jmc_bks: (title2)
Posted a review of Finding Nouf over at WordPress for SBD.
jmc_bks: (flaming june)
That sleeping woman?  Could have been me.  I think I was asleep or dozing more often than I was fully awake all weekend.  And it wasn't even a holiday food coma!  The Chemist made an awesome Thanksgiving dinner (smoked turkey breast, duck and salmon, plus sides) but we didn't actually eat THAT much.

The visit to H&A was lovely.  It always is.  We don't have to DO stuff, it's nice to just hang out in the same space and chat and cling.  Which probably entertains A.  We watched a lot of tennis and football, went for a couple of walks around the neighborhood.  Spent an awkward afternoon with dad.  Had sushi at Japaneiro's once and beer (root beer for me) at the Flying Saucer twice.  I would highly recommend the vegetable tempura and the non-alcoholic mojito (made with green tea) at Japaneiro's.  And the Chef's Nirvana, but that pretty much goes without saying, right?  Julio the waiter was awesome -- he clearly knows H&A well, to the point of chasing them down with the left over sashimi he'd boxed for them :)  One of their cats was incredibly smelly because of a diet change; he totally deserved the smelly cat song.

My YAGKYAS fic is plotted and outlined (mostly) but not written.  It needs to be written and beta'd by the 12th at midnight.  BICHOK didn't really work for me this evening -- although my hands have been on the keyboard, they've been busy typing other things.  I <3 procrastination!  

And tomorrow I'm back to work.  I didn't miss it at all.

Also, FYI, I SBD'd over at WordPress about the nonfiction I read over the weekend.

jmc_bks: (GK_Bradabs)
I posted over at WordPress for SBD -- read and really enjoyed the PsyCop mystery/suspense or urban fantasy series.

Also, this time next week I'll be with The Biochemist and the Texas Fangirl Contingent (that name may not be entirely accurate), who are on the Tour of Flail and Glee, shenanigating around Texas and up and down the East Coast for the PStump and Panic! tour.

Sidebar:  I like PStump's Soul Punk album, especially "This City".  But I like the EP/original version of "Spotlight (Oh, Nostalgia)" better than the Soul Punk remix.

Thirdly, I've got a comment fic brewing for the most recent Rocktober post at [ profile] we_pimpin.  We'll see if it gets posted tonight or tomorrow...
jmc_bks: (Polaroid Brad/Ray by meeks00)
I posted over at WordPress about 50/50. In short -- I liked it, especially the music, but wasn't thrilled with the handling of the girlfriend and failing relationship.

I also posted about books that I thought about buying today but left in the store.

Most Importantly: Rocktober has begun at [ profile] we_pimpin.  Today's pic post has me trying to reduce to paper the thief AU that's been bouncing around in my head.  We'll see how that goes.
jmc_bks: (Suits)
First, since it is Monday, it is time for SBD.  Which I posted over at WordPress.  What arrived recently, what to do with a book that gets carried around but never read.

Next:  did you watch the Emmys last night?  I did not, and was pleasantly surprised to learn that Kyle Chandler won for his role of Coach Taylor in Friday Night Lights.  He and Connie Britton were the heart and soul of that show, and it's nice to learn that he got some industry love for it.  Would've been nice if Britton had, too.  My only question is whether Chandler's hair will get a mini Emmy of its own -- I swear the hair was a character all by itself.

C:  I'm catching up on all the Davis Cup matches that were played over the weekend.  And seriously, Nadal must've taken his Djokovic frustration after going 0-6 for the year out on the French team.  As Brad Gilbert would say, he took Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga out to the woodshed.  Giving up ten games over six sets?  It's ridiculously good...and made up for the frighteningly bad doubles match played by Verdasco and F. Lopez.  

C+:  I want to go to Spain the first week in December for the DC finals.  But my budget will not allow for it.  Also, since I've got a trip planned for February, it's somewhat unnecessary.  Except it's Davis Cup.  Finals.  And the opportunity to see Nadal and Ferrer play on clay.  Against Nalbandian and Del Potro.  I'm anticipating *epic* five set matches.

D:  (That unhappy face is intentional):  Netflix.  Oh, Netflix.  I was an early adopter.  And now I'll be one of the million or so users who will drop you.  I don't stream many movies, primarily because I get distracted by other things available online.  I dropped down to the not quite lowest DVD plan primarily because I like catching up on cable TV series appearing on channels I don't subscribe to (HBO, etc.) through your service.  I get that you're feeling crunched by cable providers who want to squeeze users (and thus you) for high usage rates, which streaming demands, and that your relationship with Starz and with various studios is no longer the money haul that it once was.  But inasmuch as you don't care about my monthly budget, I don't care about your PE ratio or ROI.  I'll be return the DVD in my possession and exploring other viewing options, thanks.  Best of luck with your new bifurcated business plan.  
jmc_bks: (title2)

Originally posted at WordPress.

While on vacation last month, I read Tess Gerritsen’s The Keepsake, which was a good enough read.  I have to admit that although I’ve read one or two of Gerritsen’s early Harlequin suspense books, I’d never read one of her pure suspense books, or anything from her Rizzoli & Isles series.  I’m not a fan of the TV adaptation, finding the acting of Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander to be pretty painful, but knowing that the series was about a female detective and a female forensic pathologist did lead me to picking up a copy at the used bookstore.

Anyway, this past weekend I found myself at a grocery store with a fairly large selection of books, heavy on the categories and bestsellers, but with a variety of other books, including Gerritsen’s The Mephisto Club.


