London's Gin Palace

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London's Gin Palace

Editado: Feb 24, 9:24pm

Hi folks, I'm London St. Juniper, the Gin Palace Special, and Your Illustrated Edition (she/her/Dr.)! I am a burlesque and sideshow performing, scholarship publishing, costuming making, modeling, comics reading, film watching, queer, atheist, cultural historian, and aerialist student, with a PhD in Victorian lit and gender studies. I am unenthusiastic about closing things (peanut butter jars, drawers, etc), and deeply dedicated to annoying my wife. I have no time or patience for book snobbery, and think everyone should read what makes them happy, whatever that may be - "Don't 'yuck' someone's 'yum'," as the saying goes!

I've been around LT since Jan. 2007 and around the 75ers since 2009, previously under a different name, but always with the same library. The more I float around social media the more I like it here.

I am pretty excited about this year because it is my first unfettered year: after defending my PhD in October of 2020 I am officially a (plague) doctor, and am no longer required to read anything. Ever. I likewise have no big projects on the horizon, which is a bit of a mixed blessing, but we'll see how the year unfolds. My own first book (a scholarly monograph on cosplay) will hopefully make it to market this spring.

I look forward to lurking and listing again in 2021.

***** A Favorite
**** Highly Recommended
*** A bit meh. Recommended for fans (of genre, of author, etc)
** Not Recommended
* I'm probably angry about it

Books Read in 2021
1. The Truth by Terry Pratchett, fantasy, January 8, 2020. *****
2. The Young Girl's Handbook of Good Manners, for Use in Educational Establishments by Pierre Louys, satire, January 2, 2021. **1/2
3. The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart, epic fantasy, unfinished, January 12, 2021. **1/2
4. Merciless by Bryan Smith, horror, January 16, 2021. **
5. The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow, fantasy, January 22, 2021. *****
6. Across the Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire, fantasy, January 17, 20201. **
7. The Ruthless Lady's Guide to Wizardry by C.M. Waggoner, fantasy, January 27, 2021. ****1/2
8. Uprooted by Naomi Novik, fantasy.

9. Goldenseal by Gil McKnight, romance, February 1, 2021. ***1/2
10. Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston, romance, February 2, 2021. *****
11. Ambereye by Gil McKnight, romance, February 3, 2021. ***1/2
12. Shards by Ian Rogers, horror, February 4, 2021. ****
13. The Midnight Hunt by L. L. Rand, romance, February 5, 2021. ***
14. Indigo Moon by Gil Mc Knight, romance, February 13, 2021. **
15. Club Paradise by Tim Meyer, horror, DNF, February 16, 2021
16. The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune, fantasy, February 17, 2021. ****
17. A Plain and Simple Heart by Lori Copeland and Virginia Smith, romance, February 20, 2021. ***1/2
18. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, scientific romance, February 21, 2021. *****
19. Sucker Punch by Laurell K. Hamilton, fantasy, February 24, 2021. *

Editado: Feb 21, 9:14pm

Films Watched in 2021
1. Wolf of Snow Hollow (2020) ****
2. Young Frankenstein (1974) *****
3. Blazing Saddles (1974) *****
4. Cabin in the Woods (2011) *****
5. The Exorcist (1973) *****
6. The Final Girls (2015) ****
7. Anna and the Apocalypse (2017) ***1/2
8. Evil Dead II (1987) ***1/2
9. Hubie Halloween (2020) ***1/2
10. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006) ****
11. Belzebuth (2019) ***
12. The Cell (2000)** Beautiful but stupid
13. Killers (2010) ***
14. Mr and Mrs Smith (2005) ****
15. House on Haunted Hill (1959) ****
16. Cooties (2014) ****
17. Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015) *****
18. Shaun of the Dead (2004) ****
19. It (2018) *****
20. Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) ***
21. Alien (1979) *** This ... is not a very good movie. I don't understand the hype, and found much of the plot/direction lazy or ineffective. Still, my new teenager loved it, and we watched it for him.
22. It: Chapter 2 (2019) *****
23. John Carpenter's Halloween (1978) ****
24. Hunted (2020) *** (This is a 2.5* movie with a +.5* ending)
25. Halloween (2018) *****
26. The Conjuring (2015) *** (A four-star movie hurt by a too-quick, action-movie style exorcism at the end)
27. Freaky (2020) *** (It's ... dumb. But Vince Vaughn as a teen girl is kinda funny, and there are some cute one-liners)
28. Hot Fuzz (2007) ***1/2
29. The Nice Guys (2016) ***1/2
30. The Bye Bye Man (2017) ***
31. The Craft: Legacy (2020) **1/2 Shockingly lazy writing. The story has some great bones, but lacks all nuance and development. What a terrible shame!
32. Final Girl (2015) ***1/2 This movie is stunning. It is stylish, well-designed, well-costumed, and perfectly lit. A twist on a revenge horror film done interestingly ... although not acted well
33. The Happytime Murders (2018) *** I liked this raunchy comedy best for what the use of puppets allowed them to do. The making-of shots at the end are a cherry on top - very clever.
34. Gosford Park (2001) ****
35. Little Monsters (2020) *****
36. The Conjuring 2 (2016) *** The best thing about this film is that I now have the inspiration to cosplay as The Crooked Man
37. Thunder Road (2018) *** Jim Cummings seems to be a great actor, but I've seen him play the exact same character twice. The one thing this film has going for it is that the plot is entirely unpredictable.
38. The Frighteners (1996) * This movie has nothing going for it
39. Hell House LLC (2015) **** Fun found-footage film
40. The Devil Wears Prada (2006) **** I love this film, even though everyone learns the wrong lessons

41. Black Christmas (2019) **** A solid film of the genre, made especially to engage PG13 audiences and encourage discussion of sexual assault.
42. Happy Death Day (2017) **** Fun and clever
43. Happy Death Day 2 U (2019) ** Lacking all the cleverness of the first, this film started with promise and then became another boring time travel movie.
44. The Blair Witch Project (1999) ** I can understand why this was such an event in 1999, but in 2021 I found it exceptionally boring, and am very disappointed it had nothing to do with a myth of a witch
45. The Darkness (2016) * Wow, that's racist. A wealthy white family are attacked by Native American spirits after being freed by their autistic son. Hispanic women are called in to save them. White man is heroic.
46. Willy's Wonderland (2021) ***** This movie was everything I wanted it to be. I had no idea Cage could act so well.
47. Dodgeball (2004) ***
48. A Mighty Wind (2003) *** Well, it was fun until the transphobia of the last five minutes.
49. Shrew's Nest (2014) ***1/2
50. The Informant! (2009) ***1/2
51. Legally Blonde (2001) ****
52. Legally Blonde II (2003) **
53. Dead Snow (2009) **** This is clearly not an American film
54. (2000) **
55. Train to Busan (2016) *****
56. National Treasure (2004) ***1/2 Solid family movie night

