They informed, analyzed and challenged GR's decision to move towards censorship, and echoed my thoughts and feelings on the situation exactly.
Now for the criticisms.
OFF-TOPIC possesses a very narrow and biased focus, concentrating exclusively on Goodreads and its reviewers, and for the most part excludes dissenting points of view and the wider context of author opinions on the new policy, Amazon's censorship of self-published authors, and various retailers removing all ebooks by self-published authors while they weed out the excessively offensive and illegal works. These events were taking place concurrently during a 3-week period and one wonders if they're all interrelated.
Some contributors have authored several pieces within the book. They also happen to be the most popular reviewers on Goodreads, the most visible, so many will have previously read what's included here. It would've been nice if OFF-TOPIC contained a few more pieces submitted from less high profile Goodreads members to showcase variety and prove that this policy has an impact on everyone rather than the most prolific or active minority.
And while the majority of the pieces are thoughtful, well-written and entertaining, there is repetition and overlap in particular areas where my attention wandered. Considering the limited scope of subject area, this is to be expected.
I've tried to review this work fairly, in light of my obviously biased standpoint, evaluating OFF-TOPIC as I would any other non-fiction read.
'Good poems and novels are those that transcend their age and speak meaningfully to us all. They deal in permanent, imperishable features of human e
'Good poems and novels are those that transcend their age and speak meaningfully to us all. They deal in permanent, imperishable features of human existence - in joy, suffering, grief, death and sexual passion, rather than in the local and incidental.'
Literary criticism: where philosophy and psychology meet.
Speaking of philosophy, this very much reminded me of my Philosophy of Art and Literature module at university, which is not to say that this can't be read by a novice or a teenager studying for GCSE or A Level English literature - I've studied both. It's accessible enough to be useful to these groups, the first chapter especially as it covers how to go about analysing the opening passages of certain well-known classics, some of which are required reading for those precise qualifications e.g. Macbeth.
A few months ago I was deciding which literary theory and criticism books I wanted to read and Terry Eagleton was firmly on my list as a former professor of English literarture at the University of Oxford, though as they're quite expensive I've yet to acquire them. Then, I spotted How to Read Literature on Netgalley and immediately requested it.
From the title and synopsis I inferred that this would be an introduction to the subject for beginners, and it is, though it only mentions a few schools of literary theory and movements in passing when I would've preferred a structured but brief accounting of their main principles. As Eagleton sacrifices breadth for depth he loses the opportunity to give the reader a more comprehensive educational foundation from which to work. And although the depths reached are appreciated, overly numerous examples throughout were not. There comes a point when you're flogging a dead horse. I understand the need to find a passage the reader can connect with and learn from but boring them to death while making the same point again and again isn't a desired situation. Sufficed to say, I skimmed.
(As a side note, I should add: if you haven't read many classics, be prepared to be spoiled. Ending after ending is revealed.)
Eagleton's writing style is sometimes readable and sometimes difficult and dense - when I wished he'd been more direct and concise - and even contains the occasional superfluous digression. I longed for a more definitive structure with stricter boundaries so I wouldn't miss the important literary terms and movements casually dropped into the conversation with the reader.
Despite the author's detached commentary, hiding behind 'sometheorists believe' instead of owning an opinion, personal biases and judgements are apparent. For instance, from Eagleton's oddly contradictorydiscourse on vampires, I then infer that he isn't a fan of the postmodern fascination with them in literature and abruptly dismisses their influence. I also assume he has a disliking of radical feminists to make an out-of-the-blue and unwarranted comment on their orifices. Bible fans won't be happy either, and almost insults hardcore fans of fiction in general, saving himself at the last second.
'Like a baby, it is detached from its author as soon as it enters the world. All literary works are orphaned at birth. Rather as our parents do not continue to govern our lives as we grow up, so the poet cannot determine the situations in which his or her work will be read, or what sense we are likely to make of it.'
To use 'baby', that exact word, makes me wonder how many not-so-professional author reactions to a negative review (from him as a literary critic or someone else) Eagleton has witnessed, because equating the relationship a book has with its author to a baby is a favourite line of those who are unable to gracefully accept criticism of their work.
In view of this, he's rather too charitable regarding the possible mistakes made by authors, their ignorance or failure to do their research. This is a pet peeve of mine and it's hard to believe that a critic would rather give the benefit of the doubt, believing 'the distortion is deliberate' than point out the errors. Unless I'm reading a dystopia or have an author's note explaining why they've distorted facts, then I'm going to think the worst.
Indirectly, Eagleton explains why so many young adult authors use orphans - or near enough i.e. unsupervised children and teens - as their main characters because they're easier to write about since they're free of 'the complex web of kinsfolk' and there's 'less history to hamper them.' That absence of parental relationships releases the author to allow their characters the freedom to do what they like - a get out of jail free card, if you will, making for a simpler writing experience.
How to Read Literature is broken down into five chapters:
Openings Where we learn to dissect and assess the opening passages of various well-known classics.
Characters Focuses on two types of characters - the standard and the eccentric, and the value we place on them.
Narrative Explaining the difference between plot and narrative, omniscient and unreliable narrators.
Interpretation How interpretation and meaning is based on the experiences, culture and time period of the interpreter and the work they're examining, and that no one interpretation is right or wrong. An author's intention can be different to a reader's interpretation. Baa Baa Black Sheep is used as a humorous example.
Value The most structured and succinct chapter, which also happens to be my favourite, successfully drawing the book to its conclusion by noting how, when and why we value good (and bad) literature.
Good literature can be: complex or poignantly simplistic, coherent or fragmented, profound or not e.g. Oscar Wilde, possess a substantial or thin plot.
Just some of the aspects under the microscope of literary criticism:
Micro aspects sound-texture character names syllables rhythm & rhyme ambiguities imagery grammar & syntax emotional attitudes paradoxes, discrepencies, contradictions, contrasts, connections, parallels unspoken implications tone changes quality of writing e.g. sombre, colloquial, terse, jaded, theatrical, ironic, abrasive, sensuous
Macro aspects character plot theme narrative originality traditional/conventional
Unfortunately my ARC didn't contain a bibliography, notes, further reading, a glossary or an index. Hopefully, the finished edition will include some or all of these sections.
In spite of my less than glowing criticism, I enjoyed the pertinent and astute observations made by an obviously accomplished and well-versed expert. How to Read Literature is a good introduction for newcomers to the subject and I would recommend it as such.
*My thanks to Yale University Press and Netgalley for providing me with the ARC in return for an honest review....more
Cynical people: it's worse than you can even imagine. Privacy infringements, systematic exploitation of children and African Americans, government corCynical people: it's worse than you can even imagine. Privacy infringements, systematic exploitation of children and African Americans, government corruption, and a willful disregard of consumers' health. Moss's three and a half years of investigative reporting for Salt Sugar Fat were well worth the effort, though his writing isn't concise, and boring when it came to describing the careers of food scientists he clearly admires, the points he makes are startling and incredibly important. Although America is the primary country talked about, the problems discussed are global issues.
Children and people of African descent are the most vulnerable when it comes to salt, sugar and fat, because they're more prone to acquiring a diet high in all those things, and the food industry has been quick to take advantage by adding more and more SSFs to out compete other brands by appealing to people's taste buds instead of their health, keeping an eye on their bottom lines and not their customers' waistlines.
Before reading, I believed it was your responsibility to eat healthily, but reading about America's neglectful and downright harmful governmental practices, allowing food companies to fudge the nutritional information on their products, stops the grocery shopper from making an informed decision about what they wish to put inside their bodies, and therefore food companies are indeed responsible for various serious health conditions, i.e. obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease (cholesterol), and cancers. 'The top contributors to weight gain included red meat and processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages, and potatoes' in all its forms.
SSF addicts are referred to as "heavy users" by companies, though even their ex-presidents and CEOs (many of whom Moss personally interviewed) admit the harm they've caused, feel guilty about their part in it, and actively avoid consuming their own products. Jeffrey Dunn, ex-president of Coca-Cola, developed Dasani bottled water and stopped marketing in schools, but was ultimately fired, for which he was grateful, and now he only works with healthy foods.
