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Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for March 2012

Just Reviewed Maya Rodale’s “A Groom of One’s Own” at SBR

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Folks, I really enjoy Maya Rodale’s writing.  She has a knack for writing romances with good characterization, a nice sense of whimsy, and they’re often laugh out loud funny.

I really enjoyed her first romance in the “Writing Girls” series, A GROOM OF ONE’S OWN, and said so just now at SBR.  Here’s the link:

http://shinybookreview.wordpress.com/2012/03/31/maya-rodales-a-groom-of-ones-own-smart-sensual-romantic-comedy/

Note that this past November, I discussed the second novel in that series, A TALE OF TWO LOVERS.  I enjoyed Rodale’s writing then, too, but felt that the idea of a woman writing a gossip column in 1823 was a bit much.  (Especially as one of her gossipy news items was that Lord Roxbury, the man she eventually marries, might’ve gotten bored with the female sex and have turned to his own.  That wouldn’t have been discussed in public in 1823: not by a woman gossip columnist, and not by a male one, either.)  Even under the name “A Lady of Distinction,” I just didn’t buy it, but I did enjoy Rodale’s writing.

This is why I decided to read the first novel, A GROOM OF ONE’S OWN.  There are a few problems here, too, but not with the plot construction; mostly the very few errors center on how the Duke of Hamilton and Brandon (Rodale’s hero) was addressed: he should be addressed as “Your Grace” by those who don’t know him, publicly or privately (until the Duke tells the person, “Please call me” whatever), probably by “Brandon” by those who do as that’s what he prefers to be called (especially in private).  Rodale gets the second part right but the first part is way off, as Duke Brandon is referred to as “Lord Brandon” far more often than not.  I haven’t the foggiest idea how this got through Avon’s editors — they’re usually quite good — but the error did get through, it wasn’t corrected, and for a writer of British historical romance novels to get this wrong is astonishing.

Still, the writing itself is very, very good.  I loved the characters.  I appreciated the wit, the sensuality, and the charm Rodale used to enliven this romance; it felt like something that could, indeed, happen (albeit in the “romantic comedy” vein that’s almost, but not quite, farcical).  And for whatever it’s worth, I do intend to read the third in this series, THE TATTOOED DUKE (and review it, too), whenever I’m able to get my hands on a copy.

So go read my review, then if you’re like me and want something light and funny, but with a bit of an edge to it, to read, pick up Rodale’s books.  You’ll enjoy them.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 31, 2012 at 10:18 pm

Hard Luck Blues: Keith Olbermann Fired by Current TV

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Tonight, I found out that Keith Olbermann had been fired by turning on what I thought was going to be Keith Olbermann’s news program on Current TV, “Countdown,” and finding former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer in his place.  Spitzer did not explain what he was doing there.

Perturbed, I turned to the Internet and found out that Olbermann had been fired by Current TV because of “unexcused absences,” including the day before the March 6, 2012 primary (which must, by elimination, be March 5, 2012).  Here’s a link to the story on Yahoo News, which explains what Spitzer’s doing there:

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/upshot/keith-olberman-fired-current-tv-replaced-eliot-spitzer-213532556.html

And here’s a link from Forbes Magazine, which says that Olbermann is so mad, he’s gone “ballistic” over his ouster:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/frederickallen/2012/03/30/keith-olbermann-gets-fired-again-and-goes-ballistic/

Here’s Olbermann’s statement, as quoted by the Forbes article:

Editorially, Countdown had never been better.  But for more than a year I have been imploring Al Gore and Joel Hyatt to resolve our issues internally, while I’ve been not publicizing my complaints, and keeping the show alive for the sake of its loyal viewers and even more loyal staff.  Nevertheless, Mr. Gore and Mr. Hyatt, instead of abiding by their promises and obligations and investing in a quality news program, finally thought it was more economical to try to get out of my contract.It goes almost without saying that the claims against me implied in Current’s statement are untrue and will be proved so in the legal actions I will be filing against them presently.  To understand Mr. Hyatt’s “values of respect, openness, collegiality and loyalty,” I encourage you to read of a previous occasion Mr. Hyatt found himself in court for having unjustly fired an employee.  That employee’s name was Clarence B. Cain.

