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text 2017-11-01 17:35
Audible Has Introduced An "All You Can Eat" Romance Streaming Service


Audible:  https://www.audible.com/ep/Romance-Package?source_code=SNGGBWS1031170027


The cost:  $14.95 or $6.95 for KU & Audible subscribers. Supposedly it has a catalog of 10,000 romances and you can listen to as many as you can consume (update from Audible: This service would be similar to Kindle Unlimited and you would be able to borrow up to ten books at a time and keep them for as long as you want. You can also swap them out whenever you are ready.) Sounds intriguing and I say FINALLY and friggin' yay (and we need one for horror) but the articles coming out today are pissing me off. Apparently Audible has added a new feature that allows one to type in terms to bring you to the good parts; sexy bits, witty banter, etc. It sounds unnecessary and like click-bait to me but it's brought out the misinformed who think romance readers are nitwits only reading for the sex. Dum dums. That's what Monster-porn is for. I totally read that stuff for the story.


Idiot #1:  https://techcrunch.com/2017/11/01/audibles-new-romance-audiobooks-service-uses-machine-learning-to-jump-to-the-sex-scenes/?ncid=rss


"Let’s admit it: you probably aren’t reading that romance novel for the plot. Or its literary value. Audible knows this, and is today launching a new collection of romance-themed audiobooks that come with a handy feature that lets you skip right to the action. Called “Take Me To The Good Part,” the feature will fast-forward you to the steamy sections of the audiobook, says Audible."



Idiot #2:  https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/talkingtech/2017/11/01/audible-romance-takes-you-steamiest-parts/819212001/


"You devour romance novels to get to—ok, admit it—the steamiest parts."


Seriously, are we still in the 80's?! Do horror readers read horror only to skip to the gory bits, mystery readers to the murder? This makes me so incredibly mad and I don't even read a lot of romance (but when I do it IS for the plot and characters you presumptuous snobs!). 


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text 2015-12-15 19:05
Question: For those who have read Rat Queens
Rat Queens, Vol. 1: Sass & Sorcery - Kurtis J. Wiebe,Roc Upchurch

I don't like to be one of those people who looks at someone's review of something (which is a personal, subjective thing) and think "Wow, you are just 100% wrong" (except maybe in the case of some Austen analysis). But I saw a review on GR today (written by a dude, no less) that said the Rat Queens comic--specifically volume 1-- was "misogynistic" and "degrading" and was just the male writers "masturbating." I've read this volume multiple times; hell when I first picked it up, I expected to be disappointed with an all-female cast written by a 30-something male writer. But I think it's great- full of female characters with agency who don't get punished for being sexual, but also don't get treated like constant eye candy. It may have some cheesiness in it, but it felt intentional and made it fun. Did anyone else who read it have any opinions about this? This doesn't just feel like a different opinion; it feels like a deliberate misreading based on what this particular reviewer was already planning to see, with a touch of mansplaining as to what should and should not be considered sexist.


(I do have an issue with the behavior of the artist for the first 5 issues, Roc Upchurch, who is a domestic abuser. But that has nothing to do, in this case, with the content of the work.)

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url 2015-11-23 17:12
Scott Adams thinks consent is such a BUMMER (from The Mary Sue)



Scott Adams, writer of comic strip Dilbert (apparently that's still a thing that exists?) is a complete dick. He basically states that women refusing to have sex with a man is more likely to make him a terrorist than fundamentalism (or anything else, really). A woman having the CHOICE to have sex is messed up, since dudes pay for dates and stuff! How unfair! There's no pay gap, because "informed feminists" (who remain unnamed) say so. And his anecdata about "his general experience" of being in meetings with women is just...ARGH. Gross and fucked up, basically.


Apparently knowledge of his dickishness has been known for a while, but since Dilbert stopped being relevant well over a decade ago, I just didn't know until now.



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review 2015-07-17 21:28
Review: My Life in Middlemarch
My Life in Middlemarch - Rebecca Mead

While I’ve read probably close to a dozen books that can be classified as bibliomemoir, this is the first I’ve encountered that focuses on a single book as opposed to a selection or progression of many. Rebecca Mead has both physical and emotional ties to Middlemarch, having grown up in the same sort of provincial English town that lies at the heart of George Eliot’s work. Like Eliot and her creation Dorothea Brooke, in her youth Mead was full of restless ambition and saw in Dorothea a mirror of herself. While this initial fellow feeling created a strong attachment to Middlemarch, Mead explores the way each fresh reading created new sensations, as age, experience, and circumstance brought different needs to the text and her own life.


Mead balances her examination of Eliot’s life and work with her own experience adroitly, mostly by placing the majority of her focus on Eliot. Mead is insightful and has a way of capturing Eliot’s defining work in a way that makes me want to read it again to see what she sees. Middlemarch, and Eliot’s work in general, was not a formative reading experience for me; that is reserved (cliché though it may be) for Jane Austen. But since I have experienced something similar in revisiting a great work at different times in my life, I appreciate Mead’s superior skill in conveying what is usually a fairly complicated tangle of literary and personal development, and especially admire her ability to show us aspects of her life without turning it into the sole focus.


