Sunday, December 29, 2013
Soup Dish: book people are talking about...
Happy holidays, whatever version you may (or may not) be celebrating as the calendar year draws to an end. This is the last Sunday Soup of 2013! It's been totally a frantic month for me, and I have neglected the Soup, my usual book-related feeds, AND my actual reading. So, maybe we'll just have a light consomme' this week.
✽The Conversation We Never Have - an interesting article regarding some uncomfortable truth about starving artistry versus something resembling a patronage system. Maslow would agree, I think (Maslow's hierarchy might be the only thing I remember from high school intro to psych, other than something-about-Freud).
✽I loved this review by Leander of a romance classic, Angelique. If I have read this book (and I may have) I don't remember it. But even though the review is not a rave, it kind of made me want to read it anyway.
✽Everyone in Romlandia has opinions about How Reviews Should Be, and particularly on the topic of Nice vs. Snarky. I've shared mine before. I rather like how Megan McArdle lays it all out. People can and should and will review exactly how they want to -- this is one way that I agree with.
✽Best of Lists, everywhere! They're out there. Everywhere you look, you are in danger of severe swelling of your to-be-read list. Frankly, I'm avoiding them until after I have mine done... at least, I'm hoping to get something like that published this week....
Catching My Eye - titles making their way toward my TBR...
✽A Home for Wayward Husbands by Johnee Cherry- a compelling review from Jackie Weger.
✽Conquering Passion by Anna Markland, profiled on a new-to-me blog, Medieval Romances. I do love a good Conquering Norman.
What I'm reading
✽If you can believe it, I am still in the middle of the Sarah MacLean and Laura Kinsale titles that I mentioned several weeks ago. Seriously no time for reading in ages.
That's it for this week!
Sunday, December 15, 2013
The soup is a bit of a leftover concoction this week. You ever make that soup? Where you've got odds and ends that are maybe not the freshest tidbits but they're too good to just let go? Yeah, I've got some stuff stored up from a few weeks back now, so bear with me.
Soup Dish: book people are talking about...
✽I have a half-finished post in my draft folder about posts on reviewing that have influenced me. My canon, if you will. Just this morning, I found a new one to add to the canon: the Mmph, by Mary Ann Rivers. While it's not about reviewing particularly, it IS about reader reaction, which is maybe 80% of reviewing, in my opinion. Just go read it, if you haven't already.
✽Lavyrle Spencer is one of the first authors that I went completely nuts for. I still have a fairly extensive collection of her work in hardback. Morning Glory is one of my favorites, partly because it is set in the 30s or 40s, which makes it really unusual, and that plus the rural aspect made me think of how my grandmother raised her family, so I felt an extra tie to the narrative. So I absolutely loved Willa's close reading published in Heroes and Heartbreakers. I feel a re-read coming on.
✽Your Ability to Can Even - I just saw this yesterday via a link at The Art of Simple. I kind of adore internet expressionism (I just made that up), mainly for humorous effect. This article is an eloquent and passionate defense of this evolving "dialect."
✽Romance makes NPR Best Books Aside from being a nice utility for helping you choose books for others, the romance genre is well represented. Lauren Dane, Anne Gracie, Sherry Thomas, Juliana Gray, Sarah MacLean, Molly O'Keefe, and Kristan Higgins do the genre proud.
✽I have not read Nenia Campbell before, but somewhere along the way I followed a link to her post about having been banned/dropped from Amazon. I have to admit, I really really love the convenience that Amazon has brought to my life. I love my Kindle. Probably 3/4s of my Christmas shopping this year was via Amazon. I live locally to HQ and my professional network includes a fair number of current and past employees. But I worry about how much power they have in the market place. I know a little bit about the backend systems that support their business, and it is WORRISOME that a bug in their search code can ruin livelihoods. Like Nenia, I'm baffled as to why her book was dropped given other dreck that is categorically "worse" in terms of content that violates some mysterious code of standards. Worrisome.
✽Cara McKenna is a favorite author of mine, and I love what she has to say at Romance for Feminists about reading and writing sex in romance. Also, I just finished her title Unbound, and thought it was marvelous.
✽I get so excited when there's a new post at Badass Romance. I'm really not a fan of straight historical fiction (ie, not historical romance) because I almost always find it stilted and dusty-dry. However, Pamela's review of Executioner's Song has me very interested. Although it might be that I just like reading the review.
What I'm reading
✽Currently in progress I've got Laura Kinsale's Prince of Midnight. I really feel like Kinsale and Mary Jo Putney created the whole subgenre of the damaged hero. Putting his damage right there in the narrative instead of leaving him as closed to the reader as he is to the heroine.( Perhaps with some help from Anne Rice in the Angsty Vampire sub-subcategory.) It's no secret that I'm a Kinsale fan, and this book is no exception. I am given to understand that this book contains a sex-on-horseback scene, but I haven't seen it yet so I'll have to keep you posted.
✽I've got Sarah MacLean's One Good Earl Deserves Another going in dead-tree format too. She takes the bluestocking trope to a bit of an extreme here, with a bookish heroine who is determined to understand her vows before taking them-- with a different man, of course. I'm finding the premise to be a bit... is "disingenuous" the right word? Possibly "silly" is the better one. Not entirely believable. But I like these characters and their interactions and the building external conflicts enough to keep going.
✽I'm not sure where the rec for Chaos Born by Rebekah Turner came from, but it was a good read. It would benefit from a draconian editor, as there is a fair amount of homonym abuse and things like "contact" instead of "contract". It's an interesting, complicated world. One standout element is that the heroine is lame, and it's not just window-dressing. It affects how she does (or fails to do) her job. Readers with an interest in disabled heroines should give it a look.
