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landbeyondmaps

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Partly because of being busy writing my own novel for NaNoWriMo, and partly because one of them was particularly long, I only read two novels during the month of November.

The first was Land Beyond Maps by Maida Tilchen. It was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in the lesbian debut fiction category in 2010, and I was lucky enough to pick up a copy for only one dollar. (The Kindle ebook is still only 99 cents as I write this.)

The novel is set in New Mexico in the very late 1920s, and the main characters are several women who are very independent or don’t easily fit into the roles women were expected to hold in that era.

Two of the women are a lesbian couple (one a photographer and the other a nurse), another is a frustrated artist who gave up her goals to help her husband seek his, another is an asexual woman who becomes obsessed with desert plantlife, and the last one you could probably say is gender queer, even though there was no recognition of that as an identity at that point in time.

The book is very well-written and in many ways can be viewed as a love letter to New Mexico. Tilchen vividly writes about the desert so that you feel you are there, seeing what the characters see. She does a fabulous job of bringing that time period to life, while also providing fascinating depictions of the Navajo people muddling through a cultural transition.

Land Beyond Maps doesn’t have much in the way of a plot. It’s a slice of life novel, looking in on these women at a singular period in their lives as they cross paths and discover what their goals are and what provides meaning for them. If you enjoy that sort of novel then I can highly recommend it. If you need something with a more typical beginning, middle, and end, with a central plot moving things forward, it’s probably not for you.

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The other novel I read, which took up most of the month and the first couple days into December, was The Stand by Stephen King. It seemed like a perfect choice for the dark, rainy days of a Pacific Northwest November, and I was right.

This was the third time I’ve read the book, but it had been about twenty years since the last time I read it, so it was all fresh again. An online acquaintance had gifted me with the ebook copy quite a while back and I was finally in the right mood to read it. This was the uncut, extended version, which I hadn’t read before.

I don’t really want to go into the plot or characters. The book is extremely well known, and the majority of King fans tend to agree that it’s his best, or one of his best, novels. I agree with that assessment.

Even for people who don’t care much for horror, or King’s work in particular, it’s worth giving a try. It’s not heavy on horror. It’s a post-apocalyptic story with a central theme of good vs. evil using supernatural elements. I thoroughly enjoyed my leisurely reread.

The thing I was to discuss is the fact that when the novel was rereleased in the uncut version in 1990, King not only added back most of the original manuscript, he also updated the novel to that decade. (It was originally published in 1978, and written 2-3 years prior to that, I think.) I had discussed my opinion of updating fiction in a post here, and it turns out The Stand is an excellent argument for why I think updating doesn’t work, and shouldn’t be done.

It’s easy enough to go through and change dates, slip in different song titles and other pop culture references that fit a different decade, and update technology in a novel. Provided you don’t miss anything. But what the author can’t do, unless they’re willing to rewrite to a great extent, is update the entire context in which the story was originally written.

Anything a person writes is affected by when it’s written. This is true even for historical novels, but usually in a different way than a contemporary story. How a story is written is affected by how the author perceives the world, and how the author perceives the world is to a great degree dependant on the world around them. And in turn this all affects how their characters in the novel perceive their world.

It doesn’t seem like a twelve year difference in publication dates should have much of an effect on things, and that might have been part of King’s thinking at the time. Technological differences are much more obvious changes, and can be relatively easy to deal with. But underlying attitudes that characters hold are a much trickier thing.

There were many, many places in the updated version of The Stand where things just didn’t read right for 1990. They were right for the mid-1970s. Though in fact, there were quite a few attitudes expressed by characters that were already starting to seem a little dated by 1978. By 1990 they came across as rather archaic.

This is the primary reason I think writers should not attempt to update fiction. While it’s true that some people won’t read older novels because they are no longer contemporary, those people shouldn’t be accommodated. There are enough of the rest of us who don’t care, and in fact enjoy reading novels written in prior decades. Either because we lived through them ourselves and get a sense of nostalgia, or because we like to see what it was like through the eyes of people living through that time.

There’s another more practical reason as well. The Stand was updated for its 1990 extended version release, but that updated version is now more than two decades out of date. So you have to ask yourself, where does it end? Should a novel be updated every ten years? I say no.

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The Long Trail by Penny Hayes

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10/25

I decided I wasn’t quite ready to leave the world of Leadville, Colorado, so when I looked up Iron Ties by Ann Parker and saw that the ebook price was only $2.51 I bought it and started reading. Reading this one closely mirrored my experience of the first. I found that the story itself wasn’t what most interested me. Parker is competent at crafting a mystery, but not necessarily one that truly grabs me. (A personal taste thing.)

What she is excellent at is creating believable characters and evoking a distinct sense of place and time. And it’s that latter that keeps me absorbed in the books.

