isn't quite as good at developing sibling and familial relationships as Milan.

We have a moustache twirling villain in the heroine's evil uncle. And the frail damsel, in her aunt.
The heroine entraps the hero in marriage, in order to escape her situation. The hero sort of figures out that's what she's aiming to do. But instead of trying to help her out of her situation, he just falls into her trap. Then spends three-quarters of the book resenting her for it, when he isn't making passionate love to her. He appears to have little sympathy for her situation or empathy as to why she felt desperate enough to foist herself upon him. I wanted to smack him.

The hero, Penny (short for Spencer) or Lord Vere, is a covert agent who solves crimes for the Crown.
But he pretends to be a fool -- so he can sneak in and out of places undetected. The reason he's in a position to get entrapped by the heroine is that he's connived to get into her house via a friend's house-party. Basically, he arranges through a superior to have the friend's house party plagued by rats. Everyone at the house party vacates to the heroine, Elissand, domicile. The hero and heroine take one look at each other, and swoon. That is until they converse, and he pretends to be the fool, and she pretends to be a charming hostess who while agree with his every word and smile enchantingly. As they a result, she thinks he's an idiot, albeit a lovely one, and he thinks she's a manipulative bitch, albiet a lovely one. Her opinion of him changes, but his does not. He can't forgive her for manipulating him into marriage.

That's what doesn't quite work. Why doesn't he forgive her? She clearly was desperate and felt she had no other choice. It's not like she screwed up his life. He could have gotten out of it easily enough, or even found a way to help her and get an annulment without consummating the marriage.
But no, he punishes her for it, almost gets her killed by forcing her to return to visit her uncle, which makes him feel awful (as well he should).

In the original, the Pimpernel believes his actress wife has betrayed him, and he can't reveal who he is to her, for fear that she will betray his identity and get him killed. That makes sense.
Here? It makes no sense why he can't reveal who he is to her or why he keeps her at bay. The misunderstanding or conflict that the plot revolves around doesn't quite hold water and as a result the story falls short.

Almost done. Maybe it will redeem itself in the last fifty pages or so. But somehow I doubt it.

3. What I'm reading next?

To Steal a Heart by K.C. Bateman -- about a tight-rope walker/circus performer who gets roped into helping a spy during the Napoleonic Wars. He buys her from her wicked cousin after catching her trying to plant information in his office for said cousin.

My mother read it and recommended it to me. We've been discussing romance novels and various books.
Mother read Hillbilly Elegy, and My Beautiful Friend previously. She recommended Elegy, but not Friend. I don't think I can handle either at the moment. Friend irritated me fifty pages in, so I gave up. It's a mood thing. I want the literary equivalent of chocolate mousse at the moment, not broccoli.

The election has had a derogatory effect on my reading habits and television viewing habits. I can't watch Designated Survivor or Westworld at the moment, and I am devouring romance novels.
shadowkat: (books)
I managed to escape Barnes and Noble today without purchasing a book. Instead, I went back to the office and purchased the Kindle version on Amazon. It's cheaper. Well that, and I can actually read the print. Which book? Ah, The Big Book of Science Fiction aka the Ultimate Collection of science fiction short stories from around the world, and the last 100 or so years. Apparently a few years back, the editors went on the internet and asked people to list the best sci-fi short stories (no more than 10,000 words) from the past 100 years. This book collects and comments on all of them. It has stories by people like Ursula Le Guinn, Arthur C. Clark, HG Wells, Octavia Butler, Jorge Luis Borges, and Kurt Vonnegurt amongst many others.

My first genre love is science fiction/fantasy. Although there are subgenre exceptions. For instance?
I'm really not a fan of Victorian steam-punk or Jules Verne wannabees. I've read it, and the appeal is lost on me. I find it to be a bit clunky and jarring in the narrative structure. Really not a fan of 19th Century Literature. 18th Century didn't bother me as much. I remember attempting to avoid the 19th Century Literary courses in college, which was a lot easier than it should have been considering I was an English Lit major. So, skipped Jim Butcher's latest which is steam-punk.

But overall? I like most fantasy and sci-fi. Tend to steer clear of the "horror" unless it is written by Stephen King or someone whose writing style works for me. GRR Martin, I'm on the fence about. He's a wee bit on the wordy side and tends to meander. Reading Martin feels a bit like getting lost in a bramble bush and wishing you'd remembered to leave a trail of bread-crumbs to find your way out again.

Urban fantasy - I've mixed feelings about. It tends to skew towards either paranormal gothic romance or horror. There are a few exceptions. The Illona Andrews Kate Daniels series and the Jim Butcher Dresden series. Both of which feel more like dime store noir fantasy novels, which snarky lingo, sticky situations, and ambiguous leads. Think Philip Marlow meets Stephen King by way of Joss Whedon, with a touch of Anne Rice.

Just finished one of Andrews short stories in the Kate Daniels Magic Series, entitled "A Questionable Client". Kate, a mercenary, is hired to protect an sociopathic shapeshifter, who can change into any shape. The Shape-shifter, who is also a sexual deviant, has stolen a magical acorn from a sect of Russian Wizards.

Still reading Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow - learned that American Politics and in-fighting hasn't really changed all that much, well except women and persons of color get to enter the fray. There is that. Which, considering I happen to be a woman, is a huge deal. But the back-biting, manipulation, playing with the facts, and overall stupidity? It's the same. Weirdly comforting, in its own way. I guess because it all turned out okay? Yes, there were crazy people back then too. It's amazing we survived. But we did. Aliens did not invade. The British tried too, but it really didn't work out that well for them in the long run. I doubt they'll attempt it again.
[Right now, according to the news media, the Russian's are making an attempt - albeit a lame one. Is Russia bored? I mean you'd think they have enough problems of their own without nosing their way into American politics. ]

New York was also more or less the same back then. A city of multiple languages. That took for granted that the vast majority of people residing in it - most likely immigrated from
elsewhere and weren't from NY. Did not care that people came from elsewhere, or that they spook 14 different languages. Granted it was smaller back then, and from our perspective, at least, had less people - about 25-27,000. But back then - that was considered a huge population. Now? We're closer to 12.8 million depending on the day of the week, and the time of day. It may be more than that actually.

