It’s a Trap: Review for Wild Seed #52Challenge

Wild SeedWild Seed by Octavia E. Butler
Rating: 4/5 stars
#52Challenge prompt: a sci-fi novel

This wasn’t what I expected. Of course, I can say that of most any Butler book I’ve read so far. Wild Seed is both the first and the last book in her Patternist series. It’s chronologically first in the universe and set between the 1600s and the 1800s, and it’s chronologically in Bulter’s real world publishing, the final book she wrote for it.

Having read a couple of Butler’s later and more famous books, it’s interesting to see how she evolves as a writer. She plays with themes around freedom, slavery, genocide, genetic manipulation, and gender, but they don’t stand as deep meditations on them like the later books. I appreciate being able to see how Bulter grew as a writer.

The biggest theme here is freedom and slavery. While Wild Seed is set against the backdrop of the very real African slave trade — both on the African continent and then in pre-Civil War America — Anyanwu seeks freedom from Doro, who becomes both her master/husband and her only companion. Continue reading “It’s a Trap: Review for Wild Seed #52Challenge”

Eyeballs in an I-84 Toilet: Evil at Heart #52Challenge

Evil at HeartEvil at Heart by Chelsea Cain
Rating: 5/5 stars
#52Challenge prompt: a mystery novel

Chelsea Cain’s Archie Sheridan and Gretchen Lowell novels are perfectly dark and twisty. Evil at Heart (#3) is no exception to this rule. In fact, this book may be the grossest and most over-the-top yet. Which is truly saying something.

This series follows Archie, an FBI detective who specializes in catching serial killers, and Gretchen, the first serial killer Archie caught. Spoilers: book three sees Gretchen on-the-run, having escaped prison in the previous novel, but still with her promise to Archie not to kill anyone.

Evil at Heart literally starts at a rest area on Oregon’s I-84 highway — pretty sure I’ve peed there — featuring a toilet clogged with a spleen (a Gretchen favorite), eight human eyeballs, and hearts drawn on the walls (usually Gretchen carves hearts in her victims’ chests). I was glad I hadn’t eaten anything. Continue reading “Eyeballs in an I-84 Toilet: Evil at Heart #52Challenge”

Gender Theory before Gender Theory: Woolf’s Orlando #52Challenge

OrlandoOrlando by Virginia Woolf
Rating: 4/5 stars
#52Challenge prompt: A novel that is considered classic

Virginia Woolf, where do we start? This is the third Woolf novel I’ve read. I place it in the middle, having adored Mrs. Dalloway and having struggled to read To the Lighthouse. Orlando is funny in ways those other books are not. It also features avenues of fantasy — namely Orlando’s ability to change genders at will and their extraordinary long life — that Woolf’s hyperrealistic other work doesn’t dare venture into.

(Arguably, Woolf wrote this for her girlfriend, Vita Sackville-West, and speculation is that she didn’t mean to have it published to the world. Woolf like realistic books. Orlando is not one.)

For the purpose of this review, if Orlando’s gender is specific, I will use those pronouns, and if unspecific, I will use “they.” Continue reading “Gender Theory before Gender Theory: Woolf’s Orlando #52Challenge”

A Cat Lady Named Alice in Wonderland: Book Review

Alice's Adventures in WonderlandAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Rating: 3/5 stars
Prompt: A childhood favorite #52Challenge

This was perhaps a bit of cheat when it comes to nature of the challenge. I’m not one to go back and reread books at the moment. (I have reread my three favorite childhood books as an adult.) Instead, I picked a book that I wanted to read, which I’d never read the proper version of. Of course, I’ve watched Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, the animated children’s movie from 1952, and read books based on that telling.

Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland reads like a surrealist novel for children. Or the beginnings of what would become fantastical surrealism. Carroll definitely foreshadows future literary techniques, but I’m still a little puzzled over Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’s continuing popularity, and I’d bet Disney has helped with that. Disney is certainly why I read it. Continue reading “A Cat Lady Named Alice in Wonderland: Book Review”

The questions of lesbian romance in The Price of Salt

The Price of SaltThe Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith
Rating: 4/5 stars

The Price of Salt asks a lot of questions:

  • What does lesbian romance look like?
  • Are there happy endings for queer relationships?
  • Do adult women still have romantic attraction to each other?
  • How do you know you’re attracted or in love with someone?
  • Can you be a grown up and queer?
  • Does romantic love formed before growing up or major life events continue after them? Or do we change so much to make it unstable?
  • Can femme and femme romance be a thing? Or do queer relationships need to mirror heteronormative gender roles?

