So, it's a coming out story and a love story, but I felt that the art transcended the narrative. I thought the girls were beautifully drawn, though soSo, it's a coming out story and a love story, but I felt that the art transcended the narrative. I thought the girls were beautifully drawn, though sometimes inconsistently, and all the clothing and hands and backgrounds were so elegantly rendered. The blocking I especially liked, the sense of movement and suspense and affection in the way characters touched and grasped and pushed. The colors were lovely.
But the story... eh, I was disappointed that Emma and Clementine really never got to be happy. The story sadly jumps over several years of their life together where presumably they had some good times. I thought the characterizations were kind of flat. I didn't get a great sense of anyone's personality (contrast with A + E 4ever). But I'm giving it four stars instead of three for the very sexy sex scenes, generally really expressive body language, and my distinctly pro-lesbian and pro-contemplative-graphic-novel biases....more
Gawd, this is just such a beautiful book. I really loved the aesthetic of the drawings. The page design is breathtaking, with panels placed as neededGawd, this is just such a beautiful book. I really loved the aesthetic of the drawings. The page design is breathtaking, with panels placed as needed for the specific emotion of each scene. This feels intensely autobiographical - not necessarily in plot, but in the unshakeable sense that the author is genuinely a member of the included subcultures. This isn't genderqueer from the outside. It bothered me that Ash's eating disorder seemed to be romanticized, but I think that's my only complaint. The ending isn't "resolved" but it doesn't need to be. Characters hurt each other and they're called out for it. The art is steaming with such raw emotion and beauty. There are some very sexy scenes. This was just lovely....more
CONTENT WARNING: LANGUAGE... and incoherency Someone read THOSE BOOKS and decided what Edward really needed was more money and a BDSM playroom? Sure..CONTENT WARNING: LANGUAGE... and incoherency Someone read THOSE BOOKS and decided what Edward really needed was more money and a BDSM playroom? Sure... Let's also have him make a really big deal out of a contract as if consent is important to him and then repeatedly violate consent, make inconsistent demands, attempt to put her in his employ so as to increase his control over her, I'm not even getting into the douchefuckery that is the heterosexism, misogyny, classicism oh so much condescension, and racism that is this bullshit stereotyped boring as fuck book and where was the payoff? Also why do you gotta take ass stuff off the table? Boring boring boring, kinda hot for like three seconds and then he opens his fucking mouth again and does the author have no sense of time? I'm gonna act some of this shit out so you can see it does not take 5 fucking minutes to read the dialogue of these overlong meetings. Plus stalking. Also the cutesy repetition of Fifty Shades. Is that a thing? Also, why oh why did you fucking spell his name Grey if the color was going to be spelled gray? Just do it the British way! Or call him Mr. Gray. But there's no ambiguity in that title. Bad pun! Fuck you.
50 Things Wrong with 50 Shades This is the best summary criticism I've seen yet. It really nicely expands on all of the issues with consent in the book and much better than I could have done, as it's from the perspective of a fanfiction writer in the D/s scene....more
My life has been fairly busy recently and so I haven't finished my post-book-club-discussion reevaluation of the book. I'll keep you posted, but overaMy life has been fairly busy recently and so I haven't finished my post-book-club-discussion reevaluation of the book. I'll keep you posted, but overall, positive enough to recommend the book....more
This was interesting. These books generally work on two levels - as light-hearted, fast-paced, smartish mystery novels (in space!) and with some allegThis was interesting. These books generally work on two levels - as light-hearted, fast-paced, smartish mystery novels (in space!) and with some allegorical themes, exploring questions of race, religion, gender, sexuality, class, honesty, taboo, romance, yadda yadda yadda. This one's much of the same. I liked it a little less than others as Ethan's character didn't arc as much as I'd hoped/expected.