To Watch List
Saint Maud
Bad Hair
Promising Young Woman

Editado: Ene 24, 10:29am

List of Links

Books Read in 2020(75 Books. Major Events: Global Pandemic; finished my PhD; writing two book chapters and my first book)
What did I read in 2018 and 2019? I never wrote it down... (Major life events: Passing my prospectus defense; death of my best friend; divorcing my family)
Books Read in 2017 (75 Books. Major Events: death of my grandmother; bringing home a third poodle; beginning to perform; remarrying my wife)
Books Read in 2016 (108 Books. Major Events: Completed PhD coursework; passed PhD exams)
Books Read in 2015 (75 Books. Major Events: Four semesters of PhD coursework (spring, two summer, fall); published two reviews, spoke and organized at two conferences; bought a house)
Books Read in 2014 (96 Books. Major Events: First two semesters of PhD coursework; published three papers, two reviews, spoke at two conferences, and organized two conference panels)
Books Read in 2013 (87 Books. Major Events: Published two papers!)
Books Read in 2012 (81 Books. Major Events: New - additional - Teaching Position, Moving, Surgery)
Books Read in 2011 (101 Books. Major Events: Birth of Third Monster, Poor health and a death in the family)
Books Read in 2010 (100 Books. Major Event: Second Adjunct Position Obtained)
Books Read in 2009 (145 Books. Major Event: Birth of Second Monster)
Books Read in 2008 (61 Books. Major Events: Birth of First Monster, First Adjunct Position Obtained)
Books Read in 2007 (85 Books. Major Event: Finished my MA in English Lit)

Dic 28, 2020, 3:55pm

Welcome back! Glad life is more free now.

Dic 28, 2020, 7:13pm

Well hello- I just realised that there is a whole lotta action here on the 2021 threads, and there I was hanging out in 2020 still.... sheesh.

Your major events lists are so brief for what they must entail! I have questions, but they can wait. It must be nice to be able to call yourself Dr, if you chose, and, a book in the wings! Cool.

Happy reading, and see you round :)

Dic 28, 2020, 8:25pm

Welcome back.

Dic 28, 2020, 9:36pm

Enjoy your 2021 reading!

Dic 29, 2020, 12:04pm

>4 drneutron: Thanks for launching us once again!

>5 LovingLit: Lol, life is always full. I like to list major events to keep my reading time in perspective.

>6 PaulCranswick: Thanks, and you too!

>7 thornton37814: The same to you!

Dic 29, 2020, 5:48pm

And here I shall remain. *smooch*

Dic 29, 2020, 11:28pm

>9 richardderus: Welcome, welcome!

Dic 31, 2020, 6:17am

Best wishes for a better 2021!

Dic 31, 2020, 9:39am

>11 DianaNL: To you as well!

Dic 31, 2020, 1:03pm

It's only 1pm here on December 31, but I'm ready to jump threads and settle into my new digs.

I've just completed my last task of 2020 - submitting an abstract for a chapter I'd love to write, for an edited volume that sounds fascinating. Fingers crossed, because this chapter would be so much fun to write, and would keep my foot in the Victorianist door, as the rest of my forthcoming research is on comics and cosplay...

Dic 31, 2020, 3:22pm

Hi, missed your thread for most of 2020 but will try to do better this year. Congratulations on all your academic and publishing achievements.

Dic 31, 2020, 6:44pm

Happy reading in 2021!

Ene 1, 12:58am

Happy to see you back, London! Wishing you a year full of excellent reads!

Ene 1, 1:25am

And keep up with my friends here, London. Have a great 2021.

Ene 4, 8:55am

>14 avatiakh: Great to see you! Happy new year!

>15 FAMeulstee: To you, too!

>16 MickyFine: Thank you, and you too!

>17 PaulCranswick: Oh, I like that list, and wish you the same.

Today it's back to business for the Monster household. The kids are logged into school, my wife is logged into work, I am building a brand-new syllabus for my spring class, and ... today is puppy day!

Ene 4, 10:28am

Well that's a tease! Is puppy coming home? Coming for a visit? Hoping there's photos at the very least.

Ene 4, 10:37am

Woot for puppy day!!

I sent out a Welcome to Mythology email to one class today, but that's all I plan to do until Day One of classes (Jan 20 for me).

Editado: Ene 5, 5:22pm

>19 MickyFine: Oh man, was it a day. The drive was nearly two hours each way, plus my social anxiety dialed to 11 and discovering they are mask-deniers (but not COVID deniers? Because they kept distance and sanitized hands but ... didn't wear masks). By the time I got home and my anxiety settled I was bottomed out ... and busy snuggling my new baby. She's an absolute delight. At 14 weeks she is perky and social and loves all laps and is vaguely cautious about the poodles on the other side of the baby gate and misses me as soon as I leave the room and dances when I come back. We are all of us enamored.

Introducing Miss Harvey Dent, Esq.
(Link to photo on my IG. I was about to offer a CW about my IG, but I haven't performed in a year thanks to the pandemic, so there are no show photos to warn about

>20 scaifea: We go back the day before, and as I work to further decolonize my syllabi that means I have a lot of reading to finish and a syllabus to polish. I'm super excited about a lot of my new material, though, so I'm looking forward to getting back to work. I'm not excited about going back before vaccines.

Ene 6, 7:29am

Stopping by to say Happy New Year and congratulations on the new puppy addition!

Ene 6, 9:18am

I'm not excited about going back before vaccines.

I don't blame you one bit. I'll be thinking of you, friend. And please give that puppy a cuddle for me!

Ene 6, 10:05am

Oh she's precious! Enjoy all the puppy snuggles!

Ene 6, 11:59am

>22 jayde1599: Thank you, and you too!

>23 scaifea: I'm holding out hope that they'll change their minds, but received notification today that even planning time is supposed to be done on campus this year, so ... we'll see. And I will!

>24 MickyFine: Thank you!

Editado: Ene 8, 6:59pm

Title: The Truth
Author: Terry Pratchett
Pages: 448
Date Finished: January 8, 2021
Recommended by: A favorite for years
Rating: *****
Quoted Synopsis: The denizens of Ankh-Morpork fancy they've seen just about everything. But then comes the Ankh-Morpork Times, struggling scribe William de Worde's upper-crust newsletter turned Discworld's first paper of record.

