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January 03, 2016

Sunday Morning Book Thread 01-03-2016: Chick Lit [OregonMuse]


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Best Sellers

Good morning to all of you morons and moronettes and bartenders everywhere and all the ships at sea. Welcome to AoSHQ's stately, prestigious, internationally acclaimed and high-class Sunday Morning Book Thread. The Sunday Morning Book Thread is the only AoSHQ thread that is so hoity-toity, pants are required. And when I type up the book thread, my pinkies remain elevated the whole time, that's how classy it is. Even Donald Trump thinks the book thread is classy. Also, yuuge.


“Reading requires actual concentration. If you skipped a paragraph, or even an important sentence, you could lose the entire story. With most TV shows, though, you didn't have to concentrate at all. You could space out for a good ten minutes, then come back and still figure out what was going on.”
― Daniel Ehrenhaft


Make Boatloads of Money By Writing This One Weird Book

One of the "downsides" of free speech is that people can say things that you don't approve of.

One of the "downsides" of enabling lots of people to publish books is that lots of books can get published that you don't approve of, or think "whoever would want to read a book like THAT?" Including holiday-themed romance novels involving individual who can turn themselves into animals.

As Dave Barry is wont to say, no, I am not making this up.

One such specimen in this "WTF" category is Bear Mine for Christmas: BBW Holiday Paranormal Bear Shifter Romance (Christmas Bear Shifter Romance Book 2) by "Ariana Hawkes".

Let's unpack this title a bit.

BBW: "big beautiful woman", i.e. a woman who is overweight. I'm assuming this adjective applies to the main character, who is a woman, rather than the bear. I mean, look at the 6-pack on that guy in the cover art. Is that from a photo, or did some cover artist whip it up from scratch?

So the hunky bear-dude is kind of a "chubby chaser" then.

Holiday: this novel takes place during the Christmas season.

Paranormal: in this context, it means having unusual abilities or attributes beyond the lot of mortal men. Like being able to turn into an animal of some sort, as in this book. Or, in other stories, being a sparkly vampire. I've also seen mystery novels where the detective main character is (a) psychic or (b) can speak with the dead. But I think that would be too much like cheating: "So, Mrs. Detective main character person, who is the malefactor who strangled Mr. Grey with a pair of his own socks?" "I don't know, let me whip out my crystal ball here and contact a dead guy, and we'll find out." Kind of takes the fun out of looking for clues and making logical deductions, doesn't it? It would be like Chesterton having his Father Brown character solve his cases by praying to God and having a giant finger come down from heaven and point out the bad guy, like they did in that Monty Python sketch. Yeah, I know the authors who write those "clairvoyant detective" stories build in limitations to the character's abilities so that quick and easy solutions aren't possible, but I guess I have to suspend waaay too much disbelief for these stories to be work, at least for me. Sorry for this digression, but I've been wanting to get this rant into the book thread for quite awhile.

Bear Shifter: perhaps another name for this would be "werebear", but that word sounds more silly than scary; it simply does not carry the same fear cache as the word "werewolf" does. So "shifter" is a pretty good alternative -- it has a nice, foreboding ambiguity to it. Maybe "shifting" is good. Maybe it's bad. Maybe it's both. You don't know.

Romance: the feeling of being in love with a powerful alpha male, preferably with one with 6-pack abs and no shirt.

So this book, not only is it a romance, not only is it a paranormal romance, not only is it a paranormal romance involving bear shifters, but it's a paranormal romance involving bear shifters during the holiday season pursuing overweight women, and now I've got this image in my mind of a shaggy brown bear chasing a fat chick through the snow.

If you're laughing at this like I am, listen to this, it might sober you up: this novel is listed as a #1 Bestseller on Amazon, and amazingly, as of when I'm writing this, it's ranked #168 overall in the Amazon paid Kindle store. I have no idea how being ranked #168 translates into actual sales, but whatever the figure, I think it's quite an achievement for a book of this type, considering the hundreds of thousands of Kindle books available.

Last week, I wondered aloud why women are attracted to billionaires. And I got some interesting answers. But apparently, having more money than you can spend in a lifetime is not an absolute requirement to make a woman's heart go thump-thump-thump. If a hot guy can turn himself into a bear, that'll work, too.

This is a standalone, short, sweet, and steamy read, perfect for a lunch break, bath time, or a little dose of me-time, wherever you are. HEA and no cliffhanger!

I had to look that last part up. HEA means "happily ever after". This is in contrast to HFN, or "happy for now" endings.

The growth of self-publishing has evidently uncovered a huge, untapped market for books of this type. They must be like crack to women. So, the lesson for all you moron authors is obvious: if you want to make a big pot of money, add a shape-shifting, shirtless bear-man to your novel and watch your sales skyrocket.