While determining whether or not to pick up My Life in Middlemarch, I went back and read a few reviews from major literary outlets. I was excited to see Joyce Carol Oates wrote the review for The New York Times, and I thought much of what she had to say was intriguing enough that I ended up checking the book out from my library. However, having now read the book myself, I’m not so keen on Oates’ analysis. I don’t typically like to write a review that refutes another, but her words kept coming back to me as I began setting down my own impressions of Mead’s book. There is something ironic, maybe even a little bit meta about Oates writing about Mead writing about Eliot, especially as Oates focuses on Mead’s ability to forgo overshadowing the novel with her own experience, while in turn passing her own judgments on Mead and Eliot that carry a whiff of snobbery. I’m sure this adds yet another weird meta-layer; here I am, writing about Oates writing about Mead writing about Eliot. It’s enough to give you a headache, but I can’t seem to resist.


I respect Oates as an author and as a critic. I agree with many of Oates’ observations, like how “[t]here is no irony or postmodernist posturing in Mead’s forthright, unequivocal and unwavering endorsement of George Eliot as both a great novelist and a role model for bright, ambitious, provincially born girls like herself…” Perhaps it is this lack of irony in Mead’s work that prompted Oates to supply her own, as just a few paragraphs later we find her remarking on Mead’s choice of Middlemarch in tones that have more than a little “posturing” of superiority. She observes:


There is something self-limiting if not solipsistic about focusing so narrowly on a single novel through the course of one’s life, as if there were not countless other, perhaps more unsettling, more original, more turbulent, more astonishing, more aesthetically exciting and more intellectually challenging novels — James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” to name one; Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment,” to name another.


This is where I began to lose patience. Perhaps there are “better” books, “more original” writers than Eliot that Mead could have chosen, but this isn’t a work concerned with pure literary criticism, or of taking the usual tactics of bibliomemoir and doing a multi-title reading history of the author. It is true that, as Oates observes, Mead does not supply any “surprises…that have not been uncovered by Eliot biographers,” but she isn’t writing Eliot’s biography. Perhaps Oates would have done well to take another look at the title of the book itself: MY LIFE in Middlemarch. Not “Eliot’s Life in Middlemarch,” or “George Eliot and Middlemarch,” or “Middlemarch is the Best Book Ever and Here’s Why.” This is a book that seeks to explore the personal, often inexplicable connection Mead has experienced with Eliot’s (perhaps greatest) work. The most frustrating part of this is that Oates closes her review on this sour note, suggesting that the book is passably good, but would have been better if Mead had somehow managed to forge a lifelong emotional connection with a better book. Then again, maybe it is also ironic, for me personally, that Oates compares Eliot to Austen (my most influential writer), both being in her words “genteel” and “oblivious to the physical…lives of women.” It would seem she would judge my reading experience in the same light as she does Mead’s, though I will never be able to articulate it half so well, and deep down maybe I feel it as a personal insult of my own reading choices.


This, I think, brings us finally to the point. My Life in Middlemarch seeks to do something difficult, something that involves putting into words an elemental attachment to a work of literature produced over a century and a half ago. She gives us something unequivocally a matter of personal taste and experience. How do we explain those works that have spoken to us most powerfully? Should we apologize when those works don’t meet a certain literary standard? Or be embarrassed if the thing we love somehow falls short of others’ expectations of merit? Mead does a beautiful job of taking something rooted in emotion and shaping it into a narrative that is enlightening (about Eliot, but also about reading, and living) and quietly touching; Mead’s enthusiasm never founders, but neither does it gush. Perhaps it is the lack of histrionics that make it seem easy to dismiss as not “surprising” enough for certain readers, but it is Mead’s measured study of two lives, hers and Eliot’s, combined with a deep and abiding appreciation for Eliot’s work, that gives it resonance. Every reader has a book in which they’ve lived a life and felt an almost sublime connection, and sometimes that book really is merely a “mundane, grand domestic adventure.” But it is our adventure.


Cross-posted on Goodreads: My Life in Middlemarch

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text 2015-04-16 23:28
A Rambling Reading Rabbit Hole

Just this morning, I was listening to one of my favorite bookish podcasts, Dear Book Nerd  with Rita Meade, and a listener posted an interesting question that I would like to explore. Not necessarily for this person specifically, or as any kind of correction to the excellent advice Rita and her guest Preeti provided, but just a jumping off point for something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.


The listener (and I’m paraphrasing here) inquired as to the best ways to “move on” from reading YA to “adult” fiction. Her troubles included a lack of interest in the subject matter, as well as less engagement with the writing styles she was encountering in the adult fiction works she tried.


Stepping back from the question for a moment, there is a different quandary at the root of it for me: is there really any kind of “natural progression” for a reading life? Many think pieces have tackled this, some saying yes and that any “real” reader will move from children’s stories, to young adult, to adult and never look back, with the implicit assumption that the progression is from lesser to greater. I only have one word for that: nah.


On the other side, there is team Just Read, where what you read is less valid than IF you are reading at all. I am totally Team Just Read.