An ethical journalist, de Worde has a proclivity for investigating stories—a nasty habit that soon creates powerful enemies eager to stop his presses. And what better way than to start the Inquirer, a titillating (well, what else would it be?) tabloid that conveniently interchanges what's real for what sells.

But de Worde's got an inside line on the hot story concerning Ankh-Morpork's leading patrician, Lord Vetinari. The facts say Vetinari is guilty. But as William de Worde learns, facts don't always tell the whole story. There's that pesky little thing called . . . the truth.

Review: The Truth was the first Pratchett book I read, and the reason i fell in love with Discworld novels as a whole. Less interested in fantasy, I love Pratchett for his biting satire, his unapologetic liberalism, and thus his well-meaning humanity. Given the repugnant start to the year here in the US, it was both a comfort to read an author whose work reflects my own values, and a particular interest to read a novel about an attempted coup of a moderate regime by a conservative minority who wrap their bigotry in righteousness.

Ene 9, 1:55pm

>21 London_StJ: Miss Harvey is adorable!

Ene 10, 12:46pm

>27 FAMeulstee: Thank you! The whole household is enamored. The kids spend hours in the kitchen playing with the puppy, and I cuddle her as much as possible. I am especially giddy over how much my wife loves her. My wife grew up with cats and not dogs, but desperately loves fluffy animals. We now have a cuteness meme living with us, and she is obsessed in a way usually reserved for kittens. It's the best.

I've decided to convert my shop IG to a pet IG, so I'll be posting future Harvey (and poodle) pictures here.

Ene 11, 5:53am

>28 London_StJ: Glad everyone has fallen in love with Miss Harvey.

Following you at IG now.
I have no smartphone, so I can't use IG myself. I only have an account to follow others.

Ene 11, 8:21pm


With 100 pages to go in The House in the Cerulean Sea my library loan ended, and the book closed. Blast! So now I'm left trying to decide if I want to give Amazon $12 for the privilege of reading those 100 pages ($12 is far too much money for an electronic book, imo), of if I want to wait the month until I come around on the reservation again (I'm #33 of 14 available copies).

That's what I get for sitting on it until now. Harumph.

In better news, I heard more about my book today. The publisher sent me the notes from the series editor, who is my final peer reviewer and last approval stamper. He loved me! He really loved me! Or, more concretely, he very much liked my book and thinks it's a valuable contribution to the field, which is far better than love. He called it "engaging and well-written," and says he liked it a lot. I didn't realize how worried I was about the radio silence over the holidays until I got this email today. I care so much about this research, and I'm as excited as a six-year-old to get it out there.

I'm also excited about two chapters I've had accepted, and hope to see published in 2021-2022. The first is another chapter on cosplay, different from earlier research but similar to my dissertation, and the other is an examination of non-binary identity in a Victorian novel. They're going to be such fun. And my previously-finished chapters should see print in 2021 as well - one on cosplay, one on comics and censorship.

I love what I do. I hope I can make a career out of it someday.

>29 FAMeulstee: I just saw your notification! I hope the pups bring you joy. :)

Ene 12, 1:26pm

I have six books in various stages of reading, and no new review to post, but I have had a productive morning. Today I taught my first-born to shave (much to his joy and relief), and I finished and posted my spring syllabus.

I've been working to decolonize my syllabi, and expand my literature selections, and this spring that means ditching We Have Always Lived in the Castle, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and The Island of Dr. Moreau in favor of The Empress of Salt and Fortune, The Curious Tale of Mandogi's Ghost, and Frankenstein in Baghdad. I'm also going to try out some spoken-word poetry, negating the underrepresentation in publishing in favor of performance and message. This allows me to include a wonderful range of voices literally writing about gender, depression, sexuality, agency, eating disorders, and racism.

I have been listening to "Bitches" by Melissa Lozada-Olivia over and over again. I love it.

I'll teach a unit on
Frankenstein with the original, the adaptation by Grim Grisly, and Saadawi. Vo and Kim will contribute to my unit on heroes, which still includes Beowulf (Heaney, although I have Maria Dahvana Headley on my shelf and hope to introduce some of her work) and The Hobbit. And I love teaching Sappho in my poetry unit.

It's good to have planning out of the way, so I can squeeze in some writing time before any grading hits me. It's been a little too nice to have no responsibilities these last few weeks...

Ene 12, 5:20pm

Oh man, my Broadview Press order just arrived, and along with the edition of Frankenstein I'll be teaching this spring I have A Marriage Below Zero, the "first novel in English to explicitly explore the subject of male homosexuality," Are They Women? A Novel Concerning the Third Sex, "a crucial document of lesbian history" which "captures a moment in time when women who loved women first had the freedom to live as they wished and a name that gave them an identity," and The Library Window, a ghost story.

Ene 15, 6:35pm

Title: The Young Girl's Handbook of Good Manners, for Use in Educational Establishments
Author: Pierre Louys
Pages: 60
Date Finished: January 2, 2021
Recommended by: A gift
Rating: **1/2
Quoted Synopsis: it has become clear that Louÿs is the greatest French writer of erotica there ever was. The Young Girl's Handbook of Good Manners was the first of his erotic manuscripts to see publication, and it also remains his most outrageous--an erotic classic in which humor takes precedence over arousal. By means of shockingly filthy advice--ostensibly offered "for use in educational establishments"--couched in a hilariously parodic admonitory tone, Louÿs turns late-nineteenth-century manners roundly on their head, with ass prominently skyward. Whether offering rules for etiquette in church, school or home, or outlining a girl's duties toward family, neighbor or God, Louÿs manages to mock every institution and leave no taboo unsullied. The Young Girl's Handbook of Good Manners has only grown more scandalous and subversive since its first appearance in 1926.

Review: My rating is reflective of my enjoyment of the book, and not my opinion on its existence or publication. Louys' Handbook is confrontational in its instruction, satirizing manners, institutions, and even gender through the blatant and excessive sexualization of the young girls purported to be his "audience" (clearly not, of course). I appreciate that it's filthy, I appreciate the mockery of institutions, and I appreciate the nod to the absurdity of gendered lessons in manners and expected behaviors. But....

But ...

I am not comfortable reading graphic sexual material featuring children, even in satire. It left me feeling deeply, deeply uncomfortable. I will say that this is likely an impact of my own maternity; had I read this book before having children I would have instead considered the satirization of my own childhood, and taken more interest. But given what it is, and who I am, I find myself missing the forest for the trees, because I can't stomach these trees. Still, I am glad for the gift of the book, and glad to have it on my shelf, as I think it's an interesting historical object, and could see it being a research object one day.