Privacy infringements abound: Coke data-mined customer loyalty cards; General Foods 'had mass-mailing lists composed entirely of the names and addresses of children, in order to better target them with promotions.'
Insidious marketing strategies are plentiful: pushing comics like 'The Adventures of Kool-Aid Man' published by Marvel; multiple child-friendly websites pushing junk food; advertising to those who've over-indulged, targeting people with diabetes for their sugar-free products; adding vitamins or a smidgen of fruit for a false healthy image e.g. Capri Sun; or removing real ingredients that you'd think would be essential e.g. Cheez Whiz no longer contains real cheese.
Parallels are drawn with the tobacco industry and the health crises surrounding it, and it just so happens Philip Morris, having made its dough in tobacco, now owns a cadre of food brands. Our food is handled by large conglomerates controlling hundreds of brands, who pump potentially harmful artificial additives and who knows what else (oh, wait horsemeat) into our food. Maybe it's time we invested in the little guys going it alone again, where the people in control know exactly what's in their food, and the distance between the guy on the ground floor and the one in the big office on the top floor, is a lot shorter.
'Take more than a little salt, or sugar, or fat out of processed food, these experiments showed, and there is nothing left. Or, even worse, what is left are the inexorable consequences of food processing, repulsive tastes that are bitter, metallic, and astringent.'
Moss suggests taxing SSFs before they're added to processed foods, though companies will probably pass on that cost to consumers. He also advocates the use of more herbs and spices, but again, since salt is so cheap compared to alternatives, they'd rather stick with what they know than spend more on higher quality, healthier alternatives. Or, we as a society, need to go back to eating the standard three (fresh) meals a day when we ate SSFs in moderation instead of snacking on convenience foods.
Now it's becoming harder to peddle SSFs to the public in developed countries, they're despicably looking to exploit the Third World developing nations like India and Brazil.
I started my first official diet with the help of MyFitnessPal.com just before reading SSF, and it's made me acutely aware of what I'm eating. Now I read the back of every item while grocery shopping, before deciding to buy it. My nemesis are grain-based carbs, potatoes, orange juice, and butter. I don't have a problem with salt and my 'bliss point' for sugar dropped considerably in my late teens, which is the last time I drank soda.
Salt Sugar Fat is definitely a highly recommended read.
SUGAR (a methamphetamine)
✺ Cocaine acts on the brain in a similar way to sugar: '...researchers have conditioned rats to expect an electrical shock when they eat cheesecake, and they still lunge for it.' Drugs countering the effects of opiates curb the appeal of high fat, high sugar snacks. ✺ Nearly every food contains some amount of sugar, naturally occurring in fruit, veg, and milk, so we have no need for 'added sugar'. ✺ Sugar is an analgesic (a pain killer). ✺ Americans consume '22 teaspoons of sugar, per person, per day', yet 5 teaspoons are recommended -that's half a can of Coke. ✺ Fructose is sweeter than glucose and table sugar combined, and has been commercially available since the 1980s. ✺ Sugar has a 'bliss point' - a Goldilocks amount, that creates the most pleasure. ✺ Sweetened foods make you more hungry, not less. ✺ Sweet liquids bypass the body's controls preventing weight gain. Soda and fruit juice concentrates are liquid sugar. ✺ Cereals contain up to 70% sugar, and some believe cereals over 50% sugar should be sold as candy. ✺ The Cola War with Pepsi saw Coke inventing supersizing, endorsement deals, and combination deals (e.g. burger with fries), they even put Cokes into the hands of soldiers in WWII at a loss, all to encourage brand loyalty and addiction. ✺ Coke's biggest ingredient is water, followed by sugar, then caffeine. Hypertention and diabetes in a bottle - Mmm, healthy.
FAT (an opiate)
✺ 9 calories per gram, twice that of sugar or protein. ✺ Sugar masks and enhances the taste of fat, encouraging you to eat more. ✺ No 'bliss point' for fat, the more the better. ✺ Whole milk is only 3% fat. ✺ American eat up to 33 pounds of cheese per year (60,000 calories), triple the amount in 1970s. It's the biggest source of saturated fat in American diets, followed by red meat, then cakes and cookies. ✺ Industrialisation of cows bred indoors on a diet of corn and fat, has increased milk production but lowered the nutritious value of the milk. ✺ When Americans moved to low fat milk, the excess fat was converted to cheese, and the American government protected the dairy industry by ludicrously buying up the excess cheese and beef. Cheese-products were made: mac & cheese, meaty pizzas, etc. Even celeb chefs were asked to promote cheese in cookbooks. On behalf of producers, the government aggressively marketed cheese and beef to the American public (and in Mexico). ✺ "Chilled prepared foods" saw the introduction of Lunchables, containing a child's maximum daily allowance of saturated fat and salt, and more than a can of Coke's worth of sugar. ✺ The Department of Agriculture has ignored experts in its Center for Nutrition and has conspired to get the public to eat more. ✺ 'Lean meat' doesn't necessarily mean low fat. ✺ McDonald's was the first to remove "pink slime" from its burgers. ✺ When opening a package containing multiple servings, you're more likely to eat the whole thing.
✺ 'Sodium pulls fluids from the body's tissues and into the blood, which raises the blood volume and compels the heart to pump more forcefully.' This causes high blood pressure. ✺ The least addictive of the big three. ✺ We learn this addiction, it's not innate like sugar and fat. ✺ Low salt diets increase taste sensitivity to salt, so less is eaten. ✺ It's a preservative, masks bitterness, sweetens sugar, adds crunch to things like crackers. ✺ 2,300mg recommended maximum per day. ✺ England's Food Standards Agency set a limit on how much salt a product could contain and discouraged of salt substitute potassium chloride, effecting US-based companies the most. ✺ Processed meats contain added salt e.g. bacon. ✺ Cargill, one of the wealthiest privately-owned companies in the world, sells 17 types of sweeteners, 40 types of salt, 21 oils and shortenings.
The Horsemeat Scandal
The below paragraph shows me how easy it would be for the European horsemeat scandal to spread to the US:
'the Department of Agriculture is actually complicit in the meat industry's secrecy. [...] The burger that Stephanie [paralyzed by E.Coli] ate, made by Cargill, had been an amalgam of various grades of meat from different parts of the cow and from multiple slaughterhouses as far away as Uruguay. The meat industry, with the blessing of the federal government, was intentionally avoiding steps that could make their products safer for consumers. The E. Coli starts in the slaughterhouses, where feces tainted with the pathogen can contaminate the meat when the hides of cows are pulled off. Yet many of the biggest slaughterhouses would sell their meat only to hamburger makers like Cargill if they agreed not to test their meat for E. Coli until it was mixed together with shipments from other slaughterhouses. This insulated the slaughterhouses from costly recalls when the pathogen was found in ground beef, but it also prevented the government officials and the public from tracing the E. Coli back to its source. When it comes to pathogens in the meat industry, ignorance is financial bliss.'
This is propaganda, pure and simple. Designed by the parent of an only child to make herself feel better about her choice by collecting countless posiThis is propaganda, pure and simple. Designed by the parent of an only child to make herself feel better about her choice by collecting countless positive (quantitative) studies to dismiss the negative only-child (qualitative) experiences of Sandler's friends and other interviewees, while debunking supposed stereotypes and replacing them with reasons why everyone should do as the Chinese do: have only one child, and in the process, shaming those that have more. In the end, I feel this is a biased, self-congratulatory piece of questionable value, of which I learned nothing new.
Talking about only children right now is highly relevant. Today, there's a continuing trend of having fewer children and there's a rise of only children in developed countries. This is due to high childcare costs, women deciding to have children later, lower fertility rates, the global recession, and economic pressure on families to have two working parents. This topic is in need of discussion so we can figure out how to handle a changing (decreasing) population and work out the advantages or disadvantages of being an only child in the twenty-first century. Sadly, Sandler neglects the disadvantages.
