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text 2018-11-19 19:20
24 Festive Tasks | Door 6: International Day for Tolerance 2018



(November 16)




11/19/18:  Completed Tasks 1, 2, and 4.  Will probably skip Task 3.  Still pending on Book Task.



Task 1

Find some redeeming quality in the book you liked least this year and post about it.
-- COMPLETED 11/19/2018  --

I create a list of books each year, ranking them from most liked and least liked, a lot of times based on star rating.  There have been years where the ranking of the book on my list doesn't necessarily match the star rating as compared to other books on the list.

This year, the list has been fairly straight forward, for whatever reason--probably because I've stuck more with a star rating system wherein the book gets stars more based on whether I liked it or not, rather than factoring in whether or not the book actually deserved a specific star rating, regardless of my like for it.

Anyway, at the bottom of the list right now is a novella by Courtney Milan, This Wicked Gift.  When I saw Milan's name at the bottom, I was thinking, "How on earth did she end up at the very bottom of my book rankings list?"  But it only took a few milliseconds to recall that it was really because of the premise of the romance that made the book all sorts of wrong for me.

Yes, apparently even a beloved author can really cross that line.  Here's a link to my combined series review with This Wicked Gift at the end of the post: Series Review: Carhart

And so, moving on to the one redeeming quality of this book:  It was written by Courtney Milan and in spite of the terrible romantic premise, it was actually written well.

I don't know why this quality makes it any better, because if anything it should make it worse, considering all the thought-provoking subjects she brings up in her other historical romances.  Knowing that she's aware and brings to surface women's issues in her historicals makes it confusing as to why she wrote This Wicked Gift the way she did.  I still can't wrap my mind around it, unless I just misunderstood the story altogether.

But I DO really like Milan, and I know she can write very well.  Any other author, I probably would have already dropped, but because it's Milan, I'm willing to overlook this novella as a random fluke on her part.  This was one of her earlier works after all.



Task 2

Tell us: What are the tropes (up to 5) that you are not willing to live with in any book (i.e., which are absolutely beyond your capacity for tolerance) and which make that book an automatic DNF for you?  (Insta-love?  Love triangles?  First person present narrative voice?  Talking animals?  The dog dies?  What else?)
-- COMPLETED 11/19/2018 --

I have a surprisingly high tolerance when it comes to books considering how impatient I usually am.  I think it might be my stubborn, unwillingness to drop a book if I've already invested a lot of time into it.  And when I say a lot of time, I usually mean more than 20% of the book, which is usually at about the time I decide whether or not I'm liking it--a quite useless percentage since by then, I'm holding out a naive hope that the book will get better.

So I'm just going to list the tropes or plot devices in a book that really, really will skew the book's star rating towards the negative.  And since I'm hugely a romance reader, most of these will be romance tropes I dislike.

1.  Woman has to choose between her career and an established lifestyle versus romance, love, and family.  I'm sort of stealing this one from Obsidian Blue, because it is definitely a trope in a lot of stories, movies, and television series that rankles.  It's also a real life issue, too, but we won't get into that.  I hate how it's implied that women have to choose between one or the other, and can't have both, when no one ever questions whether or not a man can handle a career and romance.  But in a lot of books I usually steer clear of, there's always this issue disguised behind a woman's life journey and revelations.

To quote OB's comment, "because they imply she’ll die alone and unloved if she doesn’t decide to give it all up for the guy she just met."

2.  Love Triangles.  I can't stand love triangles.  Rarely they are handled well.  And having been exposed to many love triangles (as well as other many pointed love polygons) in YA (and K-drama), I quickly got tired of the genre.  I feel like they often serve no purpose either.  If anyone can prove me wrong, give it a go.

3.  Perfect People--the Mary Sues, Gary Stus, and Speshul Snowflakes of fiction.  Because in real life, nobody is perfect, so I don't expect them to be perfect in fiction either.  No one is loved by everyone.  Even the sweetest person you know has his or her flaws that drive you crazy.  Because we are all human and humans are prone to make mistakes.  So when an author deliberately makes his or her main character a special snowflake, or a Mr. Perfect, or a Ms. Perfect, I can get pretty frustrated.  I find myself rolling my eyes whenever a special character walks into the room and the atmosphere suddenly changes to ethereal glows and serene stillness and everyone is suddenly all happy and so on, so forth.  Or when the perfect character finally makes a mistake, but it still ends up being a good thing without negative repercussions.

4.  TSTL Characters.  Most commonly in romances, the female is typically the TSTL, but let it be known that men can come across as TSTL as well--I've read my share of those.  It's just easier to assign TSTL to women because society has taught us that there are some things that it's stupid for a woman to do, even if a man could do the exact same thing and simply be labeled "brave" or "a hero" for doing.  I don't like these double standards, so I often assign TSTL based on circumstances.