Ene 15, 6:44pm

Title: The Bone Shard Daughter
Author: Andrea Stewart
Pages: 80/448
Date Finished: January 12, 2021
Recommended by:
Rating: **1/2
Quoted Synopsis: The emperor's reign has lasted for decades, his mastery of bone shard magic powering the animal-like constructs that maintain law and order. But now his rule is failing, and revolution is sweeping across the Empire's many islands.
Lin is the emperor's daughter and spends her days trapped in a palace of locked doors and dark secrets. When her father refuses to recognise her as heir to the throne, she vows to prove her worth by mastering the forbidden art of bone shard magic.
Yet such power carries a great cost, and when the revolution reaches the gates of the palace, Lin must decide how far she is willing to go to claim her birthright - and save her people.

Review: The Bone Shard Daughter is perfectly well written, and promises a complex epic adventure, but I just ... didn't care. The novel begins by introducing three different adventures operating within a world in political and literal turmoil, with a major conflict surrounding bone shards, their use, and their ... reaping. While I was pleased to see the introduction of a queer coupling as normal and not othered, it wasn't enough to keep my interest. That said, I can see why this book has received such positive attention, and would be willing to suggest that fans of epic fantasies would likely enjoy this immensely.

Ene 15, 6:52pm

Currently Reading

Across the Green Grass Fields
The Once and Future Witches
The Empress of Salt and Fortune
The Curious Tale of Mandogi’s Ghost

Today my meds really did their work, because I had the mental energy to catch up on the housewifery that's been difficult in recent weeks: I bathed and dried all three standard poodles, vacuumed, dusted, cleaned bathrooms, and mopped. I even had the bandwidth to bake cookies this evening! and now I'm ready to tuck in and watch movies with my lady.

In other news, I changed the puppy's name. "Harvey Dent" wasn't really clicking for me, so I went back to what was my first choice before I even knew I was getting a puppy: Lucifer. More specifically, I've named her Lucifer Lollipop Louisette.

Lu! Lulu! Lu Lolly! It makes me smile every time. I love it so much more.

Ene 16, 9:15am

Aw, Lucifer is a great name!

Ene 16, 11:04am

>36 scaifea: Thank you! It fits so well

Ene 16, 11:28am

Lucifer tends to be my favorite character in everything he ever shows up in (Bible included), so I'm all for it!

Ene 16, 5:26pm

Title: Merciless
Author: Bryan Smith
Pages: 186
Date Finished: January 16, 2021
Recommended by: Nightworms Subscription Book
Rating: **
Quoted Synopsis: Psycho newlyweds Grant and Lindsey Weatherby are true crime junkies with a thirst to know what it feels like to kill for real. Young, prosperous, and good-looking, they are seen by friends and family as the perfect couple. No one sees the dark side to their love. After their wedding, they embark on a trip across the country. As their honeymoon gift to each other, they plan to abduct, torture, and kill a stranger. But what was planned as a controlled one-time event soon explodes into a spiraling orgy of bloody, nightmarish violence and depravity.

Review: For transparency I think it's important to state that I am not a fan of torture porn, the sub-genre of horror which involves the violent and explicit torture of people, often by human (and not supernatural) protagonists. The Saw franchise is probably the most readily recognizable example of this genre.

From the first I recognized this was going to be a torture porn novel; the synopsis essentially describes the novel as a Natural Born Killers/Ken and Barbie Killers (Karla Homolka and her husband, Paul Bernardo). Still, I was willing to give it a full shot, thinking that the author may surprise me.

He did not.

The plot is predictable, and the characterization of Lindsey Weatherby is especially lazy and boring. (I suspect that she may be an attempt to give villainous agency to a femme protagonist in the genre, but I found it to be shallow and robotic, and thus unsuccessful.) Wealthy white people have been killing, torturing, dehumanizing, and otherwise assaulting other people - especially at-risk populations - for ... ever. What's more, the writing itself is of particularly poor quality, from clumsy descriptive passages to awkward and unbelievable (and repetitive) internal dialogues. The writing style suggests a very new author, for which I was inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt and suggest they may improve with time. However, I've since discovered that this book is Smith's eighth or ninth published novel/novella.

For fans of the genre, I will say that I believe the book to be generically sound - it ticks all of the expected boxes. As I am likely to be more forgiving of lesser-quality writing within my more favored genres, so too I think that fans of torture porn may enjoy this book far more than I did.

Ene 16, 5:34pm

>38 scaifea: Of COURSE he is! That "Milton is of the devil's part" just makes so much sense.

I admit that her light fur reminds me a bit of the Supernatural character, lol.

Ene 17, 9:52am

The SPN Lucifer is my very favorite Lucifer! So funny.

Ene 17, 10:08am

>41 scaifea: Ugh, he was so charismatic and fun. I really liked that story arc.

Ene 17, 10:15am

>42 London_StJ: I think my favorite bit was when he was Hallucifer in poor Sammy's head.

Ene 17, 10:40am

>43 scaifea: Yes! I completely agree.

We spent the early part of the pandemic binging several seasons of the show. We stopped watching around the time Dean came back from purgatory, so we missed the hullabaloo over the show finale. But Lucifer is totally my favorite character from the show.

Ene 17, 10:44am

>44 London_StJ: Ooooh, the finale. What an absolute shitshow. I highly recommend every other episode, but I would absolutely suggest never ever EVER watching that last one. Ever.

Ene 17, 10:52am

>39 London_StJ: Oh dear. Just...not good. I've started gang-reviewing books on my blog, ones I like-not-love or do NOT like...and it is so much easier to do than what I've been aiming for til now. "Doing justice" to a book in a review is something I've decided to reserve for the most interesting-to-me needs.

A frothy holiday romance that takes me three weeks to finish? That needed exploring. Frothy holiday romance finished in three hours? "If you like the genre, here's you a book."

Anyway, not that you asked, but here's to hoping you have a delightful Sunday with the family.

Ene 18, 9:17am

>46 richardderus: I have a hard time reviewing books because it so often feels repetitive. Critical reviews are easier for me to write than lukewarm reviews, because I
know exactly why I dislike something.

And we did have a delightful Sunday, thank you. :) First Born will be 13 on Tuesday, and we gave him his big present early (a PS4) because he can't have video games during the week until his grades improve. We wanted him to enjoy his present for more than an hour on his birthday proper. And then the wife and I watched the new It for the first time, much to our mutual enjoyment. I hope you, too, enjoyed your Sunday!

>45 scaifea: Haahahahaha, ok, noted - no need to watch the end.

