Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sunday Soup - September 29

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

Soup Dish:  book people are talking about...
Bookish twitter feeds and blogs lit up this week about David Gilmour's (literature teacher, not guitarist) completely un-self-aware interview about how he chooses his curriculum.  Spoiler: all middle-aged white male authors, how shocking is that? The interesting thing here is that he really believes it's a totally justifiable stance.  Later, he apologizes for the sake of his future book sales:
I talked to Patrick Crean [his publisher]. He was concerned that this was going to affect the general climate around the book, that some women might not like the book if they think that that’s my policy. And that’s one of the reasons that I’m apologizing. Normally I actually wouldn’t.
Here's what I don't get.  He seems to think it's perfectly reasonable that he only loves middle-aged straight white literature, because he IS a middle aged straight white guy, but... now here's the crazy part... aren't most of his students young women, most likely of a cross-section of sexualities? Apparently that matters, right?  How does he expect his students to love this stuff?  I mean, it seems perfectly reasonable to assume that they cannot and never will. Isn't privilege a delicious thing?  It's just like air, you don't even know you're breathing it.

Then there's the Goodreads thing. Goodreads recently deleted a number of shelves (a tagging mechanism) that had labels referencing author behavior, and related articles by members that focused on the author rather than the book. 

Online communities succeed or fail -- or struggle along somewhere in between -- by virtue of their content. Goodreads correctly observes that there is no way to please everyone:
We recognize that not everyone is going to agree with our approach. People have different - and often quite strongly held - viewpoints about what should and should not be allowed in a review.
So perhaps it's a sign that I'm getting old, but I don't think there's anything wrong with adding guidelines to keep discussion civil. Another point that comes to mind is this chestnut:

image attribution
Aside from the question of content, you might also take from that bit of wisdom that if you really want to be in full control of your content, you might want to consider taking more ownership of your platform.  Some Blogger users learned this the hard way recently too.

On a related note, I think all of us in this brave new world of reviewing books online occasional stop and think about what the inevitable (is it? I tend to think it is...) interaction with authors, publishers, and other industry professionals means for us as readers and reviewers.  Kaetrin has some interesting thoughts on the topic.

Font geeks: I just thought this was cool.  It's from a Seattle building too.  Who knew that "font designer" could be an actual career?

Sometimes, it's all about the title.  Honestly, I have my doubts about the premise of this book.  But I am mostly likely going to give it a whirl because I'm loving the title: Heavy Metal Heart.

What I'm reading
This week has been all Charley Davidson, all the time.  I'm on the third book of Darynda Jones' series about a wise-cracking human portal to heaven, her fling with the son of Satan, and the mysteries and mishaps they solve along the way.  I tend to avoid books with overtly slapsticky humor, just a personal preference, but these are working for me.  The one-liners and smart-assery are really consistent throughout these books, and yeah, I think there have been a few that clinked or felt forced to me, but for the most part, the combination of humor, action, and sexual tension are reeling me through these books like a well-hooked trout... er, I'm not sure if that's the best analogy, but haven't got a better one at the moment, so let's just go with it.  I'm hooked, get it?

On Tap... what soup isn't a little better with a slosh or two?
Last week I talked about the Blue Moon fall sampler. This week I picked up the Sam Adams version of the same thing - a 12 pack with 5 different beers. So far I've tried the Hazel Brown - interesting, heavily flavored with hazelnut, quite sweet; the harvest pumpkin ale, which honestly I doubt I'd be able to tell the difference from the Blue Moon beer of the same label; the IPA, which unsurprisingly is too hoppy for my taste, and the Octoberfest ale, which is entirely nice but I won't be holding my breath waiting for it next year or anything. There's also a Ruby and a regular lager that I haven't tried yet.

One Last Thing
I might resemble this woman:

Hopefully I won't have to chain either of my daughters by the legs to prevent them from throwing themselves into the haunts of vice though.

(Ohh, and I can't help but think, wouldn't "Ungovernable Passion" be a great name for a romance blog?)


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.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Sunday Soup - September 1

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

Soup Dish:  book people are talking about...
Glitterland, by Alexis Hall. I'm not a huge fan of gay romance and I don't go out of my way for it. However, the buzz around this title is kind of interesting -- it's not all over my twitter feed like Unbroken by Anna Cowan was, but I've seen three reviews pop up and they all made me sort of sit up and take notice. I have it on order (I can't believe there's no Kindle version! I have really come to rely on the instant gratification of e-books for my impulse reading). When Wonkomance, Kaetrin, and Natalie all gang up like this, I really have no choice. CORRECTION: There is in fact, a Kindle edition.  Of course there is.  I don't know why I failed to find it earlier. (Thanks Jessica!)

Flavorwire's 40 Trashy Books. I used to refer to romances as trashy novels, maybe 20 or 25 years ago. A member of RWA very gently set me straight, and suggested that I used the term out of embarrassment. Hey, I wasn't embarrassed! I was just being funny! Anyway, these days, that usage really makes me bristle. What makes a novel "trashy"? The fact that it's popular? Or, in the case of this list, WAS popular, and its readership is like, your mom? That there is sex in it? Bristly. However, look over the article, because there are some wonderful vintage pop culture titles there. I don't know what idiot calls Anaïs Nin "trashy," but I recommend you ignore the smug editorializing and beef up your reading list. From the Simon and Schuster Twitter feed.

I'm a bit late with this one. August was declared "Read a Romance Month" (aka, every month for me). I gather it is directed at reasonably open-minded readers who had never read a romance, and a temporary (?) blog was set up to host various featured guests. One of the articles that resonated for me was Lucy March's Rejecting the Premise. Very well said.

This lovely little essay on how your frame of mind influences your writing, and what can make you feel powerful and confident. By way of Betsy.

What I'm reading
Currently I'm in the middle of a new ARC from Larissa Ione. I didn't care for her demons but so far I'm liking Bound By Night well enough.

I finished up The King's Pleasure by Heather Graham, a re-release from Retro Reads. An old-school sprawling historical epic, with attention to historical detail around the fourteenth century Hundred Years' War between the Plantagenets and French house of Valois.  I found it a little slow-going at times but I did finish it and I did enjoy it.

I ended up throwing no less than four titles into my DNF category this week (and creating a DNF category on my Kindle), which I rarely do. With e-reading, it's much easier to just... stop reading and kid myself that maybe I'll come back to it. I also spent the last week getting the house cleaned for a visit from my mother-in-law, so it's possible that I'm a wee bit extra cranky this week. It's difficult to say.

On Tap... what soup isn't a little better with a slosh or two?
No time for adventure this week, what with all the housecleaning. Temperatures have hovered in the high 70s all week, which is absolutely perfect for sitting on a breezy deck with a cold anything-you-want, but kind of sweaty for heavy housecleaning when you have no A/C. So anyway, Blue Moon and Sam Adams Blackberry Wit have been on tap this week.

Sometime in the last month or so, I tried a strawberry ale which I really really wanted to like. It started off promising with a light sweet strawberry flavor riding on top of the ale, but by the time I was halfway through it had soured off and I wasn't liking it at all. Could it be that my palate is becoming so refined that it matters whether I pour it into a glass or not? That seems so unlikely. I only bought one bottle and probably won't bother trying again, but I do wonder a little if that would've made a difference.


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