Also reading The Pristine Mind which is by a Tibetan Monk. It's not bad. I like it better than the Power of Now, which I found to be a bit smarmy and preachy. Both discusse how getting caught up in the ordinary mind makes us miserable. And we need to focus on the now, not the past (which is gone) or the the future (which may not happen). (Obviously these people haven't listened to Brian Green's take on space-time and how the present, future, and past are existing concurrently and are all real and happening at the same time, depending on where you happen to be on the grid.) Hard to explain. You sort have to read it for yourself. It's more philosophy than physics. My explanation? Our mind is only capable of dealing with the present and clock-time. If we try to hold onto past, present, and future...we will go nutty.
shadowkat: (books)
1. Fear not, this post will not discuss American or British politics in any way. Sigh. Social media is all about politics these days...hence the reason I've been staying off of it. Snuck on to my FB and LJ friends list pages today and could not run away fast enough. Been avoiding the news and broadcast television for the most part as well. Did notice that a huge crane fell across the Tappen Zee Bridge, closing off four lanes of traffic and shutting down the bridge for the foreseeable future. But that's only because it came up at work.

Had an epiphany recently while talking to Lando at work.

ME: You seem to be a frustrated teacher. Have you ever considered becoming a professor as a second career?
Lando: One problem with that.
Me: What?
Lando: I hate school. Have a niece who was considering becoming a teacher. I asked her if she liked going to school? She said no. It's a drag. I told her she might want to reconsider her career options.
ME: Ah. That's why I never became a teacher or professor. I hated school too. Loved learning, hated school - which weirdly, I found to be counterproductive to the whole learning bit. You think it would be the opposite.

So there you have it. Not meant to be an academic or teacher. Don't have enough patience for all the BS.

2. The other day, I was thinking about doing a post on writing styles. Actually not just the other day, for quite a while now. Why? It's occurred to me that what turns me on and off in a book may well be something as simple as the writer's narrative style. For example? I've read Stephen King, not because I like horror (because really not a fan of the genre) but I enjoy how he writes. He focuses on character-driven stories, with snappy dialogue, and quirky characters. It's the graphic ghoulies that I could do without. Eighteenth Century writers - I find painful to read, mainly because I can't abide the writing style. I feel as if I have to wade through layers of crusty words to get to the meat of the story.

I think that the writing styles I prefer are similar to how I think. Or the narrative fits my own internal narrative style. When it goes against my own internal narrative style -- I struggle more?
I don't know. There could be a whole host of reasons. Also, I'm not necessarily consistent about this sort of thing. I've been known to fall in love with a writing style that I formerly hated and vice versa. How are we supposed to understand how other people think if we can't figure out ourselves?

Anyhow, I'm re-reading the Illona Andrews' Magic Series, because I like love the writer's narrative style, sense of humor, world-building, characters, dialogue, romantic relationships, and metaphors. It works for me. I tried the S. McGuire October Daye series, and it did not work for me. I can't seem to get past the first fifty-some pages in the second book, A Local Habitation. The author's style of writing is irritating me for some reason. It's too...I want to say flowery, but not sure that's quite it. Stiff? Formal?

I should provide examples. Below are examples of writing styles in about three to four books that I've been reading "for pleasure" at the same time. After which, I'll let you know which I prefer and which are making me crazy.

A. "I'm looking for Countess Torquill. Is she here?"
"Sorry, no," said the brunette, eyes still on her clipboard. "Can we help you?"
I bit back a sigh, saying. "I really need to talk to January. Will she be back soon?" Innwardly, I was fuming. It wasn't her fault Sylvester hadn't told her we were coming, but I'd still expected her to be there when we arrived. No one ever accused me of being logical.
She glanced up, smiling. "Probably not."
"Damn." The multilingual cursing was still going on. I looked toward it. "What is that?"
"That would be Gordan, " said Colin.
"Why is she screaming like that?" asked Quentin.
"Because she found a flaw, an error, nay, a veritible bug in her code," said the blond, with obvious relish. "I think her poor obsessive heart may break."

-A Local Habitation, October Daye Series, by McGuire.

Reaction? I can't stay awake. It kept putting me to sleep. Or my mind kept wandering, and I was having troubles keeping track of all of the characters, let alone distinguishing or caring about them.

B. Now she led them forward and whispered encouragement and direction and caustic complaint. "The ruts are deep because wagons turn to go into the back gate of the chateau." "The wall on the rightis abundant with sharp stones. Avoid it." "Ah. That is a low branch. You will come to it in a moment." He could see her walking into hell saying, "On the right, take note of the chained demon. Take care to walk around him." His respect for her, and his wariness, grew with every step. He'd take every care capturing her.

She said, "It's not far, the gate to the orphanage."

On the other side of the River Seine, a line of pinprick lights marked the city of Paris. A few streets away, a single bright window hung in the night. Other than that, it was black as the belly of a cow. "How the devil can you tell?"

She laughed in the darkness. She was another one glad to be out of that cellar.

- Spymaster's Lady by Johanna Osborn.

Reaction? Also putting me to sleep. Rec'd by my mother. My attention kept wandering for some reason.

C. Slayer lay in its sheath across a night table, next to a man reading an ancient paperback. On the cover of the book a man in a brown suit and fedora held an unconscious blond in a white dress. I tried to focus on the title but the white letters blurred.

The man reading the book wore blue scrubs. He had cut the pantlegs midway down his thighs, and faded blue jeans showed below the blue fabric. I crooked my neck so I could see his feet. Big heavy work boots caught the jeans.

I leaned back onto the pillow. My father had been right: there was Heaven and it was in the South.

The man lowered the book and glanced at me. Of average height and stocky, he had dark skin, glossy with an ebony sheen, and graying black hair, cut military style. The eyes peering at me through the thin-framed glasses were at once intelligent and brimming with humor as if someone had just told him an off-color joke and he was trying his best not to laugh.

"Lovely morning, isn't it, " he said, the unmistakable harmonies of coastal Georgia vibrating in his voice.

"Shouldn't it be 'ain't it?" I said. My voice sounded weak.

"Only if you are an uneducated fool," the man said. "Or if you wish to appear country. And I'm too old to appear anything that I'm not."

- Magic Bites by Illona Andrews.

Loving this. I keep re-reading the dialogue and sentences. So crunchy. Keeps me awake and I forget I'm on a subway surrounded by people most of the time. Can't wait to read it on the subway.

