piranha: red origami crane (orizuru)
near-future novel about the surveillance state and the importance of computer technology both for it, and for any possible resistance movement. it has everything going for a rousing action-adventure romp: government agents purportedly protecting us (when they are not incarcerating us), underground activists resisting the powers that be, shadowy men of power moving other characters behind the scenes, and a desperate mother trying to protect her children, who gets swept up in the battle between those forces. but i read it not as entertainment, as more of a call to action for anyone who realizes that we're already too close for comfort to this scenario becoming reality. and i am saying that not as a person eager to jump on the next conspiracy -- i scoff at most of those, and i am at times a little embarrassed how much i worry these days about whether my government is going off the rails. however, i AM truly worried more about the course the governments of the "5 eyes" have been taking than i am about terrorists or any kind of criminal, and this book speaks loud and clear about those fears.

the work is very well researched, and the author has attempted to explain concepts as user-friendly as possible without dumbing them down too much. i make my living with computers, and it was really nice to see somebody get it right, though i'm not sure whether the IT aspects are still too complicated for the lay person. on the other hand i knew very little about money and debt at the government level, and i did begin to understand what's really happening there, so i am hoping the same goes for people who don't really understand the power of computers.

the novel could have used a competent editor to make it a more cohesive, tighter whole. the writing has inconsistent narrative voice, odd jumps in time, confusion about who is who (especially towards the end). there are typos and some grammatical errors. but none of it made me want to close it in disgust at the lack of care. the worst of it is probably the oddly disjointed climax.

a bigger problem is that we really only get to know one of the characters, dancing fawn, the mother. the other characters are opaque, and i am left wondering at their motivations, especially in the case of of joshua weidemeyer (a government agent). the children are mere props, this would work better for me if they actually had personalities. and the villains are uni-dimensional. i am not squeamish, but i could have probably done without the graphic rape scene that seemed almost written for rape-porn fans (i doubt that was intended).

i enjoyed the appendices and recommended books. the author clearly cares about the subject and the state of the world, and it shows. (though no, i will never read another book by ayn rand, *shudder*. "atlas shrugged" is required reading because understanding its philosophy is important, but objectivism is not my thing).
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of SFF ebooks, since i've been woefully behind the times in that genre.

the *poing* and i were co-grumbling about the sad tendency of publishers advising authors to switch names in order to beat the crappy software that seems to determine what bookstores buy -- which makes me lose track of authors i like because i don't have the spoons to read industry-watching or individual authors' blogs. the *poing* enlightened me that Sarah Zettel is indeed still writing, except as CL Anderson, and that Laura J Mixon is now MJ Locke. really, guys, a change to a more bland, less unique name is good for you? the gender-neutrality makes up for that? is SFF still so damn hidebound? has anyone done a study on this? do any male authors in SF change names? maybe SFF publishers should develop a logo for "girl cooties" and liberally stamp it on all books so infested to spare overly sensitive guys from exposure.


i set out to do some book buying.

what the heck is wrong with SFF publishers? back lists are still often not available as ebooks! some newer books are too expensive. frex Justina Robson's "Natural History" comes in at C$14. that's too much for me; i won't pay more than C$10 because i don't pay more for a mass market paperback. now, if authors received a much higher percentage of that money, then we could talk. as it is, no. since i am planning to shift all my paper to ebooks, i looked for some lesser known, such as Tricia Sullivan. nothing at all in ebook. *sigh*. how long do publishers hang on to rights? i wonder whether self-publishing might not be a more viable idea than hoping for more than a decade that you'll get a reprint.

*double grump*.

also, kobo.com still does not have a shopping cart, but each book gets bought singly. that is so annoying that it makes me want to go out and download a torrent with 1000 pirated books -- if only that worked as a deterrent to bookstores pissing me off. i have a budget. i want to pile my haul up in my shopping cart to see what it all comes to with tax. as it is, i have to keep track of that in my head (or start writing it down -- yeah, right). maybe this method works to make other people over-spend, but in my case i am under-spending and buying fewer books than i otherwise would, because i hate getting individual statements in my inbox as well.

i would easily have spent double of what i did today if the books i wanted had been available at a price point i am willing to pay, or indeed, had been available at all.

it's a sad day when it is much easier to buy gay tentacle porn than established SFF.

*triple grump*.

also, it makes it much harder to write up a haul because i have to copy-paste everything bit by bit.