Ene 18, 9:28am

Oh, I don't think I've shared this here, but I found it very interesting. I came across a scholarly article on House of Leaves, a novel I wildly loved when I was 18 and have heard soundly bashed by every femme reader I met in my 20s. I keep meaning to go back to it at some point. But I loved what Danielewski had to say about the novel in this article:

“Two decades on, Danielewski sees his relationship with his first book as that of a slightly distant parent. 'Look at it this way,' he says, 'House of Leaves is a kid. I’m that kid’s dad. By now my kid has made a lot of friends, forged close ties, has a multitude of personal relationships I know nothing about. Now and then, my kid’s friends think it’s cool to meet the dad, but they don’t want the dad hanging around for too long, they’re not friends with the dad, they’re friends with my kid.'”

I find this to be a rather .... healthy ... way of relating to literary output, especially the further one gets from its creation. Frankly, I like what Danielewski says, and it makes me respect him more than I did after reading Only Revolutions. Cultural products take on significance and meaning and value far beyond the author, but many (*cough*JKTerf*cough*) try to retain dictatorial control over what they've done. I always teach that what an author intends has little to no value once a work has been published and read and otherwise consumed by audiences: if they've done it well, it'll be obvious. If it's not clear to the reader, then it wasn't done well, and the audience's readings/analyses are more legitimate than authors trying to correct course. This quote seems to acknowledge just that - that House of Leaves matters more to its readers than Mark Z. Danielewski, and he's comfortable with that. I dig it.

Ene 18, 9:38am

>48 London_StJ: Woot! *waves Team Reader Response flag*

Editado: Ene 18, 9:50am

>49 scaifea: Huzzah!

I should clarify that the article I quoted is not the scholarly article I read; the Guardian article was suggested as offering a good synopsis of the novel for those who haven't read it.

Ene 18, 9:52am

>50 London_StJ: I read it a couple of years ago and both loved it and was annoyed with it, but overall was impressed.

Ene 18, 10:10am

>51 scaifea: It was a fun book to read as I started my undergraduate lit degree, because I caught more and more literary allusions as the semester got under way. I liked the artistic project of text that reflects content, although I don't think it's sustainable (and it's certainly not original - Tristram Shandy was trying it in the 18th century). Now, I wonder how I'd feel about the characters.

Ene 18, 10:02pm

>30 London_StJ: Congrats on the book's proceeding. That is very exciting :) Also, I'd be interested to read more about non-binary representation in Victorian literature. Not that I read much Victorian literature, but, hey, we're on this earth to learn, right?

>38 scaifea: lol!!!

>48 London_StJ: I have not heard of that book, but a quick google tells me that I will have trouble reading it because of the font-swapping :) (*oh my eyes*). Love your point about authors not having licence to control how their works are received/read/talked about once they let their books into the world. Probably that is a major part of how scary it must feel to publish something!

Ene 20, 3:41pm

>53 LovingLit: I'm really excited to see what else is going to be included in this volume - the call had a lot of queer potential, and I think it has a lot of promise. I'll be happy to share my own thoughts as I have them. ;) I wrote about the Beetle for my dissertation, but a discrepancy in research has inspired me to push it further - specifically, the misgendering/naming of the character, as scholars argue for names and pronouns not used in the original boo. Also of interest to my chapter is nonbinary sexuality.

I'm so excited.

And House of Leaves is a bit of a multimodal art project of a book, which I think makes it inaccessible for a large number of readers. :-/

In other news, I'm back to work, and my students kicked ass today. In the midst of my early "any general questions?" opening one student asked "are we going to discuss last night's readings? Because I have questions..." and they didn't stop for the whole class. I heard so many voices, and everyone was so thoughtful and engaged. It's a damn promising start to the semester.

Ene 20, 4:08pm

Glad to hear you had such a great class, London. I hope the engagement continues throughout the term.

Ene 21, 8:16am

Yay for good classes! Mine went really well for a first day, too. The Myth kiddos seem just as engaged as yours, with all sorts of good questions and an eagerness to discuss. Sweet music.

Ene 21, 8:54am

>55 MickyFine: Thanks, Micky! It's encouraging, especially given the circumstances - online, in the middle of a pandemic. Distance engagement can be difficult even for students who choose virtual learning.

>56 scaifea: That's wonderful! I just opened my email to find that all of my students have submitted Friday's homework early, which lets me grade today and earn a free weekend. This is fairly unprecedented, but I'm not going to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Now that work and schedules are back I have to spend less time playing Pikmin and more time completing tasks and running errands. Today I need to go to campus to get my parking pass, and drop off a return package. For the second day in a row the cards have chastised me for procrastination, so I'm going to try to push through my final book edits, and get them in before something else distracting happens. Plus, maybe, a job application? We'll see...

Ene 21, 9:16am

All of them...EARLY?! What are you putting in the water over there? Honestly.

Good luck with that To Do list!

Ene 22, 9:28am

>58 scaifea: I remain shocked, and I'm looking forward to today's class.

This morning I finished one of the four books I am actively reading!

Title: The Once and Future Witches
Author: Alix E. Harrow
Pages: 517
Date Finished: January 22, 2021
Recommended by:
Rating: *****
Quoted Synopsis: In 1893, there's no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.

But when the Eastwood sisters--James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna--join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten words and ways that might turn the women's movement into the witch's movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote-and perhaps not even to live-the sisters will need to delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.

There's no such thing as witches. But there will be.

Review: The Once and Future Witches is a gender-bending fantasy of alternative history in which women have, lose, and regain power through words and community and will. It is everything I wanted Witches of New York to be, and found missing: a character is not subtly and quietly queer, but unabashedly so; power is sought and claimed and exercised; there is community and agency and a new way. The novel addresses puritanical American culture, literary history, gender, race, marriage, domestic abuse, pregnancy and childbirth, plagues, women's work, and knowledge. It is rich and engaging, and I highly recommend it.

Ene 22, 9:45am

a character is not subtly and quietly queer, but unabashedly so

Woot! Adding that one to the list.

Ene 22, 11:04am

>60 scaifea: I think you'll love it!

Ene 22, 11:07am

Ene 24, 10:23am

Title: Across the Green Grass Fields
Author: Seanan McGuire
Pages: 126/256
Date Finished: Abandoned January 17, 2021
Recommended by:
Rating: **
Quoted Synopsis: “Welcome to the Hooflands. We’re happy to have you, even if you being here means something’s coming.”

Regan loves, and is loved, though her school-friend situation has become complicated, of late.

When she suddenly finds herself thrust through a doorway that asks her to "Be Sure" before swallowing her whole, Regan must learn to live in a world filled with centaurs, kelpies, and other magical equines―a world that expects its human visitors to step up and be heroes.

