Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Genevieve Valentine - Dealing With It

I read a blog post today that resonated with me so strongly that I just want to link it here and encourage basically everyone to read it. If you are on my wavelength with the various feminist-leaning posts I write, you'll grok this. If you're not, though, I encourage you to read anyway, since hopefully you'll get a better idea of what "microaggressions" are and why they're important.

Here's a teaser:
Background noise:
An offensive joke told by two men in front of you in line at the post office. “Bitch,” said about someone else. Loud phone calls on the street, as he hopes his fucking ex died or got fat. Women’s representation in any given movie. Hearing a woman’s spent too much money on her appearance. Reading that women who ask for raises are perceived as impossibly pushy, greedy. The man who asks why women wear makeup; he likes women to look natural. A guy saying something cutting to his date. Steubenville. Rihanna jokes. Reports about Charles Saatchi publicly strangling Nigella Lawson, calling it an argument. No one is looking at you, just now. You don’t have to say anything. You can give yourself the luxury of not responding. You can pretend.
Things you deal with:
A man touching your shoulder when you’re ahead of him in line, to nudge you forward. A man moving to stand in your spot in an otherwise-empty elevator. (The man who uses this opportunity to ask you a question he wouldn’t ask in public.) A man seeing you kneel to pick up a paperclip and saying, “A woman on her knees gives a man ideas.” A man shouting at his girlfriend as she looks around for help. A group of teenage boys catcalling on the street. “Bitch,” said about you. The offensive joke a male co-worker tells you. The male co-worker who repeats you and gets the credit. The man who won’t stop asking you if you want a drink. The man who ducks around the line to cut in front of you. “Smile, sweetheart.” The man at the rush-hour bus stop who asks every woman to look at a picture of his perineum. The man who says you’re too angry for him to take seriously; if you want him to listen, be calmer.
These are not the assaults, the beatings, the rapes. These are not the traumas. These are small things, mostly; they happen a hundred times a day, you have to deal with them all. To ignore these is to know they’re collecting little victories of privilege, and to wait for “baby” to turn to “bitch” when you don’t answer. To respond almost always risks escalation, telescoping the amount of time you’ll have to deal with it. Either can be dangerous, if the man has a mind.

And here's the link to the rest.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Book review: Shadow’s Claim by Kresley Cole

Goodreads: “Shadow’s Claim features Prince Trehan, a ruthless master assassin who will do anything to possess Bettina, his beautiful sorceress mate, even compete for her hand in a blood-sport tournament— to the death.”
This book was fucking silly, guys. I don’t know. It was the May (I think?) selection for the VF Hangout, and I was pretty excited for it, since I tend to enjoy paranormal romance (although I’m starting to wonder how much I really do like it, since most of the ones I’ve reviewed, I’ve panned?) Anyway, so we have Trehan, who is Dacian, which means he’s an Original vampire (stealing from TVD terminology here,) meaning he is of a pure bloodline and wasn’t a “turned” human. The Dacians have all of these strict rules about when and for what purpose they’re allowed to leave Dacia, but one of those times is when they’ve found their permanent mate. And they know they’ve met their mate when they get their first erection. No kidding! Because their hearts don’t beat and they’re not “blooded,” they can’t get a boner until someone makes their heart beat and gets the blood flowing and all that. No mention of how a Lady Dacian would react when blooded, probably because she’s supposed to wait around until a male Dacian points his wood in her direction, but I digress.

So Trehan meets Princess Bettina, and it’s less of a meet-cute than her thinking he’s someone else, which is a trope I would really love to see go away for a multitude of reasons. Anyway, he immediately recognizes her as his mate, and she’s not so convinced because she’s in love with someone else (OR SO SHE THINKS! NOT THAT YOU GET A CHOICE IN THIS, WOMAN!) So he enters a to-the-death contest put on by her guardians, and the prize is the crown, not to mention Bettina’s leash and vagina summoning charm, which is kind of what it sounds like: the winner can summon her at will.