Parker also did a great job of incorporating the aftermath of the Civil War in this one. It’s far enough in the country’s past now that it’s easy to forget that the end of the war left raw, gaping wounds in the people who lived through it, on both sides. I’m not a Civil War buff, but I did find that aspect quite interesting, primarily because it’s rarely discussed.

Again Inez was an intriguing protagonist. She’s often self-righteous, which then comes across as hypocrisy given her occupation and extra-curricular activities. She’s complex, not always likable, but interesting to read about.

After I finished that one I was ready to leave Parker’s Leadville, but not necessarily the Old West. Bella Books was having a sale on select books, and one of them was the ebook edition for an old favorite of mine, The Long Trail by Penny Hayes. So I bought a copy for my Kindle and read it.

The Long Trail was originally published in 1986 and was one of the early volumes in my very small, but growing, lesbian library. It’s a story of two women in a tiny town in Texas, not long after the Civil War, who are incredibly unlikely to become friends, but do anyway. Not yet realizing they’d been falling in love, they decide to leave their town and make their way back East. Which makes this sort of a reverse of the usual story, in which the intrepid characters head out on a long trail west.

Because the book has a special place in my heart, I tend to overlook the book’s flaws. If I were reading it now for the first time I probably wouldn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I did when I first discovered it. But even with the flaws, the characters are well-drawn and their story is touching and adventurous.

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10/31

A year ago several of Lawrence Block’s old pulp novels written under the pen name Jill Emerson went on sale for 99 cents each. I bought six of them at the time, and just now finished reading Thirty, which is the third of them I’ve read. (The other two were Threesome, which was excellent, and Enough of Sorrow, which I didn’t think was very good.)

Thirty is a bit of a mixed bag. It’s written in diary format, and is the story of a twenty-nine-year-old housewife who abruptly leaves her husband, moves to Greenwich Village, and embarks on a series of sexcapades.

The writing was very good, with several insightful observations about people and life. But Jan, the woman writing the diary, isn’t that sympathetic. Not that I think she’s intended to be, the purpose for this type of novel was mostly to titillate, and possibly shock, readers.

A nitpicky thing that bugged the heck out of me was Jan using the slang term “balling” to refer to sex. Block has used that in the other books also, and it’s obviously his phrasing sneaking into the narration, rather than a reflection of the character’s speech. It’s a male term, rarely used by women, and even back then I don’t think many men used it either. So it undercuts the female voice of the narration, especially when it’s not just a slang quirk of one character, but used by several different women.

One section was troubling and distasteful, because Jan comes under sway of a predatory, manipulative man, who is also involved with a young girl. The girl is only fifteen in the novel, but he first seduced her when she was twelve. Worse, Jan is also involved with her.

The book is dark, with Jan frequently feeling depressed and suicidal. And it has no ending to speak of, in which the reader can feel some sense of resolution. Instead it just stops on a somber note. Still, I don’t feel like I wasted my time reading it, at least partly because I love reading books written in the time period of the 50s and 60s. (This one was originally published in 1970.)

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10/1

I finished Dark Dreamer by Jennifer Fulton (only $4.99) yesterday. I had read one novel by Fulton a few years ago, and while the setting was very memorable, the rest of the book was merely okay in my opinion. So I was a bit skeptical about this one, but a lesbian ghost story was too much for me to pass up. I ended up being pleasantly surprised.

The setting, an old haunted house on an island in Maine, was perfect. The characters were interesting, the romance mostly believable, and the plot is intricate with a lot of different things going on. Near the end I thought Fulton got a bit heavy handed bringing in the topic of the Patriot Act. It ended up making me angry because I think the loss of our Constitutional rights is criminal, so it detracted from the novel. But that can be overlooked for what was otherwise a good read.

The ghost aspects aren’t scary, but there are plenty of suspenseful moments.

Then next I read Hidden by Kelley Armstrong. (I got it for only $2.99, it’s $5.99 right now.) It’s a long novella/short novel in Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld series, with Elena the werewolf as the main character. She, her husband, and young twin children are on a Christmas vacation getaway, but things don’t go according to plan and they end up having to investigate a couple mutt werewolves in the area.

Hidden is pretty much flawless, and is one of my favorite books I’ve read this year. The characters are all unique, including the four-year-old twins, the plot is engaging, there are heartwarming moments, and there is plenty of humor and sexiness to keep almost any reader satisfied. Highly recommended.

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10/2

I read “Home” by Stacia Kane, a short story in her Downside Ghosts series, featuring Chess Putnam and Terrible. This was an unusual offering compared to the novels. It’s not particularly gloomy. More of a Sturm und Drang type story, with an uplifting ending. As much as I love the dark grittiness of Kane’s dystopian urban fantasy series, “Home” was a really nice change of pace, allowing us to see that not everything is hopeless. Those always on the lookout for fiction with positive portrayals of polyamory will be especially interested.