But after embracing her time with the herd, Regan discovers that not all forms of heroism are equal, and not all quests are as they seem…

Review: I've given over this one because I find it more alienating than engaging.

Representation matters. It is important to represent a spectrum of identities in our cultural products, and meaningful to both people being represented and the community as a whole in recognition of the complexity of humanity. So, on that level, I am always excited to see underrepresented identities take center stage in books and shows and movies. But for Seanan McGuire's Wayward Children series representation has become less about the people being represented and more of a Pokemon "gotta catch 'em all" game that ultimately does a disservice.

For transparency, I write this as a white, cis, lesbian; my "otherness" is probably the second-most represented in popular media, second only to white gay men. As a mother of trans and nonbinary children I can speak only roughly of their experiences, because they are not my experiences. I am not intersex, as the protagonist of Across the Green Grass Fields, and would not want to speak for the intersex reader who may find this book and experience joy in seeing their truth represented. But. From an outsider's perspective, McGuire's characterization of Regan is critically othering: the identity of the protagonist is ancillary to her story, and at the halfway point the book has shown a barely-wikipedia level of understanding of intersex identities and experiences, and the identity is used only to humiliate and expel Regan from the world of her birth and into the fantasy world she discovers beyond her door. Perhaps the point is to be that the character does not think philosophically about her own existence - she is after all a child living the life she knows. But the representation feels ... cheap.

More concretely, though, I find myself rejecting the premise of the series as further othering the young characters. By creating a world in which trans boys and fat girls and queer twins do not "belong" in the world of their birth McGuire is reinforcing the idea that they don't and can't belong. The books romanticize this othering, perhaps, in giving the characters fantastic adventures, but it upholds the critical concept that they will never feel right - or be respected - in the world of their birth. This is tragic, and a bit heartbreaking, especially as these characters are routinely expelled from their preferred lives and forced to live even more alienated in the "normal" world.

I was dissatisfied a book or two ago, and I'm ready to give this series up.

Ene 24, 10:51am

Oh ugh. That's disappointing. It feels like getting that representation just right is a tightrope walk between making the otherness the focal point of the plot (okay, fine, but we should be moving beyond this now) and creating 'othered' characters as simply characters in the story and their otherness is NBD (yay! when done properly), all while not (un)intentionally furthering the outsideriness. It's too bad that McGuire falls short, because when it's done well, it's brilliant.

Ene 24, 2:59pm

I think having seen McGuire do much better with representation, and currently reading/having just read books that likewise offer natural and compelling representation, draws it into much greater focus. I think what I'm gravitating towards is a need for Own Voices authorship.

Ene 26, 8:45am

Well, last night I submitted the "final" content edits of my book manuscript to my editor, so the publishing train is chugging once again. I am buoyed by the series editor's positive response, but as soon as I hit "send" I began to worry I missed an opportunity for something...

I am so invested in this work. I just .... people matter.

On an entirely different note, I am scheduled to take my first-ever horseback riding lesson today. I have wanted to learn for awhile, and I really, really need to get out of my house before my social anxiety climbs to the point where I really can't leave any longer. I think a masked private riding lesson out in the open is a lot safer than circus school (although damn do I miss aerials).

Ene 26, 8:52am

Good luck with the riding lesson and have fun! I grew up with horses and was riding before walking, but I never actually cottoned to it like my dad and my sister.

Ene 26, 9:20am

Thank you! My best friend rode, often went horse camping, and was a member of a mounted search and rescue team. I've only ever been trail riding twice, both times on her horse, but I miss her and think it'll be cathartic to try.

Ene 26, 3:45pm

>66 London_StJ: Good luck with both manuscript and horse!

Ene 26, 4:06pm

>69 PaulCranswick: Thank you!

Riding was so, so fun. And ridiculous, because learning something new as a thirty-something always makes me feel a bit foolish (but not foolish enough to not try). I've signed up for a month of lessons, and if there's ever an "after times" I may stick with trapeze and horseback riding, and give over aerial silks classes.

Rusty was like a giant dog and I loved him.

Ene 26, 5:09pm

>70 London_StJ: Glad you had a good first riding lesson, London, and that you love your new horse pal.

I was obsessed with horses as a kid (read TONS of Saddle Club books) but then rode an actual horse, was terrified by the experience, and my horse phase ended. Hope you and Rusty have a long friendship!

Editado: Ene 27, 8:31am

>71 MickyFine: Oh no! I'm so sorry! Had I met a horse as a young person I think my experience would have been the same. They are, after all, giant beasts. Middle Child is hoping my new enthusiasm will lead to riding lessons for them, but they're far braver than I have ever been.

Title: The Ruthless Lady's Guide to Wizardry
Author: C. M. Waggoner
Pages: 371
Date Finished: January 27, 2021
Recommended by:
Rating: ****1/2
Quoted Synopsis: Dellaria Wells, petty con artist, occasional thief, and partly educated fire witch, is behind on her rent in the city of Leiscourt—again. Then she sees the “wanted” sign, seeking Female Persons, of Martial or Magical ability, to guard a Lady of some Importance, prior to the celebration of her Marriage. Delly fast-talks her way into the job and joins a team of highly peculiar women tasked with protecting their wealthy charge from unknown assassins.

Delly quickly sets her sights on one of her companions, the confident and well-bred Winn Cynallum. The job looks like nothing but romance and easy money until things take a deadly (and undead) turn. With the help of a bird-loving necromancer, a shapeshifting schoolgirl, and an ill-tempered reanimated mouse named Buttons, Delly and Winn are determined to get the best of an adversary who wields a twisted magic and has friends in the highest of places.

Review: More than anything I find myself describing The Ruthless Lady's Guide to Wizardry as "comfortable" and "charming." It is an adventure without real fear, and a romance that makes me smile quietly to myself. It's wonderful escapist fiction that asks little of its readers, but provides great entertainment - and offers queer romance without trauma or othering. Oof, I needed this one.

Ene 27, 3:31pm

>72 London_StJ: If Middle Child does give it a try, I hope they enjoy the experience far more.

Editado: Feb 1, 11:37am

January Wrap Up

>1 London_StJ: Books Read:8
Favorites: The Once and Future Witches
Unfinished: A shocking three. Lesson learned? Fantasy just isn't my bag.

>2 London_StJ: Movies Watched: 40
Favorites: Little Monsters, Wolf of Snow Hollow, Cabin in the Woods, Halloween: 2018

It's a bit of a strange start to the year. I find I have little patience for epic fantasy, leading me to abandon two perfectly good books that just weren't for me. My patience for films is far greater, and the wife and I have started watching a movie or two a night. We've gone back to some favorites, but tried a lot of new (or new-to-us) movies, with both delight and disappointment. Comedy horror is a favorite genre, but true horror is growing more and more appealing for her (and always has been for me ). Neither of us has the stomach for the torture porn of properties such as Saw, but haunted houses and possession? Or Michael Meyers? Yes, thank you.

