Jen Miller

Friday Folio: August 11, 2023

I’m back — well I’ve been back, but but I’m back to book news. Let’s get on with it.

The Washington Post did an explainer about hockey romance, and what’s going on with it right now. It’s not my preferred kind of romance, so I can’t comment, but it’s nice that they put resources to treating romance seriously.

Bookriot on why we should read old school romance.

Scammers were using AI to create books, put them under an established author’s name, and sell them on Amazon. After people screamed about how wrong it is, Amazon finally took them down.

Are books a way to stop being distracted by devices? I use them that way. Via the Wall Street Journal.

Speaking of AI, I knew a few writers whose books were fed into AI without their permission/knowledge/etc. to create the site Prosecraft, which claimed to give metrics to author’s works. Of COURSE everyone screamed about this too, and he took it down, but so far I haven’t seen anything about him undoing the part where he fed them into AI. I’m sure we’re going to find out because one of the authors he stole from is Nora Roberts. She does […]

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Book 38 of 52: Rosewood: A Midsummer Meet Cute by Sayantani Dasgupta

Looking to wrap up your summer with a fun, light romance focusing on some teen theater nerds? I got you, as does Sayantani Dasgupta with Rosewood: A Midsummer Meet Cute.

Our protagonist is Eila Das, a high school student who has been trying to hold her family together after the death of her father. Shakespeare was a big part of the family’s life: every summer, they’d go to see a local Shakespeare in the park, and she’d go to Shakespeare theater camp.

Now, not only is she grieving, but her beloved Shakespeare camp has been rebooted as Regency Camp, where teens spend two weeks living how those in Regency Era England did, with a bonus: if they catch the eye of the show’s producer, they might also get a chance to appear as an extra in Rosewood, described as like “Bridgerton meets Murder, She Wrote.”

Eila doesn’t want to be there, but goes because her sister, Mallika, is obsessed with the show — and knows their mother would never allow her to go alone.

Eila starts out as stubbon, but opens up through the course of those two weeks, and discovers maybe she can embrace change after all, and that doing so wouldn’t be […]

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Book 37 of 52: Midnight in Cairo: The Divas of Egypt’s Roaring ’20s by Raphael Cormack

In my last post, I said that I had two more reviews that would touch on my travel. Here’s the one of those.

I downloaded the audio book if Midnight in Cairo: The Divas of Egypt’s Roaring ’20s by Raphael Cormack for my road trip. I like to either listen to celebrities reading their memoirs, or books about slices of history that I might not sit down to read in physical form otherwise.

I knew about the Egyptology craze that took over the Brits (and Australians) in the 1920s because I’ve seen it depicted in historical shows like Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and adaptations of Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile. But I didn’t know why, exactly, and a part of that was the vibrant nightlife that existed in Cairo between the world wars, mostly on Emad al-​Din Street. Cormack shows that story by writing about the lives of women who worked in the clubs, theaters, and dance halls at the time, for better or for worse. It’s striking that some of their struggles, like bodily autonomy and financial freedom from men, is the same that many women face 100 years later. And of course depressing too.

Sounds fascinating right? But thee […]

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Book 36 of 52: A Place in the World: Finding the Meaning of Home by Frances Mayes

I’m going to break this post down into two parts: how I found A Place in the World: Finding the Meaning of Home by Frances Mayes, and what I thought about it. Let’s start with how I found the book, because that’s a lot more fun than my thoughts on it.

I packed more than a few titles for my road trip, but made one glaring omission: I only packed fiction. By the time I was heading back home from California, I was tired of fake worlds and wanted to read something real. I traveled through a lot of very rural areas where I was lucky to find a gas station, so wasn’t holding my breath for a bookstore, until I got to Bismarck, N.D. The state capital had to have at least one, right?

Bingo! I stopped at Ferguson Books & More, a delightful place in what I assume is Bismarck’s downtown. They do have “and more” but mostly sell new and used books (and have a banner featuring an ad campaign John Duhamel did for his home state). They strike a bargain, too: if you buy a new book, you get a used one free, and mass […]

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Book 35 of 52: Open Season by C.J. Box

Hello from [checks map] Illinois! Let’s take a step back to the western portion of the country (and my trip) with this review of Open Season by C.J. Box.

As I wrote in my review of his book Endangered, I am new to his work, and liked that book enough to go back to the beginning. Here we find Joe Pickett as a newly minted game warden in Wyoming. He’s had a run in with a poacher who stole his service weapon, which was embarrassing, but didn’t seem like a career ending event. Then the guy shows ups bleeding (and eventually dead) in Pickett’s backyard.

He was holding an empty cooler, with what appear to be claw marks inside. What could have made those? The mystery of this murder, and those claw marks, intertwine pretty quickly.