I think Ethan of Athos will always remarkably stand out in my mind for provoking thoughtful discussions with friends of whether there's a real justifiable reason for an incest taboo in a culture of non-reproductive relationships, like a single-sex society (or in a single non-reproductive relationship, as in a gay, lesbian, elderly, or sterile couple). We concluded, not really, though it's hard to bring ourselves out of our existing culture with its inculcated ickiness factor. So, yeah. (That's not a spoiler, first couple chapters, seriously, not even a thing. I wish she discussed Athos more.)...more
This is a really spotty collection, so I've given it a rating of four in recognition of the best it has to offer, but many of the stories would indepeThis is a really spotty collection, so I've given it a rating of four in recognition of the best it has to offer, but many of the stories would independently rate a one or two from me. I'll rate everything individually below. Spoilers are marked, but because these stories are so short, any description may constitute a spoiler. Continue at your own risk.
But before all that: the banter review. Clearly, Team Zombie wins. It isn't really a contest. I don't get unicorns, but it seemed to me that most of the unicorn stories were just mocking the ridiculousness of unicorns. For entertainment value and metaphorical worth, zombies are just inherently more versatile. I found the back and forth between compilers Justine Larbalestier and Holly Black occasionally entertaining, but more often a bit grating and spoilerish. Also, the inclusion of a brief quotation by Cherie Priest in the introduction was heartbreaking, as her work sadly did not appear in this collection. Anyways, here goes...
The Highest Justice by Garth Nix (unicorn) 1/5 I didn't care for this at all. The world was not very well-realized, the narration was too cutesy, and it had a ridiculous, fluffy mythology. The story was too five-year-old-girl-fantasy, an issue I had with almost all of the unicorn entries.
Love Will Tear Us Apart by Alaya Dawn Johnson (zombie) 4/5 In that totally subjective way, this author's voice grabbed me from the start with a mac-and-cheese analogy I sort of fell in love with. This was also the first story to feature a gay relationship. This collection had some excellent inclusion of LGB teens - in each, as far as I can remember, there was no special attention placed on their sexuality. They just were. Like it was normal and not worthy of a big hullabaloo. And I think this is just about the greatest thing ever. I am so pleased that this next generation will have more inclusive fiction. The story also uses a shifting POV (first and second and maybe third?) that's pretty effective in giving it a very active, momentous feeling. Johnson also seems to have that exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, denouement structure down, which is something that many of these stories lack to their enormous detriment. It's hard to fit it all into a short story, but this little fiction felt fresh and complete. Minor points taken off for the zombie not being very zombie-like, though kudos for explaining the personality-and-intelligence-retaining zombism in a fairly believable way.
Purity Test by Naomi Novik (unicorn) 4/5 The narrator was snarky in a way that resonated for me (mostly) and the descriptions were very effective at painting the scene. And again with the awesome social commentary:
"Are you a lesbian? I'm pretty sure that doesn't count toward virginity. "I am pretty sure it does," Alison said, "and sorry, but no."
It was funny and sweet and makes fun of unicorns. I would read something else by this author.
Bougainvillea by Carrie Ryan (zombie) 5/5 Ryan's mudo tale was THE standout story of this volume for me. I've really enjoyed her The Forest of Hands and Teeth series. This story is set within that universe, apparently much sooner after the rising than the books, as the child-narrator was born pre-return, while generations grew up behind the forest fences. There was a "check here if zombie" Facebook reference that made me giggle. I thought it was just pitch perfect, beautiful storytelling, with a very satisfying ending (and a good moment of suspense that had me briefly flailing and tearing my hair). It was self-contained in a way that's difficult to achieve with a tiny page count, though this one seemed longer than others (hard to tell on a Kindle).
A Thousand Flowers by Margo Lanagan (unicorn) 1/5 I found this repellent. After several pages describing the narrator's urgent need to urinate, including such gems as "my filth dammed up inside me", he moves to describing a naked underage girl he runs across:
The skirts of the underclothes were wrenched aside from her legs, but not from her thatch and privates, only as far as the thigh, and there was blood up there, at the highest place I could see, some dried and some shining fresher.