The too briefly described research Sandler refers to is troublesome as she relies upon large scale studies, one of which had 13,000 participants, leading me to question how much time was spent with each person, how accurate the data is when individual circumstances tend to be overlooked, and whether the conclusions drawn could be trusted. Few quantifiable results are quoted by Sandler, yet over and over again we're told only children are more intelligent, but when it's revealed this status only adds one to three IQ points, that assertion no longer seems quite so certain when the difference is so minimal. Are the other positive differences she quoted also as minimal?
As far as I could tell, none of these overwhelmingly positive studies actually asked the participants how they felt about being an only child, and when the author quoted interviews and asked her only-child friends, unhappy negatives start rearing their ugly heads. Some of the stereotypes Sandler has been aggressively attempting to quash are truisms among them, though she quickly whips out another positive study or two to devalue those cases. Belittling these personal negative experiences and dismissing them with positive research is unforgiveable, no matter how positive her own experiences as an only child, it denotes a lack of respect for others in favour of her own agenda. Sandler neglected to criticise the studies in the same way, which I'd expect if she was evaluating all the research fairly. By taking all of the research into consideration, one could conclude that things like intelligence and self-confidence go up (quantitative studies) while happiness goes down (qualitative interviews).
Yes, not all only children are selfish, lonely, spoilt and maladjusted - but some are, there's no point in denying it. And yes, it's more environmentally friendly to have one, and it's glaringly obvious one child will receive more resources like more money, time, space and attention from their parents than having to share with siblings. And they will benefit from those things, although how and how much they benefit will differ according to individual circumstances. However, other factors such as socialising with and being able to relate to their peers is important because spending too much time with adults can alienate them from their peer group. I'd argue attending school isn't enough, as Sandler suggests it is, proximity and access to other children outside school hours is necessary, too. Activities outside the home and exercise are other factors to consider as I'd postulate that those who do these socialise more with a variety of people, rather than with just their parents.
On and on, Sandler repeatedly preaches her 'only children are more intelligent and prosperous' mantra, and cherry picks famous onlies and cites the 1979 Chinese One-Child policy for their recent economic improvement to back up her claims, which is more than a little reductive, if you ask me. Really, Sandler's subtitle should be, 'Why You Must Have an Only Child, and Why Being One Can Make You Smart and Successful'. However, upon closer inspection those famous people and Chinese case studies all had pushy parents who provided strict educational schedules for their children lasting from the minute they woke up to bedtime, thereby surpassing the norm for the average child whether they had siblings or not. Most Chinese can't afford more than one child anyway, but rather than just a wish for their child to have it better than themselves, I started to wonder if there was an air of competition between parents to make their child successful, or whether it was to improve their retirement as it's tradition to move in with their child and care for their grandchildren when they reach that age. There's also the enormous pressure on that single child to perform and succeed so they're able to provide for both their parents when the time comes. In any case, you could argue privilege gives these children opportunities to prosper because their parents have clearly invested a substantial amount of time and effort, regardless of finances, and are able to reap the rewards.
Full disclosure here, I'm an only child, and one with negative experiences. Sandler would hate me because I don't conform to her views. As one stereotype goes, I was late to walk and talk, but my reading level was years ahead of my peers. Early schooling taught me that being an only set me apart as teachers frequently asked us to talk or write about our siblings and pets - I had neither, and that made me feel like I had and experienced less than everyone else. Despite many children living on my street, they were all a year or more younger though I made the best of it, still experiencing loneliness on the dark, cold, rainy winter days, of which there are many in the UK. Unfortunately, when I was seven we moved 100 miles away to where no children lived near me. Cue more loneliness and a growing preference for the company of older children (usually by several years) and adults. I've never been comfortable with those of a similar age to myself; school was hell - I frequently truanted in my teens, and age 18 onwards my friends have been more than 10 years older than me. I'll also confess that I'm selfish, but only children can hardly claim the monopoly on that trait. And hey, I was spoilt as far as toys, clothes and my mother's attention were concerned. I was lucky.
When I think of others I've known who are onlies, most them also had negative experiences for a variety of reasons, but one thing was very clear: they fit into two types. Some were able to cope or be happy in their own company, and others weren't and would do anything to avoid it. Before reading, I had wondered if being an only child meant there was an increased likelihood of becoming an introvert, which would feed into Susan Cain's Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, and because of this I've been comparing the two books. They don't compare. Cain, despite being an introvert, manages to confer balance when discussing her subject matter by acknowledging both positives and negatives of being such, and Sandler as an only child fails in this. Her bias is so pronounced it's impossible to draw parallels when I can't trust her interpretations of her much vaunted sociological studies.
A monumentally bad first impression was made after reading the opening chapter. I should've gone with my instincts and discontinued reading then. That chapter was the most biased, one-sided diatribe against negative stereotypes associated with being an only child, never stopping to consider that there may be some truth to them for some or allow for other aspects that, in tandem with being an only child, could produce those stereotypes. Challenging myself to read on was a mistake, and I've struggled to finish. Currently stuck @ 41%.
Only children may find they know about most of what is discussed but could find parts of it insulting. Everyone else on the other hand, may find One and Only informative and helpful, or offensive and upsetting if they've chosen to have more than one child themselves.
*eARC provided by the publisher in return for an honest review....more
Sexy Feminism is the third feminist non-fiction I read in the first month of 2013, and I was hoping for something to fill in the gaps of my self-imposSexy Feminism is the third feminist non-fiction I read in the first month of 2013, and I was hoping for something to fill in the gaps of my self-imposed feminist education. While it sort of fulfilled my requirements with quality advice and interesting points, I had some problems with the writing.
Style-wise, Sexy Feminism is blogger-friendly, and since the title is the name of the authors' blog, this is to be expected. A little informality can lead to funny, direct and personal dialogue with readers, a lot of informality herein had us hearing life stories and feminist reasons why the authors' broke up with boyfriends - which were rather reductive, if you ask me. A lot more had to be going on than the relevant explanations given. And I feel bad for thinking that way, but then I didn't expect to be put in a position of judgement, either. I'd rather not have read intimate details of these women's lives. After all, this isn't supposed to be an autobiography.
Conveying these stories upon the reader in each chapter, together with the theory, advice, and action plans, gave the impression of the wise older woman gathering the young-uns and telling them to sit and listen to someone who's lived life. This unintentional condescension is compounded by the authors' examples, and favoured feminist role models, many of whom are way before my time - I'm 26. Who the hell is Mary Tyler Moore? She's mentioned so often, I feel I should know. Perhaps it's the cultural divide rather than age, since I'm English and they're American.
As a fan of bluntness, I appreciate the honesty with which these authors expressed themselves in their opinions, they appreciate that the reader heretofore may not have called themselves a feminist or not have acted in a pro-feminist way, however some decisions they do simply call 'dumb'. Yet, I'm not happy with the way they conflate feminism with promoting environmentally friendly and animal friendly products not made in workhouses or sweatshops, and strongly encourage everyone to research every company before buying their merchandise. All very nice in theory, but how many people have the time to do this, or even the power and availability to make those 'right' choices? For instance, the UK's The Body Shop sells makeup and bath products not tested on animals, yet they're owned by L'Oreal who do test on animals. To buy from The Body Shop, or not? Anyway, I don't consider the environment or animal testing to be feminist issues, sweatshop workers maybe, but not the other two.
Certain assumptions are made, for example: 'heels have been used as throughout history as tools of oppression' - making no mention of the times when it was fashionable for men to wear heels. Nevertheless, I'm glad rape fantasy and female genital mutilation are discussed, and I was intrigued by the fractious female friendships and competitive female bosses. I've always preferred having female bosses, apparently that isn't the norm. I did however, once have a problem with a much older female colleague. She spread nasty rumours implying I was lazy and incompetent, everyone came to my defense including my ex and current female bosses at the time, which secured me a promotion! Not long after, my accuser applied for voluntary redundancy and it seemed likely she'd get it, they refused, forcing her to retire instead. That's karma for you.
