A Willful Woman…

Thoughts about books from a romance addict.

The RITAs and Me: an Acquaintance

I’m stealing borrowing with permission this idea and the format from Ana of Immersed in Books. It’s always interesting to see how the Rita nominees correlate with my own reading. (Less and less each year, I’d say, as I read fewer books published by mainstream publishers.) So this is what I’ve read from the nominees.

Nominees by category:

Best First Book: 0/6

Contemporary Romance: Long: 2/7

Miracle on 5th Avenue by Sarah Morgan. An enjoyable story. Although I disliked the heroine’s pressure on the hero and invasion of his privacy in the name of good will, it was so effectively emotional that it may be my favorite of the series.

Pansies by Alexis Hall. Too busy for me, but I enjoyed the unusually serious look at a former bully and bull-ee relationship, and the “return to a small town” trope set in an ugly, provincial English town full of bigots.

I also DNF’d Hot in Hellcat Canyon by Julie Anne Long. There was nothing wrong with it, it just wasn’t grabbing me.

Contemporary Romance: Mid-Length: 0/10

Contemporary Romance: Short: 0/10

Erotic Romance: 0/5

Historical Romance: Long: 1/4

No Mistress of Mine by Laura Lee Gurhke. (I’m really puzzled as to why this is in long rather than short. It was a quick read. I guess there’s just an arbitrary page count?) I don’t have any notes about this one, though I remember enjoying it. I think the heroine was well drawn and strong.

Historical Romance: Short: 2/6

Duke of Sin by Elizabeth Hoyt. This is my favorite of the RITA nominees I’ve read: it was fresh and fun, and I’m rooting for it. My review.

The Study of Seduction by Sabrina Jeffries. My first Jeffries read in awhile and I was underwhelmed. My notes are that the plot was all over the place.

Mainstream Fiction with a Central Romance: 0/4

I’m going to check out all these nominees, because that’s a category I often enjoy.

Paranormal Romance: 0/8

I plan to read The Leopard King by Ann Aguirre.

 

Romance Novella: 0/7

Two DNFs for me here. I generally love Courtney Milan’s books but her Worth saga has been a complete failure for me. It feels strained and bloated. And I didn’t get into Tycoon by Shupe, though I don’t remember why.

Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements: 0/4

Completely unsurprising.

Romantic Suspense: 0/8

Also pretty unsurprising, this year. I hope this category will work for me again someday. Right now, the world is too scary.

Young Adult Romance 0/4

Not that surprising. I mostly read YA fantasy.

Total read: 5. Total DNF‘d: 3

It will be interesting to see if any of those 5 turns out to be a winner. Go Duke of Sin!

 

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Apropos of Something

Years ago I was in an improv class at a community college. Two guys were doing a scene which in some way involved a vacuum cleaner. One of them opened the scene as a very stereotypical, femmy, “straight guy doing a gay guy” bit.

The teacher stopped him, and tore him a new one. I wish I could remember everything she said. Because she then had them restart, and it was the best scene ever. The guy became a real person who was passionately attached to his vacuum cleaner. It was unique, and funny in a way the first scene could never have been.

I love that that kid reached down inside himself and found an authentic way to do that scene, after being publicly told off. He listened, and he learned.

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Three Day Quote Challenge, Day Three

Thanks again to Erin Burns for my nomination.

Rules:

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you.
  • Publish a quote on 3 consecutive days on your blog.  The quote can be one of your own, from a book, movie, or from anyone who inspires you.
  • Nominate 3 more bloggers each day to carry on this endeavor.

Quote number 3

“…you fall in and out of love with the same person your whole life, and people who understand that stay married.” Kendall Hailey (quoting her father, Oliver Hailey,) The Day I Became an Autodidact

I thought of finding something more original, because I have quoted this approximately five gazillion times already, but it’s unquestionably one of the most influential pieces of writing I’ve ever encountered. It’s quite possible my husband and I wouldn’t be looking forward to the 30th anniversary of our first date without it.

I nominate:

Julia Roberts Towe, an author who writes beautifully about autism as well as romance.

Rane, one of my oldest book friends, and one who reads outside the herd.

Rameau, who always has interesting opinions.

I hope no one is feeling left out… I promise I didn’t think of you and then think, “nah, that would suck.”

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Three Day Quote Challenge, Day One

I’ve been (very flatteringly) nominated for this challenge by frequent commenter Erin Burns. Thank you to Erin! I hadn’t actually realized before this that she had a blog, but it looks to have the kind of heartfelt, witty, personal reviews that I enjoy.