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10/15/12

What with working on a project, prepping for NaNo, and other things, I’ve not been reading nearly as much. I just finished Silver Lies by Ann Parker, which took me over a week to read. I bought it on sale for 99 cents in January, but when looking it up for this post I see that it’s being offered free for the Kindle right now.

It took me a while to get into this one, which is a mystery set in a silver mining boom town in Colorado in 1879. I adored the setting, and the main character (Inez) was intriguing, but the story itself didn’t grab me right away. The bustling mining town is what kept me reading initially, and it ended up being quite a satisfactory book. Inez is a fascinating character, but not always easy to like. At times she seems much too judgmental and hypocritical, considering her past. She is a saloon owner, but often acts as if she’s above that. This isn’t a knock against the book by any means, it was done that way intentionally.

For anyone who likes mysteries, and enjoys books set in, not exactly the Wild West, but the still not very tame West, give it a go. What do you have to lose when it’s free? (If you don’t own a Kindle, you can get one of the free apps to read it on your other device or computer.)

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This summer I haven’t been reading as much as usual, distracted by watching streaming videos online and working on a couple big projects. Thus, I haven’t been keeping up with the monthly reading thread on the Amazon Kindle forum, and haven’t been writing about the books I’ve read.

So this is a catch-up Book Bits post, wherein I attempt to cover all the books I’ve read since the end of June. I may have forgotten some of the books I’ve read in that time, and my thoughts about the books won’t be as fresh as when I write while I’m reading. But here goes.

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There were three books that I started but did not finish:

I first mentioned Asphalt Jungle by WR Burnett in the June post. I mentioned then that the writing had problems, but that I like heist stories so was sticking with it. At about 40-50% I finally stopped reading. The story and characters just weren’t enough to get me past the funky writing. I tried to let my picky nature go and enjoy the book for what it was, but that wasn’t enough. I can see where a lot of people would like the book, but with so many other books waiting to be read I finally decided to move on.

Two or three years ago I purchased a bundle of The Doomsday Key and The Last Oracle by James Rollins for really cheap and finally got around to reading The Last Oracle. I had previously read The Judas Strain by Rollins and it was a fun romp, so was expecting the same thing again. But this time maybe I wasn’t in the right mood, or it’s just that this type of book really isn’t my thing. I read about 30% of it and decided that there were other things I’d rather be reading.

The other book I didn’t finish was a surprise to me. I have three books in the Sundered fantasy series by Michelle Sagara West. I got one of them free and the other two on sale after that, and I assumed it would be a series that I really liked, thus buying them before reading the first one.

But in July I started Into the Dark Lands and didn’t get very far. There is absolutely nothing I can point to that is wrong with the book, it simply didn’t grab me at all, so I ditched it. This is strictly a matter of personal taste, or maybe just not being in the right mood at the time. I’d like to give it another go in the future, though I pretty much never go back and give a book a second chance.

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Books that I read and finished:

Middle of Somewhere by Clifford Henderson. (Despite the name Clifford, the author is female.) It’s only $4.99 right now. This one should have been included in the June post, but got accidentally left out. This is a lesbian novel about a young woman who flees her home in California and sets out for the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival in an old, unreliable Thunderbird, which breaks down in a very small town in Texas.

There is a romance element in the novel, but I wouldn’t describe it as a romance. It’s a book about finding yourself and learning to appreciate people for who they are, despite being very different. There are a lot of interesting characters and this is the sort of story I really enjoy.

But it wasn’t as good as it could have been. I think the main issue is that the main character wasn’t terribly sympathetic to begin with, and didn’t quite show as much growth as one would expect in this type of book. The depiction of small town life is great though, and there are a couple mysteries taking place, and the book is worth reading for anyone interested.

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At the beginning of July I read Chasing Magic by Stacia Kane. It’s the fifth book in the Downside Ghosts series. This is an excellent newer urban fantasy series that is dark and gritty. The books have been on an accelerated publishing schedule, so even though there are five books, the first one only came out in 2009. I love this, because it means not waiting so long in between books!

Chasing Magic was a good, solid addition to the series. I haven’t felt let down by any of the books yet, though Kane does get too repetitive about Chess’s self-esteem issues. In addition to having drugged hordes acting like zombies, this one focuses quite a bit on Chess’s relationship to the Church, and how tentative it is now that she has disappointed her mentor.

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Next I read All the Paths of Shadow by Frank Tuttle. (Only $3.99.) I was introduced to Frank’s writing when one of his Markhat novellas was offered for free from the publisher when my Kindle was still new. Frank has been a regular on the Amazon Kindle boards, as a fellow Kindle owner, and he’s a heck of a funny guy. This shows in his fantasy writing, which is always clever, with interesting characters, and detailed world building.

I’ve read all the Markhat books, and All the Paths of Shadow is the first book in a new series about the mage Meralda. It was a bit slow in the middle, but overall a fun read. I believe it is considered YA fiction, so suitable for teens and adults alike.