The Latin phrase is scrawled in blood at the scene of ayoung woman’s brutal murder: I HAVE SINNED.  It’s a chilling Christmas greeting for Boston medical examiner Maura Isles and Dective Jane Rizzoli, who swiftly link the victim to the sinister Mephisto Club, a cult of scholars who aim to prove that Satan himself exists among.  Then, with the grisly appearance of another corpse, it’s clear that someone — or something — is indeed prowling the city.  Soon the members of the club begin to fear the very subject of their study.  Could the maniacal killer be one oftheir own — or have the inadvertently summoned an entity from the darkness?  Delving deep into the most baffling case of their careers, Maura and Jane embark on a terrifying journey to the heart of evil.

The back blurb makes this book sound much more woo-woo than it really is.  The Mephisto Club really does believe that demons in the form of Nephilim walk the earth, which explains the evil that science labels as sociopath or psychopath.  But they don’t really aim to prove anything; instead they are watchers or crime-fighters of sorts at a very high level.  They summoned nothing and wasted no time on that possibility.  The killer was not maniacal; he was methodical and practiced and very, very cold blooded about what he was doing. Was he descended from Nephilim?  He thought so and so did his mother.

The book read very quickly — it was very well paced and everything fit together.

But somehow I don’t feel compelled to read the next book of the series.  I mentioned to Keishon in the comments to yesterday’s post that the other Rizzoli & Isles left me feeling the same way.  I haven’t figured out exactly what the problem is; I ought to love this series: female ME, female detective, set in a city I like.  And yet both books left me feeling sort of flat.  Maybe I should have begun with the first book of the series, so that I would have some investment in the two main characters?  That’s the key, I think, I don’t really care about either protagonist or feel engaged by her, and I’m accustomed to that when reading suspense and/or mysteries.  Both should be very sympathetic characters to me.  And yet…

I’ve been trying to figure out what Gerritsen is doing with the two women, as narrative tools or what-have-you.  One is  well-educated and successful, presumably well-known in her field, and she seems to have financial resources; she’s also the daughter of a psychopath, or so I gather from comments made by other characters in this book.  And she’s a divorcee who has just embarked on an affair with a priest within this book.  The other is rougher around the edges, successful in her field but with less material resources, surrounded by a blue-collar family, and in what appears to be a successful marriage.  Is the subtext that education and reason are irrelevant when it comes to the heart, which wants what it wants?  Or is there no subtext at all?

Being non-christian, the idea of an affair with a priest does not offend any religious sensibilities I might possess.  But regardless of one’s position on the wisdom of a celibate clergy or the Catholic Church in general, it seems like a poor life choice; like a regular married man who will never leave his wife for his girlfriend or lover, it seems unlikely that Father Brophy will abandon the Church.  Once again, I have no idea what the backstory to their relationship is, and maybe if I’d read it as it developed over a period of books I’d be less frustrated by Maura’s choice and more sympathetic.

Eh, I don’t know.

I’m reading Jo Nesbo’s Headhunters right now, and am going to get a copy of the new Eve Dallas book tomorrow.

Uh, okay?

Aug. 15th, 2011 09:43 pm
jmc_bks: (star fort kinsale)
+  Posted over at WordPress for SBD.

+  Bought two Kindle books by Georgette Heyer.  Probably wouldn't have but for the anniversary sale ($1.99 each!).  Otherwise, I can respect her place in the development of the modern genre romance, but have not been impressed by the books I've read.  Regency trads aren't my thing for the most part, Carla Kelly being the notable exception.  And she seems to have left the subgenre behind.

-  Why is Cobra Starship touring with Bieber?  Granted, it's the South American leg of his tour, but still, I didn't realize they had a significant overlap of fans; I though CS's average fan was several years older.  Eh, whatever sells tickets, I guess.

-  Dear IT peeps: saying that I'm the SysAdmin for that system?  Fine.  But as a practical matter, I am only acting/holding the position until a new higher up is hired.  I have NO IDEA how to do what you want.  When I asked the retired person who used to do it, she said that task was explicitly given to IT.  I'm sorry the person responsible is on vacation in Montana during your critical testing period, but that doesn't make me any more able to do what you want.  No love, me.

~  Looking at the line up of authors who'll be attending the National Book Festival next month, there are very few (3 or 4) that I might be willing to wait in long lines to meet or have autograph books.  And genre fiction is extremely poorly represented, as usual.

~  The BIA essentially said last week that aliens in custody don't have to get the immigration equivalent of Miranda. not sure what I think about this.  And while I'm probably conflating a lot of things, I'm curious about how this works in conjunction with Padilla.

jmc_bks: (flaming june)
I posted yesterday for SBD over at WordPress, writing a little bit about Chris Owen's Prove It and genre labels/expectations.

Sam Waterston is going to be King Lear, if you're interested in seeing Jack McCoy as the mad, blind king.

My DirecTv receiver is dead.  I may have killed it by leaving it on accidentally.  Or maybe it died of old age (8+ years).  Or perhaps a power surge during the electrical storm last week?  The tv is fine, but the receiver is kaput.  The debate now is whether to go subscription-free, relying on Hulu and YouTube and streams.  Sports and BBC America are weighing heavily against it though.
jmc_bks: (Book on table)
For SBD:

Okay, I read a book (and enjoyed) this past weekend that has been niggling at me, and I can’t really figure out why.

The bigger they come, the harder they fall... in love.

Cambridge art professor Larry Morton takes one, alcohol-glazed look at the huge, tattooed man looming in a dark alley, and assumes he’s done for. Moments later he finds himself disarmed—literally and figuratively. And, the next morning, he can’t rest until he offers an apology to the man who turned out to be more gentle than giant.

Larry's intrigued to find there's more to Al Fletcher than meets the eye; he possesses a natural artistic talent that shines through untutored technique. Unfortunately, no one else seems to see the sensitive soul beneath Al’s imposing, scarred, undeniably sexy exterior. Least of all Larry's class-conscious family, who would like nothing better than to split up this mismatched pair.