D. Even in rapidly Anglophile New York, the political atmosphere by late spring was 'as full of uproar as if it was besieged by a foreign force,' said one observer. These were stirring days for Hamilton., who must have been constantly distracted from his studies by rallies, petitions, broadsides, and handbills. In choosing New York's delegates for the first Continental Congress, a feud arose between hard line protesters, who favored a boycott of British goods, and moderate burghers who criticized such measures as overly provocative and self-defeating. To beat the drum for a boycott, the militant Sons of Liberty, members of a secret society first convened to flout the Stamp Act, gathered a mass meeting on the afternoon of July 6, 1774. It took place at the grassy Common near King's College, sometimes called The Fields, in the shadow of the towering liberty pole.

Alexander McDougall chaired the meeting and introduced resolutions condemning British sanctions against Massachusetts. The rich folklore surrounding the pivotal event in Hamilton's life suggests that his speech came about spontaneously, possibly prompted by somebody in the crowd. After mounting the platform, the slight, boyish speaker starte out haltingly, then caught fire in a burst of oratory. If true to his later style, Hamilton gained energy as he spoke. He endorsed the Boston Tea Party, deplored the closure of Boston's port endorsed colonial unity against unfair txation, and came down foursquare for a boycott of British goods. In his triumphant peroration, he said such actions "will prove the salvation of North America and her liberties": otherwise "fraud, power, and the most odious oppression will rise triumphant over right, justice, social happiness and freedom."

- Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow.

Reaction? Puts me to sleep. Difficult to focus on. Have to re-read. But strangely gripping and compelling. So read in snatches before bed.

So there you have it. Although, I'm guessing most people won't see much difference between the styles? Also it should be noted that this personal taste. And all of the above books are best-sellers and have done very well.

Writing style A is reminiscent of a lot of fanfic. And contains some of the descriptive techniques and style flourishes that used to drive me up the wall in regards to fanfic. You can sort of tell the writer has had no formal training because a creative writing professor would skewer her to the wall for using hair color as a personal pronoun. I feel distanced from the story. And am working too hard to get to the story. It's as if I'm standing over here and watching these characters fumble about.

Writing style B is attempting to sound like it takes place in the 17-1800s. With a slight French accent. But doesn't quite cut it. It has a sense of humor, but there's something distancing about the style and almost monotonous. Again, I feel distanced from the story, and while I care about the characters and am somewhat amused, I am distracted.

Writing style C is witty, tongue in cheek, and tells me who the characters are through the description and dialogue. I can see them in my head, hear, and taste them. It's the most vivid of the styles and the least passive. It feels like it is happening now. That I'm inside the character's head, feeling and thinking her thoughts.

Writing style D is academic, yet accessible for the most part. It does, however, distance the reader. I feel like I'm being held at arm's length at times and lectured to. Which to be fair is true of most books of this sort. This one is a bit more accessible than most, in part because of the style is not antiquated, or too scholarly, and there aren't footnotes.

Your mileage most likely varies. I'm more interested to see if anyone shares mine. Because I expect most people don't.
shadowkat: (warrior emma)
1.First, a bit on television. The Catch has cast John Simm as the villain, the head of a British Family Crime Syndicate. He's awesome. I love John Simm. Also, the show has some wonderful one-liners.

Margo: You slept with my brother after sleeping with me.
Felicity: I didn't realize we were exclusive.
Margo: This is not romantic jealousy you are seeing here, this is digust.
Felicity: I was actually sleeping with him first. I thought you knew. We've been together for some time.
Margo: How would I know, with your clear and obvious lesbian tendencies?
Felicity: Well how do you explain your lesbian tendencies in regards to your relationship with Benjy?
Margo: I don't, takes away all the fun.

It's a show I find myself rewinding, just to listen to the dialogue. It has great dialogue and good mysteries. Wish more people were watching it. Oh well, it's not like I have enough television shows to watch. 66 Hours of Television shows saved to DVR. Not helped by the fact that I rarely watch that much television any longer --- it's weird, I watched more television when I was younger and there was less of it. Now that there is more of it, I find my interest in it waning.

2. Wed Reading Meme

* What I just finished reading?

Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs -- which I actually preferred to the previous three novels. She's getting slightly better with each book. Has some humorous touches here and there -- such as "Stop and Rob" as a convenience store. My only quibble about the series is all the women are nasty, except for the heroine. Making me wonder about the writer's relationships with women. The women are also rather nasty to the heroine, jealous, competitive, judgmental and bigoted. While the men for the most part seem to be understanding. Also in the werewolf world -- it's ruled by men, and women are down low on the totem pole, while in the vampire world, mostly women seem to be in control -- but are seen as evil, werewolves - good. So, again, I'm beginning to wonder about the author's relationships with women. And if she's making a point about how women treat each other in her experience.

She's not completely wrong on this point. I guess. But I don't think there's as much difference between the genders on this point as a lot of folks believe. Maybe it's because I was raised with a younger brother and saw both genders act nasty in different ways. Men tend to more physical, while women are more verbal and use the silent treatment.

My other quibble, and this is a long-standing quibble with the urban fantasy genre, is that I'm not sure prejudice against supernaturally powered beings works as a metaphor for racism. I mean there is a big difference between being afraid of a werewolf and being racist. I have the same problem with the X-men comics...there's a huge difference between being afraid of someone who can melt your brain and someone who just happens to look different than you do. But I get where the writers are going with it -- they talking about power, and what would happen if the disenfranchised minority really did have more physical power than the ruling majority? Just not sure how well it works.

What I loved about the books and why I'm binging on them -- is I relate to the heroine's struggle to fit in with the community and pack mentality. She's trying to let go of her fears, and past hurts, and trust these people, some of whom don't seem to want her. Also she needs to filter out their negative energies and attempts to control or bully her. I find the way the writer is handling this interesting and relatable. I also rather like the heroine, who is a kick-ass auto mechanic who turns into a coyote, and is half Native American, not overly attractive and not super-powered.

* What I'm reading now?

Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs -- this is book 5 in the series, and delves more deeply into her relationship with Adam, the werewolves, and the fae. The fae are actually rather interesting here -- the author relies heavily on Grimm's Fairy Tales, and German/Welsh mythology as opposed to merely Irish or English which is is usually the case. Since that's my heritage and I've studied some of it, I find it relatable and interesting.