Aguirre Ann - Sirantha Jax 1 - Grimspace
Anderson CL (Zettel Sarah) - Bitter Angels
Bear Elizabeth - Jacob's Ladder 1 - Dust
Gould Steven - 7th Sigma
Hallaway Tate (Morehouse Lydia) - Garnet Lacey 1 - Tall, Dark & Dead
McGuire Seanan - October Daye 1 - Rosemary and Rue
Kowal Mary Robinette - Glamourist Histories 1 - Shades of Milk and Honey
Locke MJ (Mixon Laura J) - Up Against It
Robson Justina - Quantum Gravity 1 - Keeping It Real
Stross Charles - Glasshouse
Wilson Robert Charles - Spin 2 - Axis
Wilson Robert Charles - Spin 3 - Vortex
piranha: red origami crane (Default)
genre: homoerotica, gay romance, m/m

i won't buy the book in paperback solely because i am reducing the square footage my books cover, since we're still gonna move onto the boat some day, i hope. but here's another good example of why the current model of ebook licensing publishers force on us is crap: if i could buy this ebook for other people, i would buy several copies, because this is an example of what m/m can be at its best. does anyone need more reasons why otherwise law-abiding people pirate? will publishers ever learn this? not holding my breath.

summary blurb: Ever since Chris Bennett graduated high school a year ago, he's been trying to figure out what's next. His lifeguarding job has kept him busy, and in southern California, poolside isn't a bad place to be. But he's spent most of his time thinking about Seth, the former classmate who became something more for a few brief moments last summer. Now Seth is back, but he seems to be running toward Chris and running away from him at the same time. Meanwhile, Chris is increasingly drawn to Alex, his gorgeous new neighbor who puts up a sexy, confident front but may be harboring a few romantic demons of his own.

covers with 3 men on them always make me hope for a good polyamory read, of which there are sadly all too few. alas, it was not to be -- but i didn't mind at all (except that i kept wondering how the writer would get there, because once my mind drops in a rut, it really keeps, uh, rutting, *sigh*). anyway. no polyamory, no threesomes. but solid, believable, fully realized characters, a lovely romance which takes its time to develop and never becomes too gushy (these are actual guys, not bishonen uke in disguise), a plot line that doesn't trod the same fallow ground as so many, and loads of hot sex.

i didn't like all the characters equally, mind. while i initially grokked why he acted the way he did, i ended up not too fond of seth, and i am not sure i'd buy a book in which he is the protagonist (then again, i might, since i was this impressed by the writing). i'd buy a book with marty, alex's long-time friend though!

also, tiniest of quibbles: does anyone else have trouble telling characters apart when their names have the same number of characters? it seems even the author got confused a little, because the actors are accidentally reversed in a couple of places. it seems odd to me that this would confuse me because "chris", "alex", and "seth" are all quite different from each other, but i did have to re-read chris/alex scenes at times to remind myself of who was who. anyway, no biggie.

all too often in m/m i am faced with the choice of either hot sex or great story. not here; the book delivers both. very satisfying read, no complaints.

i'm now gonna buy everything rachel west has written. unfortunately that's so far only one other book, but i am sure hoping there will be more.

you can read the first... 94 pages (wow, that's some excerpt) at google books.
piranha: red origami crane (Default)
i'm evaluating personal library programs for the mac and sharing the results with a book group to which i belong. however nifty librarything is, i do prefer to have my entire library catalogued locally, so it is available when i am (or LT is) offline. i have more than 2000 books entered into LT already, however, and do not care to duplicate the effort. therefore, whichever program i choose has to be able to import my books in some form.

i didn't think that was going to be an issue in the year 2010.

think again. )
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serene wanted to know what i think of the book that inspired the tv series. i rather like the series.

short summary: surprisingly, i was disappointed in the book.

for those who don't know, dexter is a serial killer who dismembers his victims and derives considerable pleasure from that. to make this anti-hero palatable to the reader, he only kills fellow killers who have evaded the judicial system; a utilitarian ethic instilled in him by his adoptive father harry, who was a cop and saw early on exactly what dexter was becoming. conveniently, dexter works as a blood spatter analyst at the miami metro police. to leaven both his professional and his private work, he has a wry sense of humour, and a penchant for alliteration.

things are overall going pretty well for dexter; he has his "dark passenger" under control (well, as much under control as he can be). dexter's half-sister deborah who works (and hates) vice as an undercover hooker, wants to move up into homicide, and her opportunity is a new killer who kills and dismembers prostitutes. she enlists dexter's help in trying to find out who he is. to dexter the new killer has admirable -- and strangely familiar -- work habits, and surprisingly he soon appears to be sending dexter messages through his kills.