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Next up was Kitty Steals the Show, the latest (10th book) in the Kitty Norville urban fantasy series by Carrie Vaughn. Vaughn’s books are sort of urban fantasy light, in that they are quick, fun reads that even with dire events happening, never feel too gritty. Normally I’d consider the lack of dark urgency in Vaughn’s writing to be a drawback, but the books are so enjoyable I gobble them up each time a new one comes out. This one furthers the vampire long game story arc and Kitty makes some new allies. A good addition to the series.

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The next week saw another release in another urban fantasy series I’m reading. This one was Gunmetal Magic in the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews. The first book in the series is Magic Bites. This is a series that only seems to get better with each book. I thought the first one was so-so, but the unique world building kept me interested enough to give the second book a chance, and now with five books, plus Gunmetal Magic, I’m hooked.

One of the things that I’ve really appreciated about the series is the friendship that has developed between Kate (the series main character), and Andrea, a shapeshifter. It’s unusual to find books with a strong friendship between two women when that isn’t the point of the novel, or when the friend isn’t just comic relief or a sidekick. Gunmetal Magic is a novel from Andrea’s POV and is an excellent addition to the series. It was especially fun to see Kate through Andrea’s eyes. I guess she’s a little crazier than we realized when reading books through Kate’s POV. Heh.

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I next read Daughter’s of the North by Sarah Hall, a dystopian novel set in England. The world has fallen apart due to economic collapse, and totalitarian regimes have taken over. The main character escapes from her city, in which the residents are little more than prisoners and work slaves, to seek out a rumored conclave of women still living free. This was a very good book, but it’s not for those who need a tidy, happy ending. It’s one of the better books I’ve read this year.

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Stranger in the Room by Amanda Kyle Williams was the next book I read. It’s the second book in the new Keye Street series. Street is a private detective, who once worked as an FBI profiler. I think I liked the first book a bit more, but this one was a solid read. Williams’ writing is a bit uneven at times, but Street is an intriguing and engaging character, and the books are entertaining.

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Sticking with mysteries, I then read Report for Murder by Val McDermid. I had been wanting to give McDermid a try for a long time, and when I saw that the first book in her Lindsay Gordon series was available for only $1.99 I snatched it up.

I have to say though that I was a little disappointed. I didn’t think Lindsay was that sympathetic or interesting of a character, and she develops a rocky romantic relationship with another woman who doesn’t really seem any more sympathetic. The two clash frequently, so it’s difficult to understand the attraction.

The writing also seemed rather flat to me, though it’s possible that’s merely due to a difference in style because of McDermid being a British author. The book is very British, which I did enjoy, and the mystery is well done. I’m not writing off the series completely. I may give the second book a chance in the future to see if I like it any better and want to continue, or instead might give the first book in one of her other series a try.

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Then I started on one of my lezzie book binges. I was house/cat sitting for my aunt in another city for ten days, which is like going on vacation for me. And my tradition is to read a stack of lesbian fiction while on vacation.

I started reading Dark Dreamer by Jennifer Fulton, which I bought when the price dropped to only $4.99.  However, the book has supernatural/ghost elements, and I realized that maybe reading such a book when I was staying alone in a strange house out in the country wasn’t such a good idea. I don’t know yet if the book actually gets spooky, I decided to put it aside before I found out! Heh. I’ll get back to it when I finish the book I’m currently reading, now that I’m safely back home again.

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So instead I read Turning the Page by Georgia Beers. It’s the fourth Beers novel I’ve read and I knew I was taking a bit of a risk because this is, if not her first book, at least one of her earliest ones. Her writing has improved a lot between then and now, and I’ve mentioned quite a bit that I’m a picky reader.

Like Thy Neighbor’s Wife, the writing in Turning the Page was awkward and unpolished in many ways. And Beers has a teeth-gnashingly annoying habit of constantly referring to her main character as “the redhead.” But even in her early books she does know how to create likeable characters in interesting situations and develop a believable romance. So in the end, while the book wasn’t that well written, it was an okay read.

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Next was a blast from my past with Return to Isis by Jean Stewart. I read it when it was first published in 1992 and it was one of my favorite lesbian novels at the time. It’s a science fantasy novel, taking place 100 years in the future from when it was written. Whitaker escapes from the repressive Elysium, where she’s been living as a spy, back to her home, a utopian all female community in Freeland. (The West Coast of what used to be the US.)

I hadn’t read the book in a very long time, so was curious if it would stand up to my current reading standards. It holds up surprisingly well I thought, and I very much enjoyed reading it again. There still isn’t much to choose from in the speculative fiction genre in lesbian fiction, so I recommend it to anyone with an interest in that sort of book. It’s part adventure, part thriller, and part romance.

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Next I read Retirement Plan, an unusual novel by Martha Miller. Lois and Sophie are a retired lesbian couple who decide to get into the assassination biz as a means to make some much needed money, who are also dealing with their adopted daughter Ruby, a convicted drug dealer/addict, coming back into their lives.