Oh, did I say bear? How about reindeer? Buck Me... For New Year's: BBW Paranormal Were-reindeer Shapeshifter Holiday Romance (Frost Brothers' Brides). Currently ranked #477 overall in the paid Kindle store.

Yeah.



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Ha! Take THAT, Muldoon!


What Are They Reading In The Army?

So, like other branches of the Armed Forces, the Army maintains its own reading list for both officers and enlisted personnel. The list is divided into four subsections based on rank, so I'll highlight one selection from each.

One of the books they want the enlisteds and the junior NCOs to read is Stephen Crane's classic, The Red Badge of Courage:

A classic of American literature, this Civil War novel depicts a Union soldier's terrifying baptism of fire and his ensuing transformation from coward to hero. Originally published in 1895, its vivid evocation of battle remains unsurpassed.

The amazing part of this classic book is that its amazing realism in its depiction of Civil War battles, even though Crane did not fight in the Civil War (which took place before he was born), nor in any other war.

For company grade officers, The Dynamics of Military Revolution, 1300-2050 by MacGregor Knox and Williamson Murray, which

provide[s] a conceptual framework and historical context for understanding the patterns of change, innovation, and adaptation that have marked war in the Western world since the fourteenth century. Case studies and a conceptual overview offer an indispensable introduction to military change for all Army leaders.

Available on Amazon, if you want to spend $25 for the Kindle edition.

It takes some doing to get a raw recruit to point a gun at another human being and pull the trigger. This is why the Army brass wants their senior NCOs and field grade officers to read On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman that examines the psychological and societal costs of training young men to overcome this natural aversion.

Senior leaders above Brigade Level need to read Reid, Michael Reid's The Forgotten Continent: The Battle for Latin America's Soul.

The thesis of the book is simple: Latin America is torn between reformers - democrats who support free markets and democracy, and populists - who support neither. Reid argues that although the populists have considerable appeal in the region, the tide has turned against them. Unlike previous eras, the current embrace of democracy and capitalism - augmented with a great deal of redistribution policies - is here to last.

We really dropped the ball on South America. Reagan had the rat bastard commies running for the tall grass back in the 80s, but then we just sort of wandered off, which is why we've had to deal with annoying pests like Hugo Chavez and his Bolivian mini-me, Evo Morales.

Commies are like blackberry bushes. No matter how much you prune them, uproot them, burn them, or poison them, it never seems to be enough; you always have to go back out to your garden and go whack, whack, whack, otherwise, they're grow right back again.


Jump Into the Fire

So I was a given a Kindle Fire 7 as a Christmas gift, and I've been using it for a couple of weeks now. It's an adequate Android device, and by "Android", I mean "FireOS", which is Amazon's in-house version of Android. I thought a 5th generation Fire tablet would be relatively light, but it is surprisingly heavy, as heavy as my 2012 Nexus. It comes with 8GB onboard storage with provision for adding a micro SD card of up to 32GB.

So my first question once I had it set up was, how do I sideload this thing?

Up to now, my "go-to" e-book format has been epub, which has become the de facto standard. I have many e-books stored on my desktop's hard drive as epub files. Of course, the Amazon Kindle world does not do epub. So I went looking in the Amazon store for an epub reader, and there really isn't one I can use. There are library managers, a couple of pdf readera, and one epub reader that does such a poor job, it's pretty much useless. The epub apps I use on the Nexus, Aldiko Reader, FBReafer, Moon+, are not compatible with the Fire.

Several weeks ago, one of you morons helpfully provided a link to this procedure to install the Google suite of apps on a 5th generation Fire tablet, and thank you for doing that, but I don't think I want to go through all of this quite yet. I'm a little reluctant to load a number of apps Google that I have no intention of ever using, such as Google+, Google Play, News, Video, etc. that take up storage space. Actually, the only app I'm really interested in is the Google Read app, which does a good job with ePub books.

But I've come up with an acceptable 'Plan B' solution: the Kindle app may not read epub, but it handles mobi files just fine. So, if I connect the Fire to my Windows 8 PC, I can transfer mobi files to the \Books folder on the Fire (other folders may be usable for this, but I haven't tried any other one) and it will be picked up and displayed for reading by the Kindle app. I have the Calibre e-book manager installed on my Windows PC, and I can use it to convert any epub book I might want to read on the Kindle to mobi.

This should be enough for my needs, at least for now.


The Impossible Dream

Another book I happened upon, Guided By The Beauty Of Their Weapons: Notes on Science Fiction and Culture in the Year of Angry Dogs by Philip Sandifer, is a Sad Puppies commentary from the other side:

This anthology of essays written by acclaimed Marxist occultist critic Philip Sandifer during 2015 starts from the Puppies controversy, presenting an alternative vision of science fiction grounded in progressive politics and the ability of the genre to explore strange and unthinkable ideas - one that holds that its primary value is its ability to do new things, as opposed to being in permanent debt to antiquated ideas and styles.