But don't worry, once he's done ogling her, he assures us that he wants to protect her modesty and "had never thought a smutty thought about her", having stared at her crotch out of professional curiosity, of course. Some of the prose was really lovely, and it was all very evocative - but what it mostly evoked was bile at the back of my throat. (Oh! Don't forget about being led in "to a room so splendid, I came very close to filling my pants." I don't know which bodily function he's alluding to here and that's another level of grossness.) The POV character (abruptly) changes twice more and the story goes on - the twist was spoilered in the opening chatter - but it lacks that whole story structure I was discussing earlier. (view spoiler)[Basically, the dude comes across a princess who's just fucked a unicorn and then she has a stillborn baby with a little horn-bud. I don't think bestiality is okay because the animal lacks the capacity to consent. But this unicorn is anthropomorphized to the extent that maybe it can consent. But then I once read a parts of a story about a man who believed that a female dolphin wanted sex with him, so I just think this strays to close to an absolute moral wrong. (hide spoiler)] I thought this one was stupid and creepy and gross and it was all pretty anti-climactic.
The Children of the Revolution by Maureen Johnson (zombie) 2/5 I liked the narrator's voice and her story of the loser, stoner boyfriend was relatable.
You see that book of T.S. Eliot poems held by the hand with the long, graceful fingers, and you never stop to think that it shouldn't take half a semester to read one book of poems...
But the story went downhill from there. The eccentric famous actress, some sort of Angelina-Jolie-on-Scientology figure was an unbelievable snooze and the zombie mythology was only okay. (view spoiler)[It also had some really awful zombie POV. :( (hide spoiler)] The story just jumped to a rushed climax and stupid end after a promising start.
The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn by Diana Peterfreund (unicorn) 1/5 This story would be better if it were called Wendy the Unicorn Slayer. I am prejudiced against it for its heavy Christianity. I have little sympathy for religious superstitions and this story was full of 'em. Since I started glossing over the God-talk and the concept of original sin makes my stomach roil, I didn't really find a complete story. I would have liked it if they'd explored the Italians more. Meh.
Inoculata by Scott Westerfeld (aka Mr. Justine Larbalestier) (zombie) 4/5 It establishes a world I want to know more about, +1 for girl love, but it feels very, very rushed, and feels more like the background chapter of a longer work than a complete short story. (Rated on potential.)
Princess Prettypants by Meg Cabot (unicorn... duh) 1/5 I really didn't get into the author's voice and the story seemed to have a few too many redundant explanations. Even the unicorn authors seem to appreciate how stupid unicorn stories are. Longer, spoilerific explanation of why I hated the story on feminist grounds within. (view spoiler)[So, I don't love how this addressed rape. On the one hand, you have good lines where Liz tells Alecia that she doesn't have to be flattered just because she's been objectified. But on the other hand, you have her delivering a totally un-feminist "That's all?" to the humiliating violation of her same friend's privacy when a boy takes naked pictures of her. Then you have the revenge fantasy. If a guy takes naked photos without consent, I think the victim is fairly justified in destroying his phone. Parading him in his underwear stuck on a unicorn horn is an only-in-fiction appropriate response. But the revenge that Liz took on her ex because he cheated on her is not excuseable. He doesn't actually owe her money because she had the bad judgment to wrack up massive texting bills and transportation costs on him. She chose to spend that money and stealing his watch is still wrong. (hide spoiler)]
Cold Hands by Cassandra Clare (zombie) 1/5 I am no fan of Ms. Clare. Her writing style is overly complicated and descriptive and unclever and her poetry sucks. And then it has this super unlikely location where feudal justice governs a modern society and a cemetary is left unguarded in a town where the dead rise (view spoiler)[and men in power admit treason in front of their subjects (hide spoiler)]? It was just weird and tonally off and the ending was shallow (view spoiler)[wish fulfillment for a spoiled girl (hide spoiler)].