Silver Borne also deals with a suicidal Welsh werewolf from the 1400s. He's an old werewolf, who hasn't aged and looks like he's in his mid-twenties. But after losing one too many children and being a doctor forever, he's fallen into despair. Or hopelessness. (After my visit to the Berkshires and taking various workshops, I discovered there's a lot of people, men and women, who feel either stressed or hopeless in our society. I think there's too much information, 24/7. We're bombarded with things we should want, should do, should opposed to loving where you are at. Also all the misinformation...I was told by someone this past weekend that my brain was fighting all the time. I thought that was an interesting statement -- questioning data. I needed a break from the information.)
So, too, apparently does this poor werewolf. So he tries to kill himself. But his wolf doesn't want to die and stops him and takes over. But if the wolf stays in control, and the man lets go, they will die...and the wolf will become a frenzied beast in the end. Interesting metaphor about the balancing act between mind and body, animal instinct and intellect. Or bi-polar.

Like I said, there's a lot of interesting metaphors and analogies in these books.

What I'm reading next?

Oh, the next in the series. There's 9 books. I'm planning on just reading 8. The 9th one is $13.99 which is a bit much for Kindle.
shadowkat: (warrior emma)
1. I meant to work a bit more on my sci-fi novel tonight, but alas, I'm drawing a blank. So either after dinner or tomorrow...

Inkitt sent me a tweet, asking if I'd publish a book with them. So I checked them out. Alas, it's not that easy. If I wanted to have them publish the book that I recently self-published through CreateSpace, I'd have to reformat it to their specifications, re-edit, and then send. Also, there's no guarantee they'd publish it. The book would be entered into a contest with other books, where readers would get the chance to rip it apart, critique it, and decide if it was worthy of publishing or needed to be edited and rewritten. (The group online edit approach utilized by writers such as EL James, Jamie McGuirre, and various other push to publish fanfic authors.) I don't like this approach for various reasons...which I probably shouldn't go into here. So no, not for me. If you think it is for you -- feel free.

2. Lovely day. As the subway clicked and clacked its way across the bridge, I looked out at the skyline. The blue sky and the city below and inside of it. Bathed in light. Buildings of various shapes and sizes shrouded against that bright shiny turquoise blue, no clouds, not a blemish. NYC is an interesting city, its buildings are all shapes and sizes, some squat, some tall, some filled with nothing but glass. It can be insanely beautiful at times.

3. Wednesday Reading Meme

* What I just finished reading?

Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs -- eh, better than the first novel, but not by much.
Nothing really new here in regards to vampires. Although to be fair, is there really anything new that can be said about vampires? I do, however, like the heroine quite a bit. She's a spunky, thirty-something, mechanic. Which is rare, they are usually in their early to mid-twenties, and cops, agents, bounty hunters, or inept detectives. Mercy Thompson is actually fairly bright, and adept.
She's good at figuring things out. And tends to save the macho heroes most of the time.

The mythology, oddly, is German. Okay, maybe not so oddly, since that's the writer's background, German history, language, and mythology. But the book takes place in the West, or Tri-Cities, I think somewhere near Illinois or Montana, not sure. And the main character is Native American. I was hoping for more Native American history and folklore. German seems a bit out of place here. But whatever.
It's at least different.

* What I'm reading now?

Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs -- this is apparently everyone on Good Reads and Amazon's favorite of the series. Even though, the heroine gets raped in it. Yes, I knew about it ahead of time.
Not the specifics, just that it is brutal and a big deal. And apparently is highly controversial.
Brigg's does admittedly have a tendency to heal the heroine a bit faster than she should. I noticed that in Blood Bound. The heroine in Blood Bound gets beaten up rather badly, yet, manages to go to work the next day. I'm like...I don't think so. It's a problem in this genre, because, let's face it, it's boring to have your lead point of view character lying around in bed for weeks on end, healing. Sort of kills the action. Got to get them up and at it again. Illona Andrews gets around this problem by having a healer -- magically heal the heroine. Most writers seem to do that. Briggs...hasn't come up with a nifty trick..outside of hoping the reader doesn't notice. Sorry, Briggs, the readers notice.

As for the rape, this isn't a trigger for me in books. Sexual violence doesn't bug me any more than any other violence does -- particularly not in books. Television shows? Yes. Movies? Definitely. Books? No. My 10 year old neice stated this quite well a year or so ago, when she was still 10 - "with books, you don't see it. It's not as real. It's not burned on your brain. When you see it in a movie or television just can't not see it any more." Particularly if you think visually, which apparently we both do. And have a visual memory.

So, I didn't really understand the incessant whining about the rape in the reviews. Haven't gotten to it I could change my mind. I think it works in urban fantasy and women's fiction -- because it is the boogey man for most women. You can't be female and not fear it. That's why it comes up in so many romance novels and genre fiction written by women. Particularly anything in the gothic or horror tropes.

The difficulty I have with it has become a bit of a cliche over time. Too many writers have used it as a plot twist or plot point to either keep the hero/heroine apart or shake up the heroine, and I'm not sure it's necessary.

*What I'm reading next?

Probably Bone Crossed by Briggs. Haven't made it very far with Hamilton, mainly because I've been binging on Brigg's books.

4.) More political news...the NY Primary has resulted in a class action lawsuit against the Board of Elections.

Tuesday’s voting in the New York primary was marked by chaos, particularly in Brooklyn, as tens of thousands of voters found their names had been removed from the polling rolls or that they were unable to vote at their polling station. The New York City Elections Board has confirmed that more than 125,000 Brooklyn voters had been removed from the voter rolls since November 2015. There were also reports that polling staff were unable to operate voting machines, gave out conflicting information and erroneously directed voters to alternate sites. In a statement, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said, "It has been reported to us from voters and voting rights monitors that the voting lists in Brooklyn contain numerous errors, including the purging of entire buildings and blocks of voters from the voting lists." We speak to Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the national Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

And...from gothamist:

New York Voters Sue Board of Elections.
blurb from the article beneath the cut )

Like, I said previously, this is going to be an interesting election. With any luck it may motivate us to overhaul our election process. It's 180 years old, time for a bit of an overhaul.
shadowkat: (books)
1. Favorite Bronte Novel

Jane Eyre - it's sort of a female version of Great Expectations...with a lot less focus on the romance than you'd think. (Actually I like it a whole lot better than Great Expectations, which is book I could never get myself to read -- not helped by seeing the musical adaptation (yes, there was a musical adapted by John Jakes of all people) and various movies.) Most adaptations of Jane Eyre don't focus much on the first 100 or so pages, which is about Jane's childhood, schooling, and struggle to become a governess. The last third of the book, becomes an intriguing gothic mystery novel...with twists and turns.