In due course, the truth of the ethics of Mr. Gore and Mr. Hyatt will come out. For now, it is important only to again acknowledge that joining them was a sincere and well-intentioned gesture on my part, but in retrospect a foolish one.  That lack of judgment is mine and mine alone, and I apologize again for it.

Here’s a relevant quote from the Forbes.com article (explaining what Olbermann said in his press release in simpler terms):

To paraphrase: Whatever happened, the fault is every bit Gore’s and Hyatt’s and not one scintilla mine. I merely created my best show ever and selflessly said nothing while my bosses broke promises and ultimately let me go because they’re cheap bastards. The whole world knows (“it almost goes without saying”) that Gore and Hyatt are dishonest and I’m honest, and I’m suing their asses, and here’s some unrelated dirt on them, just for good measure. Poor me. My only mistake was to trust the rats. I humbly apologize.

Forbes follows this up by asking tonight’s burning question: Where will Keith Olbermann work next, considering he’s burned his bridges with Fox TV, MSNBC, Current, and ESPN (among others)?

But I think they’ve missed the point entirely.  I’ve watched Olbermann for years; I didn’t like how he treated Hillary R. Clinton while she was running for President (some of his comments then were inexcusable), but other than that he’s a principled man who obviously takes pride in putting together a great show.  His show, his staff, and even his substitute hosts are first-rate; while I never enjoyed having to watch David Shuster or Bill Press sub for Olbermann, they always did an outstanding job. 

In addition, Olbermann was hired to help put together other shows for Current TV; since he was hired a year ago, Cenk Uygur, former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, and former Gov. of New York Spitzer have been brought on board.  Olbermann had to take some time (I’m not sure how much) to get the Uygur show up to speed (Uygur had a show previously on MSNBC for a few months, so that probably wasn’t too taxing), then probably much more time to get former Gov. Granholm ready to host her own show as she’d had very little experience on the air — and most of that as a commentator, not as a host.  (Come to think of it, before her show “War Room with Jennifer Granholm,” I’m not sure Gov. Granholm had any experience as a host at all.)

Then, factor in the health problems that most people who’ve followed Olbermann’s career know he has — these are a bad back, and periodic headaches (they may be migraines, maybe not, but definitely aren’t good — they’re due to an accident using mass transit years ago) — and the fact that Olbermann’s widowed mother is getting up in years and probably has many health issues of her own to deal with.

So do you see what’s really going on here?  Olbermann had a great deal on his plate; he was developing shows and getting them “ramped up and ready to go” while keeping the quality high on his own show at the same time.  This may have been enough additional stress to exacerbate his back problems (and the headaches, which I’m more aware of because of things Olbermann hasn’t said rather than what he has).  And who knows how much Olbermann’s mother has needed him in the past year — if it’s been extensive, how can anyone blame him for that?

And all of that might explain what Current’s now calling his “excessive absenteeism.”  (I’d be willing to bet this is at least part of it.)

This is why I call Olbermann’s latest endgame the “hard luck blues.”  Because this time, unlike the last (which I blogged about here), I truly think Olbermann’s problems were brought on by one thing: stress.  He’d taken on more responsibility than ever before; as he’s known for being meticulous, irascible, and a perfectionist, how could Al Gore (who owns Current TV) have expected Olbermann to behave any differently?  (Especially as their own advertising on-line for “Countdown” says that Olbermann is known for his “provocative” commentary and is “journalism’s . . . most outspoken voice?”)

How can Current TV, or Al Gore in particular, honestly say they didn’t know what they were getting when they hired Olbermann?  Especially using namby-pamby language like this (quoted from the Yahoo article):

Current was also founded on the values of respect, openness, collegiality, and loyalty to our viewers. Unfortunately these values are no longer reflected in our relationship with Keith Olbermann and we have ended it.