this all works well in the tv show, but for me it doesn't work nearly as well in the book. for one, i find tv's dexter is more likeable because he is something of a geek, and while he has managed to adjust sufficiently to society to not stand out like a sore thumb, he behaves much like a borderline asperger's. i can empathize with that. the book's dexter, on the other hand, is smooth and charming, and has women falling all over him; he blends in perfectly and there is not the same degree of fear of exposure.

the supporting characters are paper-thin in the novel, but are rather well fleshed-out in the tv show. dexter's backstory is much better foreshadowed and developed in the tv show. his engagement with the main killer, finding out more about him, and the denouement are given enough time in the show; in the novel the tracking of the killer seems rather deus ex machina, and the denouement feels very rushed. the chilling effect of -- despite us liking him -- dexter being a serial killer who enjoys his kills comes across much more solidly in the show (though this might easily be caused by blood and gore being much more visceral in pictures than in words).

so, while i think the book is a respectable first novel, the show's writers have even more of my respect now, because they took this as a blueprint and improved on it -- quite a different story from so many adaptations.
piranha: red origami crane (Default)
elsenet i was linked to victoria brownworth's article in the lambda literary blog.

let me first say that i read brownworth's article and thought it was abysmally bad, so bad that it totally obscured its own central concern. that's a crying shame. it's also a shame that there was no enlightenment had from the other side in the comments, for the most part. it was typical defensive derailment, complete with the usual bingo excuses, as paul g bens showed so poignantly. but, having observed such discussions before, commenters would have derailed the thread anyway, even if victoria had done her research instead of putting more falsehood than truth out there about m/m, and being rude to everyone who disagreed with her. they wouldn't have listened even if she had been well-informed and courteous. but they should listen, because the central concern is important.

the central concern is that m/m AS A GENRE fetishizes gay relationships for the titillation of heterosexual women, and that this is detrimental to actual gay people.

i believe that concern is warranted.

i read a lot of m/m, and by "a lot" i mean around 1500 stories a year. i do not just read based on reviews; i pick a large number of books at random. disclaimer: i know that there are some actual male writers behind some of the pseudonyms (as well as lesbians and bisexual men and women and trans folk), and i know that some actual gay men read m/m and enjoy it. end disclaimer.

but the vast majority is born from slash fiction and yaoi, is written by straight women, and is read by straight women. and yes, yaoi is much worse when it comes to faulty information and fetishization -- but that doesn't mean m/m escapes the accusation. some of m/m's best selling authors are its worst offenders. and IMO the majority of the genre is at least mildly offensive to actual gay persons.

i also know that m/m is empowering for many women and genderqueers (i won't go into why here, but it's fascinating. and way cool. some of the analysis in fandom way surpasses anything i've seen come out of gender studies.).

but i've also read many comments from fangirls that show they get a lot of misinformation from m/m, and that they thoroughly objectify the men in m/m. if an author writes badly informed fiction, some people will swallow that crap with gusto, and will think they now know something about gay people and their sexuality, their relationships. and they will be wrong. that's not empowering anyone; it damages.

writers who're defensive when confronted with the accusation that they're appropriating and objectifying, are not being asked to "get out" of writing about gay relationships. however, if they don't get it right, if they are lazy, if they write formula, then they better be prepared for scathing criticism from gay people whom they offend with that dreck. it is totally possible to write authentic gay fiction as a non-gay writer; there are many talented m/m authors who're taking their craft seriously. the problem is not THAT women write it, it's HOW they write it.

the entitled whining from some m/m authors in the comments to brownworth's article was painful to watch, and it didn't impress me one bit. yup, it can be hard to look at one's own work with a critical eye, even if one writes "just fiction". but one doesn't get to trample all over an already oppressed group with impunity "just for fun". because fiction is never "just fiction". fiction has power, fiction teaches, fiction influences people. and if, as an author, you appropriate a facsimile of people's lives in order to gain personal profit from what happens to also be their pain, they have every right to tell you that you're an arse who makes their lives harder.