Continue reading “The questions of lesbian romance in The Price of Salt”

Shit I Read in 2014 & Think You Should Read in 2015

If you haven’t already read them that is. 🙂

In 2014, I focused on reading books that I already owned, with the exception of new comics, and that were already sitting on my shelves. I bought less books than other years, and my shelves, like the melting ice caps, have migrated to even more books read. That was my small win.

Goodreads says that I read 96 books in 2014. I probably read more than that because I’ve been shit at tracking the new comics (when they finally come out in graphic novel format) that I’ve read. Not to mention, not all comics are collected in graphic novels.

Here’s some amazing stuff you should read too:


Lumberjanes Vol. 11. Lumberjanes Vol. 1
by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, and Brooke Allen

Genre: YA comics, Feminist comics, Holy Kittens
Recommended for: EVERYONE

This comic book filled my feminist heart with glee. I know, I rated a comic book number one, but yes, it is that good. Lumberjanes is about a group of teenage girls at camp, and they are — next to the Pawnee Goddess — my favorite group of fictional girl scouts. The girls come from diverse backgrounds, and they solve the supernatural mysteries of the camp with their unique skills and friendship.

Plus, Lumberjanes has catchy phrases like “Friendship to the max!” and “Holy bell hooks!” I do love a catch phrase. It’s pretty rare to see a book filled with girls, much less girls valued for their brains and brawn and who love and care deeply for each other. Lumberjanes reminded me of my very best times with my female friends.

In early 2014, Lumberjanes was the book pointed out by privileged comic book dudes to be ruining comic books for them. I’m pleased to say it lives up to its hype, and it’s done so well that Lumberjanes is now an on-going series, determined to ruin comics forever.


Sister Outsider2. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches
by Audre Lorde

Genre: Intersectional feminist essays, Quotable poets
Recommended for: EVERYONE (adults)

Why hadn’t I read this before now? The main question I kept asking myself over and over when reading Sister Outsider.

When I was a child, I spent lots of time in Catholic and Lutheran churches and around people who found great comfort in the Bible and its teachings. (Personally, it either bored, enraged, scared, or seemed like common sense to my younger self.) But if I had to pick text which moved, comforted, and expanded me in the same way, it would Sister Outsider. Continue reading “Shit I Read in 2014 & Think You Should Read in 2015”

G. Willow Wilson’s The Butterfly Mosque Book Review

Butterfly Mosque by G. Willow Wilson

I fell in love with G. Willow Wilson’s The Butterfly Mosque hard. Which seems like an odd thing to say about a memior, particularly one by someone still alive and who’s only a year older than myself. (Also we live in the same awesome city of Seattle.) Wilson’s memoir is about her conversion to Islam, about her marriage to an Egyptian man, and about forging her own identity as an American Muslim learning to live in Egypt and the Middle East in a post-9/11 world.

While Wilson and I live very different lives, I was drawn in by both the beauty and truth in The Butterfly Mosque and the telling of a story about building an identity that is different from the various ones prescribed by society — whether American, Muslim, or Egyptian, in this case — and standing up for what works for her. I highly relate to taking the path that works best for oneself instead of the easy road. And Wilson certainly does not take the easy path.

One thing that stood out in The Butterfly Mosque was Wilson’s warmth to her world and the people around her. This is a story about the creation and evolution of love and of family, as much as a story about her faith. Continue reading “G. Willow Wilson’s The Butterfly Mosque Book Review”

Book Review: Ink-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors by Jennifer K. Stuller

Ink-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors by Jennifer K. StullerInk-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors: Superwomen in Modern Mythology by Jennifer K. Stuller

Full disclaimer: I know Jen as she’s the programming director for GeekGirlCon. She’s awesome, makes delicious pizza, and has two adorable dogs, Giles and Wesley. Jen also has a blog you should read. However, she has in no way influenced or otherwise bribed me with puppy snuggles to write this review.

Back to the book, Ink-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors: Superwomen in Modern Mythology is about heroic women characters in modern media (1940’s to today) and what their stories say about our society and most importantly how our society views the roles of women and their potential. The book is very accessible and easy to read, even if you aren’t familiar with every movie, show, comic book, or novel which Stuller references. (There’s an appendix filled with footnotes and notes on characters and the author’s own recommended reading and viewing.) It’s definitely a geeky book as Stuller is very excited to share with you, the reader, about the media and super-powered women she loves.

But at the same time, Stuller is very much an academic feminist, who chooses instead of harshly critiquing the flaws in the media she discusses to celebrate the strengths and the good points. This is not a bad view to have. It is just different than my own; and at many times in my reading, I wanted to say, “But!” (I can love Buffy: the Vampire Slayer without particularly loving Joss Whedon, for instance.) That said, I still enjoyed her viewpoint, and I do cherish many of the texts she discusses despite their flaws.