And from what I recall from when Olbermann was signed by Current TV last year, he had as close to an iron-clad contract as is known to mankind, which might be why his lawyer, Patty Glaser, is saying tonight that:

“Keith Olbermann’s termination is baseless,” she said. “We will sue them for their improper conduct. They made a bad decision; they can expect a bad result.”

Lawyers are never this emphatic unless they’re absolutely certain they’re right.

So here’s the upshot, folks: I’m actually sorry for Keith Olbermann tonight.  Despite his millions of dollars, his high-fashion suits, and his “provocative” commentary, he’s been fired twice in two years.  And that has to hurt, no matter who you are.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 30, 2012 at 11:40 pm

Walker, Kleefisch, Wanggaard Recall Dates Set; WI Rs to Put More “Fake Dems” into D Primaries

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As of tonight, the recall of Governor Scott Walker and Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch has been set; the primary will be held on May 8, 2012, and the general election will be held on June 5, 2012.  These are not-so-coincidentally the same dates on which the four Republican state Senators (including Racine’s own Van Wanggaard, my current Senator) will have to defend their seats; this should alleviate some of the financial problems court clerks around the state had been concerned about as all the recalls are going to be run at the same time.  While I’m not fond of this — as I’ve said before, I think the state Senator recalls should already be over and done with as the 2011 Senatorial recall elections were taken care of in a far more expeditious manner — it does make logistical and financial sense.

But the GOP has decided to field obviously fake Democratic candidates — “fake Dems” — in the Senate recall races in order to give the Rs more time to raise money (due to a quirk in Wisconsin law, an incumbent facing recall may raise unlimited amounts of money so long as the recall election is forthcoming).  I had predicted they’d do this very thing, but I don’t like their reasoning for it.

From tonight’s Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article:

Within hours, the state Republican Party said it would run fake Democrats in all the races, ensuring there will be primaries.

“The protest candidates will run as Democrats to guarantee that there is one clear date for the primary election and one clear date for the general election,” said Stephan Thomas, the party’s executive director.

He said the move was made because otherwise some or all of the general elections for state senators would happen the same day as the primary for governor – when Democrats flood to the polls to pick their candidate for governor.

Note that Thomas says quite forthrightly that of course the WI Rs are going to send more “fake Dems” into the fray, just as they did in 2011.  He’s using the rationale that this way, all of the “real” recall races will be held at the same time, as all of the real Democrats running to replace the four incumbent R Senators will now have to face a primary. 

But is this really a good rationale for such a practice?  Considering the WI Rs have a very bad reputation for not listening (except for “mavericks” like Dale Schultz of Richland Center), an even worse one for refusing to explain anything, and the worst one imaginable for failing to understand that their high-handed actions would set off massive unrest in Wisconsin, perhaps doing this again — sending in the “fake Dems,” all so their four R Senate candidates can rake in some more money before facing their day of reckoning on June 8, 2012 — wasn’t the world’s best move.

Because while you’re allowed to do such a thing under Wisconsin law, it’s not exactly ethical.  Voters in the 2011 recall elections were quite perturbed about the Rs doing this, and I’d imagine they will be this time, too; because I remember just how angry people were over this “fake Dem” tactic, it’s not a place I’d want to go if I were a strategist for the WI Rs.  (You can go to the well once too often, y’know.  So why tempt fate?)

Anyway, the other tidbit in this article is that Lt. Gov. Kleefisch is the first ever Lieutenant Governor to be recalled in the entire United States.  (I bet she feels special now!)  Which just goes to show how angry much of the state is; most of the state barely knows who she is, yet she was recalled right along with Walker and the four Senators.