Yawn. I get so tired of this self-congratulatory balloon juice from progressives, it's all so boring and predictable, like pony-tailed, over-60 hippies who think they're on the cutting edge of hipness. But I'm not going to waste any time deconstructing this piece of dishonest hackery. Larry Correia would do a much better job. Rather, what I noticed is what it says about the author:

This anthology of essays written by acclaimed Marxist occultist critic Philip Sandifer during 2015...

OK, so what, exactly, is a "Marxist occultist"? I thought the whole idea of the Marxism, and therefore, progressive thought in general, is wrapped around something called "dialectical materialism", where everything is explained in terms of purely natural processes and purely natural phenomena.

Hence religion is looked down upon as "the opiate of the masses."

I know there are progressives who call themselves Christian, but if you're going to go so far as to specifically identify yourself with Marxism, as Sandifer does, that's not something that naturally goes along with being an "occultist", a word which has all kinds of supernatural connotations. It's like claiming to be a "compassionate murderer" or a "smart, knowledgeable MSNBC commentator." It just doesn't make sense.

Perhaps Mr. Sandifer is using a meaning for the word "occultist" that's different than the one I am accustomed to. Regardless, his Zen-like self-appellation "Marxist occultist" reminds me of this bit in CS Lewis' classic The Screwtape Letters where the materialist/supernatural conflict is discussed:

We are really faced with a cruel dilemma. When the humans disbelieve in our existence we lose all he pleasing results of direct terrorism and we make no magicians. On the other hand, when they believe in us, we cannot make them materialists and skeptics. At least, not yet. I have great hopes that we shall learn in due time how to emotionalise and mythologise their science to such an extent that what is, in effect, belief in us, (though not under that name) will creep in while the human mind remains closed to belief in the Enemy. The “Life Force”, the worship of sex, and some aspects of Psychoanalysis, may here prove useful. If once we can produce our perfect work—the Materialist Magician, the man, not using, but veritably worshiping, what he vaguely calls “Forces” while denying the existence of “spirits”—then the end of the war will be in sight.

Dread Arch-demon Screwtape, allow me to introduce you to Mr. Philip Sandifer, the monstrous culmination of your unholy labors.


What I'm Reading

Mrs. Muse likes to catch the morning showing of the old Perry Mason show with Raymond Burr on the Me-TV channel (that series ran for 9 years). So last week I thought I'd read some of the original source material to find out more about this iconic crime-solver and grabbed The Case of the Velvet Claws, Erle Stanley Gardner's first Perry Mason novel, published in 1933. As I was reading, I kept imagining Raymond Burr as Perry Mason doing the things described in the book, which quickly got weird because the Perry Mason in the book is different than the TV version.

First, he admits to Della Street, his secretary, who complained about all the phonies and liars that they have to contend with, that he isn't a normal lawyer, has never probated a will or done much contract work, but rather, charges a lot of money ("my prices are high, but fair") to phonies and liars to help them get out of jams, and he knows they're phonies and liars. All he cares about, he says, is that they pay him.

This is something I'd expect if AMC was doing a "gritty reboot" of the Perry Mason series. But no, this is how he was originally written.

Also, he chain smokes. He's tailing this particular low life and he's sitting in his car lighting one cigarette from the butt of another and even having to get a new pack to continue his chain smoking.

Lastly, Perry Mason hits people. Early on in the book, some palooka was giving him some lip, impeding his investigation, so he just hauls back and pops him right in the puss. Palooka goes down like a sack of cement and Perry Mason continues on his way. It was a little disconcerting to see him do this, but I've come to see that he is not so much the clean but tough lawyer, but rather a "fixer" who makes his living servicing the intersection between legal and illegal activities. Not that Mason would do anything shady or illegal, but he has figured out that people who do often find themselves in situations where they're going to get hurt, and so he can charge them lots of money to clean up their poop.

So this is not your father's Perry-- wait a minute, actually, this is your father's Perry Mason. But, this is only the first of about 80(!) Perry Mason novels, so I don't know if the character changed over time. Perhaps he did. But even if he did, I must say I kind of like this harder-edged version.


___________

Don't forget the AoSHQ reading group on Goodreads. It's meant to support horde writers and to talk about the great books that come up on the book thread. It's called AoSHQ Moron Horde and the link to it is here: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/175335-aoshq-moron-horde.

___________

So that's all for this week. As always, book thread tips, suggestions, bribes, rumors, threats, and insults may be sent to OregonMuse, Proprietor, AoSHQ Book Thread, at the book thread e-mail address: aoshqbookthread, followed by the 'at' sign, and then 'G' mail, and then dot cee oh emm.

What have you all been reading this week? Hopefully something good, because, as you all know, life is too short to be reading lousy books.

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