For instance, if a person needs protection in terms of a bodyguard or a security firm, whether that person is a man or a woman, if said person neglects or ignores the professional skills and advice of the professional security expert assigned to protect said person, then that person is stepping into TSTL territory.  Most irredeemable is when that person ends up getting, not only him or herself hurt, but puts others' lives in danger because of those stupid actions.

Again, this does not matter if you're a man or a woman.  If you knowingly put your life in danger when you are aware there are other choices, but you're too stubborn to acknowledge said other choices, you've walked into TSTL territory.

5.  Double Standards.  Following on the tails of my 'TSTL' trope above, I had also mentioned double standards, with a brief example.  When a woman rushes into a dangerous scene unarmed, or neglects professional security to prove how strong she is, she is labeled TSTL--rightly so.  But when a man does the same exact thing, it's written off as the instincts of a man, and people will call him "brave" or "crazy hero" or some other such more positive context of names.  It's not fair, because men can bleed and die just as women can.

In a certain instance of books I've read, the men will also usually play caveman and refuse to let a woman walk into a dangerous situation, even though the woman is the armed law enforcement officer who has been trained for these situations, and he is not.  She could have the situation planned to the last detail with her team of other law enforcement officers, and people will still think she's putting herself into danger for no reason.  But when you flip the situation around, no one ever questions a man's somehow superhuman ability to not die in the line of fire when put in the same situation.

Or, for a more common double standard, a woman is usually considered a trollop or a slut if she has multiple sex partners... or even when she just has multiple, platonic guy friends.  But if a man sleeps around, he's usually cheered on by other men, and is said to just be "playing the field" or other such bullshit.  Or there have been instances where a woman is considered dirty, or unfit for marriage if she's not a virgin, but no such damning traits are placed on a man, even if he's slept with half the city.

The above example also seems to work vice-versa as well, since I've also come into instances where it's okay for a woman to have a guy friend who is platonic, but gets all tied in knots when her boyfriend or significant other even talks to another woman.  It's a really sad human trait, apparently, for both sexes to play the double standard cards.

In real life, I have a friend who bristles when people make fun of her penchant for jeans, hoodie, and all things John Deere; but in contrast, she doesn't keep from expressing her complete believe that men should never wear pinks or reds or any soft pastel colors, or carry any kind of bag, because "men shouldn't do that."  le sigh...

I read a lot of Romantic Suspense, so a lot of these tropes have to do with dangerous situations and romances.  But these situations obviously can take place in any number of books, against both sexes, or even based on circumstance between people of different social standing or ethnicity.  In some cases this is a trope that is handled well, and awareness is brought about, but in other cases, it just lingers in the background and no one ever even points out that this, indeed a double standard.

On a separate note, I've got a nice review of a Jill Shalvis book wherein there's a bit of a Double Standard trope that bugged the crap out of me so, so much:  Once in a Million by Jill Shalvis.  If anyone is interested that is.

Okay... I got a little long-winded there.  Apologies for that.



Task 3

The International Day for Tolerance is a holiday declared by an international organization (UNESCO).  Create a charter (humorous, serious, whatever strikes your fancy) for an international organization of readers.
-- SKIP --

I don't feel creative enough to create a charter of any kind, so this one will most likely be a pass.



Task 4

UNESCO is based in Paris.  Paris is known for its pastries and its breads: Either find a baker that specializes in pastries and bring home an assortment for your family, or make your own pastries using real butter and share a photo with us.
-- COMPLETED 11/19/2018 --

I thought about going to the bakery, but realized that I DID have a photo of some of my favorite pastries: French Macaroons.


My BFF and I went out for some sweets at the beginning of the month, and I took some pictures of my spoils, mainly because aside from reading books, I love food and taking pictures of food and drink that look especially pretty.

I got myself a nice combination of a dozen French Macaroons along with my Mayan Hot Chocolate.  And yes, I DID bring them home to my family... even if I ended up eating the majority of them, but it's the thought that counts, right?

Technically, Cocoa Dolce is more of an artisan chocolatier and coffee lounge than a bakery.  However, their menu boasts a lot of baked goods (with lots of chocolate!), alongside their gourmet coffees and artisan chocolates.

I could always use another trip to the bakery in town though, so if this doesn't really count as completion of the task, I can update it another time with a more task appropriate activity.



Book Task

Read any fiction/non-fiction about tolerance or a book that’s outside your normal comfort zone.   (Tolerance can encompass anything you generally struggle with, be it sentient or not.) OR Read a book set in Paris.


Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2018/11/24-festive-tasks-door-6-international.html
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text 2018-11-19 19:00
Sales Blitz! 99 cents! For a Limited Time! Murder in the Forbidden City (Qing Dyntasy Mysteries #1) Amanda Roberts!





