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Nalini-Singh

What Janine is Reading in February and March 2012

What Janine is Reading in February and March 2012

I was really, really lucky in my choices of reading material in February and early March. Five of the nine books I read between the beginning of February and the first day of spring have been books I would grade at B+ or above, which means that they’re recommended (by me) reads. It made me wonder if I’m failing my readership by not being selective enough, but the thing is, I honestly feel those five books have been that good.

The Temporary Wife by Mary Balogh

This is one of Balogh’s most beloved traditional regencies, up there with The Notorious Rake as far as being many Balogh readers’ favorite Balogh. It was recently reissued in a 2-in-1 edition with A Promise of Spring and I took the time to reread and review it. I found that it was even more enjoyable the second time around. What I love about it is the transformation of the hero (and his relatives) from joylessness to joy. Grade: B+/A-

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A Promise of Spring by Mary Balogh

This one, on the other hand, was a disappointment. It started out wonderfully, as a sweet and tender older woman/younger man romance. The heroine had lost a child who happened to be illegitimate in her youth, and the hero’s total acceptance of her was so romantic. If only the book hadn’t gone downhill from there, with kitchen sink plotting, rushed resolutions, and contrivances that made both characters (but especially the hero) seem stupid or inconsistent. Review here. Grade: C-

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Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch

I’m so glad this urban fantasy/police procedural was recommended to me. Its hero, Peter Grant, is a new London Metropolitan Police constable who discovers that he has some paranormal abilities. Under the tutelage of an older (who knows how much older?) police inspector/wizard, Peter learns to cast spells and pursues a dangerous supernatural villain who threatens those close to him. Witty, snarky, and immensely entertaining. Review here. Grade: B+

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Fair Game by Patricia Briggs

What a blast I had reading this book. It wasn’t perfect by any means but I was grateful to discover that even three books and one novella into the Alpha and Omega series, my love for Charles and Anna has not faded. I especially loved seeing how strong Anna has grown. Her cleverness shines in this book. I didn’t love the way Charles’ conflict was resolved, but there is something so tender about their relationship, especially considering they are up against violence their own monstrous nature, and I find that so touching. Here’s Josephine’s review. My grade: B+/A-

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Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

My husband and I recently finished reading this YA fantasy which Jia reviewed a while back (the book was also in DABWAHA). A mystery wrapped in a roller coaster ride, Daughter of Smoke and Bone is poetic and romantic. The more time goes on, the more the book stays with me. I think it’s the kind of novel that can be reread as soon as one finishes it because once the secret at its center is uncovered, it casts the whole book in a new light. I love books that do that. Oh, what the heck. I think I’ll grade this one A-.

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Confessions from an Arranged Marriage by Miranda Neville

This book took a while to really grab me, but once it took off, it became a very emotional story. We recently had a guest post on heroines and shame, but in this book, it’s the hero who carries a shameful secret, one that causes him to pretend an indifference that he does not feel. The journey Blake and his new bride, Minerva, undergo, is bumpy to say the least, but it leads them both to grow into people who can understand and accept one another, and that’s a big part of what love is about. Review here. Grade: B+

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Thunder and Roses by Mary Jo Putney

I saw that Putney’s classic Fallen Angels series has been reissued electronically and since once upon a time it was a favorite series of mine, I decided to revisit it. I’m currently rereading this, book one in the series, and so far, it’s not holding up to my memories of it. It’s never been one of my most favorite Putneys but now I find I have mixed feelings about both the hero and the heroine, as well as their central values conflict over whether sex outside marriage is wrong (her view) or natural and desirable (his) . I still love the strip billiards scene but it isn’t enough to make up for the other problems. Review here. Grade: D

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A Monster Calls: Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd by Patrick Ness

This was another one I read with my husband. It’s a fantasy about a thirteen year old boy whose mother has cancer. One night a monster comes to visit Conor, and as these visitations continue, the monster tells him stories and insists Conor will have to repay in kind, by telling the true story that terrifies him. The book was inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd, who died of cancer herself before she could write it. This made me feel Scrooge-like for being underwhelmed. My review can be found here. Grade: C+

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Tangle of Need by Nalini Singh

Book #11 in the Psy/Changeling series won’t be out until May 29 but I read the ARC in March in preparation for a joint review Jennie and I have in the works. There are developments on several fronts here, but the central romance is that of Adria (Indigo’s young aunt) and Riaz, both wounded souls. Their relationship is complicated by the fact that Riaz’s wolf has already recognized its mate, and it isn’t Adria. While this wasn’t one of my top favorites in the series, I did very much appreciate that it dared to explore some tough questions about the nature of the mating bond. Joint review with Jennie to come.

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What about you? What have you been reading lately? Have you read any of the books I mention above and if so, what did you think of them? And are you on a hot streak or in a reading slump?

Is there room on the internet for authorial interaction?

Is there room on the internet for authorial interaction?

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For many years, we’ve preached that review are for readers and they are. Oftentimes, when authors react to reviews, it results in an unfortunate dustup with authors saying things they wished they hadn’t and readers throwing out threats of a ban list. The comment threads to a review can be contentious whether it is here at Dear Author or at places like Goodreads and Amazon.

