Friday, June 13, 2014

Summer Soup

Does your scheduling go all to hell in the summer? Mine sure does...

Soup Dish:  book people are talking about...
Amazon vs. Hachette. You don't need me to tell you about this; everyone is talking about it. I see this as another spasm in the death-throes of the 20th-century publishing model. Everyone involved in this industry is going to see their role adapt or die... or get lucky.  I think for a time, readers may be winners, but if Amazon is allowed to become a monopoly, that won't serve anyone well.  Yet no one is stepping up as a serious competitor in the ebook arena.  Why is that? I love my Kindle, and I love how easy it is to access thousands or even millions of books through Amazon...

BUT, on the other hand, I have music that I have purchased in 4 different formats (wax, cassette, CD, mp3...) and I refuse to do that with books. If a second format is required, it will be paper, and I won't require a device to read it.  More likely, since we're talking about text, people will find a way to strip off the DRM and import it onto any basic text reader.  I have zero ethical qualms about that, regardless of what it says in the fine print about my rights to read it on other devices or media, particularly if Amazon or anyone else feels that device lock-in is a good way to get me to pay for the same work multiple times.  No. I'm not talking about making dozens of copies or sharing more than I would a physical book, but I feel that if I've bought the book, I should be able to read it on whatever media I want to.

What I'm reading
Yeesh, it's been a long time since I've recapped my reading.  Two months! That's a lot of books. I think I'll stick to the highlights.

Most recently, I just finished First to Burn, by Anna Richland and liked it very much. I met Ms. Richland at RT and ended up sitting next to her on the flight home from DFW to Seattle. I'm afraid I may have distracted her a bit from the editing she was supposed to be doing on the second book in the series. The series features a cadre of warriors who were accidentally immortalized while fighting the Grendel alongside Beowulf.  Although I found the paranormal aspect of the worldbuilding to start a little bit slowly, the really unique bit of this book is that the hero is a military Special Forces officer, and a large part of the story takes place while the main characters are deployed in Afghanistan.  Ms. Richland writes about military life with authenticity and a great ear for the dialog.

Another RT introduction landed me with the book Stone Guardian, by Danielle Monsch. The premise is that an apocalyptic event crashes multiple dimensions together, allowing supernatural and magical creatures access to our world, with a lot of scary violence ensuing. I enjoyed the world-building quite a lot but I had a little trouble connecting with the characters, particularly the heroine. She vacillated between super-sweet and sarcastic wise-cracking, which felt inconsistent to me and undermined the romantic chemistry. I may at least sample the next one though because I do find the world intriguing.

A lot of people have been talking about Laura Florand, so I decided to give her a try. I thought the books were overpriced, so I managed to get a copy of The Chocolate Thief through the library. I suspect the main attraction of Florand's work must be the sensual way she writes about chocolate, because that really is wonderful, and her writing overall is perfectly fine. However, I didn't like her characters at all.  The author shows us the hero's vulnerabilities, but instead of endearing him to me he just seemed both pompous and insecure. But the heroine was much worse. A poor little rich girl, her life's dream is to expand the family's mass-produced chocolate dynasty (think the Hershey family) with a line of exclusive high end gourmet chocolate. Although the author attempts to convince us that she's a business genius, her meeting and approach with the hero-- the best chocolatier in Paris, and therefore the world- are completely ridiculous. We are then apparently supposed to feel sorry for the spoiled wealthy heiress who didn't get what she wanted. I DNF'd it.  Also, not for nothing, but it was almost impossible for me to figure out the reading order for this series.  Aggravating.

I'd been meaning to try Jade Lee ever since RT12, because she was such a great personality.  It took me awhile to get around to it, but I finally downloaded and read The Devil's Bargain.  I did finish this one, but I struggled tremendously with the premise. I pretty much hated it.  The hero is a viscount who has fallen on hard times, and hits upon the thoroughly disgusting scheme of pimping destitute women into the marriage market. More specifically, the market as a second (or third, or whatever) bride to an elderly, wealthy man who would like to have a well-trained hooker/wife available, now that his duty to God and country is done.  In some ways, it's rationalizable: these are women who would be left in desperate circumstances.  The viscount arranges for a marriage settlement and provides a "guaranteed product" to the grooms.  He knows the vices of the grooms in question and will not "do business" with the more depraved. However, the training of the young women, while falling short of actually divesting them of their virginity, was humiliating and degrading and I just could not get over my ICK factor.  Surprisingly, I did like the way the twist resolved the seemingly irreconcilable black moment. I would try a different book by this author but it would depend on the premise.

So after a couple of these disappointing reads, I thought Sarah Mayberry might be the antidote I was looking for. I started The Other Side of Us on the plane to RT14, and happily, I was right. I really liked that both characters were at a point in their lives where a romantic entanglement was just a really, really terrible idea-- him VERY fresh from divorce, and she recovering physically from a bad car accident. If you were best friends with either of these people, you'd be telling them, "sure, have some fun, but this is not the moment to get serious!"  Great chemistry; resonant, three-dimensional characters; and grown-up (but not perfect) emotional give and take. Strong recommend.

That's about a third of the books I've read since the last update, but it seems like a good stopping place.  Hopefully I can get back on track with more regular Sunday Soups.  RT14 really did inspire me to keep on blogging, and I'm going to try to get back to reviewing too.  I have some thoughts about the upcoming Loretta Chase book and I'm working through the biggest #wtf book I've read in a while; also known as Hate to Love You by Elise Alden. Angela James of Carina Press called it a "divisive" book at RT and I can see why. It just kind of begs to be talked about.


Kaetrin said...

I really enjoy Sarah Mayberry books. The Other Side of Us wasn't my very favourite of hers (I liked it very much but didn't love it as much as some of her others - like Suddenly You, Within Reach or Her Favourite Temptation) for example). I find her books to be a reliably good read and that is golden.

Nicola O. said...

That *is* golden! I just really liked the grown-up-ness of the characters.

I started to read a category of hers awhile back but ran out of steam. No idea what the title was, but this was just the thing to break a slump.

Anonymous said...

I am so happy to find someone else whose reaction to Florand's The Chocolate Thief was the same as mine. I even read the ending to see if it got better and it didn't, so I DNF'd that sucker. I also thought that her representation of French people (the hero, in particular) conformed to a particular stereotype.


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