Although I don't question the authors' passion for their subject, it noticeably lacks the urgency conveyed in the other feminist books I read this month, though I'm sure that's down to the broad range of topics covered as opposed to the sub-sections those other books focused on.
The title gave me pause when I first spotted it. To use 'sexy' to describe feminism felt a little risqué. Was it being used as a marketing tool as synonym for 'cool' (uh-oh), a play on words for 'gender' (clever), or as a critique of our sexualised (objectifying) society (acceptable)? My mind went straight for the first, though hoping for the last, since there are lipsticked lips on the cover. [They're for makeup if it's being applied because it makes the woman feel good, and not so she can impress a man or anyone else.] ETA: I've just taken a look at my review for Feminist Chauvinist Pigs - which is referenced in SF - and the author condemned the use of 'sexy' when it came to feminism, so now I'm doubly surprised to see its usage by these authors, and for the title, no less.
I didn't mean to be so negative about Sexy Feminism, but unfortunately, so far it's my least enjoyable feminist read. I'll admit, I skimmed in places, skipping the more personal bits, pushing through boring areas - not necessarily the book's fault; certain topics I've read about elsewhere and didn't feel like going over old ground. Those completely new to feminism as a concept will probably gain a lot more from reading Sexy Feminism, especially women in their thirties and older.
*My thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Netgalley for the e-ARC in return for an honest review....more
Werewolf hero cheats on heroine after he's blackmailed into giving Red's aunt oral sex of a weird kind (inserts his shifted snout into her vagina while the rest of him remains human). Heroine catches him, tells him it's over and runs off. Hero proceeds to chase her and force her to give him oral sex, and by the sounds of it full intercourse.
Cheating, even in this case (to save Red from the stigma of dating a lowly werewolf), is a complete turn-off. His abusive (read: rapist) and possessive nature after Red rejects him for his infidelity sealed the deal.
I'm so sorry for laughing and judging you based on how I believed you'd died. Living with Hirschsprung's disease had to be awful, aDear Elvis Presley,
I'm so sorry for laughing and judging you based on how I believed you'd died. Living with Hirschsprung's disease had to be awful, always worrying, always in discomfort. People assuming you were fat when the distended abdomen was a sign you were seriously ill.
Begging your forgiveness,
At autopsy, his colon was "two to three times normal size ... was jam-packed [length-wise]... The impaction had the consistency of clay and seemed to defy Florendo's efforts with the scissors to cut it out." The clayey material, he says, was barium, administered to prep Presley for a set of X-rays - taken four months earlier. "That barium was... Just like a rock." He says the impaction obstructed at least 50 to 60 percent of the diameter of Presley's colon ... [It] had expanded so dramatically [at the end of his career] that it crowded his diaphragm and had begun to compromise his breathing and singing.' Soiling himself on stage happened regularly, he had no control whatsoever because of the disease. 'The resulting arrhythmia [from straining to make a bowel movement] can be fatal ... especially likely to happen to someone, like Elvis, with a compromised heart.' It's a common cause of death but wasn't well-known or understood at the time of Presley's death.
'Stool softeners are administered as a matter of course on coronary-care wards.'
Nasal regurgitation. Fistulated stomachs. Rectal feeding. Holy water enemas. Mythbusting Mary Roach concentrates on the strange, the unethical, and the downright funny aspects of the alimentary canal.
I've learned many things:
✺ Eat more liver. Organs are the most nutritious parts of an animal. ✺ Never take alka seltzer / bicarbonate of soda / baking soda after eating too much. ✺ Never light a match or breathe without apparatus near a manure pit. ✺ Never punch someone in the mouth unless I'm willing to lose a finger. ✺ Anal cancer exists and is contracted the same way as cervical cancer. ✺ A human cannot survive being swallowed by a large fish. Jonah lied. ✺ Fire-breathing dragons snakes are possible under the right conditions. ✺'Humans perceive five tastes - sweet, bitter, salty, sour, and umami (brothy) - and an almost infinite number of smells. Eighty to ninety percent of the sensory experience is olfaction [smell]. ✺ Never take the ability to smell, taste, or swallow for granted. ✺ 'brachioproctic eroticism' = 'fist-fucking' ✺ To respect the "prison wallet" (rectum). When I need to go, I'm going. I don't want to be constipated. ✺ Never insert an object rectally unless I'm will to lose it up in there.
Well, Roach has covered the three basics of animal biology: feeding, sex, and death. Her witty approach to her subject matter helps the medicine go down, as it were. She makes learning fun by breaking things down into easily digestible bites (puns intended), though there are a few less interesting bits. I wonder what she'll cover next.
*Many thanks to the publisher for the e-ARC in return for an honest review....more
"Vulnerability scares us, very deeply. To feel your body being forcibly penetrated by another human being is an experience of such utter, terrifying"Vulnerability scares us, very deeply. To feel your body being forcibly penetrated by another human being is an experience of such utter, terrifying vulnerability and helplessness that most people recoil from the thought. To overcome that resistance, to actually identify with the experience and the person who suffers it, is an act of profound empathy, and considerable courage. Most people, frankly, are not up to the challenge; certainly not without a lot of support..." ~ David Lisak
Rape is Rape successfully shines the light on widespread, harmful misconceptions about rape using detailed high profile cases of the likes of Julian Assange and Dominique Strauss-Kahn, emotive real-life victim accounts, and analysing the opinions and rulings of influential people.
Defining rape itself is the first major problem. Many have strict and narrow opinions on its meaning. Just checking the most widely used online dictionaries proves how restrictive, stereotypical and gendered official definitions are. Strangely, Wikipedia has one of the best:
'Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse, which is initiated by one or more persons against another person without that person's consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or with a person who is incapable of valid consent, such as one who is unconscious, incapacitated, or below the legal age of consent.'
For more inclusive, realistic and acceptable definitions you have to look at criminal legislation. UK and US law cover different types of rape and the issue of consent.
The spreading of misinformation and the resulting confusion hurts victims because they're less likely to report a rape if they (a) are ignorant of the legal definition of rape and sexual assault, (b) ignorant of how to report it, (c) believe they lack proof, (d) are embarrassed and don't want anyone to know, (e) fear bad treatment by the police, (f) think the accused will be able to retaliate for reporting them, (g) don't see high profile rapists convicted, believing they'll have less chance of justice.
A CDC study concluded more than 1 in 10 American women aged 18+ are raped, 620,000 in the last year. In the UK, 1 in 20 women aged 16+ is raped (1 in 5 including other sexual offences), averaging 85,000 per year for women and 12,000 for men. University campus rape appears the most prevalent type no matter where you live. Disturbingly, one study on marital rape showed 5% of women 'said their partner has forced their children to participate in the rape, and 18% reported their children has witnessed an incident of marital rape at least once.'
"Rape is not about sex at all. This isn't just bad sex ... How could anyone think that? It isn't even sex. Sex is consensual and rape is not. This isn't sex. Is it sex for the rapist? I don't think rapists know sex as sex. This is using sex as a weapon."
Rape is the exertion of power and control to humiliate, possessively take ownership of the victim's body and treating it as less than worthless. 'Society's responses to rape further the rapists' humiliation of victims.'
Rape deniers attack statistics and studies, like that of Mary Koss, for using 'overbroad definitions' for what they perceive as 'bad sex' when those studies follow the legal definition. In effect, they're challenging the law itself. Feminists caught minimising the importance of rape, Raphael posits, are fearful of the reversal of women's liberation, sexual and otherwise, yet by not acknowledging the seriousness of this crime they're not supporting the majority of its victims: women, hurting the very people they wish to empower.
'Denying rape makes society unsafe for women and allows predators to go free.'
Perhaps those that deny and minimise rape should put themselves in a victim's shoes and look to feel the empathy Lisak speaks of in the opening paragraph of my review. After reading the personal accounts of victims' experiences of the rape and the journey afterwards, you can't fail to sympathise and gain some understanding of post-traumatic stress and problems with the institutional processes and practices victims encounter when reporting their attack, and the changes required to prevent further traumatization.