This is why, were I a member of the Wisconsin GOP, I’d want to tread lightly with regards to the whole issue around the “fake Dems.”  Because at some point, enough’s going to be enough.  Once that point is reached, it’ll be hard even for the practical politicians like Dale Schultz (who actually listen to their constituents) to hold onto their seats.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 30, 2012 at 11:08 pm

Just reviewed the last two Hines “Princess” novels at SBR

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Folks, if you’re looking for some good, light reading, look no further than Jim C. Hines’s work.  He is a gifted satirist, which I knew from the “Jig the Goblin” series; he’s also good at comedy, puns, and tells a really good story even when the subject is dark.

In Hines’s last two novels in the “Princess” series, we get to see Hines’s conception of what three real princesses who’d gone through what Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty did would be like.  Hines believes all three of these women, in adulthood, would be seriously competent people — gifted fighters, mages, or possibly both.

Anyway, go take a look at my latest review at Shiny Book Review (SBR), which is for Hines’s last two novels in this series, RED HOOD’S REVENGE, and THE SNOW QUEEN’S SHADOW, and see what you think.

http://shinybookreview.wordpress.com/2012/03/29/hines-princess-series-wrap-up-fun-yet-incomplete/ 

Have at!

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 29, 2012 at 10:33 pm

Posted in Book reviews

Local and State Politics: Turner to retire, Mason to run; also, a Dem. primary in Wanggaard Recall Race

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The Racine Journal-Times is reporting tonight that my long-time Assemblyman, Robert Turner (D-Racine), is going to retire.  Turner represented District 61 for twenty-two years; his initial plan was to run in the newly-moved District 66, but that has now changed.  Here’s a link to the story:

http://www.journaltimes.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/state-rep-turner-not-seeking-re-election/article_0175f506-78ff-11e1-8b27-0019bb2963f4.html

Turner has been an outstanding Assemblyman, and I’ve deeply appreciated his service to the 61st District and to Racine (as he also served on the Racine City Council from 1976 to 2004).  I’d been looking forward to casting my vote for Turner in District 66; as of a week to ten days ago, Turner’s plans were to run in this new district, but this has obviously changed.

The only good news about all this is that Cory Mason, currently the Assemblyman for the 62nd district, is going to move.  This will allow him to run for the District 66 seat; because Mason has been an extremely responsible, and responsive, legislator, I know I’ll still have a quality person to vote for.

There’s good reason for Mason to move into District 66, you see — his current district was re-drawn to make it much more difficult for Mason to win.  Only 10% of his previous constituents would’ve stayed with him; the rest would be all new.  (This, most likely, is why Mason had been considering a run for Lieutenant Governor.)

Take a look at this map (also available at the Journal-Times link above):

 
 

As you can see by the map, only one district — the newly-moved 66 — has much of an urban presence.  The other three districts that have any portion of Racine County all have a significant rural presence, meaning they’re more likely to be able to be won by Republicans (or right-leaning Independents) than by Democrats.

This re-drawing of maps — most properly called “redistricting” — is what I’d been talking about for the past few months with regards to that three-judge Federal panel.  They, and they alone, had the authority to force the state Legislature to re-draw the maps in a more fair and equitable manner; they did not choose to do so, though they did admit that what the Rs did amounted to unethical, immoral, and improper behavior.  But nothing rising to the level of illegality could be proven, which is why only Assembly Districts 8 and 9 (in Milwaukee) will have to be re-drawn even though much of the rest of the map is a mess, too.

Moving on, former Senator John Lehman (D-Racine) will have a challenger in the upcoming Senate recall race for District 21, which means a Democratic Primary will have to be run in May.  (See this link, also from the Journal-Times, for further details.)  This challenger is Andrew Mielke; he’s 28, not a registered Democrat, and didn’t sign the petitions to recall Governor Scott Walker, Lieutenant Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, or Van Wanggaard.  But Mielke insists he isn’t a “fake Dem” in the same sense as the six obviously fake Democrats who ran against the Democratic opponents in 2011′s recall races in order to give the state Republicans six more weeks to raise money and try to either retain their seats (four of the six incumbent Rs held their seats) or knock off some Democrats (all three D incumbents held their seats); he says his social views are progressive, and that the reason he’s running is because the people of Racine deserve a Democratic choice in the recall election.