an author is not directly responsible what people do with the information they convey. but the author is culpable. i suggest to take that seriously, even if one just writes plot-what-plot stories -- getting it right matters to those whose lives one borrows in order to have a bit of fun.
piranha: red origami crane (Default)
ever since powells has discontinued their free shipping to canada, i've much more seldomly shopped there except when they get in a rare book that's on my notifications list. i just bought $15 worth of books and paid $27 in total for the pleasure. i love to support independents, but not when it costs me decidedly more than anywhere else; i might as well support small book sellers in canada instead, and wait even longer for some of those rarities to pop up.

so when i found out that powells also sell ebooks now, i was happy, because hey, i rather buy them from there than from amazon and the other big guys any day. however, spot check of 10 ebooks shows that 9 out of those 10 can only be downloaded from within the US.

thanks for nothing. i know it's likely not powells who's to blame for this, but will the effing publishing industry get its effing head out of its effing arse already?

you want to know why people pirate? here's yet another reason.
piranha: red origami crane (Default)
when the cover of a book features a grungy skull instead of naked torsos, you know this isn't your average erotica, even if it was shelved with the lovely smut when you bought it. which was a good hint for me to time the reading for an evening when i was looking for a good story instead.

blurb: When Craig Robertson's religious fanatic father disappears, Craig is forced to return to the home he'd left behind after an underage affair in order to look for answers. His new lover, private investigator Paul Maloney, agrees to help so they can continue to enjoy their fledgling relationship.

During his initial search, Craig finds items that belonged to Michael, his lover in that long-ago ill-fated affair, and soon discovers that Michael has disappeared as well. The search becomes an investigation into Craig's past, and, because of distressing gaps in his memory, he's terrified of the truths he might find. Finally Craig tells Paul his deepest fear: that Michael is dead and he himself is responsible.

While Paul refuses to believe his lover is a murderer, Craig's obsession with uncovering clues grows, and their fragile relationship begins to disintegrate. Now on his own, haunted and stalked, Craig has to face down the horror of his memories if he wants to have any hope of a future at all.

i thought it was rather a captivating psychological mystery. the whole thing was hard for me to read because it had religious zealots in it of the type of my birth family (the supremely self-righteous, god-fearing kind who think they must beat said fear of god into you). while there is some sex and not just fade-outs, it's not erotica, and while there is romance, it takes a back seat to the story of craig uncovering his suppressed past. i figured out early on who did what, but that didn't bother me, since this is less about whodunnit, but more about craig dealing with the slowly unveiling reality of what really happened.at times i wanted to shake craig, but i believe that was more a personality difference between the character and myself than bad writing. in many ways craig is stuck at the emotional maturity of a traumatized 17 year old, and even when i was an emotionally traumatized 17-year old, i was much more prone to using logic to attack my pain than hiding from it, suppressing my memories, and going "lalala, i can't hear you" to people who point at the logical flaws in my arguments.

to some degree i could identify much more with paul, the PI, who had different tools to cope with the things they find out. but he, too, has secrets, and it's not a simple task to mix romance and business, especially not when neither of you are gonna win a prize for good communication.

the writing was good. both main characters are complex and conflicted, the supporting cast features strong women (this is a positive marker for me; i hate gay fiction that casts women only ever into the role of villains), the plot holds together pretty well for something that's not genre mystery. the villain is a bit uni-dimensional, a bit too nasty, and he gets away with things that might make modern city folk raise their eyebrows -- but i am ok with that because hey, i come from that background, and it is so very nasty, and has such dark secrets behind every door that i am ok with the broad brush; it's even a bit cathartic for me.

the romance, while not being the primary line of the story, is still interesting. both men have secrets, both are gun shy, both aren't exactly great at communicating intimately, but i liked the slow development here, the fragility of a budding romance that comes under immediate pressure where the writer shows a delicate balance between the definitely possibility it will crumble -- or become a source of strength.

i'm shelving this under "gay fiction", and i'll be looking for more from this author. in fact i found out after reading this that there's a semi-prequel, paul's story before he meets craig: maloney's law. i wish i had read this beforehand, because i am sure it explains much about the baggage paul brings to his relationship with craig.
piranha: red origami crane (Default)
with the boat work really entering the last stages now, i'm looking at my shelves full of books, and ponder scanning them. now, i have lots of experience scanning manga, as well as scanning prose and OCRing it. but the books i most want to scan myself because there are no digital copies out there are craft books.

which are often beautifuly laid out, and that presents a problem. of course the easiest is just making a pdf from the images, but that results in enormous files, and means the text can't be be searched. i'm big on searching these days, especially when it comes to patterns.

does anyone have experience with scanning such books and recreating something similar to the original before it went to press? any suggestions for software (i prefer mac, but can deal with windows and linux)? workflow?

