I'm a a semi-reviewing hiatus right now. I've been really tired recently, so instead of staying up reading books or using my time to write reviews I've mostly been sleeping. I'll be back to reviewing soon, as I am starting to feel a little less tired. I've read some really great books last month before I crashed to sleep, so hopefully I'll have the energy to review them here in the next couple of weeks.
These are my most recent reviews for RT (June issue):
Level Up by Cathy Yardley: Every so often I'm assigned a book for RT that I actually already own but hadn't read. Level Up was already on my TBR based on twitter recommendations by Courtney Milan and Bree Bridges on twitter. The book exceeded my expectations. I found it fun and honest.
My brother is seven years younger than me. As a family we frequently talk about how he grew up in a different family than my sister and I did. My parents were married, my father juggling night-school and a full-time job, while my mom was a stay-at-home mom. My parents were just generally getting started in life (starter cars, starter homes). His parents were divorced, both had busy careers and there was generally more than enough money for travel and fun. As a result our attitudes toward our parents and our expectations are often very different. His experience of dating and romantic relationships is also vastly different than mine and not just because we are different genders. I was married at 21 to someone I met in college, starting a family at 24. He is in his early 30's, had some serious heartbreak and much to my parents's frustration is not even close to settling down. My brother is also Aziz Ansari's age, so as I listened to Modern Romance, I couldn't help but feel it was listening to someone explain the vastly different landscape of love and romance my brother is navigating.
Modern Romance was an interesting but not wholly successful book. The mix of comedy and serious research was often uneven and uncomfortable. In the audio version, Ansari's comedic voice was irreverent, self-deprecating and occasionally biting but didn't always transition well in segments meant to be insightful or argumentative. The chapters that focused on the international dating scene (Qatar, Japan, Argentina & France), were dull and lacking in any real attempt at research. The observations felt superficial and poorly researched.
The more interesting chapters were the ones were Ansari tried to make sense of his generation's dissatisfaction with dating. his own personal struggles to connect, the effort it takes to build lasting relationships in a world full of seemingly endless choices. His advice to become aware and self-conscious about the way experiences in the "phoneworld" bleed into face to face interactions and to invest more than one date into the people a dater encounters were thoughtful and sensible.
I really appreciated the way the book tried to place in historical context the vast changes in expectations people have about romantic relationships, and marriage. They provided a wonderful overview about the way expectation of personal happiness, increased personal autonomy and economic freedom have reshaped how people view marriage and romance.
Ansari does acknowledge in the introduction that the book is not fully inclusive of LGBT relationships and instead deals for the most part with only heterosexual relationships. While I understood their choice, the lack was felt most strongly in the chapters that addressed how and why people have entered marriage relationships over time. Much of his discussion on the rise of soulmate marriage over good-enough marriage feeds into the growing cultural acceptance of same-same marriage. I also felt that the book could have benefited from a woman's voice, as I felt Ansari was often too sympathetic to men who ineptly try to message women online and he generally glosses over many of dangers and inconveniences women encounter in the dating scene.
Overall the book was entertaining, pointing out the positive and negatives of the new relationship marketplace. I feel like I have a better understanding of the unique challenges my brother's generation faces. It makes me wonder how much it will change again by the time my daughters are both out there dating too.
I love podcasts and recently when I found myself completely caught up with Sarah Wendell & Jane Litte's DBSA podcast, I asked myself if there were other romance podcasts worth listening to. I asked folks on twitter for recommendations, and I took advantage of a long car trip to listen to multiple episodes of the recommended shows I had not previously been aware of. The project reminded of old favorites and I discovered a couple new "keeper" podcasts and vlogs.
VFBC was actually one of my first entry points into Romance. VFBC is a virtual book club hosted by Day, Veronica Belmont, Bonnie Burton and Kiala Kazebee. They read and discuss genre romance books. They have lots of fun and clearly have a great love for genre romance but are not afraid to skewer elements or conventions that deserve criticism. I listened and read along for the first dozen or so episodes when they first launched. They introduced me to Deanna Raybourn, Nalini Signh & Meljean Brook, and I credit them for helping me transition from Sci-fi & Mystery into Romance genre reading. Their GR groups were my first taste of the wonders of an online romance reading community.
I am not quite sure how I stumbled across Sarah Wendell's & Jane Litte's DBSA (Dear Bitches, Smart Authors) podcast, but it might have been through a mention in another bookish podcast I was listening to at the time (likely Bookrageous). When I found the DBSA I unashamedly I binged listened. Wendell & Litte run two of the biggest romancelandia blogs (Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and Dear Author). Their prominence in the genre gives them a great deal of access. They do a lot interviews & themed discussions. Their interviews with publicists, editors, self-pub and traditionaly published writers served as my introduction to and education about the Romance publishing industry. Their large audience base means they frequently read and respond to listener letters (disclosure: I have had a letter read on the air). Each podcast includes dozens of recommendations for current and backlist titles.
Cardigan Rippers from the Santa Clara County Library is run by a pair of romance loving librarians, Amytha & Sarah (on twitter as @cardiganrippers). A relatively new podcast, they have 10 episodes so far. Listened to two of the most recent, where they focused on just one book they had both read, and discussed the book, the tropes and their rating of it. They had a very good discussion, and I enjoyed listening to it even when it was a book I was unfamiliar with. They end the podcast with a book recommendation for backlist title from each of them, that is somehow connected to the book that was subject of the podcast. They also offer related booklists on the Santa Clara County Library website. I will definitely listen to them again.
Bookish Tarts: This podcast is run by two Australian romance authors, Georgina Penney & Rhyll Biest. They are big romance fans, and I think the intended audience it both romance readers and other authors but at points I felt I was intruding into an author-space by listening. I listened to close four episodes and I might have enjoyed it more if I was familiar with their novels or a regular reader of their blog. Their conversations were spicy and funny and they have strong opinions but the podcasts lacked structure even when they had a particular topic they meant to discuss, and I frequently felt that I was walking into already ongoing conversation.
Romance Coffee Break by Regina Small (@ReginaSmall). Regina is the Executive Editor/Reviews Coordinator at RT Book Reviews. This is a new short form (3 to 5 minutes long) video reviews and commentary about Romance (11 videos since February). The videos were fun, smart and engaging. They have great structure and don't require a long time commitment for great content. I will be adding this to my regular romance listening.
Heart to Heart hosted by Kat Mayo (@bookthingo) is really fun and smart podcast sponsored by a Australian Romance Imprint of Penguin (Destiny Romance). There have been ten episodes so far, most of them interviews with authors and enjoyed each of them. Mayo asks great questions and I enjoyed listening to non-American romance fan perspective. She interviewedthe likes of Nalini Singh, Courtney Milan and Julie Garwood, and Australian authors like CS Pacat & Anna Cowan. She has also done a couple interviews with Romance scholars which were informative and entertaining. Mayo has recently mentioned on twitter than she has received the go-ahead for more podcasts from Destiny and she might also be launching a podcast of her own.
Do you have a favorite podcast (Romance or other) that you love? I'm always looking for something new to listen to.