Is it physical? Oh, yes, it’s deliciously physical, and so much more—which makes Larry’s next task so daunting. Not just convincing his colleagues, friends and family that their relationship is more than skin deep. It’s convincing Al.

Muscling Through’s narrator, Al, is a working class fellow. He once aspired to be a boxer, and briefly worked as a bouncer at a club where he was struck in the face with a bottle while breaking up a fight. He works outside, putting punts in and out of the River Cam, which he enjoys. Al is not a shining example of the British education system, having barely scraped through with any education at all. He loves his mum and misses his dad, and is a good sort.

On the surface, he and Larry, an art history professor at Cambridge University, have little in common. Larry is educated and wealthy and surrounded by people of similar background, and he appears to be pretty comfortable that way. After a comedy of errors and misunderstandings when they first meet in a dark alley, they have drinks and then dinner and then sex. At the outset, the relationship is (in Al’s own words) “just fucking”. But then as they get to know each other, they find things in common (Charlie Chaplin movies, art) and learn to actually like each other. And then they wind up doing all those couple-type things, going to work dos together, introducing family, etc.

Merrow creates a wonderful sense of place in her books. Al and Larry are both creatures of Cambridge, but of very different parts of Cambridge. Their respective differences don’t keep them from appreciating the school and town or each other. I especially enjoyed the way Merrow used the bridges for geography and Al’s employment, but also as a thing for the two of them to share and a point of reference later in the book when the characters visit Venice.  

The only part of the book that felt really awkward or out of place was the “It Gets Better” moment, which felt like a Dan Savage PSA. Don’t get me wrong, I think the project a great thing, I’m just not sure how that passage fit with the rest of the novel.

Since Al narrates, he’s easy to get to know: he’s very self-deprecating, accustomed to being treated as a threat and as a lesser being, even in relationships. He looks on the bright side of things most often, is a good judge of people, and is very much a realist. He’s not bright, and he knows it, but he’s hard working and a good sort. Larry is a bit harder to get to know as a character, and to be honest, the first introduction to him is not at all flattering to him or to Al – he assumes Al’s about to rob him and continues blathering on about it even after Al has been a gentleman and escorted drunk Larry home. Later when he presented Larry to his colleagues, he seemed to be doing it for shock value. But that type of behavior eventually passed, and he becomes a champion of Al’s art and a defender against both his own parents and Al’s mum when she makes the occasional mean comment.

Reading Muscling Through, which is NOT a bleak or depressing book by any measure, reminded me of Flowers for Algernon. I remember reading Algernon in middle school, and feeling so incredibly sorry for the narrator. He was not smart and then he was brilliant and then it all faded again. Was it worse to be not so bright but content with his life as he knew it, or to be brilliant suddenly and then have to live through it fading back into whatever before or even worse?

As I read (and after), I had no problem at all with the difference in Al and Larry’s economic situations or their education or background. But I did wonder about the difference in their intellects, and if it would eventually be a problem. Is that elitist?

They have art, among other things, to bind them together long term. But I wonder if it would have been different if Larry had been a professor of English or Mathematics. What then would be the glue holding them together?

I don't know.  And I'm not even sure what is niggling at me.  Gah!
jmc_bks: (title2)
For SBD, a review of a category-like gay romance I read over the weekend.

Title: Change of Tune

Author: J.M. Cartwright

Publication information: © 2010, published by Torquere

Source: I believe I acquired this book as a giveaway or contest.

While sorting through the various apps on my phone last week, I found this book saved in Bluefire; at some point I acquired the book and uploaded it. New book!

Johnny Rayne has had enough - enough of being at the top of the rock music industry for the last decade, enough of constant touring and recording. He wants something more -- just something very different. Moving to a farm in West Virginia, Johnny meets Sheriff Virgil Grissom on his first morning in the mountains.

The sheriff challenges Johnny in a multitude of ways - with overt machismo, disdain for Johnny's musician past, and all-around know-it-all-ness. The two men clash continually, and Johnny resists succumbing to the sheriff's brash charm until Grissom forces him to admit some very basic truths. One: Johnny's definitely attracted to men. Two: Johnny's definitely attracted to Grissom. And three: Johnny's definitely going to enjoy every moment of it.

This is essentially a coming out story. Johnny has spent the last 15 years building a career in the popular music industry, recording albums and touring with his band. But he’s begun to feel that his life is empty and he wants more, so he chucks it all and movies out to the boondocks. (I use that word with affection, being a native of the boondocks myself.) Among the things Johnny’s dealing with are his desire for a family and children of his own and his sexuality.

What did I think? I hovered on the verge of discarding this book as a DNF nearly the entire way through it for a variety of reasons.

Reason #1: Was the author trying to see if s/he could fit every single romance novel trope or cliché into a single book?
  • Cities are evil and country living is best, or so the narrator has determined. His disconnect from reality and family and even his own inner self is a function of and a symbol of urban decay! Only by fleeing to the country and living right is he able to find his true self and his One True Love! And country living is wonderful – everyone in the small town loves Johnny and would never speak to the press about him and is completely comfortable with the fact that 1) he is gay and 2) he’s sleeping with the county sheriff who has suddenly stopped being on the DL.
  • Professional and/or commercial success is similarly evil.
  • Having babies and raising children is the only true, fulfilling vocation.
  • Being a soft touch means you’ll be a good parent. And being a sucker enough to take multiple pets from the pound means you are ready, no you deserve, to be a parent of a human child.

