Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sunday Soup - April 13 Edition

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...
I'm not actually sure what people are talking about this week, but here are some links that caught my eye.

Stupid Lies About Vaginas, from Victoria Dahl. I do love this woman.
Roving Auto-Article Generator.
The press will print each PDF, which will be saddle stitched on the spot before being distributed for free.
I can't help but feel like this has to be a hoax.  I hope. The saddle-stitching detail seems like it puts it over the top.

Amazon is dead-freaking serious about drone deliveries. I find this kind of bemusing, and the sheer scope of the logistics on the ridiculous side, but then that's what everyone thought about building cell phone towers every 5 miles (give or take) in the 80s. So who knows?

The concept of peak content.  Hmmm. It is true that there seems to be a more viable business model as a content aggregator than a content producer... but what happens if everyone is aggregating and no one is producing? Could that even happen?

Newest blog on my radar: The Passionate Reader.  I love this blogger's voice and I'm looking forward to meeting her at RT!

What I'm reading
I've been on a great roll this week, catching up on some authors that have been on my list forever, plus finishing up this one by Victoria Dahl:

Too Hot to Handle. I don't know if I'm getting old or what, but I cannot for the life of me keep the titles of this mini-series straight. I finally figured out which one to read next and finished this contemporary Western.  I pretty much always likes me some Dahl, but I will say there were a few times with this heroine's awkwardness was almost off-putting, like I could almost see the author's hand cranking up the discomfort.  But since she has one of the best "I am woman, hear me roar" speeches ever, I can forgive:
"You think I'm someone sweet and nice and sunny? You look at me and you see someone who wants an apology? Someone who'll forgive you?

"That's what I hope, yes. I'm sorry, Merry. You're special. I know we don't have a permanent thing, but--

"I'm *special*?" she snarled. "Am I cute, too? And funny and kind?

"Um..." He finally seemed to recognize that his smile may have been premature. "Yes?"

Merry poked a finger into his chest, hard. "You don't know me. You don't know anything about me. You know *nothing, do you understand?"

He stepped backwards, hands raised.

"If I'm sweet, it's because I choose to be. If I'm ridiculously positive, it's because life is easier that way. A *hard* life is easier that way. I am not stupid, Shane."
She goes on to pretty much tear him a new one and give him a Black Moment to be remembered.  It is an EPIC scene.

Red-Headed Stepchild, by Jaye Wells. Unsurprisingly, I loved this kick-ass half-breed vampire/mage heroine. And yes, I know that "half-breed" is an offensive term with regards to real humans of mixed race parentage, but in a paranormal trope, I am using it deliberately. The "half-breed" is a classic romance device, posing a huge amount of potential conflict and character development. I actually got quite tired of it in the 80s, as every other hero of the American Western historical seemed to be either half Native American or half Mexican - "a foot in each camp, respected by the opposing societies, but belonging to neither." It was like a stock line on the blurb. But more recently, I've seen some much more nuanced treatments and I'm rather enjoying the new twists on this old theme.  Here, it's an important element to the story as Sabina is marginalized by the family that raised her because of her mixed parentage. At the end of the first book, it remains to be seen if her other heritage will treat her better.

A Perfect Darkness, by Jaime Rush. I first got wind of this author via the Avon Addict program, but I was reluctant to start in the middle of the series, and I never got around to tracking down the first book. Until now, and I'm very glad I did.  I found the paranormal elements here quite plausible and the suspense really kept me turning the pages. I won't say there weren't a few flaws -- the three protagonists basically take out a CIA operation which seemed a little bit unlikely, and the villain here is disappointingly one-dimensional, but the world is intriguing and I love the characters, so I'll be going back for more.

Outlander Watch... Och. I canna wait for Jamie and Claire onscreen.

I really want to dive into a re-read of Outlander, but I'm holding off until after RT. I'll keep you posted.