One of the books to which I contributed is going to print today, which is wonderfully exciting. I wrote the first draft of my chapter at the kitchen island of a rented house just hours before going to perform in a nerdlesque festival. The situation was both so weird and so much my life that I think I'll always think of it as my "nerdlesque chapter." (It's actually on the censorship of femme bodies in midcentury comics and current US politics, with SESTA-FOSTA.)

Still feeling aimless. Might submit a chapter to another book today. Might get to work on a new bed of nails. Will definitely cuddle a puppy.

Feb 1, 1:34pm

Puppy cuddles sound like an excellent goal. I'm always guaranteed some cat ones every day and it's great.

Feb 1, 2:44pm

>75 MickyFine: Oh, that's lovely. The absolute best is when the puppy AND the cat climb into my lap.

Feb 1, 3:04pm

+1 on puppy cuddles at all costs.

Also on Team Reader Response.

Boo hiss on TERFly terrorism contra trans people.

I think you should become acquainted with this venue, if you are not, and at the very least with this particular novella:

Feb 1, 3:41pm

>76 London_StJ: Well my hand was briefly held hostage while working today:

Feb 1, 5:34pm

>74 London_StJ: That is a lot of movies watched in a month.
Congratulations on the next step to being published.

Cuddling a puppy is always good, and your puppy is still adorable :-)

Feb 1, 10:30pm

>77 richardderus: Ahh! I am not, and I am now richer for the introduction.

>78 MickyFine: Lol, I love it!

I credited my cat on my dissertation for holding me in place long enough to write it.

>79 FAMeulstee: - Aw, thanks! I'm smitten.

Feb 1, 10:41pm

>80 London_StJ: Yay! While I was clicking around the place, it seemed like the sort of venue you would enjoy.

Feb 2, 7:51am

>80 London_StJ: Ha! The dedication in my dissertation reads "to Susie." This is (was) Susie:

Feb 2, 8:01am

Este usuario ha sido eliminado por spam.

Feb 2, 11:13am

>82 scaifea: AWWW (both for dedication and Susie).

Feb 2, 11:26am

>84 MickyFine: Yeah, I miss that old girl.

Editado: Feb 4, 9:46am

Title: Red, White, & Royal Blue
Author: Casey McQuiston
Pages: 421
Date Finished: February 2, 2021
Recommended by: Queer Twitter
Rating: *****
Synopsis: What happens when America's First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales?

When his mother became President, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius―his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There's only one problem: Alex has a beef with the actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex-Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.

Heads of family, state, and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: staging a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instragramable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations and begs the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through? Casey McQuiston's Red, White & Royal Blue proves: true love isn't always diplomatic.

Review: There's a reason why this was Queer Twitter's (unofficial) favorite romance of 2020: it's an absolute queer escapist American delight. In the midst of social and political turmoil, Red, White, & Royal Blue offers fantasy on numerous levels, from political to personal, offering engaging characters and outcomes I for one, wanted to see. I was mad to have to put it down to sleep last night, and ignored everyone to finish it this afternoon. Now I'm going to be quick to return it ot hte library so someone else can have the very real pleasure of reading it.

Editado: Feb 2, 12:46pm

>82 scaifea: Aw, what a sweet baby. I love her soulful eyes.

My dedication reads: This dissertation is dedicated to my wife, who supports me at my most villainous, my children, who are always willing to be my henchmen, and to Bedlam, who occupied my lap and kept me in my place long enough to finish writing.

I love that stupid cat. I didn't know I could fully love a cat until Bedlam claimed me for her own. We're sour ladies together, and I needed that in a cat companion.

>81 richardderus: I had only the briefest moment to click around for it when I received your message last night, and now I can't wait to get my greedy hands on a copy. A first thought is that it has a whiff of The Duchess of Malfi about it, which is no bad thing in my book.

Feb 2, 12:31pm

I love her soulful eyes. They are sweet there, but those perpetually large pupils are an indication of her blindness at the end. She was 14 when we had to say goodbye and I had known her longer than I'd known my husband.

I love your dedication! Very cool.

Editado: Feb 2, 12:47pm

>88 scaifea: I'm so glad you got fourteen years with her.

And lol, my actual dedication didn't post! Fixing now...

Feb 2, 12:49pm

>89 London_StJ: HAhahahaha!! I really kind of want the dedication to say "I love that stupid cat," although your actual dedication is lovely.

Feb 2, 3:07pm

>90 scaifea: I am unapologetically casual in my writing at times, so it's perfectly reasonable to assume I'd say as much.

Feb 2, 7:24pm

>87 London_StJ: Oh goody! You know that Project Gutenberg has it:

I downloaded it as soon as I finished that review. And excellent point about The Duchess of Malfi...I'll keep that in mind as I row through.

Editado: Feb 4, 12:58am

>87 London_StJ: I love a cat with attitude :)

The only person who got a mention in my thesis dedication was my lovely other. The piece was 'for' him, seeing as it was he "who helped and cared".

Editado: Feb 4, 9:45am

>92 richardderus: Ooo, delightful! Open source books are my favorite - libraries of all sorts are tops. And it's been quite a long time since I read Malfi, but the sibling-werewolf rings bells. Perhaps I'll read them together myself!

>93 LovingLit: Oh, that's very sweet. It's a joke in our household now that my wife hasn't had a proper dedication, even though she's my #1 support system. I dedicated my first monograph to the mentor who helped start me on the path of study, and plan on dedicating my next monograph (hopefully publishing my dissertation) to my dissertation chair.

I've toyed with the idea of writing smut, and she would 100% get that dedication.

My academic big sister dedicated her dissertation as "For Myself, If I'm Honest About It." It is ... so perfect.

In other news, I was sent back to the classroom for the first time in a year, and had a panic attack that left me panting through the entirety of my lecture. I couldn't catch my breath, and felt scatter-brained and awful. Clinically, my teaching circumstances are probably safer than my wife's weekly trips to the grocery store - not that anxiety-brain cared about that at the time. Ugh.

Feb 4, 9:54am

>94 London_StJ: I'm so sorry that you are anxiety-attacked by the classroom thing. I would be, too. And you're very likely right that you're safer there than in a grocery store, but our anxiety brains tend not to listen to logic, I know. *hugs*

Feb 4, 9:59am

>95 scaifea: Thanks for the sympathy.