In the book, Miller takes an interesting approach by telling three parallel stories, using multiple points of view. In addition to Sophie and Lois’s story, there is Morgan Holiday, the homicide detective investigating the hits, along with having to deal with a new partner, her mother with Alzheimer’s, and discovering that she’s a lesbian. And there is also Celia Morning, one of Sophie and Lois’s clients, who becomes involved with a homeless girl.

I think Miller tried to cram too many full stories into a single novel, which made for uneven pacing and some choppy reading at times. But she doesn’t completely fail at the attempt. Retirement Plan is an interesting book, which raises a lot of morality questions, and despite so many POV characters and separate stories, still manages to provide a decent read.

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Right now I’m reading Lethal Affairs by Kim Baldwin and Xenia Alexiou. It’s the first book in the Elite Operatives series and was recommended to me by another reader on the Kindle forum a while back. The Elite Operatives are people raised from very young ages by a secret organization to undertake various missions, supposedly to make the world a better place. These missions frequently include assassination. The book requires a healthy ability to suspend disbelief, and it’s not that original. There are flavors of Alias and Dollhouse, though the book was published a year before Dollhouse first aired.

Still, it’s been an entertaining read so far. The novel has many POV characters, so the reader knows all sorts of things that the individual characters do not. The suspense comes from wondering who will uncover what info and when, and who is going to get away with what.

Update 9/28:

I finished Lethal Affairs. It did have one significant drawback, the dialogue was often rather atrocious, especially between the two female lead characters. It sort of read like a thirteen-year-old’s fantasy of what perfect lovy talk sounds like. In other words, cliche and not like people talking naturally.

Another teeny thing that bugged me was that it was mentioned more than once that Domino wears a thong for underwear. This is a woman who is trained to do mission ops, often of a lethal variety, and sleeps with her boots on when not in her own bed. I think some cotton Jockeys sound more in character! I know it’s a silly little thing, but sometimes it’s the little things that make us go “huh?” as readers.

Despite those, and a few other niggling things here and there, the book was a good read. The attraction between the women was believable. The plot was nicely layered and woven together with several different players moving things forward. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in this sort of book.

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I’m really behind on my reviewing! (And doing Book Bits!)

I just finished reading Two on the Aisle by Robbi McCoy, so wrote my review tonight while I was still thinking about it. It has been added to the Romance page in my Lezzie Books section, or you can go directly to the review by clicking here.

There have been a few other books that I’ve intended to review over the last few months, but kept procrastinating. Which then makes it difficult to write a decent review, since my impressions are no longer fresh. For two of them, I’ve added their titles to their respective Lezzie Books category pages and included links to my brief Book Bits comments.

Both of these books are highly recommended. They are: Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson and Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey. They are both mentioned in my April 2012 Book Bits post.

Also mentioned in that Book Bits post (and also highly recommended) is Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin, which has been added to my Miscellaneous category page. (I guess April was a good queer reading month for me!)

To find other lesbian and bi book reviews and recommendations click on the Lezzie Books tab at the top of this page.

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First let me get out of the way that I’ve been a sidetracked blogger for the last month and a half, so I’m way behind on my Book Bits, and all other kinds of posts and reviews.

I spent the end of June and most of July focusing on a large project and making the most of a free trial month of Netflix. I’ve never watched so much video (and done so little reading) in a 30 day time span!

I also attempted failed combat against a highly irritating, and ultimately intransigent, computer virus that ended with resorting to doing a clean OS install that resulted in no computer for almost three full days because, of course, it didn’t go well. (All my fault, I thought I knew what I was doing. I didn’t.)

Plus there was all the resulting, seemingly endless, setup and reloading of data and programs that made for limited computer utility for a few days more. And to cap it off, had to deal with another 12 hour period of online and computer withdrawal due to a power outage. I’m only now finally getting back to normal! The good news is, my computer seems to be okay.

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So today I wanted to discuss two types of harassment that I came across in my net wanderings yesterday. They are very different. The only things that they have in common is that one or more persons harassed another person or persons, and that I read about them both on the same day. Rather than doing two separate posts I figured I’d lump them together in one long-assed post.

The first is a case of sexual harassment. A Hugo-nominated writer attending Readercon this year was harassed by a man also attending the con. It’s a good case to use for discussion of what exactly constitutes harassment, and what is required to make space welcoming and safe for women.

The acts of harassment, when taken individually, do not on the surface seem to be severe or worthy of lodging official complaint. After all, women put up with those sorts of things all the time, and rarely remark on them, except maybe comments to a close friend.

That fact alone is worthy of discussion. It’s shocking just how little most men know about what the average woman deals with in her lifetime. And because it’s so seldom discussed, women, especially young women, are much too ignorant as well. Meaning, they often can’t even identify actual harassment when it happens, being trained by our culture to not trust their instincts, let alone how to do something about it.