Murder in the Forbidden City by Amanda Roberts
Series Qing Dynasty Mysteries Book 1
Genre Adult Historical Suspense
Publisher Red Empress Publishing
Publication Date July 11, 2017

Amazon  https://amzn.to/2DudqjZ

Series on Amazon  https://amzn.to/2Dximoi



Peking, 1867


When one of the Empress’s ladies-in-waiting is killed in the Forbidden City, she orders Inspector Gong to find the killer. Unfortunately, as a man, he is forbidden from entering the Inner Court. How is he supposed to solve a murder when he cannot visit the scene of the crime or talk to the women in the victim’s life? He won’t be able to solve this crime alone.


The widowed Lady Li is devastated when she finds out about the murder of her sister-in-law, who was serving as the Empress’s lady-in-waiting. She is determined to discover who killed her, even if it means assisting the rude and obnoxious Inspector Gong and going undercover in the Forbidden City.


Together, will Lady Li and Inspector Gong be able to find the murderer before he – or she – strikes again?


Readers who enjoy historical mysteries by authors such as Victoria Thompson, Deanna Raybourn, and Anne Perry are sure to love this exciting start to a new series by Amanda Roberts.



Goodreads - https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35439083-murder-in-the-forbidden-city




MURDER IN THE FORBIDDEN CITY, the first book in the Qing Dynasty Mysteries series by Amanda Roberts. Available on Kindle & Kindle Unlimited. Get your copy today! ONLY $0.99 FOR A LIMITED TIME!



Amazon  https://amzn.to/2DudqjZ


Series on Amazon  https://amzn.to/2Dximoi




AMANDA ROBERTS is a writer and editor who has been living in China since 2010. Amanda has an MA in English from the University of Central Missouri. She has been published in magazines, newspapers, and anthologies around the world and she regularly contributes to numerous blogs. Amanda can be found all over the Internet, but her home is TwoAmericansinChina.com.


Website & Newsletter http://www.twoamericansinchina.com/

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/TwoAmericansinChina/

Twitter https://twitter.com/2americanschina

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/Amanda_Roberts

Amazon https://amzn.to/2qAvUqx





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review 2018-11-19 16:49
Brief Thoughts: Midnight Exposure
Midnight Exposure - Melinda Leigh

Midnight Exposure

by Melinda Leigh
Book 1 of Midnight



Point, click, die.

When two hikers disappear, their hometown in Maine blames the blinding storms.  But the truth is far more sinister.  Unaware of the danger, tabloid photographer Jayne Sullivan follows an anonymous tip to find the most reclusive sculptor in the art world.  Instead, she finds sexy handyman Reed Kimball—and a small town full of fatal secrets.

Five years ago, Reed buried his homicide detective career along with his wife.  But when a hiker is found dead, the local police chief asks Reed for help.  Why was a Celtic coin found under the body?  And where is the second hiker?  Avoiding the media, Reed doesn’t need a murder, a missing person, or a nosy photographer.  Then Jayne is attacked, and her courage is his undoing.

Reed must risk everything to protect her - and find a cunning killer.

This book would have been more interesting without all the romantic angst, which, when the conclusion rolls around, seemed awfully moot, as none of the misunderstandings really affected anyone's feelings.  There was instalust, which quickly became instalove, and a couple who are unwilling to talk to each other, even though they are willing to sleep with each other, and think that they're in love.

At the very least our heroine wasn't TSTL, but that's little consolation for the fact that a whole bunch of other stuff in the book bugs the crap out of me.  Not least of all was the way too predictable murder mystery / crime thriller.  I most definitely saw the killer's identity from the beginning.

As I have a predisposition to give second chances to an author who didn't thoroughly annoy me--because this book was less frustrating than it was just formulaic and predictable--I will probably move onto the next book and see how that one works out.

Otherwise, pending my decision to continue or drop this series, I'll have to move onto my backup series for the Can You Read a Series in a Month? Challenge for this month.

Meanwhile, this book was also read for the 24 Festive Tasks, Door 18: Winter Solstice / Yuletide:
'Read any book that takes place in December; OR with ice or snow on the cover; OR that revolves around the (summer or winter) equinox; OR a collection of poetry by Hafez'.

This book takes place in December.

I'll come back and add the Door's graphic when it is officially revealed!



Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2018/11/brief-thoughts-midnight-exposure.html
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text 2018-11-19 16:16
Reading progress update: I've read 295 out of 1006 pages.
The Shadow Rising - Robert Jordan


Wow, you can read and read in this series and barely make any progress!  And I say that despite the fact that I'm still enjoying the series.


There are so many details to remember and I find I'm dredging my memory, trying to remember plot points from previous books.  Still, I'm muddling on--perfect recall isn't necessary to enjoy the current action.

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review 2018-11-19 14:57
Second Time Around is Even Better!
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - J.K. Rowling,Mary GrandPré

Read this series 7 years ago.  This time I'm listening on Audible.  The whole fam loves this story, and it was really fun listening to the last couple hours of the first book while in the car yesterday.  I thought my teenagers were busying themselves with something else in the back seat when my 13-year-old said, "Please turn that up, Mom."  Love HP!  

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