Look: we all know where this is headed. It’s PNR. They’re going to fall in love and have sex, maybe or maybe not in that order, and he’s going to be dark and mysterious and she’s going to be plucky and deceptively smart. Bonus points for her — her hobby is making cool jewelry that doubles up as weaponry, which seems pretty badass and also kind of a handy thing for womenfolk to have. Ultimately this book gets two stars from me for being campy and entertaining, so it was too silly to merit an above-average score from me — even for the genre — but silly enough that it wasn’t dreadful and boring.

Book review: Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

Goodreads summary: “Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.
Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette’s intensifying allergy to Seattle—and people in general—has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence—creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter’s role in an absurd world.”

This book has been reviewed about a million times during the Cannonball, and it was, in fact, the numerous glowing reviews that encouraged me to pick it up. Several months on the library’s wait-list later, I was finally able to read the book and I was NOT disappointed!

Bernadette is full of characters, each uniquely realized, that leap off the page. For the most part, even the most flawed characters are amusing and likeable. I loved Bee, who is smart and challenging without being obnoxious or bratty; similarly, Bernadette herself is eccentric, naive to a fault, and occasionally petty, but never to the extent that you don’t sympathize with her.

The well-paced plot unfolded unpredictably, yet believably — though at first someone vanishing into thin air seems far-fetched, Semple keeps her finger well enough on the pulse of reality to offer plausible explanations for every twist and missed connection. The book was also, frankly, hilarious. Full of lighthearted satire that doesn’t veer into mean-spirited jibes, the narrative included laugh-out-loud takedowns of Pacific northwest intellectual bourgeoisie types. I don’t want to go on more than is necessary, because I feel like I'll just be babbling about how much I enjoyed this book. So read it!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Spring 2013 Playlist

I've been reconnecting with music in a major way lately. This sounds like a weird thing to say, if you've been following me or my blog for awhile, or if you know me in person, because music has always been something I've written about, and I go apeshit over things like Coachella.

But I think it's probably an accurate statement to say that for awhile, my interest in music had become kind of academic, in a way. While my personal emotions were dulled, my emotional connection to music had been dulled as well. There were still songs and artists I appreciated above others, but not because of relate-ability or a personal connection -- it was a purely auditory appreciation. Since I posted my winter playlist back in January, that shallow connection had started to change. I was feeling again, and feeling music again, which is why I was prompted to post that playlist in the first place: I wanted to share it because it actually felt like sharing myself.

So, here I am again, with a group of songs that I viscerally connected to in the group of months I'm loosely calling "spring," from about February though the end of May. These aren't all new songs, but for whatever reason, they were important to me during this time. Some may seem kind of silly ("Get Lucky", "Disappear") but then again, I'm pretty silly myself sometimes, so...

Please enjoy! If you're out there. And if you want to geek out and talk about any of these songs with me, you know I'm down.

Spring 2013 by Amanda Crow on Grooveshark

Friday, June 7, 2013

Book review: Poison Princess by Kresley Cole

Goodreads: Sixteen year old Evangeline “Evie” Greene leads a charmed life, until she begins experiencing horrifying hallucinations. When an apocalyptic event decimates her Louisiana hometown, Evie realizes her hallucinations were actually visions of the future—and they’re still happening. Fighting for her life and desperate for answers, she must turn to her wrong-side-of-the-bayou classmate: Jack Deveaux.
With his mile-long rap sheet, wicked grin, and bad attitude, Jack is like no boy Evie has ever known. Even though he once scorned her and everything she represented, he agrees to protect Evie on her quest. She knows she can’t totally depend on Jack. If he ever cast that wicked grin her way, could she possibly resist him?

As Jack and Evie race to find the source of her visions, they meet others who have gotten the same call. An ancient prophesy is being played out, and Evie is not the only one with special powers. A group of twenty-two teens has been chosen to reenact the ultimate battle between good and evil. But it’s not always clear who is on which side…

I’m going to plagiarize myself here, because I left a comment that ended up being a short review over on the Vaginal Fantasy discussion board for this book (yes, this was another VF selection.) So, here is that, slightly expanded:

This book was really problematic for me in a lot of ways. I had a really hard time getting behind the romance: I get it, they were lusty for each other, but otherwise they both treated each other pretty badly and I don’t understand why that’s supposed to be hot. Like, here is an actual quote from the male hero: “Hell, Evie, you’re probably the last girl on earth for me. Would it kill you to put out?”