But there are times when authorial interaction might actually produce interesting discussion. After I reviewed “Lord of the Abyss,” I wrote a note to Nalini Singh and Singh wrote me back* and said that she wanted to share with me why she turned Liliana beautiful at the end, an ending that I complained about:

I did consider not having that fairytale makeover, because like you said, Micah didn’t care. The thing was, I couldn’t do it to Liliana, herself because it hurt her so much when people were cruel to her, or said nasty things like in the village. The thought of her living her entire life having to bear those slights (and the reality is, people still would’ve said them and they still would’ve hurt, even if only a tiny bit each time since she would’ve had Micah’s unwavering love in contrast) – yeah, I just couldn’t. And since it was a fairytale, I did get to play fairy godmother.

I responded:

You know, your comment is one that I think would be interesting to readers, if you would be willing to post it. I’m not sure how I feel. It’s true that I wouldn’t want Liliana to be hurt constantly by the shunning of others, but I loved the idea of a truly ugly heroine. It’s amazing how none of that really matters when you are in the meat of the story.

Nalini’s response:

As for the Liliana comment, I don’t know. I always wonder if author intention should have any place in a reader’s experience. I’ve always liked the idea that each reader reads a different book, dependent on what personal ideas/life experiences they bring into the story. It’s an interesting thing to think about, especially now, with authors so accessible via the web.

This got me thinking. Jeannie Lin’s response about the ending of her book was posted on her website. I thought her explanation of the Eastern philosophy that drove her story was interesting. It didn’t change how I felt about the book but I enjoyed reading it and contemplating her perspective.

Both the Singh and the Lin comments were ones I would have liked to have discussed with other readers. These might be appropriately questions at the end of the book that could be asked for a reader group (those are sometimes included in trade paperback books).

I emailed Caitlin Crews to see if she would like to write up some thoughts about Shame and Heroines in romance and mentioned that I found that Jake, the hero in “Heiress Behind the Headlines,” hadn’t suffered enough for all the horrible things he said to Larissa, the heroine.  She gave me a really interesting response:

I’m really interested in your take on Jack. I was worried that many readers would not find Larissa at all sympathetic (and indeed many do not) and so in some ways I suppose I saw Jack as a kind of mouthpiece for what I anticipated those readers might feel about her. I also thought that his public acceptance of her at the end would be more meaningful to *her* than any sort of extended grovel might be, as I imagined she wouldn’t necessarily believe that. My understanding from some of the feedback I’ve gotten so far is that some readers just hated her as I worried they might, and those readers seem to think Jack could have done much better. I guess I was trying to strike a balance between those two takes on the story; it’s always so fascinating to hear how/if that kind of thing worked!

But author interaction can result in two things, no matter the intention of the author, both which are detrimental to reader conversation. First, an authorial inerjection can reduce reader commentary. Meljean Brook shared:

I think there’s room for author interaction in the comments of a review, but it’s very limited room. In general — unless the reviewer has notified the author directly about the presence of a review and invites a reply — I think that it’s best not to comment at all. We all know that many authors are online, seeking reviews of their work and looking in on discussions; there’s no need to tap the readers on the shoulder and say, “Hey, I’m here,” because it’s likely to have a chilling effect…and for good or bad, the best thing for an author is for readers to talk about her book. Why shut that down?

The other thing that can occur is for readers to mistake the intention of the author or interpret the author’s intention exactly right and either results in a kerfluffle. Another author emailed me this response:

Explaining a book in the comment section may invite discussion, but it seems argumentative to me. A reader has the right to their opinion of the book, no matter what that opinion is. If an author thinks their book is A and the reader thinks it’s B, no matter how much the author argues the point, it’s very rare the reader is going to change their mind–they’re always going to think it’s B. It’s the reader’s experience that matters. That’s their takeaway and no amount of explaining on the author’s part is going to change that. The only additional takeaway the reader will receive is a bad view of the author, which is never a good thing, in my opinion.

Another author shared that it was frustrating to read in a review what the author’s intention was when writing. It’s one thing for a reader to say that it came off as if an author meant it X, Y, or Z and another for a reader to speak as if she is an authority on the author’s intent:

I’ll be honest, it really pisses me off when readers speak with “authority” on what my intent as an author is. They can think what they want. They can speculate to their hearts content. But don’t go around saying that Author thought this or Author did that… And any time a reader claims to KNOW what an author meant or what she was “really” doing, they just make themselves look like an ignorant.

Almost universally, the authors I emailed on this topic felt that comments to reviews are simply not a place for authors to interject their opinions. I know that at DA, if an author comes in during a discussion and I sense that it might reduce reader discussion, I’ll make a comment to try to encourage readers to discuss the book, as if the author is not there.

One author said that the only time she felt is was appropriate to comment publicly with readers is when the author is invited, such as to a Book Chat. Most authors echoed this

“In my experience, when readers really want to hear from an author, they’ll e-mail her.”

I admit that I rarely email authors at all mostly because I feel, maybe wrongly, that most authors really don’t want to hear from anyone with dearauthor.com in the email address.  I don’t know whom I’ve offended with strongly worded reviews and I don’t want any one to feel like they need to be nice or gracious to me if I’ve hurt their feelings.  To that end, there are often questions that arise from a book for which I have no answer.

I’m curious what readers and authors would like to see.  Do they want more authorial interaction?  Do they like that the conversation is primarily between readers of the book or potential readers of the book?  Are they interested in hearing the author’s perspective?

*All emails reproduced with the consent of the sender.