Reason #2: The artificial reinforcement of stereotypical gender roles.
The feminization of the hero in gay romance. Yes, Johnny is a man questioning his sexuality. Are there femme gay men out there? Absolutely. But in every way other than his dangly bits, he’s characterized with traditionally feminine attributes. Biological clock ticking in the mid-30s? Check. Unable to resist the cute? Check. Obsessed with labels and clothes and decorating? Check. And Johnny’s a bottom, of course. One who likes to be spanked by his physically larger lover. Because a gay man who likes clothes and kids can’t possibly be a top.  Because in genre gay romance, the hero with all the traditionally masculine roles is the top, while the hero with any feminine characteristics must be a bottom.*

His uber-butch boyfriend is the county sheriff, a suitably macho profession.  He physically intimidates Johnny when they first meet, pushing into his space and looming.  And he expresses his concern for Johnny in typically male gender role ways, by worrying about his security and safety, warning him of potential danger in the area and installing security measures in Johnny's home.  He even gives his little woman a baby (or two), just like a good husband should.  The gun in his holster or on his belt is symbolic of his penis, of course.

Worse, one of the few female characters describes herself as not being a “regular gal” because she enjoyed her profession more than she enjoyed being a parent. In Romanceland, even Gay Romanceland, only miserable, heartless bitches prefer work to home, you know.

Reason #3: The average writing interspersed with clunky, awkward phrasing. How many times did “big penis” appear in the text? I’m afraid to do a search to find out. Suffice it to say more than enough. I don’t expect sparkling prose with every book, but if the storytelling isn’t gripping me then the writing must. Sadly, that didn’t happen here.

The lack of any external conflict meant the book moved very slowly. If I wasn’t frustrated/bored as a reader with the stereotypes and tropes being used, this might have seemed like a sweet, hot romance. Instead it just felt like nothing new or fresh.

I’ve got questions about some of the plot points, too. First, Johnny was a rock star; yes, playing straight was probably easier, but as someone outside the music industry, rock star sexuality has always seemed excessive and bisexuality (if not homosexuality) always seemed…acceptable and a way of exhibiting edge. Is that just my interpretation? Second, the kids being delivered by the boyfriend: there’s so much wrong with that from a social services and legal perspective that I don’t even know where to start. It struck me as the sheriff forgetting he was supposed to uphold the law and deciding instead to use his position to make his boyfriend happy.

The sheriff lover + babies + puppies + kittens --> CATEGORY romance! As @SunitaD pointed out via Twitter DM and in her review of Samantha Kane’s Cherry Pie, a lot of m/m romances really are the equivalent of category roms, even if they aren’t branded or marketed as such.

Disclaimer/disclosure: Readers at several review sites seem to enjoy this book a great deal, calling it variously charming, a comfort read, and a book to curl up with. The things that they liked best about it – the lack of conflict, the schmoop of babies and puppies, etc. – are things that I felt were overused tropes undistinguished and unrefreshed in any way here. But YMMV.

* Why are there so few "masculine" heroes in gay romance who are also bottoms?  The only one I can think of offhand is Shane McCormack from K.A. Mitchell's No Souvenirs.
jmc_bks: (flaming june)
Today's SBD:  Lady Julia Brisbane nee Grey, daughter of the Earl of March, wannabe detective.

Lady Julia is the narrator of her very own series of Victorian-set mysteries.  Published by MIRA, they have a romance subplot and are fairly popular among readers who read both romance and mystery I believe.  The first book, Silent in the Grave, opened with this

To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband's dead body is not entirely accurate.  Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching on the floor.

Grave won the 2008 RITA for Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements.  I reviewed it here and the follow up, Silent in the Sanctuary, here.  The third book was a turning point for the relationship with Brisbane, but didn't really bring anything new to the series for me as a reader, so I abandoned it...until this last weekend, when I read the fourth book of the series The Dark Road to Darjeeling and started The Dark Inquiry.  

As you might guess, the fourth book of the series is set in India.  How does Lady Julia end up there?  Her honeymoon is hijacked by her sister, who insists that her (female) lover's husband has been murdered and Brisbane must investigate.   Except Lady Julia insists on participating -- because as an amateur she clearly has the skill and training to investigate?

Let me back up:  as Lady Julia is narrating the trip to The Peacocks, the tea plantation where the alleged murder occurred, all I could think was that she is the predecessor to the Ugly American cliche.  Except she's the Victorian British version:  ethnocentric, imperial ignorance plus inappropriate behavior, all wrapped up in self-indulgence and obliviousness.  

As the novel progresses and Lady Julia complains and whines and badgers Brisbane about being his partner, her ignorance and selfishness seem ever more difficult to ignore.  She wants to be his professional partner...despite having no training, little skill, and no actual understanding of the work or the risks.  It doesn't even occur to her that she's belittling his skill and the decades of experience he's acquired.  Even after her sister (another self-indulgent piece of work) points it out to her, she basically blows the criticism off.  In both books, as in earlier ones, she puts herself in danger and then is reliant on Brisbane or others to rescue her.  She lies to Brisbane when he doesn't knuckle under and give her the free reign to his investigations that she wants.
Part of me wonders, am I looking at her with a 21st century sensibility, and not accounting for the fact that as a character she is very much a product of her time and upbringing?  The pampered daughter of an earl would be thoughtless and selfish, so Raybourn has drawn a realistic character.  But the rest of me just thinks she's a TSTL twit.

Despite my general disgust for Lady Julia after finishing Darjeeling, I started The Dark Inquiry since it was at hand, in the hope that she would finally have gotten a clue.  
Not so much.
Another reader on Twitter pinpointed my issue:  lack of growth in Lady Julia's character.  Is she ever going to stop being a selfish twit?  The other reader mentioned that despite lack of growth, she continues to read the Stephanie Plum mysteries because Evanovich's humor and style appeal to her.  I've long since abandoned the Plum series, and I'm unlikely to read any more of the Lady Julia books.  Too many other books TBR to waste time on a narrator who makes me want to spank her and tell her to grow up.
The Dark Road to Darjeeling:  C+/B-
The Dark Inquiry:  DNF
jmc_bks: (title2)
Here's the run down, an abbreviated sort-of-SBD.