80-90% of victims know their attacker, quashing the notion of the much hyped and stereotyped 'stranger danger'. We strongly believe the people we trust the most aren't monsters and vehemently deny what very well may be the truth. Accepting we're not at fault for not knowing about the accused's behaviour and that being connected to them does not necessarily reflect badly on the type of person you are, are the first steps in working past the disbelief and seeking the facts.
The Purity Myth: How America's Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women (my review) is referenced several times (which prompted me to pause my reading of Rape Is Rape to read that before continuing), Raphael whole-heartedly agreeing with Valenti's views on this subject. Anyone can be raped, not just women, and not just virgins. Both see the "All men are rapists" line is unnecessarily inflammatory, but it's possible the rapists believe this. Everyone has the potential to rape, that doesn't make everyone a rapist. Using men's testosterone-infused, cliched high sex drives as an excuse for rape belittles men and assumes they possess no self-control and don't know right from wrong.
In the same breath as alleviating the accused (i.e. men) of guilt, the victims (i.e. women) are blamed, and yet 'forgetting to set the antiburglary alarm or getting robbed despite "neighborhood watch" does not exculpate the thieves.' If we're not criticising them for their supposedly risky behaviour ('she was asking for it' responses for: the way the victim was dressed, being drunk, walking home alone at night, etc. part of the victim blamer's philosophy), we're subjecting them to polygraphs (unreliable as stress increases the chances of failing), scrutinise their sexual histories (slut shaming), carry out (sometimes gratuitous) rape exams with rape kits that are never analysed despite taking four hours in which one victim describes it as follows:
"After undressing in front of strangers, I was poked, prodded, scraped, swabbed, combed and photographed. I wouldn't wish it one anyone."
Then having those colour photos of their genitals passed around jurors and shown on television screens to the entire court. A judge threatening an amnesiac rape victim with jail for contempt of court for failing to agree to watch the footage of her own rape so she could be questioned about it, is evidence of harrassment and an attempt to humiliate the victim. 'That members of the community would blame an eleven-year-old child for her own rape shows the extent to which victim blaming has become accepted in our culture.' I completely understand why more don't come forward or decide to recant their statements when they're seemingly punished for being violated by a rapist.
If victims aren't blamed then their met with indifference or they're accused of lying, vindictively making false rape claims to punish a man. Women have been demonsied as seducers and liars since Eve was perceived to have corrupted Adam.
The media often publish more column inches and attribute more importance to false rape claims, sowing the seeds of doubt in the minds of readers when presented with accusations, driving 'out compassion for real victims.' The media also tend to use euphemisms for rape rather than calling a spade a spade, deliberately confusing the issue, for example 'Paedophile, 25, had sex with girl, 12' should be 'Paedophile, 25, raped girl, 12.'
'A rape report cannot be considered false if the person describing the crime is unable to provide corroboration that it happened or if investigators decide it did not occur based on their own views of that person's credibility. According to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports Handbook, this is an inconclusive or unsubstantiated report and not a false one.'
Police are often criticised for failing to report accurate figures of rape, hiding cases or dismissing them as false. 'Institutions such as churches, schools and colleges, social organizations, and the military, among others, provide a steady source of victims for predators.' By ignoring or supporting the perpetrators, these institutions are validating and encouraging this behaviour by facilitating its continuance. They might want to keep in mind that failure to report the crime is illegal in some places. Failure to charge a perpetrator by a prosecutor for what they perceive to be a low chance of conviction or their own prejudices, denies victims a chance of justice and puts the larger community at risk by allowing a predator to prey on more individuals. Alternatively, if criminal prosecution doesn't work, civil litigation may scare a rapist enough to prevent further rapes.
"If you don't fight tooth and nail and be on the verge of death, it is simply unbelievable. Compare that with someone who goes to the police and says someone she met in a bar broke into her house to steal something. Under no circumstances would anyone question a victim who makes that type of report."
One victim account says she wished she could relive her rape so she could 'do it right' and fight back more or that she'd been killed so people would believe her. Not fighting or stopping resistance does not equal consent; it's another survival instinct -less chance of serious injury or death. Unfortunately, "society doesn't believe the woman until she takes a step to harm herself."
One study on the vulnerabilities of rape victims including: aged under 18, mental health issue(s), currently/previously intimate with offender, had consumed alcohol or drugs prior to the attack. 87% of victims had at least one vulnerability. This proves opportunism -rapists calculating how likely they are to succeed in raping their victim, and getting away with it. Of all of the factors noted, consuming alcohol or drugs are the only things a victim can control.
Ideally, I wished the following had been included:
✻ Male rape. Apart from the brief mentions of a rape victim's partner who'd been raped in the military, of prison rape, and one CDC study of child victims, male rape isn't discussed. Perhaps this is due to few studies on male rape and the low number of reported cases to the police and in the media. However, I don't see why the reasons for this and societal perceptions of male victims couldn't be examined. Why not look at prison rape? Prisoner-on-prisoner ('don't drop the soap') and guard-on-prisoner which is more prevalent than authorities like to admit.
✻ Children raping children. An intricate dynamic I'd have liked the author to have addressed. It's shocking how young some of the aggressors are, and their victims.
✻ Rape victims raped again. I believe rape victims are more likely than any other group to be raped again because the first rape compounded the vulnerabilities they original had beforehand, making them even easier prey. And again, this isn't discussed.
✻ Rape in entertainment. Raphael doesn't explore positive and negative depictions of rape in TV (e.g. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit), movies, and books. Nor is rape fantasy, a highly controversial topic which I myself recently came to terms with after reading twoFeministing articles criticising Katie Roiphe's views on female fantasies of sexual submission.
While I wish a little more was included, what's in these pages is pure gold for unveiling the truth and prevalence of rape in the West and suggesting improvements to the way we perceive and report rape. It's imperative and supremely relevant that we pursue justice for victims and protect our more vulnerable members of society, and this is supported by recent global events.
My request for the ARC was accepted on the day a 23-year old gang rape victim died of her injuries in Delhi. Six men were arrested for raping and murdering her on a moving bus. Soutik Biswas responds with an article on How India Treats its Women, showing why it's the 'worst country in which to be a woman.' Sympathy is scarce for the accused after it was alleged "They were beaten most bruatally. They were forced to drink urine and from the toilet. They were sexually assaulted with sticks in their backside. Whatever statements they made were made under duress and worthless." While this has sparked anger at the victim blaming, Feminist Spring protests have been male dominated ironically due to the risk of rape, which was followed by another rape on an Indian bus and an Indian school. This prompted proposals for change.
'Savile got away with it because we let him, and he knew we would let him. He knew his victims would be trapped between horror and a twisted sense of privilege at being hit on by someone famous. He conferred chocolates on favoured victims to normalise his abuse, and he made resistance appear abnormal. If it came to his word against some starstruck minor's, he knew who would be believed. When, latterly, standards began to change, he counter-attacked with the threat of libel lawyers.' (Source)
*One Billion Rising is an annual global campaign for the one billion beaten and raped to protest on February 14.
One of the better anthologies I've read. My absolute favourite story in this collection is Life in a Shoe by Heidi R. Kling, one of the more faithfulOne of the better anthologies I've read. My absolute favourite story in this collection is Life in a Shoe by Heidi R. Kling, one of the more faithful stories to it's original nursery rhyme -"There Was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe".
As Blue as the Sky and Just as Old by Nina Berry ★☆☆☆☆ Based on "Taffy was a Welshman". I couldn't get past Aderyn's horror movie Too Stupid To Live nature, following a stranger into his car and motel room.
Sing a Song of Six-Pence by Sarwat Chadda ★★★☆☆ Based on "Sing a Song of Sixpence" (Four and Twenty Blackbirds). A sad story revolving around the misery a king has caused and a deal made between the maid and the last free Blackbird.