In Section I, Ink-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors flows really nicely from one topic to the next, in both a chronological and evolutionary development of the woman hero. I absolutely agree that most of our modern superwoman mythology is thanks to Wonder Woman and those hard-working, ever iconic Rose the Riveters of WWII. Stuller does a great job at addressing the political climates of the different eras and the resulting heroines without passing judgments.

In Section II, Stuller covers what she calls the ‘Journey of the Female Hero.’ But I would rather say it’s actually about the hero’s family-structure as Stuller digs into how women heroes gain strength from those around them, e.g. Buffy and the Scoobies and Xena and her relationship with Gabrielle.

I particularly enjoyed the chapter about mothers. Mostly because I love texts where women characters have good and inspiring relationships with their mothers. And I do agree with Stuller that good mother-daughter relationships in heroics could use a few more texts.

In Section III, Stuller discusses current myth making by women creators and the question of where these texts are evolving too. This section was the least organized, and Stuller seemed to drift from topic-to-topic in a way that she previously did not. She also seemed to go back to some topics she’d already discussed, particularly journeys of heroic women and their mothers. And I can somewhat empathize with the task of trying to write history as it happens and not having the distance. I hope that Stuller can update this book as our female heroes grow.

Overall, as a pop culture fan, I enjoyed Ink-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors and would recommend it to anyone interested in how heroic women are portrayed in pop culture. This book would also make a great companion reader to a class about heroic women. I’m also happy that I got a few recommendations of texts to try myself that I hadn’t heard of like the British spy Modesty Blaise.

Read more about why your favorite female heroes are awesome, buy Ink-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors: Superwomen in Modern Mythology by Jennifer K. Stuller and support this blog. You can also check out Stuller’s geeky recommendation list, which features a lot of the media she covers in her book.

Life Advice of Sookie Stackhouse: Reviews Club Dead and Dead to the World

Life Advice of Sookie Stackhouse
Life Advice of Sookie Stackhouse
I did it. I read the next Sookie Stackhouse books, both Club Dead and Dead to the World. Yes, yes, despite my outrage at Living Dead in Dallas. My excuses went from already owning it to being sick and wanting to read something that didn’t tax my brain too much.

For those of you following me on Twitter, you might’ve noticed my #LifeAdviceofSookieStackhouse tag. As I read these novels, I couldn’t help but think Sookie was attempting to give me advice on life. Her advice ranged from fashion — mostly due to Harris’ obsession with detailing everyone’s outfits — to boyfriends — write it down when you get hurt due to them — and wisdom passed down from her grandma — situations were even grandma would swear. I find the idea of compiling all of Sookie’s advice, both good and bad, pretty hilarious.

Pearls of wisdom:

On friendship: When you dump a body together, that creates a bond.

On playing hostess: When hosting a vampire, he’ll love watching Buffy: the Vampire Slayer on tape.

On lust: If there was an international butt competition, Eric would win hands down — or cheeks up.

On fashion: Ash green tracksuits can be prim-but-sexy when accompanied by a bow in your hair & beaded sneakers.

On patriotism: Bad should be stopped; bad should be overcome. That’s the American model.

On feminism: A woman — any woman worth her salt — could do whatever she had to.

But getting back to the books: Spoilers ahoy Continue reading “Life Advice of Sookie Stackhouse: Reviews Club Dead and Dead to the World”

Homophobia in the Sookie Stackstackhouse Books and True Blood’s Response

I really thought my vampire thing was over. I read all Anne Rice’s books through middle school and high school. And I’ve been completely obsessed with Buffy: the Vampire Slayer and its spin-off Angel for years. Like let me sing you the musical, go out cosplaying, and attend fancons obsessive. Then my friend Gretchen insists I watch True Blood.

Both Charlaine Harris’ The Southern Vampire Mysteries books and the True Blood TV series have their flaws. They aren’t high literature by any means, and clearly fall into the category of beach-reading for the novels and trashy-TV for the show. The actors constantly drop their accents and Harris goes on and on about Sookie’s less-than-stylish outfits. And I’ve take to randomly calling out “Buuhill!” and “Ssucky” in mockery.

The first season of True Blood basically follows Dead Until Dark‘s plot. I whipped through the book knowing what was going to happen around every corner. Some of the little changes I liked better than others. When I got the second book, Living Dead in Dallas, I stumbled a bit with it, and likewise, I felt the second season stumbled. I’d been warned this was the weakest book in the series.

But what I couldn’t get over was the homophobia in Living Dead in Dallas. This book made me forever grateful for Alan Ball’s flimsy second season fixing the missteps the book took. Neither are gems, even in the vampire-porn genre, but True Blood‘s Season Two isn’t as offensive. Continue reading “Homophobia in the Sookie Stackstackhouse Books and True Blood’s Response”