The Third Virgin by Kathleen Duey (unicorn) 1/5 Herein are my annotations for the chapter: Sigh. What?! No. Whatever. I don't like where I think this is going... Yeah, that's where I thought it was going. Oh, well, I guess that's surprising. Yeah... It was short, unsatisfying, a little tragic, occasionally tries comedy, and confuses me with it's message on suicide.
Prom Night by Libba Bray (zombie) 3/5 Oblique references to boy love! And apparently set in Arizona! Fun, real touches! And then not much else. It was an interesting piece of society, but nothing much happened except them riding around playing cops, then her noticing (view spoiler)[these tunnels (hide spoiler)] and not really explaining them. :(["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
What?! Say again? I'm having trouble hearing your moralizing with all these offensive stereotypes and tired cliches in the way! I was going to bump itWhat?! Say again? I'm having trouble hearing your moralizing with all these offensive stereotypes and tired cliches in the way! I was going to bump it up to two stars for featuring the underrepresented bisexual, but then I got to the bisexuality-is-really-just-an-excuse-to-date-a-man-and-a-woman-at-the-same-time part and took it back.
If any of my book-friends are thinking of reading this, ask me for the full diatribe, but otherwise, I'm not going to spend more time on a review with so many good books waiting on my shelf. The characters were painfully caricatured, the school is a liberal fairy tale, the banter was full of arrogant inside-joke witticisms, but real feminist arguments were shallowly laughed off in the next lines, and the ending was very awkwardly unrealistic....more
That was really fascinating. It was definitely a different approach to science fiction than I've read before - and I'll attribute a good portion of itThat was really fascinating. It was definitely a different approach to science fiction than I've read before - and I'll attribute a good portion of it to the author's gender. The stories are written with a beautiful tenderness, anthropological explorations of unfamiliar worlds and races and relationships, made real through very relatable themes of love and friendship. They're very curious. Some of the worlds are sketchily described, while Paradises Lost, the final story and the longest by far, is a rich and detailed journey of middle-generation colonists in space....more
**spoiler alert** This is full of spoilers. I'm starting off with a rant about the last page of the book. So, really, don't read this if you don't wan**spoiler alert** This is full of spoilers. I'm starting off with a rant about the last page of the book. So, really, don't read this if you don't want spoilers. You've been warned, and since I often peek anyways, you've been warned again. This is really only intended for people who've finished the book.
It frightens me, how violent I'm feeling—crazy, almost, and capable of anything. I want to climb up the walls, burn down the house, something.
I think you should know that I'm reading this through the lens of an anarchist. This is an anarchist love story. Really, you can read any dystopian novel as a love letter to anarchism, but this one, this one, really felt like it was making its case. "For the first time in my life I've done something for me and by choice and not because somebody told me it was good or bad." So, reading this as a praise of autonomous choice, why does the hero feel empowered to make Lena's choice for her at the end of the book? When she's pretty certain that it's her right to decide when to die, why does Oliver think I'll favorably react to Alex "romantically" deciding to lie to her and martyr himself to protect her. I didn't know this was launching into a trilogy/series, so in the context of needing to continue the series, I’m sure he’ll live and I get it, but seriously?! Bah! It’s a betrayal of the primary conceit of the book. It is a fucked up chivalry that Alex lies to her “for her own good.”
Okay, I suppose I should establish my premise here. From the very first pages, Lena's society is one that oppresses individual desires as harmful to collective well-being, one that revokes consent, limits choice, and employs physical force for compliance. "Private property laws are suspended on raid nights. Pretty much every law is suspended on raid nights." Grace’s mother, Marcia, doesn't want children; the state thought she had the capacity for two children; Marcia gets two children. Bam! Anti-choice. "We'll be adults--cured, tagged and labeled and paired and identified and placed neatly on our life path, perfectly round marbles set to roll down even, well-defined slopes." The evil state as posited as one that lies about reality, makes choices for their citizens, and tells them it's for their own good.