Clockwork by Leah Cypress ★★★★☆ Based on "Hickory Dickory Dock". The most well-rounded story so far, about a princess-turned-mouse, a magic-infused clock and knife, a witch, and a political coup.
Blue by Sayantani DaGupta ★★★☆☆ Based on "Little Boy Blue". The Children of Ink reminded me of Safe-Keepers and Truth-Tellers but they appear to be wraith-like Fates. Although the story is a little amorphous, I still liked it.
Pieces of Eight by Shannon Delany with Max Scialdone ★☆☆☆☆ Based on "Sleep, Baby, Sleep" (The Papa Guards the Sheep). This one didn't interest me at all despite the mention of a prophecy, a human sacrifice and a journey. The writing style and structure of story didn't help. I'm unsurprised by my lack of enjoyment since I gave up on Delany's Twilight-esque 13 to Life series.
Wee Willie Winkie by Leigh Fallon [unrated] Based on "Wee Willie Winkie". I doubt I could give an unbiased opinion of this one so I skipped it due to Fallon's actions earlier this year.
Boys and Girls Come Out to Play by Angie Frazier ★★★★☆ Based on "Girls and Boys Come Out To Play". Witches in the woods kidnap or call children to their den in the woods, where most are never heard from again. The protagonist finds the summoning in her catatonic sister's hands, knowing the consequences for not attending she goes in her sister's place. There's a dash of forbidden love and an ending that didn't quite satisfy. Reminded me of Sarah Jessica Parker's song calling children from their beds to their deaths in the movie Hocus Pocus.
I Come Bearing Souls by Jessie Harrell ★★★☆☆ Based on "Hey Diddle Diddle". Egyptian mythology, yes! The protagonist is a reincarnation of Hathor with the duty to welcome the dead to the afterlife, her brother is Anubis and sister, Bast. The teens live and work in a funeral home doing their mythological duty.
The Lion and the Unicorn: Part of the First by Nancy Holder ★★★★☆ Based on "The Lion and the Unicorn". Part one of the story. Reminiscent of Joan of Arc, our protagonist dresses as a boy and hears what she perceives as the word of God via an angel, telling her to serve King James I who has just been crowned King of England (the Lion) and is all ready King of Scotland (the Unicorn). While she serves him food, she witnesses his war on evil witches plotting to bring him down. He throws them in filthy cells and tortures them into confessing. But all is not as it seems...(view spoiler)[Although part two isn't included the ending is implicit: the king is a warlock sucking the life/souls out of the witches he kills. The girls vision might mean she one day poisons the king. At least that's my interpretation. (hide spoiler)]
Life in a Shoe by Heidi R. Kling ★★★★★ Based on "There was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe". Brilliant. I practically highlighted the whole story. After the Rule was implemented, the two children one couple has turns into ten with an eleventh on the way. More children than they're able to feed, as the the eldest son says, "We're like crops to them, raised to fight in their never-ending wars." The eldest daughter replies, "You'd think if they wanted decent crops, they'd figure out a way to feed them better." She's the protagonist who reaches the end of her tether. This story has the feel of The Handmaid's Tale about it.
Interlude: Humpty Dumpty, a poem by Georgia McBride ~*not included in the ARC*
Candlelight by Suzanne Lazear ★★★☆☆ Based on "How Many Miles to Babylon?". Take Stardust's Babylon Candle and two typical naive teens fed up of the usual parental discipline, and you get this story. Travelling to Babylon, a paradise too good to be true, two teen sisters escape their mother. But when they come to miss her and return home, they find that (view spoiler)[thirty years have passed, and they've been declared dead. (hide spoiler)]
One for Sorrow by Karen Mahoney ★☆☆☆☆ [DNF] Based on "One for Sorrow". DNF. Reads like it's from someone new to writing. Very simple, slow and dull. Seemed to be inspired by Poe's The Raven but with a crow instead.
Those Who Whisper by Lisa Mantchev ★★★☆☆ Based on 'When I was a little girl, about seven years old, I hadn't got a petticoat, to cover me from the cold.' When her mother dies, a girl is forced out of the village and ekes out her living in the woods with the birds. I'm unsure exactly how this one ended: whether the boy and girl went their separate ways or stayed together.
Little Miss Muffet by Georgia McBride ★★★★☆ Based on "Little Miss Muffet". Were-spiders! That's a new one on me. A satisfying short story.
Sea of Dew (short version) by C. Lee McKenzie ★★★☆☆ Based on "Wynken, Blynken, and Nod". Damn, that was depressing. I'm reminded of: Water, water, everywhere, and not a drop to drink. Surrounded by the salty sea, three boys and one girl are adrift in a small boat after their vessel capsized. Water becomes increasingly scarce (view spoiler)[ and they all either kill themselves or die of thirst. (hide spoiler)]
Tick Tock by Gretchen McNeil ★★★☆☆ Based on "There's a neat little clock, in the schoolroom it stands, and it points to the time with its two little hands." One word: creepy. Good creepy, not bad creepy. But then children always are, especially identical ones with synchronised identical movements and words from their mouths.
A Pocket Full of Posy by Pamela van Hylckama Vlieg ★★☆☆☆ Based on "Ring a Ring o' Roses". A teenage boy comes to with blood on his hands and jeans with no memory of what happened, until he finds his girlfriend dead and fears he might be a murderer. (view spoiler)[Turns out a vampire did it. (hide spoiler)] Meh.
The Well by K.M. Walton ★★☆☆☆ Based on "Jack and Jill. The Shiver Rash Virus is responsible for killing thousands and finally hits Alaska where Jack and Jill believe their the last living inhabitants of their town and are probably immune. Jack loses his marbles and tries to kill Jill. There is no happy ending.
The Wish by Suzanne Young ★★☆☆☆ Based on Star Light, Star Bright. Can be summed up as the following: Be careful what you wish for.
A Ribbon of Blue by Michelle Zink ★★★★☆ Based on "Oh Dear! What Can the Matter Be?". I'm surprised I liked Zink's story since I disliked her writing in Prophecy of the Sisters. The female protagonist, Ruby, has cerebral palsy causing her difficulty in walking. Her grandmother whom she lives with is suffering severe emphysema and could die at any moment causing Ruby to worry about what her life will be like after she dies, until she sees a fortune-teller at a carnival who gives her hope, telling her she'll meet a boy working at the carnival who'll bring light, freedom and love. So she visits the carnival every year to the day she finally meets him. A bittersweet ending.
Sea of Dew (extended version) by C. Lee McKenzie ~*not included in the ARC*
The Lion and The Unicorn: Part the Second by Nancy Holder ~*not included in the ARC*
*My thanks to Month9Books and Netgalley for the ebook in return for an honest review.*...more
The Love Triangle Heroine: 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien. She's young, fairly inexperienced in the politics of love. Physically and mentally bouncing back from her time as a slave in the salt mines surprisingly quickly with rapidly diminishing bitterness (view spoiler)[(another reason to be bitter: I'm pretty sure the King is responsible for her parents' deaths because they're fae) (hide spoiler)] as she keeps her feelings for both men on the down low until she can't deny how close she's become to the Prince from their actions. She doesn't appear to pick up on Chaol's gestures of understanding and affection, believing he's yet to trust her not to kill someone or escape at any moment, so she doesn't play the men off against each other.
Suitor #1: 19-year-old Prince Dorian. Seducer of all women and professes he will only ever marry for love. Spoilt but not cruel, he hates his father for his unending crimes against humanity in the name of conquering the entire world. Surrounded by the weak and brainless women of court he's eager to escape he almost forces himself to become besotted by Celaena's strong-willed, feisty and intelligent nature, so very different from what he's used to. His interest is part defiance of his father and his best friend Chaol, Captain Westfall of the Royal Guard, after they warn him away from her. Celaena herself seems dazzled by his handsomeness and wishes to have a little fun by indulging his attentions. In the blink of an eye we have insta-love. Oh, the fawning they did over each other, argh. For him, this would be a great match. Celaena has the power to transform him from a boy to a man, a man fit to be king. But I don't think Celaena would get much from such a union.