New eye candy, er, I mean, casting news-- says:
[Steven] Cree, repped by Tom Reed at Lou Coulson Associates, will play Ian Murray, Jenny’s husband and Jamie’s best friend since childhood, who lost part of his leg during battle with the English. Cree’s film credits include 300: Rise Of An Empire and The Awakening. He also will be seen opposite Angelina Jolie in Maleficent.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The King, by JR Ward - Review (sort of)

Title: The King
Author: J. R. Ward
Publisher:  NAL
Imprint: Penguin Group
Release Date: April 1, 2014
Reviewing: Kindle ebook
Reason for reading: JR, I can't quit you.

The Short Answer 
I think you have to be a pretty hard-core fan of the series to enjoy this particular book.  Which I am, and I did, but there were also a lot of things that were kind of... terrible.

Series Handicap:
This is a tough one to answer. Because there was not very much going on with the brothers, the handicap might actually be fairly low. You'll be totally lost on the Sola/Assail arc, and have missed some key things with the Xcor/Layla arc... but the King's story stands alone pretty well, actually.  On the other hand, this is probably not the best intro to the world and to JR Ward. I'd give it a 3 of 5, I guess, which is kind of a cop-out number. ;-)

Ye Olde Vocabulary
Someone should really put a shock collar on JRW and set it to taser her every time she writes something involving the words "partake" or "unto."  Scenes written in this psuedo-historical narration have been cringe-worthy since the first book and I honestly think they're getting worse. Interestingly, The King starts with a flashback scene featuring our Wrath's father, Wrath. You had to read a few pages into it before you were sure that it was the previous King Wrath, and I think the Olde-Timeyness of the language was deliberately toned down... and it was so much better than other scenes where it was not.

Stop the Madness
This was in the first chapter after the prologue, in Wrath's point of view:
...he was fully capable of going wrecking-ball to get at her. And not in the stupid-ass Miley Cyrus poser-sex way...
I refuse to believe that Miley Cyrus plays any part in the world of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. Period. I am excising the three (THREE!!) references from my brain.  It never happened. We won't speak of it again.

Wrath and Beth
This book was aptly titled, because Wrath really was the centerpiece, and he has a lot of work to do.  If Dark Lover was something of a coming of age story for Beth, this is one for Wrath. He comes to terms with the value of his kingship, his blindness, and his future in general.  He does some things in this book that I think are long overdue in the world-building, and it is a good thing indeed.  However, I would've liked to have seen more of the reactions from his populace -- both the commoners and the glymera.  There were scenes that seem conspicuously absent in retrospect.

I also really liked the background on Wrath's father. I think this is the first "history" we get of the race that isn't from a current character's point of view -- we just get to see some stuff that happened, that (our current) Wrath was not actually part of.

Other Arcs
Like all of the books in the BDB, there is a lot going on here.  Besides the arcs with Wrath and Beth and the kingship, there is a Trez arc, an Xcor/Layla arc, and the Assail/Sola arc. If this annoys you in general about the BDB books, it's probably going to be a bigger problem than usual for you.  Of the secondary arcs, I really like how the Sola/Assail one is going, although the folks who say it seems unconnected and distracting have a point. I don't know, there's something about those two that has hooked me in a way that Xcor/Layla did not.  Trez has some interesting problems to get handled too; I'm looking forward to that story (which is apparently going to be in the next book, according to announcements made at Saturday's Cincinnati signing for The King (you can find the transcript at JR Ward's Facebook page).

Unfortunately, I found the Xcor/Layla pairing to be pretty much just terrible all around.  Xcor does a wholly unbelievable 180 degree character turn, and not much else other than pining and thinking.  Although one of the best moments was when he was buying a new wardrobe and the clerk at Macy's looks him up and down and says, "You're not from around here, are you?" I cracked up.

Are people still arguing about whether the BDB books are romances? This one is probably less in that mold than any so far.  I have always staunchly said: "YES, they definitely are!" but the romance is less central to this book than any so far.

Bottom Line
I think this book could have done with fewer side-arcs and deeper treatment of the kingship arc -- it felt like a lot of things were glossed over.  The things that I don't like about JR Ward are present and accounted for and just as unlikeable in this book -- the annoying Olde Timey-speak and the fact that everyone has essentially the same voice, primarily. But it is still somehow a can't-put-it-down story that kinda makes me want an oversized, over-testosteroned-up vampire of my own.