So, I don't think the conflation of religious doctrine and morality and state control is at all coincidental. Even though it wasn't a religious state, schools teach “elemental prayers” of science and ethical codes side-by-side. The story is laden with parallels, sometimes really overt. "Someday she will be saved, and the past and all its pain will be rendered as smoothly palatable as the food we spoon to our babies." The state is savior. Information is spoon-fed. Doctrine is absolute truth.
To those readers with suspicion of how "love" could be identified as the root of pain and suffering, I appreciate how the state reframes ancient (our modern) culture from a foreign and patronizing source and reframes medicines and recreational drugs as folk cures (see beginning of chapter 12). The only difference between religions and cults, superstitions and beliefs, worship and rituals is perspective. And there’s a few awesome Hobbesian quotes about the need for the state to regulate human’s animalistic tendencies (unpredictability, cruelty, selfishness, violence).
Since the fundamental issue of the book, as I see it, is the struggle between individual rights and a lying, controlling state, you could see why Alex’s action pissed me off. Lies undermine the legitimacy of government. It’s an excellent message. This is where my school’s drug and sex education classes failed me; by failing to provide accurate information, by relying on fear and intimidation, they undermined their authority and my trust in them.
In that second it really hits me how deep and complex the lies are, how they run through Portland like sewers, backing up into everything, filling the city with stench, the whole city built and constructed within a perimeter of lies…
I put my hand out to the fence again and then immediately jerk it back again. A shock runs through me all at once, but it has nothing to do with the voltage that should be pumping there. Something has just occurred to me.
They've lied about everything--about the fence, and the existence of the Invalids, about a million other things besides. They told us the raids were carried out for our own protection. They told us the regulators were only interested in keeping the peace.
They told us that love was a disease. They told us it would kill us in the end.
For the very first time I realize that this, too, might be a lie.
Also, typical of the police state: "I turn and that's when I see him, the regulator with the massive red face, eyes glittering, smiling--oh, God, he's smiling, he actually enjoys this--club raised, ready to swing." This.
Okay, now I’m going to treat this as a whole and complete work instead of a political treatise and touch on a few other points of the novel. I thought the language was really beautiful and evocative. The way the narrative tone shifted when Lena spent long, free afternoons with Alex, it felt like falling in love. There were some authentic lines that reminded me of teenage love. "And, of course, we kiss. We kiss so much that when we're not kissing it feels weird, like I get used to breathing through his lips and into his mouth." This totally sounds like something only a teenage girl would find romantic. Lol. And Lena feels validated by Alex’s love, which is so sad and typical. "I'm so used to Alex telling me I'm beautiful. I'm so used to feeling beautiful around him."
Oliver writes with lovely, though somewhat repetitive, descriptions; she uses frozen camera imagery a lot. "As though the revolving eye that I know is always watching has been blinded just for a fraction of a second, as though the hand you've been holding your whole life suddenly disappears and leaves you free to move in any direction you want." I could go on and on with how many phrases seemed to speak to my very soul.
Lena is occasionally hopelessly slow to catch on. (Is he talking in code as he gives me a date, time, and location?) And in what alternative universe would it have been a good idea to tell the guard you were expecting another guard on duty? No way that would have played out like it did in the book. But that seems to be part of the suspension of belief required for YA books, generally.
Also, is it weird that no one minds class stratification in the new society? Even if they can't love and hate, I don't feel like that's the only reason to oppose it. The new society preserves the kyriarchy. Men retreat to smoke cigars. Children are sub-human. Carol repeats an endless cycle of cooking and cleaning. And most people are complicit. "I am not those people either, the ones who did that, the ones who watched... He was alive. He had a heartbeat and blood and breath, and they left him there like trash."