Suitor #2: 22-year-old Chaol, Captain Westfall of the Royal Guard, and Celaena's trainer. The more natural of the two pairings when you think of the considerable amout of time they've spent together training. Skilled and strong, Chaol secretly grows to like her, against his will, more and more, without letting his feelings be known to anyone. Both he and Dorian experience jealously over her, while Celaena remains practically oblivious of Chaol's interest. It's a deep, slow burn from afar. Celaena was interested in Chaol to begin with but his brusque responses, with only a hint of playfulness, gave her the impression he didn't like her despite him blowing hot and cold throughout the rest of the book. Perhaps he was too subtle. While Dorian stumbles about a bit (odd for a womanizer), Chaol is the brooding, cautious and trusty rock you can always count on.
The Winner: Inconclusive. Celaena drops the Prince like a hot potato once she's finally named Champion in a way that presented her as a cold-hearted, manipulative bitch. I actually felt sorry for the guy despite finding him to be too spoilt, immature and weak to be a worthy partner. Chaol appears to be happy Celaena is on the market again as the book closes but all I could think was, "Run away! Before she breaks your heart too."
An Inconsistent Heroine As the book opens, Celaena is smart, strong-willed, fiesty and bloodthirsty. She used her quick wit and smart-mouth to embarrass and infuriate. Basically, she was badass. Trouble is, that didn't last.
Most of the trials, training and associated fighting were offstage while Celaena turned into a vain Barbie doll going to a ball and seducing the prince. I don't begrudge her femininity or the chance to be pretty again after the ugliness she'd suffered but this is not what I signed up for. It was too much.
Then she turns her hand to investigating the mysterious deaths, sleuthing, unsuccessfully I might add.
Finally, the last hurdle, the duel takes place. And it's action, action, action. (Honestly, I was so fed up by now I didn't pay much attention.) Followed by, "You're dumped!" with no thought to the Prince's feelings. For all her agonzing over the fate of slaves and the harsh treatment she'd received I thought she'd know what "tact" was. She came off as the bad guy, the assassin without a heart, exactly what they'd all thought of her in the beginning. It made me wonder if she really is playing a game of politics, calculating every move.
Predictable The mystery behind the deaths of the would-be champions was insanely obvious. We knew early on who's responsible, who's pulling the strings (view spoiler)[(The King, such a hypocrite, and we know how he rolls now don't we? Worse than Cain and the Duke sacrificing his entourage like that) (hide spoiler)], and I had a vague idea of the how. Not so mysterious. Perhaps because the reader gets the advantage of seeing things from multiple points of view I'm being too harsh on Celaena's ability to figure this all out (view spoiler)[ but using the Princess as a red herring failed miserably. Celaena should've known the Princess would never risk so much for short-term gain, that would be stupid, something she definitely is not. (hide spoiler)]
Conclusion I itched to DNF this, and to award 1 star, for the absurd (and painful to read about) love triangle, but I recognised the potential of the beginning and that of the world-building, as under-developed as it was. I wanted more action, politics and mystery, and much, much less romance. No romance at all would be fine. It's not a requirement for every single book.
*Thank you to Bloomsbury UK and Netgalley for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.*...more
Damn this seductively beautiful book cover. *sigh*
Confused and worried about the yo-yo ratings given this by my friends, I was hoping my experience woDamn this seductively beautiful book cover. *sigh*
Confused and worried about the yo-yo ratings given this by my friends, I was hoping my experience would fall closer to the positive end of the scale and since I decided to participate in a read-along with THT I gave it my best effort. And a challenging read it was. I dragged myself, kicking and screaming to page 80 whereupon I began the process of DNFing when I realised the griffin, much-loved by many reviewers, had entered the picture. One last chance was given for Stormdancer to win me over. Unnecessary animal cruelty sealed its fate.
The insurmountable problems I experienced while reading Stormdancer:
• Ignorance. I don't enjoy feeling stupid. Too many foreign words were introduced without explanation (some of which were repetitive). Later, I learned there was a GLOSSARY IN THE BACK. Reading the e-ARC, this was a bit of a problem. Rather than wasting time trying to figure out how to find it and refer to it in a timely manner or use Google I continued reading, hoping it wouldn't matter. IT DOES MATTER. DON'T READ THE EBOOK, read a hardcopy. To my dismay I found myself calculating how much Japanese culture, media and language I have consumed (view spoiler)[(I've watched Pokémon TV series and Studio Ghibli movies. Owned a Tamagotchi. Read and enjoyed Battle Royale and watched the movie. I'm aware of things like manga, animé, shibari and hentai.) (hide spoiler)] because I understood just one word: katana. A sword. The rest...who knows what it said or meant because it went right over my head.
• Authenticity was always going to be an issue being that the author is neither Japanese, and as far as I know, didn't spend considerable time in Japan. Artistic license is allowed and I definitely noticed non-Japanese references like the mention of pandas. I can't speak to how authentic Stormdancer is, but having recently read Across the Nightingale Floor, also by a Western author, I'm wary now of authors writing books set within histories and cultures they haven't immersed themselves in and admittedly know little about.
• World-building. Wading through the info-dump, compounded by my ignorance of the language, consisting of detailed stories and myths I couldn't fathom or hope to remember, was nearly impossible to read. Real myths or part of Kristoff's fiction? Important to his story or not? I didn't know. The author certainly succeeded in convincing me I was an alien introduced to an entirely different world.
• Slow pace. Very little happens in the 90 pages I read. I liked three of the scenes: the drunken gambling, the playful puppy and the childhood memory about the heroine's unusual ability to communicate with animals via telepathy. Golden nuggets of awesome in the writing of those scenes lured me into continuing. That, and the Guildsmen reminded me of Hellboy's Karl Ruprecht Kroenen. I'm not sure if that was intended or even an accurate interpretation, its just what I imagined from the description. Anyway, not much else happens between receiving orders from the Shogun to find and retrieve a griffin and actually stumbling upon one.
• Unnecessary animal cruelty. If communicating with the creature was possible, why not give it an ultimatum -i.e. stop thrashing about which will cause us to crash our airship or we'll have to clip your wings, which is it? Such a simple step and one which would've preserved this mythical specimen, perhaps the only one of its kind left, to present to the Shogun in perfect condition. I hardly see the Shogun being able to ride the griffin into battle, as he wished to, now the poor creature's wings have been clipped.
I desperately wanted to like this book for its uniqueness amongst other young adult novels, even adult ones, in not only setting a tale in a non-traditional (i.e. non-Western) place but going back to feudal times, adding steampunk and griffins -a tall order. With such lofty aspirations Stormdancer was either going to be award-winningly brilliant where we'd all be toasting Kristoff's genius, or quietly hoping to forget this overly ambitious experiment. Sadly, I'm in the latter camp. Sorry.
***My thanks to St. Martin's Press and Netgalley for the e-Arc in return for an honest review.*** ________________________________
Fast-paced, compelling and deliciously gory, BUT deus ex machina, predictability, repetitiveness, and lovey-dovey mushiness brought The Eternity CureFast-paced, compelling and deliciously gory, BUT deus ex machina, predictability, repetitiveness, and lovey-dovey mushiness brought The Eternity Cure down. Honestly, Jackal is the main reason my rating isn't lower.
Jackal is akin to Damon Salvatore of The Vampire Diaries in that their pragmatism takes priority over their humanity "when he suspects he is on the losing end of a bargain" and their annoying yet charming personalities add a comedic element to proceedings; it's never dull when they're around. And yes, despite being a self-serving antogonist with flexible morals, I really like Jackal. If he'd dispense with his need to raise his own vampire army and evilly rule over the humans, I think he'd make an appropriate suitor for Allie. He certainly isn't afraid to call her on her bullshit:
"And I'm getting a little tired of your holier-than-thou act, sister. You're not a saint. You're a demon. Own up to it."