Also, I love the use of SBD as a verb, which Kate pointed out last week on Twitter.

Just Like Heaven by Julia Quinn.  European historical fantasy.  This is the first (I think) of a series based on the Smythe-Smith musicale...which is kind of horrendous.  I mean, the music is terrible and I really don't understand why the family thinks it's a good idea or why people keep attending.  Even the heroine of this book, who admits that the music is bad and cringes at participating but does so out of family loyalty, is looking forward to torturing her future daughters.  Ugh.  Anyway, this is a friends-to-lovers book, and it was well-done:  neither of them pined for each other, and each had a healthy attitude about their position in life and what they were looking for in a spouse.  They just hadn't really considered each other until circumstances brought them together for an extended period of time in fraught circumstances.  And the Quinn humor, which I have felt was lacking in the last few books I'd tried, was present.  Ignoring the pink/primrose faux pas, this was an okay historical fantasy.  My only real quibble is the love scene, which came at the end of the book and felt forced -- as if Quinn realized oops! ending in 50 pages and no nookie, must add it here!  While I generally don't care for books that close the bedroom door, the progression of the plot to that point had been completely satisfying without the love scene.  Eh.  B/B-

Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews.  Urban fantasy.  Book five of the series.  Really enjoy Kate as protagonist and post-Shift Atlanta.  In my Kindle notes for the last book, I have a bunch of questions jotted about Voron and his relationship with Kate's mother, as well as his training of Kate. As in, Kate's description (bliss) seemed un-Kate-like, and why send Mom back to fight Roland when Voron was a Warlord, and doesn't it seem weird that Voron is training the child of the woman he adored to be nothing but a killing machine rather than cherishing her as the last link to his Grand Love?   And all those questions were answer, thanks.  But now I have more, along with an observation from Mark Twain:  two people can keep a secret but only if one of them is dead.  So that big thing Kate and Curran want to keep secret? I have a hard time believing it'll stay that way since Kate, Julie, Curran, Derek, Jezebel, Doc, and multiple witches know what she did.  Also, recurring continuity/content issues irritate me:  Derek howls, despite the fact that readers were told twice in earlier books that his vocal chords were damaged to the point that he can no longer howl; volhv appear....but they were volkhvi in her Saiman novella.  And last but not least:  why was Kate surprised that Curran knew who she was before she told him?  Andrea told everyone what the Scarlet Star was, did Kate think he wouldn't figure it out on his own?  Andrews is a good storyteller and I like the series.  When the books are released, I have to read them ASAP and then go back and re-read favorite parts...but when after the first gulping read, I synthesize what's written and the characters, I come away a little less thrilled.  Maybe I should stop thinking so hard.  B

Bad Company by K.A. Mitchell.  Gay romance.  There's a joint review over at Dear Author that is much more coherent than anything I'm going to say.  *coughs*  Set in Baltimore!  And I'm included on the thank you page!  It's so cool!  And there's a related book coming out in December!  Okay, I'll try to tone this down.  So, there's friends-to-lovers, which I love, and Gay For You, which I don't love so much, but somehow they combine to work.  Kellan is like an overgrown kid, he's that guy you know who has never had to actually buckle down and work, who just sort of skates by using his charm and looks and money.  He's not a bad guy but he's kind of unthinking and immature.  In contrast, Nate never stops thinking and analyzing, and uses his busy brain and campaign-for-good ethos to avoid letting anyone close.  He also is pretty good (or bad) at holding grudges.  Both of them are, in turn, likeable and easily disliked, which made them feel authentic to me.  Which is good, because the set up feels a little unreal at first -- I'll be gay with you to make my dad mad.  Truly, I'm not sure how that is supposed to work, even after rereading Kellan's explanation...except it does work, since his dad is very concerned about image and anything that might harm his company's reputation.  B+/A- 
One Was a Soldier by Julia Spencer-Fleming.  Mystery.  While I enjoyed the mystery portions of this book, I didn't really care for the non-mystery portions.  The small town feel, which I used to appreciate, since it brings more to the series, felt disjointed and overdone to me.  Also, I felt sympathy for Clare at the outset of the novel but lost patience with her about midway through for a couple of spoilerish reasons. The very last scene was so predictable that it might as well have had flashing lights and a siren.  Eh.  Other readers probably enjoyed this book a lot more than I did, and it wasn't badly written or even a departure from the series as a just didn't work for me.  C+
Maybe I'm just too cranky right now to be fair about these books? 
jmc_bks: (Default)
I probably ought to title this post "Lather, Rinse, Repeat" because I feel like I've SBD'd about this a million times.  And yet I'm doing it again.

Copy editing.

Or content editing.

Whichever it is.  

Dear NY Publishers, please pay attention to the words appearing in the books you want me to buy.  

In one recent European historical, really a historical fantasy (kudos to Growly Cub, who gave me that label) novel, the heroine contemplates buying a new pink dress in the shade of primrose, rather than ruby or poppy.  *sigh*  Although there are pink primroses (Asian), the commonly accepted usage is that primrose (as color) is yellow, like the European primrose.  This is like the usage of "rose" as a color -- there are a lot of different colored roses, but rose (color) is generally thought/used as a reddish pink.  Also, the pale pink implied is kind of inconsistent with ruby and poppy.  (My twitter complaint resulted in a long conversation about this yesterday, if you're interested.)