Women are trained to accept a certain amount of boorish behavior from men. We are also trained to apologize for the bad behavior of others, as if it is somehow our fault. So it sometimes becomes difficult to identify just when average, ill-considered behavior crosses a line, unless the behavior is blatantly abusive or predatory.

The Readercon case was not an instance of blatantly abusive behavior, and the stalkerish nature of it is not necessarily immediately obvious to someone who is only reading a brief recounting of the weekend after the fact.

But women need to feel safe within their communities, however community is defined at that moment. And feeling safe means that they should not have to wait until a man physically corners them or whips out his penis before it’s acceptable to expect action be taken by whatever the local authorities are for that situation, whether it be event organizers or local police.

My main point in bringing this up, though, is to link to Genevieve Valentine’s excellent blog post about her Readercon experience. In the last half of the post she lays out, in concise, easy to understand bullet points, the social cues that all men must recognize and abide by.

And most importantly, she stresses that women do not owe men any further contact, even if it’s a chance to apologize, once those men have violated boundaries. This goes against our training, but I think it’s vital for women, as well as men, to learn this particular point. As Ms. Valentine states in her post: “When you have made a woman uncomfortable, you show her you are sorry by leaving her alone.”

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The second issue for today is a case of public cyber harassment. This isn’t the usual sort that makes the news, where a bunch of teens gang up on another teen to bully them and make their life as miserable as possible. In this case it’s hypocritical adults abusing internet tools.

I’m not a member of Goodreads (haven’t had the time yet), but I’m somewhat familiar with the site. A small group (if it’s not a single individual posing as a group, which is entirely possible) has taken it upon themselves to try and clean things up, get rid of bullying, and make it a better, friendlier place.

That all sounds well and good. But here’s the problem: the “bullying” they are decrying is not in fact bullying. What they are taking issue with is some reviewers who have posted negative (sometimes filled with liberal amounts of snark or mockery) reviews about books. Yeah, you read that right. They’ve equated stating an opinion as a consumer with bullying.

But that’s not the worst of it. These hypocritical net thugs have employed some of the tactics used by actual bullies in their crusade to stamp out what they, in their massive ignorance, define as bullying. They have set up a website where they have posted out of context screen captures, but most reprehensibly, real life info about their targets, including family info, real names, locations, and photos*.

That is NEVER okay.

It does not matter if the info was easily obtainable with some inside help spying on private pages and from public pages elsewhere on the net. It is NEVER OKAY to collect and post people’s private info on the internet. Doing so is not only a form of harassment, it invites additional harassment from unrelated weirdos, and potentially puts people in real life danger.

Foz Meadows made a great blog post about what is and is not bullying that sums it up as well as anything I could do.  (The first part of her post discusses the Goodreads environment for those not familiar with it.) Though she’s much too soft on calling out the offenders, making it sound like what they’ve done is no worse than posting a negative review, which I most stridently disagree with. Still, it’s good reading.

This post at Gossamer Obsessions proves that though the personal info is no longer on the STGRB site, it was at one time.

To make my position on reviewing clear:

Once a book is published, the author relinquishes control over how that book is perceived and discussed in the public domain. Once an author is published, they become a public figure, and their behavior, in real life and/or in cyberspace, will be discussed.

Readers have the right to offer up their honest opinions about books they have spent their valuable time (and usually money) reading, without any interference from authors, editors, or publishers. It is in an author’s own best interests to let readers alone to do what they do, even if the reader is being unfair or out of line.

I do not think reviewers should be nasty or malicious towards the author in a book review. There are some who don’t follow that rule, and I’ve probably skirted that line in one or two of my reviews, but it unfortunately comes with the territory. I understand that hearing negative things about your hard work hurts. But that also comes with the territory.

Authors who can’t accept this should never put up anything they have written for sale. Post your work on a blog, where you maintain full control of content and feedback, if that’s the case.

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[As a sidenote: Despite only being a distant outside observer, I’m pretty sure I know who the operator of the Stop the GR Bullies site is. A few months ago on an Amazon forum a woman posted a link to her blog where she had supposedly written a post about how to make the online world a better place. But when I followed the link I found a post centered around dredging up an old conflict from Goodreads in which she made many off-target accusations.

I commented at the time that I found it curious that a post supposedly about how to counteract bullying in a positive manner was in fact antagonistic, focused on conflict, and spreading misinformation.

Some of the same misinformation posted on that blog is now posted on the STGRB site. It’s clear to me that the author (and she is an author despite claims otherwise) has an axe to grind and is unable to let issues from months ago die their natural death.

Since I have no intention of sinking to her level, I will not out her here by revealing her name. I just found it interesting that something that was old news, and was overlooked by most book-oriented netizens at the time, has dots neatly connecting it to the recent mess, which has gained plenty of net buzz .]

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* The photos are posted without permission, which is a violation of copyright.