The Democratic Party of Racine has endorsed former Senator Lehman, and said they’re not going to change their minds; they also said (paraphrasing from the Journal-Times article from March 22, 2012) that they’d really like this guy Mielke to get in there and register as a Democrat if he really is one.  (Seems fair enough to me.)

I’ve never heard of this guy Mielke, and I’m reasonably active in local and state politics; I go to some area meetings (would go to more if circumstances allowed), I’ve met many people who wanted to recall Walker, Kleefisch, and Wanggaard, and I’ve also met people who didn’t think Wanggaard, etc., should be recalled but weren’t happy with him, either.  This latter category seems to be the one Mielke is in, which is why it’s so odd that he’s running for office; as he’s completely unknown to Racine-area voters, it’s unlikely he’s going to do very well, especially as Lehman was a very good Senator (and before that was a very good Assemblyman).

Whether Mielke is a “fake Dem” or not, it really doesn’t matter; all Mielke is doing by entering the race now is to give Wanggaard six extra weeks to raise money in order to try to retain his seat.   This is a crucial election for Wanggaard, because if he does retain his seat, this is the one and only shot voters have to get him out; he’ll be ensconced until 2014 if he’s retained.

Complicating matters further is the whole redistricting issue I’ve discussed above, as it also applies to the state Senate districts.  Wanggaard will have a much safer seat to defend in 2014, providing he doesn’t get recalled in 2012.  (Lehman, should he run and win, would most likely have to move in order to stay within the boundaries of the new District 21 as most of the city of Racine will be enclosed in the new District 22 along with most of the city of Kenosha; District 22 is presently held by Bob Wirch, D-Kenosha, who plans to run again for re-election.)  So this is also the one shot Racine voters get to tell Wanggaard what we think of the terrible redistricting “process” — one that caused nearly all R legislators, including Wanggaard, to sign “non-disclosure” (read: secrecy) agreements so the public wouldn’t know what they were doing until it was too late and couldn’t be changed.

Wanggaard doesn’t seem to like to do the public’s business in the light of day, which is why you should vote to oust Wanggaard in June when we’re finally able to recall him. Regardless of party affiliation, we deserve transparency, openness, and honesty in our government at every level.  Wanggaard didn’t provide that, which is why he must go.

Odds and Ends, TV-show style

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Folks, the last week I’ve been dealing with something unusual: I have a writing and editing job where I’ve been hired to “pinch hit” and fix someone else’s manuscript.  The book is non-fiction and is well-sourced and well-researched; what I’m doing my best to do is get it ready for publication.  It’s going to take me at least two and a half more weeks, possibly three full weeks, to get this done; this will take me away from everyday blogging, but what’s to do?  (This is a paying job, while blogging isn’t.  :sigh:)

That being said, I have wanted to write about many things, but only have the time to touch on them briefly.  So here we go.

First, if you’re not watching NBC’s “Smash” yet, you should.  The singing by Katharine McPhee and Megan Hilty is superb; the writing otherwise is good and holds my interest.  (“Smash,” if you haven’t heard about it or seen it yet, is about a whole bunch of people trying to ready a musical based on Marilyn Monroe’s life and bring it to Broadway.  Hilty is a buxom blonde who looks more like Marilyn, while McPhee has more of Marilyn’s vulnerability.)  This is one of the better TV shows I’ve ever seen about the artist’s life from nearly every perspective (including the writers of the show, the lyricist, the singers, actors, dancers, and producers), and for the most part “Smash” rings true to life.

As for other shows I’m watching (mostly “on demand” as my schedule permits), I’m enjoying the police procedural “Awake.”  This is about a detective (played by Jason Isaacs) who lost part of his family in a car crash; in one reality, his wife lived and his son died, while in the other, his son lived and his wife died.  The detective slips between realities whenever he goes to sleep, and to say the least, he’s confused — he’s actually seeing two psychiatrists (one in each reality).  This is an interesting show that I haven’t yet figured out, but I love the SFnal concepts (the parallel worlds issues).