In an urban fantasy novel I read last week, a character howled.  Which is not a big deal...except in the last book of the series, readers were told that his vocal chords were so damaged that he would never howl again.  And that is NOT the first consistency error scattered in this author's books (hello, percentages that add up to more than 100% and clothing that switches from a sleeveless shirt to a sweatshirt within a single scene).
One of these authors is a Big Name Author, who presumably gets pretty good treatment from her publisher -- she's made them a lot of money.  The other author has a pretty well-respected editor in the industry.
I get that little things can slip through the editing process.  But if I noticed these things at first glance without even spending time *thinking* about them, then how much time did the editors spend actually thinking about the way sentences were constructed or the plot built?
Part of the problem is that I read for detail and my internal proofreader is always on the look-out -- it's a piece of my brain that I cannot turn off -- and can be easily distracted by minutiae.  
Both of these books were good, although I enjoyed one much more than the other.  Yet I still finished both feeling as if I'd been walking with pebbles in my shoes.
jmc_bks: (title2)
For the Memorial Day SBD:

Title: Stroke to His Cox

Author: J.L. Merrow

Copyright: 2011, Dreamspinner Press

Length/format: e-short story

Poking around Dreamspinner a while ago, I ran across this short story. At first the title made me roll my eyes, then once I read the blurb, I appreciated the word play: the narrator is the coxswain for his college’s boat crew at Cambridge. Also, I’d read a couple of the author’s other ebooks, which have been generally well reviewed elsewhere. Meant to write a review at the time, but then time got away from me. A recent twitter query for interracial m/m romance from SarahF reminded me of this short story once again.

David Tanaka is the coxswain of his college’s rowing team at Cambridge. In comparison to his crew, David is a midget, but he is utterly in charge. It’s clear by their interactions and how they respond to his orders on the river that they trust him implicitly and that his size is relevant only in the sense that the smaller the better since it means less weight to propel. David also has a huge crush on his lead rower, Archie, which he’s suppressed so far for the good of the team.

The wires of the rudder thrumming between my fingers, I had one eye on our heading and the other constantly scanning the crew, watching for signs of weakness or bad timing. My gaze kept returning to Archie, though, and not just because he was the one sitting right in front of me, rowing stroke. His face was tense with concentration, and his eyes were still locked on me as those massive arms pulled on the oar again and again. Blond hair blown back by the wind during the recovery flopped over his eyes as his legs powered him backward on the drive. I felt a tug in the pit of my stomach as the boat surged forward — and then it began again. Catch — drive — recovery. Catch — drive — recovery. Does he dream about this? I wondered.

I do.

I used to wank off thinking about this, about Archie rowing stroke, gazing back at me like I’m some sort of god. I used to, until the day we were out on the river and I realized I was getting a hard-on. I nearly dove into the water out of sheer bloody embarrassment. I mean, it’s not like I hid the fact I was a poof, but I made sure I didn’t rub it in their faces.

God, I wanted to rub it in Archie’s face.

The heart of the action of Stroke is a boat race in which the team is trying to earn their oars. I don’t really understand enough about the import of earning oars or “bumping”, but it’s clearly a rite of passage for the team. There’s a fair amount of explanation of the process, but it is conveyed without weighing down the narrative or boring readers (or this reader, at least). The exposition sets up the competition and helps sketch in the team’s dynamic, which otherwise is a little light because of the book length.

Merrow manages to pack a lot of back-story into Stroke. Readers learn that David grew up on the Isle of Wight as one of very few non-Anglo residents. In addition to being non-Caucasian, he grew up being the shortest kid in the class…which was often taught by one of his parents. Then add in the realization that he was gay as a teenager. A less flattering way to describe David’s need to be in charge would be to describe in as a Napoleon complex, but he seems to be pretty self-aware.

My only warning is that this is an EXTREMELY short story. If you keep track of price/word length, you may be a little unhappy. Dreamspinner’s website says this is a 25 page book, but it’s actually 18 pages in the epub format, and five of those are the copyright, cover, author bio, etc.

Having said that, the story fit the short format. It was a quick, fun read, with a different voice, narrator and setting. The story ends with the narrator in a happy place and the potential for an HEA or at least an HFN.

Excerpt available here.  Available for purchase at Dreamspinner in multiple formats.

As coxswain of a Cambridge college rowing team, pint-sized Dave Tanaka has eight strapping athletes hanging on his every word, their strength at his command. Leading his crew to win their oars might be easier if Dave didn’t have to hide his crush on Archie, the stroke rower – but as they prepare for their final race, Dave doesn’t suspect that Archie is in the same boat as him in more ways than ons coxswain of a Cambridge college rowing team, pint-sized Dave Tanaka has eight strapping athletes hanging on his every word, their strength at his command. Leading his crew to win their oars might be easier if Dave didn’t have to hide his crush on Archie, the stroke rower – but as they prepare for their final race, Dave doesn’t suspect that Archie is in the same boat as him in more ways than one!
jmc_bks: (flaming june)
Today's SBD:  A Game of Thrones.  High fantasy.  

In case you've missed it, HBO is currently airing a miniseries based on George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones.  I haven't been watching, but I have seen all of the chatter on the InterTubes about the series, as well as screen caps of favorite actors and characters.  So I picked up a copy of the book -- due to the miniseries, there were no used copies to be found, but plenty of reissues at B&N.

It's 800 pages.  Which would be fine if it told the whole story.  But no.  The series (originally envisioned as a trilogy) is going to be seven books, of which only four are currently published.  In fact, the last book is actually half of one book, split because it was deemed too large.  Apparently Martin fans have been unhappy with him because he keeps pushing the publication date back.  

I get that a lot of people love this series; it's won awards.  But I am not joining the legions of fans.  I trudged through the 800 pages and all could think for the vast majority of them was FFS, drop the puck, Martin. And become less enthralled with your own voice. Too many POVs, too slow yet simultaneously too busy.  One note characters for the most part.  By the end of the first installment, I wanted everyone except Arya Stark and Jon Snow to just die already.  Not prepared to invest any more time in the series, or even to watch it on HBO, despite the pretty pretty eye candy.
jmc_bks: (daffs)
After reading A Matter of Class, I moved on to Balogh's Simply Perfect.