And the book was….once again, here we go: aggressively fine! I’m not going to spoil what the creature was, and why it lead to someone being killed, but I learned a lot about the reason why. This book is also close to the plot of the first season of the Joe Pickett TV show, so if you have that on your to-watch list, you may […]

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Book 34 of 52: We Could Be So Good by Cat Sebastian

Hello from [checks map] Utah! I am taking the long way home after driving from New Jersey to California and spending a week in Disneyland with my family. I started making the return trek on Sunday. I’ve seen a lot — but it’s tiring!

I did manage to read We Could Be So Good by Cat Sebastian. If you’ve been hanging around the blog since I revived it in 2022, you should be familiar with Sebastian. She’s written The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes, and The Queer Principles of Kit Webb, which are set in 1750s England.

In We Could Be So Good, she’s stepped out of that realm and into New York City in 1958. Our two heroes are Nick, a reporter; and Andy, son of the publisher who is learning the ropes in the hope that he’ll take over that paper someday. We know from the jump that Nick is gay, though he’s not out, as it would have been a criminal and personal liability. Andy is bisexual, though it takes him some time to admit it, and even then it’s after he’s been in a serious relationship with a mutual female friend.

I wanted to write a […]

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Friday Folio: July 7, 2023

Great piece in High Country News: “Let’s talk about Indian romance novels.”

Two authors have filed a lawsuit against OpenAI for training ChatGPT with their work. Good!

NASCAR shut down Chicago for a race which was…bizarre. It also hurt local businesses, including a bookstore. Their customers came to the rescue.

Are you looking to buy library bookshelves? Then this is for you! My mom grabbed a card catalog cabinet from my grade school when it closed. She made a small donation to the church for it. She could sell it for…a lot right now.

The Washington Post made predictions about Obama’s summer book list.

And with that…I’m out! Time to drive across the desert! There most likely won’t be a Friday Folio next week as I will be busy with a certain giant mouse (or duck – he’s my fav).

Photo taken by me at Petrified Forest National Park on July 5, 2023.

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Book 33 of 52: Magnate by Joanna Shupe

Hello from [checks map] Arizona! I’ll soon be headed to my final destination, where I’ll spend a week before turning back home again. Fun!

I haven’t been reading physical books as much, given all the driving, but I did manage to finish Magnate by Joanna Shupe, the first book in her Gilded Age era Knickerbocker Club romance series. I reviewed Baron as Book 63 of 52 last year, after reading one of Shupe’s novellas in a Christmas compilation. So I figured I might as well go back to the start.

Our heroine is Elizabeth Sloane, a lady of means who wants to open her own brokerage firm. She can’t do that on her own, being a woman and all, so she asks for the backing of Emmett Cavanaugh, owner of East Coast Steel — who also happens to despise her brother. Do they fall in love? Of course they do, it’s a romance novel!

While I enjoyed Baron, this one was not a hit for me. Cavanaugh is waving a bunch of red flags, including that he has Elizabeth followed, and forbids her from seeing a male family friend. To me, those are signs that he sees her as a […]

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Book 32 of 52: Gumption: Relighting the Torch of Freedom with America’s Troublemakers by Nick Offerman

Hello from [checks map] Oklahoma City! I am well into my road trip, and trying to reshuffle and repack my stuff for the next leg, so this review of Gumption: Relighting the Torch of Freedom with America’s Troublemakers by Nick Offerman will be brief.

Offerman is a good writer, but this isn’t his best work. It’s his second book, and may be my least favorite. He admits that he chose some of the people to profile here because he really wanted to meet them. It read (or sounded since I listened to the audiobook) incredibly self-indulgent. It also seems like more of an idea cooked up to capitalize on the success of his first book, Paddle Your Own Canoe, than something that he was burning to write.

The good news is he’s gotten much better (and has taken classes from George Saunders, one of the people he profiles). So if you’re looking for some Offerman, I’d recommend Where the Dear and the Antelope Play (which was Book 35 of 2022) or The Greatest Love Story Ever Told, which he wrote with his wife Megan Mullally, which is one of my favorite audiobooks ever, instead.

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Friday Folio: June 30, 2023

News? News!

The New York Times on review bombing (I don’t read reviews of my books on Amazon or Goodreads. So if you left a bad one — oh well!)

Remember that woman who was charged with the murder of her husband and wrote a book about grief? She’s being sued too.

The Washington Post takes a look at the racist literary origins of Indiana Jones.

Not surprising but still terrible: books bans are driving kids away from libraries and reading, via Book Riot.

And I’ll send on some good news before I head out to my next stop: The USA Today best seller list is back.

Photo by me, taken on June 29, 2023, at the Goshen Road Rest Area in Opdyke, Illinois, which had a little surprise trail.

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