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Ever since getting my Kindle in February 2009 I’ve been an active participant on the Kindle Forum at Amazon. I started there just to discuss things about my new toy, but I remained because the forum is full of people who enjoy talking about all sorts of things having to do with books.

However, the main Kindle forum got overrun with Fire issues when it was released late last year and the Kindle Book forum is haphazard as to the quality of discussion. A participant named Ed was great at starting interesting book discussion topics, but he wasn’t real thrilled with that particular forum.

So he’s now set up his own forum on the web called Daily Book Talk. If you look in the Daily Book Talk part of the forum you’ll see that there’s a new discussion topic posted almost every day. People are encouraged to discuss anything they wish to in relation to the topic, and any opinion, including disagreement, is welcome as long as people post respectfully to each other. Other sections of the forum are devoted to things like socializing. The book discussions are kept on topic, though some topic drift is expected and allowed.

So this is an open invitation to anyone who is interested in discussing books to come check it out. If you’d like to join in just register for free, pick a topic to weigh in on, and type away. It’s perfectly acceptable to add to the discussion on older topics. As the forum grows it will bump them for people who might not have seen them yet, and most people like seeing what a new person adds to the conversation.

Hope to see some of you there! (Be sure to drop into the Welcome section and introduce yourself.)

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I’ve added a new review to my Lezzie Books section. This one is for Erosistible by Gill McKnight, a lesbian romance novel set on the fictional island of Eros in the Aegean Sea. Click on the linked title to go directly to my review.

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[At the Amazon Kindle Community forum there is a monthly thread where participants list and comment on which books they’re reading at the moment on their Kindles. These aren’t usually full reviews, often  just relatively brief impressions. I’m copying over some of my comments made there into Book Bits posts here.]

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6/5

I finished reading In the Heat of the Night by John Ball. To be honest, I didn’t think it was that great. The movie was very different in many key details, and I think it did a much better job at leaving a lasting impression. Ball’s prose is kinda flat and uninteresting, and the character of Virgil Tibbs is so self-contained that he really has no personality to speak of.

The book also has one of those very long and drawn out scenes near the end where Tibbs explains at length what happened and why, rather than a lot of the pieces being revealed as he learns them while investigating, and I’ve never been a fan of that style of resolution to a mystery novel. One thing that I appreciated a lot more about the book was the character of Sam Woods, the police officer. He’s much more interesting and sympathetic in the book. He seems to be the one most impacted by Tibbs, rather than Chief Gillespie, who in the book comes across as a very petty man.

After that I read Erosistible by Gill McKnight. One of the small lesbian presses I buy books from is having an ebook sale so I picked this and three others up for only $5 each. It’s a romance set on an island in the Aegean Sea and the setting is part of what attracted me to it. The writing is decent enough and humorous at times, but my enjoyment of the book was hindered by the fact that I thought one of the two main characters was a spoiled, selfish brat who frequently acted like a temperamental teenager. Actively disliking one of the protagonists pretty much kills a romance novel.

I’m now reading Finding Magic by Stacia Kane, which was just released yesterday. It’s a novella and only 99 cents. This is a prequel to the Downside Ghosts series in which Chess is a student training with the Church. After reading the first four books (the fifth will be released at the end of this month) it’s neat to go back in time and see Chess in a transitional phase in her life and be given a glimpse into how she ended up the way she is at the start of the series.

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6/7

I finished reading Finding Magic by Stacia Kane. There are currently four books in the series with the fifth due out later this month. I think someone could start with the prequel, and might have an urge to because it takes place several years before the books start chronologically. But I think people would be better off reading it after at least the first couple of novels, in order to get the perspective needed.

It was a good story, nicely paced. It was interesting to see Chess while still in Church training. The novella covers how she chose which church profession to follow and also the early part of her slide into addiction. The one thing I didn’t like is how horribly repetitive it was about her self-loathing. It got really old in the fourth novel also. It’s well established by now she feels that way, so it gets annoying reading those thoughts in detail every few pages. It was important to establish she felt that way back then also, and how it related to the Church taking her in, but after that there’s no need to belabor it that extensively.

I’ve now started V is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton. (Thank you again to my anonymous gift giver!) There are about five different plot threads going on, all of which have kept me completely absorbed. But I have to admit to getting slightly antsy that at 20% Kinsey doesn’t have an actual case yet. I’m willing to go along for the ride to see where it takes me though.

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6/14

I finished V is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton. It was quite a bit different from her usual in the series, but that’s not a bad thing. I enjoyed it quite a lot with all the different character threads. Joining Kinsey for an adventure is like visiting with an old friend. We were first introduced in 1989. Back then Kinsey was several years older than me and was an experienced woman of the world by comparison. Now I’m more than a decade older than she is and I admit to envying her relative youth. Strange how that works.