Spoilers follow.

I think I have too modern a sensibility to appreciate the big horror of this book -- the hero has an illegitimate child whom he loves, and he is contemplating sending her off to school so he can get married to fulfill his family's obligations (heir to a dukedom). And when he reveals his illegitimate child, everyone is horrified and embarrassed, and they all expect him to abandon her.  Well, except for financial support, which would be the only suitable connection between them.  I couldn't really understand why everyone took such offense at him actually caring about his child, regardless of the circumstances of her birth.
The heroine was sort of interesting, in that she consciously chose her independence via running a school, even when there were easier, more socially acceptable ways of surviving (marriage).
Some dialog early on made me roll my eyes.  They talk about handicapped children and whether they are educable.  Although the word "handicap" existed at that time, it didn't come to mean disabled until World War I or later, not post Regency.  
Moving on, I switched genres entirely to mystery:  Mahu Surfer by Neil Plakcy.  Am liking it a lot.  Read a later book in the series, circling back now.  
jmc_bks: (Baseball)
+ Today was the home opener for the Orioles. After 10+ years of losing seasons, my hopes for the team this year are sadly low: .500. Is that too much to ask? Anyway, the Orioles are 4-0, sweeping the Rays and beating the Tigers today. Graciously, I refrained from calling my stepdad, The Yankee Fan, and taunting him. For two reasons: first, because it probably won't last; and second, because he doesn't take baseball trash talk well, even though he dishes it out.

+ I read Marie Sexton's Promises over the weekend. It'a a gay romance novel, not really gay-for-you, but close to it, with one of the protagonists being firmly in the closet at the beginning and edging his way out by the end. Felt ambivalent about the book, and I'm not really sure why; maybe it was the narrator, who felt like he spent most of the book hiding, doing the safe thing, taking the path of least resistance every time, on the personal front and the professional front.

+ Found Promises via the DABWAHA contest. Most of the candidates I had not read, some I'd never even heard of, which is a sad commentary on my reading. My pick as champion was K.A. Mitchell's No Souvenirs, which was sadly trounced early on. In the first go-round, I picked books I liked. In the second chance tourney, I tried to pick what I thought was popular and would likely win, but even there my pick (Meljean Brook's The Iron Duke) lost. Clearly I don't have a finger on the pulse of popular genre romance. The ultimate winner was a contemporary by Julie James, whose first two books didn't really work for me. The runner up was Courtney Milan's Trial by Desire, which I meant to read but never got around to. Eh.

+ Go take Jennie's survey on reading romance novels. It's quick and easy. And it's for a school project -- she's working on her masters in library science, I believe.

+ Clay court tennis starts next week! Well, qualifying matches have already begun. But Monte Carlo! Barcelona! Rome! Madrid! Then Roland Garros!

+ Davis Cup ticket presale begins tomorrow. The $90 nosebleeds may be for the whole weekend, not just each day; I've got to call and see. Which does sort of change my position on the ridiculous pricing, because $90 for possibly five matches is way better than $90 for two matches.

+ The Spring Fling exchange fics have been posted. You should go read the one that was written for me. It is awesome: it fits into canon and fanon, and it made me all flaily and happy as I read it.

- WTF, LJ?
jmc_bks: (daffs)
It's Monday! Time for SBD!

One of my goals for the year was to SBD at least twice a month, but I've been slacking on that for a variety of reasons, mostly because I've been struggling with the reading. March is almost over and I've read a grand total of five books. Five! Despite having almost 2 hours of guaranteed reading time while on the train! One of those books was Brockmann's Breaking the Rules (meh) which I wrote about last week, and another was an earlier SBD, Anna and the French Kiss. A third was good enough, River Marked, and merited a post on cover art. Which leaves two last books for discussion: I am J by Cris Beam and Why I Love Geeks by T.A. Chase.

I Am J was an impulse buy for in-flight reading. It is a YA GLBT book: its protagonist, J, is a transboy, born a girl physically but struggling with his gender identity. The book is well-written and appears to be well-researched, and it was worth the cover price. It gave me a glimpse in the the angst of a teenager whose typical adolescent issues are amped up by a factor of 1,000 because of the feelings of being in the wrong body and not fitting in. The book ends with the protagonist in a relatively safe and good place, looking forward to college and whatever might come next. But I doubt I'll re-read it, and I'm not sure why, other than to say that I didn't fall in love with the narrative. Solid B.

Why I Love Geeks was another impulse buy, and it was a rip off. The price ($7) was ridiculous -- the word count was less than that of a Harlequin Presents ($4.50). In terms of the ebook editing or formatting, there were a variety of typos in which similarly spelled (but WRONG) words were used. The prose read like fan fiction: not particularly polished. In fact, I've read much more lyrical fan fiction, thx. The suspense plot was unbelievable and over-complex, involving Chinese business, Russian spies, and an improbable pharmaceutical that makes people invisible. [Don't even get me started on the biochemistry. Even as a science idiot, I had to roll my eyes. I'm sure if The Biochemist attempted to read any of the "sciency" sections, she'd have a coronary. Because biochemistry is all about fast results and jewel-colored liquids bubbling in beakers.] One of the heroes was supposed to be a cute geek; his cuteness was exemplified by his filterless babble, which was apparently endearing. Or so readers were told repeatedly. Because there was a lot of telling and very little showing. The other hero was a cliche -- a taciturn, macho cop, from a long line of cops, with a big, nosy, interfering family. Seriously, I want my money and the two hours I spent trying to read this mess back. F.
jmc_bks: (armada4 - 08 Davis Cup)
Happy Monday!  I'm happy because I'm off today...which sort of makes up for the fact that I spent ten hours at the office yesterday.  But not really, since even on my day off I had to call in for a conference call.  (What's the point of a 9/80 work schedule when I end up working 10/95?)