Elena's Allie's repetitive mantra about keeping her humanity, leashing Kanin's homicidal instincts and heeding Zeke's warnings grew tiresome. Zeke, in spite of being tougher than he was in The Immortal Rules and able to kill if he has to, he's still a bleeding heart. Sometimes the only logical answer is to kill. (view spoiler)[Stick should've been killed. Pathetic though he is, he's too much of a danger to remain alive. (hide spoiler)]
The evolving romantic relationship between Allie and Zeke is admittedly standard illogical paranormal YA fare:
'Maybe I was being naive. Maybe I was being deliberately blind. Most likely I was being incredibly stupid and endangering his life.'
Obviously I completely understand why Allie wants to hold on to Zeke: his humanity keeps hers in line and he fully accepts her for who and what she is, but not only that, finding someone with similar inclinations among the vampire population may prove difficult because vamps like Kanin seem to be an exception rather than the rule.
'I was just aware of one thing: I could not lose him. Zeke had seen the monster at its worst and was still here. He dared to get close to the demon, knowing it still Hungered for him, craved his blood and his life, and he wasn't afraid. For the rest of my existence, if I lived to see the end of this world, there would never be another Ezekiel Crosse.'
Perhaps this says more about Zeke than Allie. By cosying up to his natural predator he puts himself in the running for a Darwin Award, i.e. it's an incredibly stupid thing to do. Anyway, their alone time is cringe-worthy rather than sweet and romantic. This is definitely something that the author has to work on.
Deus ex machina: Three characters in peril(view spoiler)[: Kanin, Zeke and Jackal (hide spoiler)] had me admiring Kagawa's big brass balls to kill off one or all of these characters ... until they're all miraculously saved (view spoiler)[by Eden's experiments on Zeke saving both him and Kanin, and Sarran's uninfected blood stash for Kanin's crippling hole through the stomach (hide spoiler)]. Compared to the debut, The Eternity Cure is all bark and no bite which is rather disappointing.
And the end, I saw that coming miles away. I'm not sure if I've just inferred this but I'm pretty sure (view spoiler)[Zeke's a vamp now. After all of the talk of his remaining human and he should have a choice etc., it was inevitable (hide spoiler)]. This, if true, will make Book 3 interesting, though I expect a Stefan-like (The Vampire Diaries) split-personality response.
Despite my dissatisfaction with the final scenes, I look forward to seeing more of Jackal and Eden and its inhabitants as they respond to Sarren's threat.
*My thanks to Harlequin for the eArc in return for an honest review....more
The Immortal Rules reinvents the tired vampire genre by adding a post-apocalyptic, dystopian world with zombie-like rabids waiting in the shadows to tThe Immortal Rules reinvents the tired vampire genre by adding a post-apocalyptic, dystopian world with zombie-like rabids waiting in the shadows to tear you to pieces. Kagawa has also brought back the vampires of old as soulless killers who've allowed themselves to lose all semblance of humanity, are allergic to sunlight and can only drink blood. True monsters. None of that sparkly, namby-pamby stuff. This mashup of popular genres works, primarily because the world and plot are complex and the main character isn't stupid or emotionally dense.
Sixty years ago the Red Lung virus wiped out billions of people, reducing the vampires' food source. One master vamp presented himself to the human scientists to help in any way he could, providing them with other vamps as test subjects in order to find a cure. The unfortunate result was rabids -vampires warped by the virus, overcome by their predatory instincts are now violent zombies with only basic intelligence and whose bite spreads the virus further. In repsonse, master vampires created walled off cities which hold the remaining humans like prisoners, forced to work and donate blood to their undead masters and in return they receive food. Unregistered humans who don't wish to live as blood slaves survive by squatting in empty buildings, stealing food, trading on the black market and defending their territory from other groups. A tough life and one that our main character leads.
Everyday was a struggle against starvation for Allie and her small group of Unregistereds, within which were stark contrasts between self-sufficiency and well, the exact opposite. Despite being physically capable Stick is fearful and weak, disgustingly so. He's a parasite feeding off Allie, literally. She goes hungry to feed him, cares for him, fights his battles. Pity and his assumed loyalty seemed to be the only reason he was allowed to mooch. I despised Stick's lack of backbone. Not once did he make an effort to be brave.
As you can tell, Allie has a bit of a soft spot for those in need but she also possesses common sense, she's a survivor -one who tries not to let men distract her or bring her down. There's a goal and she will attain it. By any means necessary. She's not afraid to kill in self-defense but she is afraid of losing compassion, of letting her predatory instincts take over and thereby stripping her of her humanity, her morals. Allie’s adamant she won't become like the vampires she's always despised who treat humans as cattle. She strives to better herself and others in any way she can and hopes to one day have the strength and skill to somehow change the status quo, to perhaps free humans from the stranglehold of vampires. Kanin's philosophy of moderation, and choice and treatment of his victims made him an ideal sire and mentor for Allie. He was brutally honest and practical, teaching her vampire history and how to become a samurai (she's of Japanese descent) with her newly acquired katana.
Allie's journey after she's forced to flee the city is an intriguing one but also mildly worrying when she meets the sickeningly nice human guy with "love interest" tattooed on his forehead. Zeke is part of a small group of travellers seeking the elusive human-run city, Eden. Is it real? Is their leader nuts? Joining them was obviously a bad idea but she was lonely and these people obviously need help hunting food, fighting off rabids and hiding from some vengeful vampire. Keeping her undead status under wraps and her hunger in check she gets to know everyone, feeling especially protective of the children who instantly trust her. When the cat's out of the bag, I loved the fact that Allie doesn't let her injured pride lead to vengeance or abandonment. Luckily for them, she cares for the group from afar which led to some much enjoyed action, death and destruction. The last few pages were full of awesome. A stoic and visually beautiful ending.
I can’t fault the writing style. There were moments when I swore I was watching a movie instead of reading, times like these:
My coat snapped behind me as I flew over the water, and the raiders’ eyes bulged as I soared from one side of the catwalks to the other.
There were also a couple of eerily appropriate Bible verses:
“’Again, I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the oppressed-and they have no comforter; and power was on the side of their oppressors-and they have no comforter.’”
I suspect Allie will one day provide that comforter.
And there's the better known: “’though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.’” A very literal valley of death.
I can take a guess where things will go from here. (view spoiler)[I expect at some point Kanin and Zeke will meet for the express purpose of sharing knowledge to find a cure to the virus, whether that will be in Eden, I don't know, considering it's a vamp-free zone. I am slightly anxious about the future potential for lovestruck pining but I'm hoping her focus will be on rescuing Kanin before the torture reduces him to a ravening beast. And obviously Allie’s vampire brother will reappear at the most inopportune time. (hide spoiler)] I’m curious enough to find out what happens next to read the sequel.
I frowned, utterly confused. What kind of vampire killed four people, had a cryptic conversation with a street rat, thanked the street rat for talking with him, and then walked off?
'I was dying. I was dying, and this stranger-this vampire- was offering me a way out. Die as a human, or become a bloodsucker.'
‘Will you choose to become a demon with a human face, or will you fight your demon until the end of time, knowing you will forever struggle alone?’
“I’m good to go,” I said, holding my sword. “I don’t have anything except this.” It was kind of sad, really. That I’d lived in a place for seventeen years and had nothing to show for it but a sword and the clothes on my back. And they weren’t even mine.
“And like I said, if the tent falls on you in the middle of the night, don’t panic. You’ll get used to it. No one really worries about keeping things erect around here, and...Wow, that sounded bad.”
‘A large bed sat against the wall beneath a broken window, curtains waving gently in the breeze. On the worm-eaten mattress, two adult skeletons lay side by side, the remains of their clothes rotted away. Between them was a much smaller skeleton, being held in the arms of one of the adults, cradling it to its chest.’
“Allie, you’re a beautiful, exotic-looking vampire girl with a katana. Trust me, if anyone is going to attract attention, it’s not going to be me.”
***My thanks to Harlequin for the ebook via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.***...more