[* = all knowledge is contained in dreamwith]
piranha: red origami crane (Default)
*gah*, i was gonna post these weekly, but have really fallen down on the job.

latest fictionwise m/m haul )

oh, and one non-m/m book. an old acquaintance has a new harlequin romance out, and hers are the only harlequins i ever buy: Kistler Julie - Scandal. yay, julie! i wish she wrote m/m, *grin*.
piranha: red origami crane (Default)
joely skye feral 67883 words $5.50
joely skye beautiful monster 20235 words $13.50

at that bottom price, i am not buying. the book is a third of the length of the first. what is samhain (the publisher) thinking? there are no ratings on fictionwise more than a week after its release, which means hardly anyone is buying it.

which is a crying shame, because i like joely skye's writing. but i am not paying those amounts for an e-book. and i no longer buy print if i can at all help it (not much room for books on the boat).
piranha: red origami crane (Default)
[personal profile] alex_beecroft posted a link to statistics about romance readers.

as usual i am an outlier, *snrk*.

my most critical purchase influences started out as
0. is it m/m or regency / historical
1. description of book
2. author
3. review
but are now shifting towards author in position 1, since i know a lot more authors at this point. also, i no longer really consider reviews because they didn't work well for me. most m/m romance reviewers can't seem to write anything bad about a book, and their tastes and mine rarely coincide. the marks given at fictionwise are almost completely useless for me, though a high bad mark is a more reliable predictor.

i often skip the adverts for other romance novels at the end of books, because some publishers seem to insist that if i bought an m/m romance surely i must want to read about their m/f offerings. uh, no.

my purchase decisions are rarely impulsive, i "plan" them (as in, every monday). but i don't plan them as in, noting down when a new book comes out by author X. though now that i am following some authors on twitter that might change -- but i am probably more likely to lose the information again.

i acquire more romances "used" than new, probably 60/40%.

i buy almost everything online. and 90% in non-DRM ebook formats. no hardcovers at all.

i usually read them at home, because i don't go anywhere else where reading is an option.

i do not have a dedicated ebook reader, i read on my OLPC XO, but i lust after a good ebook reader.

i read widely across sub-genres, and do not have a distinct preference -- but there are some of which i am wary: paranormal (especially vampires and werewolves) and SF. they both are likely to be bad; vamps/shifters because OMG, totally overdone and eye-roll-inducing "logic", and SF because it often seems the authors haven't read any non-romance SF, and so they're not using the tropes correctly, and it jars me. i am likely to try any sub-genre, sure.

yes, i'll follow an author to a new sub-genre within romance, as long as the author stays with m/m. go outside that and kiss me goodbye. yup, that also goes for m/m/f -- however lovely i think more polyamory in fiction is, i don't want to read about sex with women. i buy the occasional one from authors i love a lot (jamie craig :) because i actually like to support the polyamory thing, but i would be much happier with more m/m/m.

hell, yeah, i have favourite authors. i have A, B, and C lists, even. i am definitely prone to seeking out more books from somebody whose previous work i've liked.

i'm also likely to try new authors, but less so with new books. i do so mostly via file-sharing. recommendations sometimes. seeing the book? unlikely (certainly not if the author is published by changeling press, which has the most horrible covers in the history of covers).

i am fully aware that authors get no royalties from used book sales.
piranha: red origami crane (Default)
i don't know why i have not been posting my ebook hauls like i did my paper book hauls. i guess i didn't think they'd become my main source for books just yet, but in fact they have; months ago. also maybe because it's all smut. :) well, not really. i have previously complained that apparently as soon as the romance is same-sex, publishers and bookstores shove it immediately under "erotica" even if the amount of actual sex is minimal and not particularly graphic; no more so than in the average hetero series romance.

adding to the vague notion that i should be posting these have been a couple of posts by m/m authors who have been very upset at piracy. i want to show what i buy (usually after having originally been exposed to an author or a specific work via file sharing), since there are a lot of us who buy because we want to support the authors whose work we like (so they write more!). even if we prefer to download first because there are no legitimate sources to read before buying, unlike for printed books (no libraries carry our favourite smut, nor may we borrow ebooks from a friend. and one can't buy used ebooks either.).

if you feel inclined to argue the legality or morality of file sharing, don't. well, feel free, but not here. i know all the arguments. and i am not in an arguing mood today.

latest fictionwise m/m haul )


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renaissance poisson

July 2015

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