Wuthering Heights...sigh, the lead is really Heathcliff, and it feels like a revenge novel. Cathy is not likable, entitled, and whiny all the way through. But it does have an odd ending, showing how revenge does not work out well and tends to just eat up the person waging it. So, anti-revenge novel.

Haven't read the others.

2. Favorite Jane Austen Novel...

Weirdly, my favorite was a short story that was continued by another woman, entitled Sandition. This is an oddity. It is a book started by a famous author, who died before it was completed, and then years later, as in a century, another woman, who never gives her name, ghost-writes the completion.

You can't really tell that Austen didn't write it. Outside of the fact that the characters are slightly more likable. It sort of combines themes from Pride and Prejudice and Northhanger Abbey (which I couldn't make it through).

It also contains my favorite hero...Sydney. I must have read this book five times.

Of the works that Austen actually wrote in their entirety....I'd pick Pride and Prejudice, mainly due to it containing the most likable leads. Emma got on my nerves.

3. Favorite Shakespearean Play?

Difficult, but I'd have to say Twelfth Night, for the humor, although Midsummer Night's Dream is a close second. (Seen multiple versions of both, here and in England. In England, I saw a nude version of Midsummer Night's Dream, with a distinct homosexual subtext. It was definitely interesting. Instead of Lysander being into Helena, he was into Demetrios. While Hermia was into Helena.) Both are just fun romps, with all sorts of interesting bits of commentary on gender, sexuality, and politics. There's a bit of satire in there as well.

Never been a huge fan of the tragedies...although if I were to choose... Othello is the most fun, and has by far the best villain. And Julie Taymor's Titus the most spectacular.

4. Favorite Agatha Christie Novel

Easy. Curtain - the last novel in the Hercule Poirot series, where she effectively accomplishes what Conan Doyle never quite did with Sherlock Holmes.

It's a tricky plot, with a great villain. Hint? She borrows heavily from Shakespeare. I've never seen an adaptation of it though.

Second favorite is a Miss Marple mystery entitled Sleeping Murder.

5. Favorite Arthurian Fantasy Novel...

Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart. It focuses mainly on Merlin and his family. Arthur doesn't come into it.

6. Name three favorite science fiction novels that influenced you:

* The Sparrow by Maria Doria Russell - still haunts. It's written by a biological and cultural anthropologist, who explores the idea of religious faith and communication in startling ways.

* Dune by Frank Herbert -- my first science fiction obsession. His world is so vivid and relatable.

* Ship of Fools by Richard Paul Russo....a book that played with my head, part mystery novel, part horror tale. Takes place in deep space, with a hero who is a dwarf. Think Tyrion in space.

7. Name three favorite fantasy novels that influenced you:

* The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien - best adventure tale ever. And the world is so detailed, even down to the language.

* The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever by Stephen R. Donaldson...this is about a man with leprosy, whose wedding ring has great power in another world. Thomas Covenant, an embittered and cynical writer, afflicted with leprosy and shunned by society, is fated to become the heroic savior of The Land, an alternate world. In six novels published between 1977 and 1983, he struggles against the satanic Lord Foul, "The Despiser", who intends to escape the bondage of the physical universe and wreak revenge upon his arch-enemy, "The Creator". Some elements are similar to those found in Richard Wagner's epic "Ring Cycle" and in earlier Celtic literature, but with some of the values inverted.

* His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman

8. Favorite Urban Fantasy Series

Ilona Andrews - Kate Daniels series or the Magic Verbs series (Andrews sucks at book titles). Intertwines Eastern Europe and Asian mythology in innovative ways. Also has a subversive take on the Bible and Western Judeo/Christian mythology. On top of that -- it's innovative in regards to it's supernatural creatures - shapeshifters are zoological, such as a prehistoric lion, and a moongoose, and hyenas. Vampires are mindless monsters navigated by necromancers. Never read anything like it in the field. Most urban fantasy writers romanticize vampires and focus on ghosts, fairies and werewolves, Ilona Andrews goes a completely different route. Sort of ruined me on urban fantasy. Everything else in the genre...feels sort of trite and redundant in comparison. Although I am enjoying the Mercy Thompson series at the moment, Briggs has a good character in Mercy and an interesting plot/mystery. The romance...could be better. Andrews does romance better.

9. Favorite YA Series

*The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (science fiction)
* Harry Potter by JK Rowling (fantasy)

10. Favorite Historical Novel Series...

The Chronicles of Lymond by Dorothy Dunnett, which frankly ruined me in regards of historical novels.
The Lymond Chronicles is a series of six novels written by Dorothy Dunnett and first published between 1961 and 1975. Set in mid-16th-century Europe and the Mediterranean area, the series tells the story of a young Scottish nobleman, Francis Crawford of Lymond, from 1547 through 1558. Well researched, Dunnett uses primary and secondary sources, and with intricate details. You read this and it's hard to read any other historical novels afterwards.
shadowkat: (warrior emma)
1. What I just finished reading?

Moon Called by Patricia Briggs which was more entertaining than the three books I read, so there's that. But in the urban fantasy genre, it's not quite as well written as Ilona Andrews, Jim Butcher, and Kim Harrison's novels, but it's entertaining. Actually, I think Ilona Andrews' Kate Daniels series may have ruined me for the urban fantasy genre. No one can touch her.

What I'm reading now?

* Hamilton by Ron Chernow -- which has become a tad controversial due to the fellow historian jealousy factor. They're all jealous that his book got adapted into a hip and revolutionary musical and as a result is getting an insane amount of attention. So they keep poking holes at it.

It's good. Definitely gripping. Considering I'm reading it in much the same fashion I read Margaret Atwood's The Blind may take me six years to finish it. Blind Assassin was only 500 pages and took three years and was not as huge a book. Hamilton has tiny print, is huge, and over 700 pages.

* Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs - unfortunately not much improvement over the previous novel. Lots of summarizing, and expository dialogue. Also, the male characters aren't that distinguishable, and there's hardly any female characters, except in the background or supporting. Women hate Mercy apparently. I think Mercy needs a female friend to talk to. While the book has humor, there's not enough of it. It's making me miss the Kate Daniels series.