In V Kinsey’s timeline is only up to 1988 and that’s become part of my fascination with the series. It’s odd reading a contemporary series (in terms of it still being written now), but so much of it is old school in terms of the tech Kinsey has to work with and how she goes about investigating. Rather than accessing all sorts of info on a computer she wears out a lot of shoe leather, and she relies on her answering machine in the office rather than having a cell phone at her fingertips. It really changes the pace of things.

I’m not sure what I’m going to read next. There are so many books on my Kindle that are waving at me to read them next that I’m going to have a really, really hard time choosing!

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6/15

I’ve started reading Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood. It got it for free a couple days ago and it’s still free right now. I’m about 30% in so far.

It’s set at the end of the 1920s in Melbourne Australia and I’m especially liking the time and place aspects of the book. The plot is unfolding rather slowly and I found myself getting a little anxious for things to move on, but not to the point that it’s making me want to put it down. In fact it’s probably getting me to read it faster.

Greenwood’s writing is a bit different. I can’t find a way to explain what I mean. The writing isn’t bad, it’s just the kind that doesn’t quite flow in a way that I’m used to, so it takes a while to mentally adapt to it, if that makes any sense. Again, it’s not ruining the book by any means, but it’s not as smooth of a read as it could be. Even with those comments, I’m still liking the book and it’s definitely worth picking up for anyone interested in giving it a try.

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6/17

I finished reading Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood. It was very entertaining. I really like the main character, Phryne. She’s feisty and unconventional, but can behave properly in society when she needs to. The other characters are quite colorful as well.

I just looked up the author and see that this is a series that has a lot of books in it, and all or most of them are really reasonably priced. So I’ll very likely be reading more of them in the future. The freebie did its job. :)

Now I’m reading The Sins of the Fathers by Lawrence Block, which is the first book in the Matthew Scudder series. It’s short and I’m already a third of the way through it. I bought it when the price dropped to 99 cents a while back and it’s still available for that price now. This is the fourth Block novel I’ve read. One of his old pulps was a disappointment, but the others, including this one, are all really good. I really like his writing a lot and he deserves his title as a Grand Master.

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5/20

I’m now on the third book in the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning, Faefever. I’m about 80% through and will definitely be buying the next book as soon as I finish. Starting this series is destroying my book budget for the month, even if I did get the first one free!

This is the kind of series where it’s one ongoing story stretching over all the books. None of them have a complete plot that is settled within each book. I guess you could say it’s one ginormous novel broken up into smaller book-sized parts. I know some people don’t like that sort of thing, but I believe the series is complete now, so the only real deterrent is having to spend the money on all five books in a short period of time to read them straight through.

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5/29

Well I finally finished the Fever series. The last book was Shadowfever and was twice as long as the first three books in the series, so took me quite a bit longer. These aren’t books I’ll probably ever read again, but I did very much enjoy reading them straight through. Lots of bad and surprising things happened and it was an entertaining story well-told. There are a few loose ends left open at the end of the fifth and final book, presumably to pave the way for potential future books, but none that made me gnash my teeth at not being resolved. Most of the important stuff was finished up.

There was one oddity about the last book that did bug me. At times the author switched to present tense, even though the previous books (and most of the fifth book) were in past tense. This must have been done intentionally to give a different feeling to those sections, but I never stopped to analyze when and why it was being done. I found it slightly annoying, but not enough that it ruined the reading experience in any way.

After all the darkness and Fae mayhem in five books in a row I needed a distinct change of pace. So I’ve now started Must Love Dogs by Claire Cook. This isn’t the sort of thing I normally read, but it was on sale a couple weeks ago for only 99 cents and I figured what the heck. (It’s $2.99 now. It looks like the author has self-published the ebook versions of her backlist.) And now that purchase is coming in handy for my total change of pace read.

I’m about 20% into it and liking it okay so far. The main character is coming across as depressed and not having any confidence, but there is enough humor to keep me entertained. Sometimes the dialogue comes across as a little awkward, but not enough to make me roll my eyes or want to put the book down.

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5/31

I finished Must Love Dogs by Claire Cook. It was all right, a good choice for clearing out my head after reading five books in the same series in a row. But nothing that will really stick with me. People who normally read that type of book (I think it qualifies as chick-lit) might have more glowing things to say about it.

I’m now reading In the Heat of the Night by John Ball. I got it on sale for 99 cents a while back, it’s $4.99 right now.

This is an example of never realizing a movie was made from a book until someone mentioned it once on this forum a year or two ago. I thought it had been long enough since the last time I saw the movie that it wouldn’t affect me reading it too much, but I guess the movie is so indelible that won’t ever be true. I’m about 20% in (it’s a very short novel) and am constantly making comparisons.

It’s interesting to me that the diner cook and the police officer are much different in the book, more sympathetic (so far anyway). And Virgil Tibbs in the book seems a lot more… can’t think of the word I want, subdued maybe? Poitier really made that character come alive in the movie. (For anyone who hasn’t seen it, I highly recommend the movie.)

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