Every reader is different. Some will indeed start out with picture books and land smack-dab in the land of literary fiction and classics as an end game. Not all of these people are snobs, but some of them definitely are and will make their stance very clear. They have accepted that there is only one direction of progress, and if they do “regress” to YA or genre fiction, it is as a “guilty pleasure” and something to be embarrassed about. They also seem to be in denial about the sheer arbitrariness of labeling books in the first place.


Young adult, as a category, is more marketing strategy than helpful guideline (this is somewhat reductive, but hey, I know you don’t have all day). YA tends to be defined more by the ages of the characters than the themes of the actual book, and the lines can be so blurred that two libraries 50 miles apart will shelve the same title in YA and adult fiction respectively (I personally saw this happen with Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series, which is also mentioned in the podcast under similar circumstances). Other elements come into play as well, like accessibility of language, or how plot-heavy a story is, but these are not helpful, not even a little. There have been crossover successes, namely Harry Potter in this instance, that have been issued in both middle grade and adult versions- the only difference being the covers and the comfort they provide for the “guilty pleasure” adult readers who are embarrassed by what they like. If all that stands between the definition of adult and not adult is the physical appearance of a book, we’re even more lost than when we began. There is an assumption that young adult literature is “easier” from an ethical or psychological perspective, that it always buys into notions of happily ever after, or black-and-white conflict. A CERTAIN ARTICLE THAT SHALL REMAIN NAMELESS says just that. I can tell you, from my own reading experience (including titles mentioned in the very same article) that this is categorically false and is based on unfounded generalizations.


In a bit of an ironic twist, YA ends up being defined much like pornography: I can’t tell you what it is, but I know it when I see it. However, the borders dividing age-specific stories are so blurry as to be indecipherable without the publisher/library/bookseller making a final call in the presentation of the work. Saying that you only read YA or only read adult fiction starts to become not only unimportant, but inaccurate.


All of this long-winded analysis of terms is really just set up for me to say this: I don’t think the root of the problem is the difference between what YA has to offer versus adult, but rather it is a matter of determining what kinds of books and writers you like to read (genre, literary, contemporary, historical, classics, etc) and using those guidelines rather than the broader distinction between what is “adult” and what is not.


To be clear, I don’t think the individual who sent her question to Dear Book Nerd was necessarily thinking about all this weirdness and cultural subtext, but rather was trying to simply broaden her horizons. But whenever these categorical issues arise, I think it is important to look at the underlying assumptions that shape how we choose what we read and why. To want to read more adult fiction, not as a next step but merely as an enlargement of personal experience , is not about snobbery or proving that you are somehow more grown-up, but a desire for personal growth and THAT is a great thing to want. As long as your goal is to find something new and different rather than somehow “better,” there will always be a path open to do just that. Otherwise, you will continually set yourself up for disappointment.


Now that I’ve taken you down this weird little rabbit hole, I’ll try to turn this back around to where we started: how do you discover adult fiction that you will like, based on your positive experiences with YA.


Thanks to the very same murkiness that makes the division of the two so difficult, there is fairly easy passage between the two when you discover just what it is you are looking for. Rita and Preeti make a lot of great suggestions, so I’ll just add a few of my own and hope they help in some way.


The lucrative nature of YA in the current literary environment means a lot of writers are dipping their toes into both areas. If there is a YA author you really love, see if that same author has done something that has been marketed more to the adult sector. Steampunk was brought up specifically in the podcast as a genre that failed to hold the questioner’s attention as an adult option. I would say take a look at Gail Carriger’s YA Finishing School series, and then move directly to her adult series set in the same universe, The Parasol Protectorate. The writing style remains the same, but the plotting and themes shift to suit a different age demographic. Daniel Jose Older is another fantastic author who has written both YA and adult fiction, this time in the loosely defined “urban fantasy” genre, so dip into the YA (Shadowshaper) and then move to the adult (Salsa Nocturna, Half-Resurrection Blues) and see if there is a fit.


There are those of us who can read and enjoy The Hunger Games back-to-back with The Love Affairs of Nathanial P. or Beloved (I would consider myself this type), but that isn’t everyone. So if you find that the adult fiction you are dipping into is fundamentally different from what you would read in YA, you may need to readjust your assumptions and take smaller steps between genres. Often it isn’t the difference between YA and adult “levels” that causes the problem, but rather an apples vs. oranges juxtaposition of more specific elements. If I were to immediately go from The Perks of Being a Wallflower to Moby Dick, there would be way more factors involved in the success of that transition than whether one is more adult than the other.


The major piece of advice I would give anyone in their reading life, no matter the end goal, is simply this:


Read widely. Try everything you can until you find what you really love. When you find it, hold onto it.


Read voraciously. Cram as much of it into your life as you comfortably can. Books will always lead you to more books, and those connections are more valuable than any title or genre suggestion I could give you.


Read randomly. Grab books off the library shelf that simply have a nice cover, or great title, or hilarious blurb. Maybe you hate it, but at least you tried it. And if you love it, that is a WIN.


Most of all, just read. Read whatever you want, however you want, and don’t worry about if it fits anyone else’s definition of accomplishment.



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