Around the Blogosphere:
Interview with JR Ward
Vampire Book Club
Cocktails and Books
Under the Covers

As always, if you have reviewed this book feel free to leave a link in comments!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Thursday Thirteen, Edition 33: Twitter

I engage in social media in a very specific way.  There are lots of different ways to enjoy it, lots of different reasons for being in that space, and as a veteran of more than a few internet kerfuffles that raised my blood pressure in ways I did not like, I have learned a few things about what works for me, and what does not.  So this is about me and how I engage.  If I've unfollowed you for one of the reasons below, don't read this as a plea for you to stop doing something -- you should engage in the way that makes YOU happy.  But if maybe you're wondering why followers like me (whatever that means) aren't sticking around, maybe it's food for thought.

Thirteen Things About Me and Twitter:

Some things about me:
1. I'm on the internet for recreation, enjoyment, and entertainment.
2. I do not enjoy heated conflict (many people do, and that's FINE. I'm not one.)
3. I am not on the internet to pursue social justice, and I am not interested in evangelization on any topic.
4. What I think of your Twitter feed IS NO REFLECTION on what I think of you as a person or, if you are an author, of your work.  Seriously. 

Some things that might make me unfollow you:
5. You post a LOT about your cat.  (Dude. I'm allergic. And they're not THAT cute.)
6. You post a lot of religiously-oriented inspirational things.  Not my jam.
7. You are OUTRAGED about people being WRONG on the internet ALL THE TIME.
8. You discuss complex, in-depth topics by chunking up 3000-word op-ed pieces into a bajillion consecutive tweets.
9. You live-tweet* TV shows or sports things.
10. You live-tweet* a book I might read, with spoilers.
11. You post multiple one-line promotional tweets consecutively (and you do it a lot).
12. You retweet multiple promo tweets from your friends consecutively.
13. U use txt abbrvs 2 mch

*Maybe someday I'll pony up for a paid app with a mute button.  Until then...


Find more Thirteeners at Thursday-13. Participants are welcome and encouraged to leave links in comments.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sunday Soup - March 30 edition

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...
The most interesting discussion I've been involved in recently, I came to late by way of Pamela's excellent post, which includes all the good links leading up to it by Sunita and Janet and Laura and others.. I often feel kind of at sea in these discussions, as a non-academic and a non-publishing-pro.  Perhaps I just lack the power of conviction, but watching so many people make declarative statements about How Things Are, and what Can and Can't happen These Days is always a bit bemusing.  To me, there are a thousand different ways to be a blogger, and a thousand different ways to be an author, and a thousand different other ways to be involved with the romance genre. Do what works. If it stops working, you can stop doing it.  The beautiful thing about people doing stuff on the internet that you don't like, is that you don't have to be a consumer of it.  Vote with your feet.  Or your clicks, if you will.

Though one result of this rich discussion is that it is making me want to get out of my feedreader more and participate in the discussions.  Like in the Old Days. 

What I'm reading
It's been a busy couple of weeks around here; either I haven't been reading very much or I can't remember what I've read... I don't know which is worse!

Vixen in Velvet, by Loretta Chase. (eARC provided by HarperCollins Avon.) All I'm going to say right now is, if you are a person who preorders-- go ahead and do that.

Between the Devil and Ian Eversea, by Julie Ann Long. The latest in the Pennyroyal Green series, and an absolute winner. Sharp and sweet. Also, one of my favorite titles ever-- doesn't it just make you smile?

Beyond Jealousy, by Kit Rocha. I completely love this post-apocalyptic world. As always, the erotica is hot hot hot, but the world-building is deepening too. I like how the series arc is building up.

Too Hot to Handle, by Victoria Dahl. One of my favorite contemporary authors. I'm not very far along, but it's fun so far.