Rules:

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you.
  • Publish a quote on 3 consecutive days on your blog.  The quote can be one of your own, from a book, movie, or from anyone who inspires you.
  • Nominate 3 more bloggers each day to carry on this endeavor.

Quote number 1

“She ate toast in bed, then reread a favorite book, taking comfort from a story where she knew the outcome would be good and just and right.” — Sarah Mayberry, Within Reach

Not hard to see why I like this quote, which affirms the value of rereading, of “formulaic” fiction, and of reader satisfaction. Books are one place where we can reliably get a good, just, right ending when we need one, thank goodness.

ETA: My husband points out that this works less well with old comfort reads when you discover they’ve since been visited by the racism fairy. 😦

I nominate:

Liz of Something More, who always has something interesting to say, no matter what the topic.

Jackie of Romance Novels for Feminists, who I bet has some amazing quotes to share.

The always delightful “Miss Bates,” of Miss Bates Reads Romance, who somehow manages to write the longest reviews while still being pithy.

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Caught in the Act

Hub and I were having lunch today and I noticed four college-aged kids nearby, an Asian guy sitting with a white girl and white guy sitting with an Asian girl. And I immediately started wondering about why they were all together. Were the two Asian people siblings? They didn’t look ethnically similar…

And then I realized I’d caught myself being totally racist. And in a way that’s particularly egregious, because there’s so much of that kind of racism/heterocentrism/ableism etc. in the book world. “Why are there black people in this historical?” “Why is this couple lesbians when it’s not important to the story?” “Why does there need to be someone in a wheelchair — it’s just pandering.”

Why does there need to be any kind of story about four friends or coworkers or whatever eating in a restaurant, just because two of them aren’t white? Because I’m a white person and  I’ve absorbed a lot of shit and I may never get rid of it all. 😦

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Facts, Truth, and Interpretation – Where My Head is At Today

There’s a huge controversy going on in Romancelandia right now, about a RITA-nominated book featuring a romance between a Jewish woman and a concentration camp commandant. I’m not writing here about the book, which I haven’t read, but about my personal reaction to the controversy itself, which is bringing up some things for me.

One is that I have a huge regard for truth, i.e. facts. This is likely my less than neurotypical side revealing itself: I get extremely perturbed by people getting facts wrong. It bothers me a lot that false assumptions about the book have solidified into fact; it bothers me a lot that I’m the only person who seemed to be bothered by that. (Though you’d think I’d be used to it by now.)

No, I’m not saying that everyone needs to read the book to have an opinion about it. There are quite obviously major concerns with it on a very basic plot level, particularly in the appropriation of Jewish faith/history for Christian purposes. But I do think critiques need to get their basic facts right, if only to have credibility.

And the other is that I have a huge regard for truth, i.e. personal truth. Take The Story Guy by Mary Ann Rivers, which I named one of my best books of the year. It’s a book that many people with disabilities found very offensive, and with more knowledge and experience, I can see why they did. It’s deeply wrong that people with disabilities are so often used as props for the stories of the abled. But the thing is… that story told my truth. I didn’t see the disabled person in it as a prop because I wouldn’t see my own child as a prop. I felt heard and validated by it and that meant a lot to me.

And I think we have to be very careful to leave room for interpretation. There’s a young adult book — I forget the title — which many readers strongly critiqued as sexist and misogynistic. Then a well regarded critic (one of The Book Smugglers, I think) wrote very convincingly about it as an indictment of sexism and misogyny. Which is right? I don’t know! Even if I read the book or spoke to the author, I might not know! I would have my own interpretation and opinion based on what I had read or learned. But in a way it’s Shroedinger’s book. One person’s attempt at social satire can often be another person’s huge offense.

A while back I wrote about book reviewing as a form of journalism, requiring honesty. Today I’m reminded how much I value truth, both in regard to actual facts and in regard to personal meaning.

 

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I Gotta Be Me

(This post is not meant as a swipe at Jane; it’s really just about me and my own feelings.)

As a reviewer, I’ve been scared on the internet for a long time.  Scared of being doxxed. Scared of offending people. Scared of making enemies. It’s never stopped me reviewing honestly, but I can’t say it’s never shut me up, much though I wish I could. I’ve been sitting on a lot of my real opinions, so as not to rock the boat or offend people I care about.