This round the mystery is about a sorcerer turned vampire. In Brigg's universe, a sorcerer is basically a wizard who conjures up demons or makes deals with demons, leading to all sorts of mayhem. A vampire sorcerer is well definitely a bad idea. Mercy and company are tasked with helping the vampires find this sorcerer before he turns their town upside down. It's also a bit dicy, because not all the vampires believe the nasty sorcerer exists and think it is just a couple of their own.
Also there's vampire politics involved. And the vampire at the center of the whole thing, an old Italian vampire, named Stefan, has a thing for Mercy.

Apparently every guy in the book has a thing for Mercy. This is a tired trope in urban fantasy.
Only two writers don't do it or so I've found-- Ilona Andrews and Jim Butcher.

I've read that the third book is the best, so will stick it out until at least that book and maybe the fourth or fifth. Don't know yet.

Urban Fantasy is a bit fun, it's basically action/mystery/paranormal with romance. Also most of the writers, with the exception of the male writers, tend to subvert the paranormal and fantasy genres, doing gender flips, and pouncing on the rampant sexism and misogyny and racism that exist in the fantasy and gothic genres. Actually that's the central theme of these books - racism and sexism.

Brigg's books have a bit of Christian focal point. Which makes me miss Ilona Andrews which was decidedly not Christian, a rarity. Almost all the urban fantasy novels are annoyingly Christian mythology, which has been overdone. But, Brigg's does understate it, which is nice.

I'm basically reading them because the writing style is crisp, clear, and often witty. The lead character is relatable and likable, as are the other characters. And the plots are interesting me at the moment.

What I'm reading next?

Most likely another Mercy Thompson book. Because it fits my mood right now. Also I like the characters, particularly Mercy, who is a tough auto mechanic.

2.) Bernie Sanders apparently has promised to turn the US into a country like Denmark, where everyone is happy, lives with less, and pays 60% in income taxes. Considering Denmark is a relatively small country about the size of maybe Rhode Island or half the size of Massachusetts, and has a small population that keeps declining: 5.2M at last count (to put this in context, NYC alone has somewhere between 8.6M - 12M, which is double the number of people that Denmark has), mostly elderly a homogenous population with few immigrants or minorities...good luck with that, Bernie.

Read more... )
shadowkat: (books)
Optimum is having cable related issues tonight, the DVR went out after I finished watching Lucifer. Oh well, at least it waited until after I finished watching the episode, and came back in time to tape Nashville.

1. What you just finished reading?

A truly atrocious romance novel that I'm not sure that I can finish or want to bother finishing. I started scanning it at the 50% mark. It may just be that I've finally burned out on the genre, because my mother had enjoyed it. (She's currently finishing Hamilton by Ron Chernow , which she tells me is in tiny print, 700 pages of text, and reads like a textbook, but is fascinating. Now this is story just begging for fictional historical novelization. It already go a Broadway musical adaptation. I think they should do a film version.)

The previous novel by the same writer, entitled the Highwayman, was quite enjoyable and actually did work. This novel, entitled The Hunter, feels like a poor rewrite of the previous novel, with underdeveloped characters, cliche scenarios, and lots of redundant descriptive prose. I swear if the heroine informs me how big or large the hero is one more time, I'll strangle her. Yes, we know, that the hero is big hunk of yummy flesh, you can stop telling us about it. (After the half-way mark, my mother just rewrote the story as she read it in her head, she also skimmed most of it, which actually explains 98% of the four-star ratings on Good Reads, come to think of it.)

The scenario is your typical by the book Beauty and the Beast trope. The Beast is a cold-blooded hitman, who has been hired to kill a lovely young actress named Millie LaCoeur. (Okay maybe not so typical.) But before the hero does the deed, he makes the mistake of watching her die as Desdemona on stage. Then he dances with her, and she tells him if he doesn't kiss her she'll die... so he kisses her, then tries to strangle her, and just can't. Confused by this twisted turn of events, he trails her back to her home, and while she's taking a bath, attempts to strangle her again, but alas, he's overcome by lust and kisses her passionately instead. (Gee, if all killers were so lusty.) Unfortunately or fortunately depending on your pov, before events can proceed much further, our heroine's little boy, Jakub arrives on the scene. And our hero vanishes, torn up inside.
spoilers )

2. What I'm reading next?

Something better I hope. I've been in a ridiculous reading slump of late. Possibly because I've finally burned out on the romance genre. A side-effect of being a binge reader is burning out whatever you are binging on, eventually.

I want a good thriller. A page turner. That's funny. With lots of banter. Good romance. And a heist!

So, ahem, I went and got three books on the Kindle.

* Johannes Cabal - The Detective (Johannes Cabal 2) - which is a steampunk, mystery adventure, where the necromancer has met his match in a witty female con artist. There's a dead body of course. And lives are in peril. All told in a dry witty style.

* The Heist by Janet Evanovich and someone whose name I forget. It's about an FBI Agent and a Con-Artist who go on an adventure hunting a thief. Involves pirates, bullets, and lots of bantering, also whether they'll kill each other first. (Evanouvich isn't great, but I like her sense of humor, so am giving it a whirl.) It's the first in a series, which doesn't bode well. The reviewers on good reads gave it mixed reviews -- one was odd, they'd read all the Stephanie Plum novels in a week (seriously? Apparently there's binging, and then there is binging.), and decided the character got on their nerves after a while, and the characters never moved forward, and the plots got recycled. (I figured that out after reading five of them. She had to read 18, to figure it out? Alrighty-then. I think people shouldn't speed read, it's bad for their brains.)

* The Palace Job (Rogue's of the Republic #1) - another start of a series. Ugh, you would not believe how hard it is to find genre books that aren't part of a series nowadays. I blame evil marketing people who want to copy JK Rowling's success. ( It's rare to find good books in series. They start out well enough, but usually fall apart around the fifth or sixth book. Sort of like TV shows, come to think of it. Getting over the fifth season/book seems to be an issue across the board.) This one is about...oh, I'll just let Good Reads tell you about it:

The most powerful man in the republic framed her, threw her in prison, and stole a priceless elven manuscript from her family.

With the help of a crack team that includes an illusionist, a unicorn, a death priestess, a talking warhammer, and a lad with a prophetic birthmark, Loch must find a way into the floating fortress of Heaven's Spire–and get past the magic-hunting golems and infernal sorcerers standing between her and the vault that holds her family's treasure.

It'd be tricky enough without the military coup and unfolding of an ancient evil prophecy–but now the determined and honourable Justicar Pyvic has been assigned to take her in.