Anyway, it's time for SBD!

I'm reading Stephanie Perkins' Anna and the French Kiss, a YA book about a girl who is sent to boarding school in Paris for her senior year of high school.  In the fall, this book got lots and lots of review blog attention, but I didn't pick up a copy until January (courtesy of [ profile] jperceval -- thank you!).  And after that, it sat in the TBR for a bit.  

In many ways, there's nothing new or different about this YA book.  There's an uncertain heroine who has been essentially abandoned by her family (although being left at a spendy boarding school in Paris isn't exactly a hardship, or as bad as being forced to live in the cupboard under the stairs and work as a house-elf); a potential love interest; learning about her new environment; building a new circle of friends while not completely losing the old; etc.  But Perkins is doing a pretty good job of reeling me in as a reader.  Even though I'm guessing that Anna Banana Elephant Oliphant will end up having a good year, I still want to follow along as it happens.

This description of Anna's father is such a clear dig at several authors who shall not be named, that it just tickles me.  Because I hate that they are considered mainstream "romance" instead of the utter schmoop that they are.  (There's nothing wrong with schmoop, but if you're going to make a living at it, own it, don't pretend it's high art.)  

...[H]is dream of being the next great Southern writer was replaced by his desire to be the next published writer.  So he started writing these novels set in Small Town Georgia about folks with Good American Values who Fall in Love and then contract Life-Threatening Diseases and Die.

I'm serious.

And it totally depresses me, but the ladies eat it up.  They love my father's books and they love his cable-knit sweaters and they love his bleachy smile and orangey tan.  And they have turned him into a bestseller and a total dick.

Also, I was fascinated by his clear decision about what he wanted to write.  There are genre romance authors who have made the same analysis, and who chose to write romance not necessarily because they think it's high art or even their preferred reading material but because it is an area in which aspiring authors can actually make a living, compared to other (more respected, socially accepted, pretentious) genres. 

At the store today, in the book/magazine aisle, I noticed that there's a graphic novel version of Twilight.  Really?  Was that necessary?  And sitting right next to that was The Harvard Lampoon's parody, Nightlight.  I was almost tempted by the parody.  But not quite.

Um, other than that, not much on the reading front.  Except I've got two paper boxes of books to donate to the library.  Anybody want some of them?  Most of them are books I read and enjoyed but am never going to re-read; some had been keepers but have fallen off the list; others I'm not sure how I acquired them at all because the blurbs are not at all appealing.  But if you're looking for some free books (and you are someone who has commented here before, please), drop me a line and I'll either send a list for you to choose from or do a random selection, your choice.  The books range from m/m to urban fantasy to category to historical to suspense.

On the fandom front, I have to say that it drives me crazy to read blue-collar American characters using British slang in their every day language.  The canon is clear -- Generation Kill could not be more working class and middle class American if it tried.  And still the characters sometimes use mobiles, or wear jumpers, or live in flats in fan fiction.  No.  Okay?  Just no.   A middle class Catholic boy from Baltimore would put on his sneakers or tennis shoes, not trainers; a dirt poor kid from Missouri would use a wrench, not a spanner.  That would be like having Dr Who talk about putting stuff in the trunk rather than the boot: not quite right and enough to drive a British reader crazy.


The US won its Davis Cup tie, and Spain won its tie.  Meaning they'll meet in the US for the quarter finals in July.  Potential sites under consideration by the USTA (?) are in Albany, San Antonia, and Austin.  I have family in Austin and San Antonio, and I've heard good things about Albany.  Road trip?

Okay, back to reading about Anna's year abroad.
jmc_bks: (title2)
Robyn Donald's Harlequin Presents are like cotton candy: quickly consumed and really not all that good for me.  And still I read them.  

The title is kind of ridiculous, even more ridiculous than the usual mistress/virgin/Greek/sheikh mix and match titles that HP specializes in.  The heroine isn't a princess; even at the end of the book, once she has married into royalty (no spoiler there, really, given HP tropes and genre requirements, yes?), she's still not a princess.  And there's no disgrace.  But whatever. Standard cover art, embracing characters with wind-tossed hair.

The backblurb:

Prince Gerd Crysander-Gillan has long held a torch for beautiful Rosie Matthews. But three years ago that need turned to rage when he discovered that Rosie's affections were apparently for his brother.

Now Gerd has taken the crown, and His Majesty needs a princess. The obvious candidate for marriage is Rosie—a chance to take sweet revenge for the wound that has never healed. Only, once he has his royal bride, he is astounded to find that she's still a virgin....

The first paragraph is actually accurate. Shocking, I know. The second not so much, since Rosie isn't an obvious candidate, and he realizes she's a virgin when they have sex long before they get married.  And there's really no revenge involved.

Things I liked:
  • Getting the hero's POV, so even if the heroine isn't aware of the seriousness of his feelings, the reader is.
  • That the characters actually address the age difference, which is a little creepy -- 18/30 in the flashed back scenes, 21/33 at present
  • That the heroine had realistic career goes and executed those plans, going to university and getting a business education, working in the industry she was interested in, even if the economy put the kibosh on her job plans

Things I didn't like:
  • The characters conflating the morning after pill with abortion
  • Virginity again
  • Paparazzi as an excuse to railroad the heroine into marriage
  • The vast power imbalance in their relationship

Things I was on the fence about:
  • The heroine's immediate abandonment of her life plans for the hero
  • The convoluted familial relationships that are never really explained: the h/h are related by marriage, although I didn't really understand how
  • How/why the hero grew up in New Zealand but was the heir apparent for an Adriatic/Aegean duchy

As an HP, this one is pretty good.  But as usual, a reader unfamiliar with HP tropes would be not impressed.


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