And I finally reached a line I couldn’t cross. And the amazing thing is, now I don’t feel scared any more. I would much prefer not to be doxxed or harrassed, of course. But if I am doxxed people will discover… that I’m exactly who I’ve always said I am. Right now I can’t think of anything I’d rather be.

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Full Disclosure

I have this info on one of my pages, but in light of recent events, I want to make it all very clear.

I am not an author or an aspiring author. The only writing I’ve ever had published and/or paid for is book reviews/articles about books and a few personal essays, unrelated to romance.

Actually, to be completely honest, I’ve toyed with writing a non-fiction book (also unrelated to romance) but I’m super lazy so the odds aren’t good.

To my knowledge, I only know one romance author IRL, and I never review or mention her books. (Or even read them… it just feels too weird!) I’m friendly with some authors online, though they may or may not be authors whose work I enjoy. I try to disclose whenever I’m reviewing a book by someone with whom I have a more personal relationship. I’ve never beta-read and am unlikely to; if I do, I’ll disclose. I did once spot read a book solely for formatting errors, as a favor.

The only connection I have with a publisher is that I write for “Heroes and Heartbreakers,” which is owned by Macmillan. What I choose to write for them is very much up to me. This was also the case at “Dear Author.”  I appreciate the autonomy I’ve had at both sites; I’m not sure I could work any other way.

I did not feel I could go on writing for “Dear Author” after yesterday’s revelations. The idea that I might have inadvertently reviewed, or even commented on, a book written by Jane made me extremely uncomfortable. It was sheer luck that she writes in a genre I don’t read very often — but I have done a First Look for at least one NA book at “Heroes and Heartbreakers,” so I kind of feel like I dodged a bullet there.

And I don’t like secrets in general, and don’t want to be involved with them.

If you have any questions at all about my knowledge/involvement, please feel free to ask me, here or privately. I can speak only for myself.

If you’re an online friend of mine and have an authorial/publishing relationship I don’t know about, I’d really appreciate you telling me.

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Shocked and Surprised!

shocked

 

I had two minor epiphanies last night, neither of which is probably particularly revelatory to anyone else.

One is that Twitter just doesn’t work as my only place to play with my friends on the Internet. It’s loads of fun, full of smart, witty, kind people. But many of them are authors, and it’s their space too; I censor myself there and feel justified in doing so.

How I miss having a place to share my random observations as I read a book. I still use GoodReads a bit, but it’s so hard to get a book conversation going now. Maybe I’m being stupidly stubborn not to use it in that manner?

The other is that, after having cleared out my arcs and enjoyed a blessed few days of peace, I’ve been obsessing over not having read enough good books for my Best Of lists, and trying to cram a whole bunch more reading in, in very little time. In other words, I managed to find yet another way to turn reading into homework. Go me.

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mm, mf, and me

You know that theory about m/m romance not having gender bullshit, that always pisses everyone off? At the risk of pissing everyone off… I kinda see it. Of course, it’s not true that m/m romance doesn’t have gender bullshit… but when you read a lot of m/f romance and get so much repetition of certain scenarios, m/m can really feel like a relief.

I’m on D for the alphabet challenge, and tried to read Dangerous Lover by Lisa Marie Rice. I don’t think the book ever had a chance, to be honest — who wants to read violent romantic suspense when you have to fear sending your child to school? But I was also extremely underwhelmed by the standard Rice relationship dynamic: her the seemingly unattainable feminine ideal, who makes everything smell nice, him the rough, underclass guy who worships her.

You can have the class issues in m/m, certainly, and wealth disparity. One aspect of Strawberries for Dessert that I didn’t go into was Cole offering to support Jonathan so they could travel together — Jonathan’s outrage in turn outrages his friend, a stay-at-home mom. So the gender issues around working and not working were discussed, though a major factor — the basic insecurity of such a situation — was never mentioned. (Too unromantic?) In the end, another solution was found, letting Jonathan keep his pride. (I was kind of impressed when Ava March wrote a story in which one man did agree to be supported by his lover.)

I doubt there are many romance tropes that can’t exists in m/m as well as m/f, with the exception of the secret baby. (The m/m D book I’m currently reading appears to have an abusive lover scenario, with perhaps a rescue element.) You could certainly have an m/m story in which one partner is better at making a home nice and the other is a rough type. But it wouldn’t feel gendered — or rather, it would feel gendered in a different way.

Maybe it just comes down to the fact that I’m a woman, and so while I may care greatly about the characters in the m/m stories I read, what goes on doesn’t feel so much right in my face.

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