Apparently the wit is something between Terry Prachett and JK Rowling, so we'll see how well I like it. Prachett doesn't tend to work for me -- I don't have the sort of brain that appreciates puns.
I find them dumb and just cringe. It may well be genetic, apparently no one in my immediate family appreciates puns -- we're all dry wit humorists, or into absurd situations and biting sardonic humor.

But I may try it first. I don't know. Decisions decisions. Been sucking at decisions of late.
Eeny Meeny ...
shadowkat: (reading)
[As an aside, the headline of the Daily News was rather was sitting on a coffee table at work. Below the poll percentages for each of the Republican Presidential Candidates, (guess who was in the lead?) was the headline: "Sign of the Apocalypse?" (No, but possibly a sign of the end of the Republican Party and US politics as we know it.)

Talked to my mother, who has been reading the biography Hamilton, upon which the musical of the same name is currently based. She said that apparently they were just as nasty to each other back then as they are now. (Recently there was an article about how the Republican Candidates were acting like the characters in Mad Max: Fury Road. Personally, I think that's giving them too much credit. More like the characters in Heathers or Mean Girls.) At any rate, it's really no different now than it was back in the 1700s. Hamilton was pretty much hated by his peers - mainly because he wanted to do things that were "unpopular" at the time. And Thomas Jefferson comes across as a bit of a hypocrite in the book and a deluded idealist. Hamilton wanted a centralized government, banking system, industrialized economy, and abolish slavery. Jefferson wanted localized government, agricultural economy, and was ambivalent about slavery (scary but true, also he owned slaves, so there was that). My mother stated that after reading this, it's no surprise that we ended up with the Civil War - 100 years later. And it was definitely about slavery - that was a huge divining rod between the two factions. The problem was the Agricultural States depended on slavery as their workforce, while the Industrial States did not (or ahem, a different type of slavery, women and children worked for next to nothing, but Hamilton who had worked as a child saw that as no big deal and better than poverty. A job is better than no job, was his attitude. (It was also a step or two up from slavery.) Sort of similar to various Southerner's view that the slave workforce was taken care of in exchange for work. (Not exactly true, of course.) And their justification? There's slavery in the Bible (which of course makes everything okey-dokey -- people have been using religious texts to excuse the worse crimes, giving religious text a bad name as a result. It's not the Bible's fault that people insist on misinterpreting it). Hamilton apparently hated slavery because he'd come from the Caribbean and seen how horrible it was down there, and the atrocities committed. (I'm kinda loving Hamilton at the moment). At any rate, the States Rights vs. Centralized Government debate was what eventually lead to the Civil War and has been at the base of the US political debate for well over 200 years. We're still fighting over it. ex: Same-sex marriage - should be left up to the States. Back then? Whether slavery should be abolished should be decided by the States. (I kid you not.) And in the 1950s? Marriage between two people of different races should be decided by the States. (Racism and sexism, unfortunately, have been part of US politics since it's founding.Although we've come a long way, back in the 1700s, both women and blacks were considered property with no voting rights, equal pay rights, or ability to own property - now? Both can run for political office and become President of the US. Let's take a moment to celebrate that.) Hamilton saw Thomas Jefferson as a coward. Jefferson took off during the Revolutionary War - he stayed in Paris. He would have been happiest staying in his plantation in Virgina reading his books and doing nothing. (I can sort of identify, there are days that's all I want to do.) Wonder what our country would have been like if Jefferson died and Hamilton became President? ]

1. What did you just finish reading?

Nothing quite as interesting as Hamilton. But I did finish Once Upon a Marquess by Courtney Milan, which I reviewed at length in a previous post on this subject. What I'd like to add to that review is that Milan is one of a handful of genre writers who breaks with the form. By that, I mean she steps slightly outside of the formula. Also, she started self-publishing some of her novels - in order to have more freedom over her story, and to be able to break the formula. (For example? She's currently writing a contemporary transgender romance novel. )That's by the way, a big difference between self-published genre fiction and published genre fiction, self-published breaks the formula, while published is more or less following the established formula. (Which means, yes, that plot seems familiar, because yes, this is a book that follows an established formula. I think they even have mimeographed handouts on how to write best-selling romance novels, mystery novels, thrillers, etc...) James Patterson writes formula fiction -- and now by committee. Writers who shell out a book every five months are formula fiction writers. They are quick reads. Lots of people like them. But there's really not a whole lot to say about them. They do make it possible for literary books to get published, believe it or not.

The other genre writers that I've read that break with the formula or color outside the lines are:

* Illona Andrews - she actually has a long-term relationship in her books, and lead doesn't sleep with everyone. Also she uses Russian and Eastern European, Persian and Asian mythology as opposed to Judeo-Christian. Goes against the trope. Her's are urban fantasy, but she colors outside the lines to such a degree that she's ruined me for urban fantasy, I can't read any of the others now. They seem silly.

* Minette Walters -- creates mystery novels around an ensemble, rarely just one detective, and often explores the uneasy emotions underneath. Often her heroes are the murderers. She breaks with the form consistently. And sort of ruined me in regards to mystery novels. It was hard to read PD James after Walters.

* Sherry Thomas - is another romance novelist who likes to color outside the lines. She focuses on pre-established relationships, marriages, or people reconnecting after a period of time, and how they screwed up. Often flipping the gender roles. In one of her books the woman was older and more accomplished than the man, he was the manager of the household, she was a well-reknowned surgeon, He was pretty, she wasn't. In another, the woman is a Chinese Assassin, who is on a quest, and he's along for the ride.

* GRR Martin - who broke the formula on fantasy, with his pseudo-realistic Game of Thrones, where the so-called heroes die, and it feels like an odd coming of age story in a horrifically violent world.
Part revisionist historical loosely based on the War of the Roses, part fantasy, part horror tale complete with medieval zombies.

* Andy Weir - The Martian - which is a science fiction novel that centers mostly on a guy stranded on Mars. Realitic, and character driven. Not plotty or speculative. Jumps outside the sci-fi box.

* Ellen Kushner - who writes swashbuckling gender flipping LGBT fantasy romances.

So they exist. The non-boilerplate writers. You just have to look for them.

2. What I'm reading now?

Euphoria by Lilly King - which is a lot better than expected. It's more of an exploration of what it means to be an anthropologist and the degree to which we should study other cultures, and to what extent our study of them is, in reality, just a finely veiled study of ourselves - than it is a romance. Also an in-depth study of three different people, Bankson (the narrator), Fen and Nell Stone. All three are loosely based on real people.