I mean, *SWOON*, right?

For her part, Evie has a lot of icky class-based issues with regards to Jackson. She doesn’t explicitly express these thoughts to him, other than calling him “Cajun,” but she’s supposed to be one of the wealthier town residents before the apocalypse, and he’s very poor and wrong-side-of-the-bayou and all that, so despite her physical attraction to him, she initially views him as wrong for her just based on the money issue.

I also thought way too much of the book was spent recounting her high school angst in excruciating detail. At least a third of the book was spent in this retrospective, which is, specifically, the week leading up to the apocalypse (here it’s called the Flash.) Cole’s motivations, here, were probably two-fold. First, she needed to set up the relationship with Jackson, and how they were attracted to each other but ultimately “all wrong for each other” in the high school scenario. She also probably wanted to paint a picture of what Evie felt was her declining sanity, but I think all of that could have been done much more concisely. What I felt like we ended up with, as the reader, was a lot of obnoxious brand-name dropping and class-based snobbery to establish Evie’s queen-bee credentials, and a lot of contrived exposition about gothic drawings and Evie trying to re-assure her peers she is totally fine, didn’t just come out from the mental ward, etc.

I was irritated because Cole was working with such a cool idea here — kids/young adults having powers based on the Tarot, leading up to an epic battle — but I felt like she just threw out a bunch of post-apocalytic cliches at us in lieu of actual world-building. All at once, after the apocalypse, we find out that there are zombies for some reason, and that basically all men have gone rotten because there aren’t enough women, and there are cannibals, and we’re all supposed to go “Oh, okay, that sounds about right for the end of the world,” except that none of these things really make sense given the context of what actually happened during the apocalypse (solar flares maybe? parts of the earth scorched, people burned up immediately, no one really knows) and we’re not given any kind of explanation as to why they evolved. All of the time spent in the high school part could have been used toward fleshing out this new world.

I was, fortunately, reeled back in toward the end for spoilery reasons. I’m the kind of person that will put aside a lot of crap I don’t like if the plot is a page-turner, which, frankly, this was. So even considering all of my gripes above, I’d still be interested in picking up the sequel(s) because I’m still interested in how this story resolves itself. I can let go of my world-building issue, but I think that if Cole wants Jackson and Evie’s romance to be a main draw, she needs to put a lot of work into making these people more likeable as a couple, because right now, I have no patience for two people who snipe back and forth at each other so crassly but are supposed to be in love. I happened to catch a sneak peek of the cover for the sequel, and Evie is posing with a different guy (from my understanding, it’s the guy who represents Death in the Tarot.) So, love triangle! I’ve gotta say — the guy hasn’t even really been properly introduced yet, only hinted at, but I’m already kind of rooting for him, because I really don’t like Jackson at all. Anyway, I’d recommend this maybe for people who are like me: you don’t mind spending a few hours reading something that is ultimately fun, despite being pretty problematic.

2.5 stars

I salute this comment

I don't really get comments on this blog, so any one comment is a cause for celebration. A comment like this takes that celebration out of the range of "block party" and into "city-wide riot":
omg when i got this f*cking book from my professor who's a totally asshole i simply thought wtf
i've never ever read a title so stupid and tomorrow is my test so i'm dying fuckkkkk
adios biatchos
It was left on my review of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, a book which certainly could drive people to hardcore drugs, or, at the very least, 180-proof everclear. As I responded, I only wish I knew who it was that left this thing of beauty on my blog.

adios biatchos

Book review: Children of Scarabaeus by Sara Creasy

Goodreads: “Edie Sha’nim believes she and her bodyguard lover, Finn, could find refuge from the tyranny of the Crib empire by fleeing to the Fringe worlds. But Edie’s extraordinary cypherteck ability to manipulate the ecology of evolving planets makes her far too valuable for the empire to lose. Recaptured and forced to cooperate—or else she will watch Finn die—Edie is shocked to discover the Crib’s new breed of cypherteck: children. She cannot stand by while the oppressors enslave the innocent, nor can she resist the lure of Scarabaeus, the first world she tried to save, when researchers discover what appears to be an evolving intelligence.