✽I also sped through Driven by Eve Silver (see what I did there?). I'm not sure what it says about me, but I'm really pulled toward post-apocalyptic romance lately, and this is a really good one. The hero is fascinating; the world is dark (and cold), and the twist about the heroine and her history was great. I did find the science a bit questionable but it made the backstory work, so you kinda have to go with it. I recommend, anyway, and the next book, Hidden, is on my want list.
✽I finished up Nora Roberts' Dark Witch. While Roberts always delivers a good read, IMO, this wasn't her best ever. I find myself liking her non-paranormals better. It won't stop me from reading the rest of the trilogy though. That's just how I roll.
On Tap... what soup isn't a little better with a slosh or two?
I might discontinue this feature for a little while - I haven't been very adventurous lately, so I don't feel like I have anything very interesting to say. Tis the season for Sam Adams Cream Ale and Blue Moon Seasonal Abbey Ale, two of my very favorites. However, I did notice that the latest Sam Adams collection contains something called "Cherry Chocolate Bock" which I really, really want to try -- but there are too many things I don't really want in the collection. It's a dilemma.
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
I'm busy navel gazing.
In preparation for moving the Christmas tree into the living room, I went through most of my "TBR" pile -- the physical ones, that is. My piles of books are... out of control. Like, causing problems in my house.
I did a fairly ruthless sort and have a large box ready to go to a new home. And still, I have, conservatively guessing, about 200 mass market paperbacks that I am "planning" to read. Many of these came from the 2012 RT convention; some from the Borders' liquidation, and many from the various publishers and publicists I've been privileged to work with.
I've been really struggling to get reviews done (as you may have noticed). I keep waffling about maybe being Done with blogging, but I can't seem to quite give it up. It's one of those things where I get out of it what I put in, and it's been hard for me to muster up the Putting In energy -- my life is different than it was in 2007 when I started. I'm also looking forward like CRAZY to RT14 in New Orleans. This world still has something in it for me... but what exactly is it?
I had a moment of truth last week. There was a new release out; I had read an advance copy via Edelweiss, and was getting ready to knock out a review for it when I noticed something kind of odd. There was a lot of buzz about this title -- more than usual. Between my feed reader, Twitter, and a couple of related Facebook groups I'm on, I was seeing this title over and over. I checked the author's website and discovered that she had organized a blog tour of... SIXTY blogs. I commend her, I really do -- she is pushing all the right buttons and really leveraging the blog community.
Thing is, I don't want to be lost in a crowd like that. And honestly, who would want to read sixty reviews of the same book? Who has that kind of time?
What's the Mission?
The previous week, a minor kerfuffle came and went on Twitter and Facebook. The details aren't important, but Joyfully Jay caught my eye with this comment:
@dearauthor somewhat off topic but I find it so odd so many of bloggers who reply describe their mission as to support and promote authors
— Joyfully Jay (@jayhjay432) November 17, 2013
@dearauthor just find It odd they see themselves in the business of author marketing not book reviewing or sharing thoughts with readers etc
— Joyfully Jay (@jayhjay432) November 17, 2013
To me, this is super-obvious. With the exception of the professional review blogs like Smart Bitches and Dear Author, most book bloggers are also aspiring authors. They are building relationships with publishers and publicists, and when the time comes to submit a manuscript, their name is known and they have something of a reputation and a platform. (Do people still talk about having a platform? it was all the rage about 3 years ago.) Anyway... that's not my mission.
"Authors are My Rockstars"
There is also a certain celebrity factor to interacting with authors, especially the ones whose work you love. This can be pretty dazzling-- no really, it is. I hear you laughing out there as you juggle your copy edits in two-day yoga pants and feeding the kids PB&J so you can make your deadline... but really, it is. We recognize your talent and your skill and your hard work, and feeling a part of the writing and publishing world is flattering. Getting free books is great-- let's be honest here -- but there is also a bit of a prestige factor going on. The first time I got a bound galley, I wanted to shake it in front of everyone on the bus: DO YOU KNOW WHAT THIS IS??? ISN'T IT AWESOME!! NOT EVERYBODY GETS THESE YOU KNOW I AM SPECIAL!! I mean, I didn't do that. That would make me just another crazy bus person. But still. I wanted to.
I think this was my mission for awhile. The interaction, the books, the feeling of prestige. But that was perhaps a couple hundred books ago...
Back to the Basics
I'm feeling bad about all the books I have received and not reviewed. Especially the ones I really liked! Some I even specially requested. I'm a terrible person. This guilt weighs on me and drags down my pleasure in reading other blogs and writing my own. Also, I hate when I get a book that I think is just so-so -- is there anything harder to write a review for than a "perfectly adequate but no more" genre book? I feel like I'm letting down the author or the publicists and not holding up my unwritten side of the bargain of free books for reviews-- and I am a huge fan of the genre so why wouldn't they expect/hope for positive reviews. So I think the time has come to change my review policy:
I'm going to read books I have. I'm going to read books that catch my eye, without much regard to the publication date. I will probably buy a few here and there. I will talk about the ones that give me something to talk about -- might be a review, or a rave, or just a chat.
I've already almost stopped requesting anything from NetGalley and Edelweiss. There are one or two places that send me unsolicited physical books -- I will be contacting them and letting them know that my policy has changed.
I plan to keep up with the Soup, and maybe go back to posting more of the Thursday Thirteen memes -- I always had fun with those.
I feel lighter already.