Of course, I’m keeping an eye on “Dancing with the Stars,” especially as Green Bay Packers wide receiver Donald Driver, 37, is among the cast (dancing with Peta Murgatroyd); last night, head judge Len Goodman actually admitted that he’d “undermarked” Driver during the first week’s performance, something Goodman has never said before on DWTS.  Here’s a nice article from Yahoo about Driver, in case you’re interested:

http://news.yahoo.com/donald-driver-talks-football-injuries-versus-dancing-damage-162452356.html

As for how Driver did last night?  He danced a quickstep; he was light on his feet and his “frame” (how he stands and holds his partner) was much better than most of the other football players who’ve competed on DWTS before, at least when we’re talking about the second week.  (Everyone improves at different rates, but Driver’s starting out well.)  I enjoyed his performance and felt it was one of the better ones of the entire evening.

My prediction for tonight?  Driver will be safe.

My guess at the bottom two?  Mostly likely it’ll be Melissa Gilbert and her partner, Maksim Chmerikovskiy (those two were a tad undermarked last night as their dance was probably the most difficult of the entire evening, but the difficulty also made it much harder for Gilbert to interact with the audience, which is part of the reason for the lower marks) and Martina Navritalova and her partner, Tony Dovolani, with Navritalova going home.  (The Chicago Tribune has a good, but short, analysis of what happened with Navritalova last evening; take a gander here.)

Finally, the other show I’ve been watching since it debuted is the ABC fantasy “Once Upon a Time.”  Here, an evil queen has banished every storybook character known to man to our world — and to the town of Storybrooke, Maine.  Only a few people know what happened, including Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison, late of “House”), Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold (Robert Carlyle, perhaps this show’s “breakout star”), Storybrooke’s mayor Regina (Lana Parilla), who is none other than the evil queen herself, and Regina’s adopted son, Henry (Jared Gilmore) — Emma’s natural child, given up for adoption at birth –  who has a storybook that gives enigmatic hints as to who these people really are.  But Emma doesn’t wholly believe, partly because the people Henry says are her parents are the same age she is, and partly because she wasn’t raised in Storybrooke at all — she was found along the side of a road.

The pluses to “Once” are that there’s some really great acting — particularly by Carlyle as Mr. Gold, who keeps everyone guessing as to whether he’s a good guy, a bad guy, or simply in it for himself — and some interesting storytelling.  The minuses mostly have to do with the fact that the storytelling is not linear; episodes jump back and forth in time, and we get hints weeks before things actually happen in our “real” world that something is drastically wrong with whatever character is featured this week.

But this seeming weakness has been turned into a strength, mostly because of how Carlyle lights up the screen as the amoral “Mr. Gold.”  Due to his uncertain loyalties, viewers get to see him nearly every week; he’s a constant source of mischief, humor, and oddly enough, genuine pathos.  Very few actors would be able to do what Carlyle is doing, and I seriously hope when the next time the Emmys come around, he gets serious consideration as best supporting actor.

Other than that, I’m mostly awaiting the second season of “Game of Thrones,” same as most SF fans.  (Isn’t everyone?)

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 27, 2012 at 6:42 pm

Just Reviewed Sabrina Jeffries’ “A Lady Never Surrenders” at SBR

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Folks, if you’re looking for a quick, fun read that’s historically accurate (at least, as far as I can tell), contains wit, sensuality, and some good action-adventure to boot, look no further than Sabrina Jeffries’ newest romance, A LADY NEVER SURRENDERS.

Please take a look at my review, which is up now at SBR:

http://shinybookreview.wordpress.com/2012/03/24/sabrina-jeffries-a-lady-never-surrenders-fun-realistic-historical-romance/

Enjoy!

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 24, 2012 at 9:56 pm

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