Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sunday Soup - September 22

Sunday Soup is... a little of this, a little of that, not too much work, and hopefully a tasty result.

So first off, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my little sister Jolene, who is an amazing mom, financier, and homemaker.  She doesn't actually read my blog, so I can admit that she actually does a lot of the whole working-mom thing a lot better than I do.  Happy birthday Jolene! you look like a monkey, and you smell like one too! 

Soup Dish:  book people are talking about...
Yeah, actually, I have no idea at the moment. I've been kind of disconnected from my usual media in the last few weeks. I didn't really plan it this way, but September is turning out to be a pretty intensive family-commitment month. We've got tons of back-to-school activities (I have a 3rd grader and an 8th grader; oy, how did that happen??). Here in the Pacific Northwest, summer can stretch pretty nicely into September, so last weekend the family took a last-hurrah-of-summer roadtrip, and right this second as I'm typing (Saturday evening) I'm completely pooped from taking Thing2 to the state fair with a friend. Next weekend will be a birthday party and probable sleepover; and did I mention my mother-in-law came to visit over Labor Day weekend? So perhaps you can forgive me for minimal posting for the last couple weeks.  But here are a few things that caught my eye over the past couple weeks.

Are readers "driving the market"? I have no doubt that reader demand is more influential these days than ever before, but does "more" amount to a little or a lot?  Is it a good thing?  On the whole, I tend to think it is. And while some literary purists will inevitably argue that such direct reader influence might dilute the artistic vision, and drive literary output toward a lower common denominator, it seems to me that a) that has always been true, it's just that there was a commercial publisher acting in a middleman role; and b) self-pub opens a channel for the true visionary that did not exist under the Big NYC Publisher industry model.  I really don't claim to have any idea what will happen to print publishing in the next, say, 25 years.  It's going to be an interesting show.  One thing that seems certain: there won't be a lack of diverse and engrossing genre fiction.

Mark Henry is back and he's writing... category romance? This should be interesting...

Jennifer Weiner throws down with Jonathan Franzen again. Bring on the popcorn (I'm rooting for Jennifer).

Some new kids on the block, as rounded-up by Jessica. Speaking of which, the return of Read, React, Review is no small potatoes in my blog-reading world.

What I'm reading
Believe it or not, I read an actual dead-tree book this past week. Maybe that's one way to break a slump: change up the format. I finished Glitterland, as mentioned a couple weeks ago on the Soup. The first bit, almost a prequel, was in present tense and so dark and pain-filled that I almost didn't continue. I'm so glad I did, though. The rest of the book was a bit less jagged and I became really invested in Ash getting his HEA. Or at least conceding the existence of the possibility of an HEA, which turns out to be a pretty big thing.

The Mistress, by Tiffany Reisz. While I didn't think it was intended to be a series closer, it definitely had a feeling of resolution about it that seemed missing in the first few books, which I didn't really expect. Fans of the series will enjoy it, I think, and I'm not saying I didn't, but I had a few issues with it that didn't bother me about other books. Mainly I think she has made Soren a bit too saintly -- which is kind of ironic given his secret life, but really. He's just sort of an inhuman well of forgiveness and serenity and still doesn't seem very real to me. But the book does serve to neatly tie off (heh) a number of story threads while opening up some new avenues to explore.

I buzzed through a novella by Courney Milan, Unlocked, that I did enjoy. One of the weird things about e-books is that I don't always pay attention to how long the format is, so sometimes it takes me by surprise that I'm halfway through a story after only an hour so of reading. This was one of those times. So it resolved a bit too easily for me, but I think my expectations were miscalibrated. I did particularly like the portrayal of the heroine's relationship with her mother.

Oh and the big one I went through is the latest S. M. Stirling Emberverse novel, The Given Sacrifice. The ending was not a surprise, given the title, but the timing was, sort of. I have very mixed feelings about this series. In many ways it jumped the shark many books ago, but I just enjoy visiting the world so damn much I don't care. It's a lovely little fantasy about How The World Should Be, with enough Scary Big Bad to keep it fairly interesting.

On Tap... what soup isn't a little better with a slosh or two?
OK, so after paying a certain amount of attention to what I'm drinking for a few months, and some deliberate attempts to experiment a little, what I'm finding is that if I really like a basic ale from a particular brewery, chances are I'm going to like some of their other varietals as well.

It's pretty obvious that Sam Adams is working for me. I like their fruit flavors, the Cherry Wheat, the Blackberry Wit, and summer brew with a hint of lemon, and spent most of last winter and spring savoring the Cream Stout.  (Yay, it's almost Cream Stout season again!)

Blue Moon, a purportedly Belgian-style white ale, frequently served with a slice of orange, is my other staple. I say purportedly, because many Belgian whites such as Hoegaarden that I've tried have a distinct flavor note that an esteemed colleague of mine succinctly described as "tastes like feet," which is thankfully missing from Blue Moon. Maybe that's a note of authenticity? I dunno...  Anyway, I absolutely loved Blue Moon's spiced winter ale last year and have tried a number of their variations.  I picked up their fall sampler this past week and while I've never been a particular fan of pumpkin flavored things, the pumpkin harvest ale is working pretty nicely for me.  I like the spice combinations and the slightly fuller body.  The caramel-apple flavor was a little sweeter than the regular ale and had less of the citrus flavor, but I don't think I would've pulled "caramel" or "apple" out of a blind taste-test.  Blue Moon is a subsidiary of MillerCoors, which just goes to show you, my taste in beer is not too far off my taste in reading:  readily available, enjoyed by the masses, a distinct lack of bitterness, and a smooth sweet finish.

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