And (thanks to Raina for bringing it up in a more coherent way) there's an immediate heteronormative assumption. The genders are segregated and touching is tabooed. Homosexuality (Unnaturalism) is "fixed" by the cure. So when Lena and Hana has this beautiful friendship and Hana exposed Lena to this new, wondrous, rebellious underworld, forgive me for hoping that they could have been something. But yeah, then we meet Alex and my hopes are dashed. Once Alex arrives, Hana is pushed out of the story almost entirely and she actually isn't so brave and rebellious to escape with Lena. (Though she didn't betray them as I suspected.)
Still, I hope for the series. I really hope Alex has an epiphany. Because when Oliver writes passages like the following, I have hope that she's helping our young people become awesome radicals... if they choose.
But alongside the fear--which is always there, of course, that constant crushing weight--is a small, flickering feeling of excitement that works its way up and underneath the fear, pushing it back some. Like, It's okay, I'm all right, I can do this. I'm just a girl--an in-between girl, five-two, nothing special--but I can do this, and all the curfews and the patrols in the world aren't stopping me. It's amazing how much comfort this thought gives me. It's amazing how it breaks up the fear, like a tiny candle lit in the middle of the night, lighting up the shapes of things, burning away the dark.
Sex at Dawn is a paradigm-altering, supremely-readable and entertaining, but imperfect book.
The pluses: An excellent point-by-point takedown of the HoSex at Dawn is a paradigm-altering, supremely-readable and entertaining, but imperfect book.
The pluses: An excellent point-by-point takedown of the Hobbesian view of early man's life as "poor, nasty, brutish, and short"; good humor and narrative flow; and a factual confirmation of things I already believed.
Hmmm, that list should be longer. I really did like the book. It was very fun to read. I guess one could assume I approve of everything not mentioned below.
The minuses: Heavy reliance on secondary sources, including news articles and Jared-Diamond-style semi-academic books; not really discussing homosexuality at all, despite its promotion as a core point in the book; only around one passing reference to an individual in a working open marriage, though, presumably, the authors consider this a better model than monogamy; and a skimpy, apparently-contradictory conclusion.
I wondered whether a research psychologist and a practicing psychiatrist are the most qualified candidates for a body of work that really seems to be more related to evolutionary biology/anthropology/primatology. I think they dealt with their subject matter aptly, but the paucity of cited primary research makes me think maybe they didn't understand the original research? I don't have any reason to doubt their scientific rigor, but most college students would be excoriated if their research papers so heavily favored secondary over primary research. The further from the original data, the more opportunities for bias and misappropriated conclusions abound.
UPDATE: I've now read that this work is founded on Ryan's doctoral dissertation. So, presumably, he does understand his subject matter, but... it still makes me uncomfortable that so many of the quotes in the book are pulled from other semi-academic popular works, not from research papers and original research. This would have easily been a five-star work for me if I thought it were better documented.
UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: I googled his dissertation advisor... whose background in parapsychology research leaves me... underwhelmed by his academic credentials. However unfairly, it increases my skepticism....more
I'm too conflicted to offer a rating. On the one hand, I found it funny. Her writing is sharp and evocative, and her life is interesting. On the otherI'm too conflicted to offer a rating. On the one hand, I found it funny. Her writing is sharp and evocative, and her life is interesting. On the other hand, it was only through convincing myself that this was a *highly* fictionalized account of Handler's life was I able to finish it. She treats her friends and lovers and family horribly, and often they her. There's maybe a teensy bit of repentance at the end, but most of this is related as "Oh, laugh with me, I've just mocked the size of a man's penis. Haha. Men are only good for one thing and he's not even good at that. Yay! Midgets are adorable. Drunk driving, go go go!" I found many parts of the book genuinely offensive, and not for any reasons of modesty. But as a review of the book and not Ms. Handler's personality, I guess I'd say I liked it. What does that say about me?...more