But escape—for Edie, for Finn, and for the exploited young—will require the ultimate sacrifice … and a shocking act of rebellion.”

Someone mentioned on my Song of Scarabaeus review that the cover was pretty bad. It was, and this one is only a bit better, I think, partly because they didn’t attempt to include a cheesy tagline like “Never submit.” Anyway, I liked this sequel for a few reasons. The two books were plotted well: the first established an arc which would be continued in this, the sequel, but it also resolved a major first part of the story and didn’t end in a huge cliffhanger. There would have been loose ends, but it could have stood alone. The sequel actually could function similarly: the learning curve for the technical jargon in this universe would probably not be too different from how it functioned in the first book, and there was enough backstory provided throughout the book for the reader to — I believe — understand what’s going on. A lot of the time, authors try to solve the “sequel problem” by doing a “previously on…” style infodump toward the beginning. Creasy didn’t really do that here, to my recollection, but rather scattered the “previously” information where it was relevant. So the pacing was kept consistent, with a plot that picked up the mantle of the established arc and resolved it, while the conclusion tied back into the first novel in an unexpected way.

One of my complaints about the first book was that we didn’t get a lot of background on the universe itself — what exactly is the Crib? etc. Children of Scarabaeus mostly resolved that, with background on the war between the Crib and Fringe planets, and further insight into the political motivations behind the whole mission that Edie is involved with. So my world-building itch was scratched. The characterization remained fairly static, though the romance was sweet and finally came to fruition. It was nicely handled, I think, in that while their dedication to each other’s safety was a major concern throughout, the romance itself wasn’t heavy-handed and didn’t overpower the story; however it played an important role in the conclusion. So the sci-fi types get their mostly sci-fi story, and the romance types get their dramatic conclusion.

Overall, I think this was a nice duet of books, and a nice intersection between harder sci-fi and romance. It’s right up my alley, so I may be inherently biased by the genre, but for me the two were a fun read and a satisfying story.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The time I gave myself an eye infection for four hours

Touching and rubbing your eyes is one of those mostly involuntary things that we all do throughout the day even though we know we shouldn't. It's irritating, mechanically, to rub them; it's also dirty and you don't know what is on your hands that is getting in there. It's probably how we get sick, most of the time. We introduce who knows what virions right into their favorite vacation spots: mucous membranes.

It's especially good to exercise caution when you're doing as I was, which was handling raw chicken. I mean, I wasn't literally like "Here chicken, meet eye," but I am certain that at some point after mostly finishing the cooking process, but before washing my hands completely with soap and water, I did rub my left eye.

It didn't take too long -- probably about 40 minutes later, my eye started to hurt. If you have ever had an eye infection, pinkeye or whatever, you know what this feels like. It's not like a sharp "Ow, there's something in my eye" or like you've been poked. It's a dull ache, like a bruise, like how your eye might feel the day after it was punched. I started feeling that soreness along my lower eyelid, along with some telltale dampness.

Get up, peek in the mirror. Gasp. That asshole left eyeball of mine is noticeably redder and stickier than the right. "Well done, Amanda," I thought to myself. "You've gone and given yourself pinkeye, now you get to cross your fingers and hope that shit goes away before tomorrow." I took a page out of my lab safety handbook and decided to flush the shit out of my eye with water. I did it a couple times, making the sign of the cross, throwing salt around the room, waving burning sage in the air, and chanting in something I hope was Latin, trying exorcise the demon salmonella attempting to possess my eye.

The point of all of that is, it worked. Even before I went to bed, the soreness had gone, and when I woke up this morning, there was no trace of last night's carelessness. So the moral of the story is, once again, don't be me.