Jan. 4th, 2017

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I'm trying to find a new carry-on bag for the trip to Costa Rica. Should be a roller-duffle or so I've been told. Currently have soft carry on bag, and a work back-pack which could double as a day-pack. Also need to get a waterproof fanny pack for wallet, iphone, and passport to carry when I don't want to lug around the day pack.

Ugh. Trip planning. Not a fan. I hate making decisions, I always second guess myself. I inherited this tendency from my mother. Today I asked my co-workers with iphones, how they changed the time on their phones when they traveled. They informed me that they didn't have to, it automatically did it - on it's own. Which is freaking weird. Worse, one of them told me that he was looking in the window of men's warehouse checking out coats, with his phone in hand, went to bed bath and beyond, then when he returned to his home, hours later and went to check email -- the ads on the side of his email featured "men's warehouse" and the coats that he was looking at. Freaked him out. More proof that evil marketing people rule the world.

Anyhow...Wed Reading Meme

For a bit of flavor, What was the best book by a non-white author that you read in 2016?

First of all, I would have to remember all the frigging books I read in 2016. Then figure out what the race of all the authors was, because I don't really pay that much attention to the author. I often forget their name. I know, this is a weird thing to admit as a writer, but there it is. When I'm reading books, I forget the author exists, more interested in the story. The gender, race, etc of the author is sort of meaningless to me. I think that's what I like about livejournal and dw blogs, there's a bit of anonymity to the writers...you don't always know their gender, sexual orientation, race, etc. I used to love that about fanboards. I'd have no idea half the time if I was corresponding with someone who was black, male, and in his 50s or someone who was white male, and in their teens. You really can't always tell by the writing style.

I know people couldn't always tell with my posts. A few people thought I was male. One or two that I was far younger than I actually am. I liked that anonymity. It meant that my words weren't defined by arbitrary stereotypes.

Having read authors of various races, genders, ages, I'm not sure it matters. Sometimes it does. Sometimes the writer writes about being female, fifteen or their race. But in fiction that's not always the case. There's a lot of male writers who write effectively in the female voice and vice versa. Also I'm writing a novel with a black heroine. And many people of color write about white people. Old people write in the voices of the very young, the very young write in the voices of the very old (I certainly did when I was young). I know a lot of homosexual and lesbian writers who write heterosexual sex scenes and do not write about homosexuality. And a lot of heterosexual writers who write about homosexuality. There was an interesting article that I saw flit by on FB a while back on all of this, which I can't remember the name of, so can't share it. Sometimes, I think, it is better if we know nothing about a writer/author when we read their work. Aren't given their name or anything about them. And then, see, if we can guess? Bet we'd get it wrong half the time.

Anyhow, what was the best book by a person of color that I read and remember? Probably either Trade Me by Courtney Milan or His at Night by Sherry Thomas. I actually liked Trade Me better, so going with that one. As an aside, Trade Me featured an asian american heroine in a contemporary romance novel -- which is a rarity. His at Night, was your standard Scarlett Pimpernel trope.

Speaking of Milan, she made an interesting comment on Twitter, which is why do people always use the romance genre to put down the publishing world or books in general? The Twitter remark she was responding to was : "Drugstore romance novels have publishers." Well, one could say the same thing about James Patterson novels, which really are just a step below the dime store pulp novels. He doesn't even write them. It's a brand. I actually have more respect for Nora Roberts and Danielle Steele than Patterson. Why? They write their books. He doesn't. He writes an outline and gives them to other people to write. Not that you should feel guilty for reading them. Read what you like. It's a free world, at least at the moment.

Also this just occurred to me -- but was that Twitter comment meant to disparage self-published writers or non-traditionally published writers? Sigh. The publishing industry continues to annoy me. So happy I don't work in it any longer.

What I just finished reading?

The Spymaster's Lady by Joanna Bourne -- a bit slow in places, but a notch above others in the genre in regards to writing style. She also has decent editors, since there are relatively few typos. I rather liked the plot -- which was about a French spy during the Napoleon War who discovers she's really a British spy and has to deal with that. To add to her confusion, she falls in love with the head of the British Secret Service.

It has sex scenes, but not that many and fairly understated. Focus is more on plot than romance.
Although the writer has pacing issues. I kept wanting to smack the writer and say, okay, I get it, can we move on now? Also it put me to sleep at various points.

What I'm reading now?

The Black Hawk by Joanna Bourne -- also in the Spymaster series, about the 4th book. It's a stand-a-alone though, like most romance novel series. You don't have to read the other novels in the series to figure out what is happening. Good thing too, because I really don't want to. My mother adores this book.

It's okay. Also has pacing issues. I like the characters a great deal, but the plot plods along. They spend a lot of time talking about nothing or ruminating on whether or not they should have sex and stay together, if it's too dangerous, and what the meaning of the riddle they are attempting to figure out is. Is it Tarot or Chess?

And the writer, like most romance novelists, isn't great at action scenes. Sex scenes, she can do well. Action, Bourne struggles with. The action plods. And feels awkward. There's a bit too much description and of the wrong things, like placement of furniture and doors.

The plot itself is rather interesting -- again, about a French and British spy. In this instance, the French spy works for the Police Secrete in France. She's been a spy since she was 11. Prior to that she was in a child brothel. (Trigger warning, there are references to child rape and molestation, but nothing graphic -- it happened in the distant past not the present. So it is referred to.) The hero has been a British spy since he was 14, prior to that he was a street thief and pickpocket working for a gang in London. (Yes, a little bit of the Artful Dodger in Oliver Twist). They meet when he's about 15 and she's 11. And over time, fall in love. He goes by the name Hawker, and she's Owl. Their conflict is that he's a British spy and she's a devoted French spy during the Napoleonic Wars. And the book does a good job of showing both perspectives, instead of painting one as better than the other. A lot of historical romance novels idealize the British a bit more than they should.

What I'll read next?

No clue. Although I'm flirting with Daniel Silva's spy series. Or might try something by Milan, or maybe a non-fiction by Le Carre, my father was raving about Le Carre's autobiography.

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