Here's one of those exceptions to my new "no review copy" policy: I have Nalini Singh's Shield of Winter in my hands right now and brrrrrrr, IT IS SO GOOD. Soooooooooo good.

Outlander Watch... Och. I canna wait for Jamie and Claire onscreen.

I'm a long ways from being the most obsessed fan of Outlander out there, but I've subscribed to the Starz newsletter, and follow a number of folks on Twitter who are involved with the project, and keep up in several ways. Out on the internet, there are a fair number of shirtless Jamie photos, beautiful images of the Scottish countryside and the castles involved in shooting, but somehow this is the most haunting image I've seen lately.  Outlander is about modern sensibilities crashing into historical ones, and while this is a different modernity than the book and neither Jamie nor Clare is in it, it is wholly in the spirit of the book on several levels:

Courtesy of writer/producer Matt Roberts' Twitter feed.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Thursday Thirteen, Edition 32: The #RT14 Countdown!

You guys, I'm getting so excited about the RT Booklovers' Convention!  It's in New Orleans, which is one of the absolute best US cities to have a party in.  I've been counting days since October when I registered (47 to go) -- I have plane tickets, my seats reserved, my room reservation... what else do I need to do?

1. Get new Moo cards made
2. Hem up the sparkly dress for Mardi Gras World Carnivale party
3. Figure out shoes for same
4. Buy an O'Kane For Life tee-shirt
5. Book a discounted shuttle trip from/to the airport
6. Follow up on a blogger swag idea
7. Get a haircut
8. Make up my list of authors to stalk, er, um, I mean, authors I'd like to try to meet (I'm harmless, honest.) Schedule some meetups.
9. Follow Jackie's "Look Who's Going to RT" feature religiously
10. Start following the bloggers who are headed to the book blogger con one day ahead
11. Break in the new shoes I bought
12. Remember to pack the anthology that I want to have signed
13. Read something from each of the 700 authors that are attending.... uh oh.


Find more Thirteeners at Thursday-13. Participants are welcome and encouraged to leave links in comments.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sunday Soup - March 16

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...
At my house, March madness doesn't have anything to do with basketball:  it's all about the Girl Scout CookiesStarting in late February, my house becomes the Cookie Depot for our troop, which is quite large-- we have about 30 girls this year.  I got the last of the cookies out of my house yesterday, and now just need to square up the accounting -- also, super fun!  Anyway, it's all for a good cause.

Then there's St. Patrick's Day.  Our family is not in the least Irish, nor are we in a particularly Irish community, but this year we decided to decorate a little bit, which entailed power tools and spray paint... I'm exhausted just thinking about it.  I put up a little faux mantel on one wall and my younger daughter and I decorated it.  It's probably kind of lame that that took up as much brain-space as it did, but it is what it is.

Anyway, on to Book Things!

How Public Libraries Are Solving America's Reading Problem Really good article, with really good news, IMO. How the publishing revolution is offering libraries a new life. Via the twitter feed of Seattle Book News.  

Anonymous reviews -- Two items in the news recently; first a petition endorsed by Anne Rice to remove the ability to leave anonymous reviews at Amazon.  Her endorsement can be found on her public Facebook page. Second, a major Australian paper announced that they will be publishing their professional reviews pseudonymously. Good summary article here.

My thoughts are mixed here.  Mostly I do not attempt to keep my reviewing identity secret, because I am just paranoid enough and just tech savvy enough to know that if someone really wanted to out me, it's just not that hard to do so.  Therefore, I started from the very beginning with the decision that I would not put anything online that I am not willing to have my name attached to, for any reason.  (The one place that this really inhibits me--heh-- from posting is discussions about erotica.  I would say things anonymously that I'm not really willing to have out there in front of the world.)

Amazon's review system is troubled, for sure.  I don't pay much attention to reviews or average stars.  I go more by word of mouth and reading an excerpt for myself, but there's no doubt that those ratings and reviews influence sales, for better and for worse.  It's a shame that some people have nothing better to do than to game the system.