Through the novel, the writer says some interesting things about our own culture and the current clash between cultures.

Below are a few excerpts:

1. Discussion of the Dobu

"The Douban," Helen concluded , "lives out without repression man's worst nightmares of the ill-will of the universe."

"I think they're the most terrifying people I've ever read about," I said.

"Fen was a little unstable when I met him," Nell said. " His eyes were like this." She stretched her eyelids as open as possible.

"I'd been frightened out of my mind every day for two years," he said.

"I wouldn't have lasted half that," I said, but it occurred to me that the Dobu sounded a lot like him: his paranoid streak, his dark humor, his distrust of pleasure, his secrecy. I couldn't help questioning the research. When only one person is the expert on a particular people, do we learn more about the people or the anthropologist when we read the analysis?

2. The three characters, Fen, Nell, and Bankson (the narrator) received an anthropological manuscript from a colleague, Helen Benjamin, and are devouring it, with envy and excitement. (The book is set in the early 1930s, around 1930 or thereabouts. The narrator doesn't meet Helen until 1938, which is much later, after the events of the book.

There was a pale violet light in the sky when Fen read the last pages. Helen's final push toward the understanding that every culture has its own unique goals and orients its society in the direction of those goals. She described the whole set of human potentialities as a great arc, and each culture a selection of traits from that arc. These last pages reminded me of the finale of fireworks show, many flares sent up at once, exploding one after the other. She claimed that because of the emphasis in the West on private property, our freedom was restricted much more than in many primitive societies. She said that it was often taboo in a culture to have a real discussion of the dominant traits; in our culture, for example, a real discussion of capitalism or war was not permitted, suggesting that these dominant traits had become compulsive and overgrown. Homosexuality and trance were considered abnormalities now, while in the Middle Ages people had been made saints for their trances, which were considered the highest state of being, and in Ancient Greece, as Plato makes clear, homosexuality was a major means to the good life. She claimed that conformity created maladjustment and tradition could turn psychopathic. Her last sentences urged acceptance of cultural relativism and tolerance of differences.

"Written by a true deviant," Fen said, tossing the last page down. " A true paranoid deviant. She gets a little hysterical towards the end there, as if the whole world's just about to go down the gurgler."

The frustrated cultural anthropology major inside me is eating this up like chocolate. Yummy, yummy.
Reminds me a little of The Sparrow by Maria Doria Russell, albeit less horrific and violent, and far more cereberal. That too played around with these ideas.

A lot of what is written there, resonated with me, and to a degree why I backed away from cultural anthropology. Well outside of the fact that I have no facility for learning lanugages, and that's sort of required. I envy people who learn languages easily - you can do so much with that. Like become a cultural anthropologist, travel the world, studying diverse cultures in their actual environment.
shadowkat: (doing time)
Very odd, the ceiling sounds like it is farting again. At least I think it is the ceiling. It might be the sink? I can't figure it out. It comes and goes. Renting apartments in NYC is always an experience.

I haven't read anything interesting in a long time. Or at least it feels like a long time. Big old reading slump. Also on a bit of writing slump. And a television slump. I blame February. It casts its drab exterior over everything like so much muck.

Finished The Sins of Lord Easterbrook by Madeline Hunter which I don't recommend. Boring. Shouldn't have been. We had a somewhat autistic lead, who sensed others feelings a bit too much for his own good. An exotic heroine, who was investigating the opium trade and the hero's role in it.
And well, a conspiracy by a bunch of Lords regarding said opium trade, smuggling of British secrets during the War, and their role in her father's demise. It should have been interesting. But alas, the writer was more interested in writing incredibly long graphic sex scenes...and in an academic style fitting with the time period. Sex scenes should not be written in that manner. Either do the darn things right or not at all.

Her book, "Stealing Heaven" which is in Medieval Times, and concerns a Welsh Princess attempting to win a War of sorts against Britain, was much better. Hunter's Medieval books are her best. She sucks at other time periods.

Now reading Courtney Milan's Once Upon a Marquess - which oddly is about the same thing that Sins of Lord Easterbrook was about, with a Marquess who has the same name, Christian, and some interesting issues. He's OCD. The heroine in this novel is into designing clockworks. Milan is a much better writer than Hunter. She also has a sense of humor, similar to Georgette Heyer, except a bit more biting and far more subtle. In this book the hero turned in the heroine's father and brother as traitors for smuggling state secrets. And he struggles with his desire for laudenum - which is basically opium. So very similar, but far better written. Also the hero isn't an domineering, controlling guy, more a joking, kind sort of guy. Beta hero instead of Alpha hero, rare for these sorts of books. Milan is one of those writers who likes to subvert the genre, as opposed to just following the template.

Next? I need to read Euphoria by Lily King for book club. But I have mixed feelings about the book club, so am dragging my feet on the book.

Really am having issues finding things that thrill or enthrall me at the moment. Everything feels so...drab.

Did love The 100 - which I binge watched last weekend. 4 episodes. Also Grey's Anatomy, The Good Wife and Scandal. Have come to the conclusion that The 100 is the best sci-fi show currently on. (Sorry, I'm not really a fan of episodica television series like Doctor Who or the X-Files, never have been, never will's the short story aspect I think that turns me off. Really don't know. I keep trying. But alas, the appeal of episodic television appears to be largely lost on me. And yes, I know, both have arcs, but the arcs don't work for me...well except for the River Song arc, that worked for me. It's subjective thing. Either works or doesn't for you. I used to think math wasn't subjective, but I've changed my mind. I think everything is subjective. Even how you view yourself and your world. There is no such thing as objective...which sort of shines a weird light on awards shows, doesn't it?)

Getting to back to why I no longer think math is subjective? There's this question on Facebook, one of those social media math which they tell you to calculate a bunch of numbers without using a calculator. What fascinated me was the responses.

Here's the math question:

Take 1,000
Add 40
Add 1000
Add 20
Add 1000
Add 30
Add 1000
Add 10

As quickly as you can.

the responses )

I like words better. More honest. You know there's multiple translations and interpretations going in.
Math reminds me of the historical fiction lies to you. And gets off on it too. Yet, somehow, I managed to find a way to do it for a living (math not historical fiction -- if only it were the latter, although probably far less lucrative).
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