Do you use photos in your blog? then this is BIG NEWS: Free Use of Images from Getty. If you read the fine print, you may find that once again, there's no such thing as a free lunch:
once the images are embedded, Getty has much more control over the images. The new embeds are built on the same iframe code that lets you embed a tweet or a YouTube video, which means the company can use embeds to plant ads or collect user information.
To be honest, that pretty much seems worth it to me, but your mileage may vary. Via Dear Author's Twitter feed.

Author News
Interesting stuff from some of my favorites!

Charlotte Stein's newest release is with a new Avon line -- I'm gonna need to check out both.

Ilona Andrews announces new book, new series, and new publisher -- very exciting.

Chloe Neill also has a new series beginning.

What I'm reading

Apples Should Be Red, a subversive, salty little novella by Penny Watson.  This is a second-chance romance, with characters edging into senior citizen territory. I have more to say about this one, but bottom line is -- I liked it, and you should read it.

Clean Sweep, by Ilona Andrews.  I read a little bit of this when it was published as a serial for free, and adored the world premise. Really loved it, and the full book!  Great story, but it felt like the beginning of something that might not get finished.  I'm getting spoiled about long-running series, I guess.

Crazy, Stupid Sex by Maisey Yates. How can you resist a title like that?  Another winning nerd-girl heroine.

Fury of Desire, by Coreene Callahan.  Book 4 in the Dragonfury series, and not bad on the adventure and series arc fronts.  I found the hero's character resolution to be a little jarring and not quite on target though.

 Kinked, by Thea Harrison.  Good grief, I really, really loved this one. This is the story that I wanted for J.R. Ward's Vishous.  It's the story of two extreme entities, who have waited a long time to meet their matches.  When they do, sparks fly, and nobody has to give up who they are.

Outlander Watch... Och. I canna wait for Jamie and Claire onscreen.

Delightful photo via Outlander Life's Twitter feed:

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sunday Soup - February 22

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...
I'm getting all revved about RT14! I confess, I've been stalking the hashtag a bit.  Are you a Karina Cooper fan? I thought I had reviewed her ... but I guess that's another one that never made it out of the "thinking about" stage and onto the actual blog.  Anyway, if you're going to RT, check out the plan Ms. Cooper is hatching, if for no other reason than that she always has the most FABULOUS boots.  And either way, if you haven't sampled her St. Croix series, you really should. Creepy and dark; it really brings the horror element.

A friend posted this article about women's voices and it's kind of amazing.  [Ironically] I can't really articulate my response to it, but it has me thinking thinking thinking.

Adventures in Reading! I had lunch at Panera the other day, with my book of course, and I kept sort of eavesdropping on these two women sitting near me.  I can hardly be blamed though, because they kept dropping tantalizing words like "genre" and "literary" and "urban fantasy" and I couldn't quite catch what they were actually talking about, but it was clearly a business conversation.  Finally I couldn't stand it any more and butted in. We talked books and genre and social media for at least half an hour before I had to run and tend to the rest of my real life schedule. In the process, I learned about Curiosity Quills, a very cool new(ish) publishing house. It's always a great day when I can nerd out with someone new!

What I'm reading
I finished the Alexa Egan title I mentioned last week.  I think I liked the second one a little bit better, but it's definitely a series I'll stick with.

Blazed through Thea Harrison's Lord's Fall.  I know, I'm way behind.  I've already started Kinked.  I love this stuff.  I'm probably due for a contemporary pretty soon though; I'm thinking probably something from Victoria Dahl.

Outlander Watch... Och. I canna wait for Jamie and Claire onscreen.

Interview with Ron Moore; nice chunk of discussion about adapting the book to film.
One of the very first notes that [Starz CEO] Chris Albrecht told me was to trust the book. He said, "We love the book. Make the show for the fans of the book and believe that anyone who doesn't know this material, when they see it, they'll be swept into the story like everyone else is.
What a great thing to hear!

Ron Moore and Sam Heughan in kilts.  Although I searched diligently, out of the generosity of my heart for you, my readers, all for you... the photographic evidence is sadly minimal AND owned by Getty Images, so you'll need to click through for a look.


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