Teaching is the one space that hasn't been impacted by anxiety brain before - I love it so much, and it's always felt safe and right. During our extended quarantine my children have come to understand both my nature as an introvert and my anxiety, so my Middle Child was confused about my choice of profession.

"I thought you didn't like talking to people?"

"Teaching has never bothered me. I love it. I love talking to my students. It's just right."

Until COVID, and the new confirmation of B.1.1.7. locally...

Feb 4, 10:13am

>96 London_StJ: Yup, same. Even my students (back in olden times, pre-covid) would comment on how different I was in non-classroom social settings (department parties and such). They couldn't believe how wallflowery and grumbly at being there at a social gathering I would be, when in the classroom I'm very outgoing and borderline goofy. They were always so sweet about it and would form a bubble around me at those parties. Adorable. I'm pretty comfortable in my zoom bubbles, and the students seem to like the courses, too - I even had several students on last semester's evaluations say that my course was the only zoom class they didn't dread by the end of the semester. So I'm counting that as a win.

Feb 4, 11:05am

>96 London_StJ: How could anyone *not* be anxious in a group situation in this time of plague? I get jittery even contemplating grocery-store runs with maskless covidiots galore! Even double-masking (an absolute must, cloth under disposable) only limits the risk.

Anxiety brain is operating logically this time! And how sad is that...taking away the ability to share comfortably with others one of your life's greatest accomplishments and pleasures is another dark blotch on the soulless bastard 45.

Feb 4, 3:50pm

>97 scaifea: There's something ... safe .... and comfortable about classrooms. Socializing? Blech. I'll foster grumbly feelings over seeing my dearest friends at times. Performing is somewhere in between - I feel anxious navigating new venues, for example, but if it's a space/production team I know I'm quite happy in the space.

>98 richardderus: I made myself a new series of masks with five layers, plus a separate disposable filter. Thankfully I'm in a bubble that recognizes the importance of wearing masks, so there are no maskless people at our grocery store, or stores in general.

It really is a sad day when a reactive anxiety brain is the practical brain.

I am really looking forward to (and hope for) the consequences to come for the only twice-impeached president.

Feb 4, 5:32pm

>99 London_StJ: Another whiny tantrum, after refusing to testify under oath at his Senate trial, was his resignation letter to SAG-AFTRA.

I got chills of joy, I tell you. Another post-prison career closed to him!

Feb 4, 7:39pm

>100 richardderus: Oh, how I giggled over that letter!

Feb 5, 5:40am

>99 London_StJ: Well, teaching is a performance, too, so yeah, I get that.

Feb 5, 8:51am

>102 scaifea: No joke!

We had an awful night with Miss Lucifer Lollipop. She has started waking up early, and thus waking us. So last night was the first she spent outside of our bedroom, and she proceeded to bark and yell throughout the night. Ugh. It's a hard but necessary transition, but man are we tired.

In better news ... I have a vaccine scheduled! Teachers are included in the current phase, and my state has opened new vaccination sites. I managed to snag my two appointments over my first sip of coffee, and then spread the news to my dearest (one of my loves is a teacher with preexisting conditions) and my department. Huzzah! I feel so hopeful.

Feb 6, 10:12am

Title: The Midnight Hunt
Author: L.L. Raand
Pages: 288
Date Finished: February 5, 2021
Recommended by:
Rating: ***
Synopsis: Medic Ryon Drake has never been good at following protocol, so she doesn't think twice about rendering emergency care when a young girl's life is at stake--even if the girl is in the throes of Werefever and any sane mortal should know better. It isn't the bright shining pain of the bite or even the wrenching agonies of the fever that convinces her everything in her life has changed. It's the way she feels about the blonde with the silver-blue eyes leaning over her hospital bed when she finally wakes up. Sylvan, the Alpha of the Adirondack Timberlake Pack; the one woman Drake can't have. And the only one she wants. The first in the Midnight Hunters series.

Review: This book is emotionally exhausting, and not in a cathartic way. There is an excessive amount of conflict and turmoil and high-tension aggression, and reading and navigating the emotional landscape left me feeling depleted. The constant turmoil of a totalitarian leader made my skin crawl, the emotional abuse that defines the relationships of the pack, and the conflicts both within and without all leave a sour feeling in my stomach. I did not enjoy this book. But it has some things to offer that I think are worth exploring and positively acknowledging - things that lifted this form a two-star read to a three-star read.

First, I really enjoyed the book's approach to supernatural genitalia. A few, but not many, paranormal romance novels have suggested different sexual organs and practices in the past (I can name Kim Harrington most directly). The femme weres in this novel have clitorises that function similarly to penises, and have "glands" that function similarly to testes. These biological features are important to the intimate relationships the plot describes, and I think it was a strong and interesting narrative choice.

Second, the author's biography. Surgeon-turned-queer-smut-publisher is a personal arc I can really appreciate.

Feb 6, 4:35pm

>94 London_StJ: "For Myself, If I'm Honest About It."
That is excellent! I love it.

My dad dedicated one of his photography books to a bunch of the people who helped him access the places the images were taken (helicopter pilots, and others who helped him get into the wilderness). The first name mentioned happened to be his bestie, and also happened to have a surname near the beginning of the the end of the list, he added something like: ...and before you get ideas about your position in this list Mr B-, the order is purely alphabetical.

The publisher questioned this, but he went with it :)

I'm sorry your classroom experience was anxiety inducing. I hope that is just a one-off. Is there some distance between you and the students? Can you use a desk or some other 'line' to demarcate your space?
I don't know. I just feel so relieved I am not in this Covid mess.

Feb 7, 5:08pm

>105 LovingLit: Oh, I love a sense of humor - and when personality is allowed to shine through

Feb 7, 5:58pm

>104 London_StJ: Oh, so like Storm Constantine's oddly mutated Wraeththu genitalia! Though I still contend that, if men had to endure childbirth, abortion would be a sacrament, is an Eternal Verity, gotta give her points for creativity.

Feb 9, 3:30pm

> 107 "if men had to endure childbirth, abortion would be a sacrament"

The very very human relationships/power struggles/romance of paranormal romance is something that always strikes me. It's fantasy - there are infinite possibilities but so few authors seem to take them. I like the whimsy of it.

Feb 16, 9:47am

Title: Indigo Moon
Author: Gil McKnight
Pages: 264
Date Finished: February 13, 2021
Recommended by:
Rating: **
Synopsis: The road trip from Hell is paved with good intentions.

Hope Glassy and Godfrey Meyers are on a mercy mission. Their friend Isabelle has been attacked by a rogue werewolf and is in the throes of lycanthropic fever. With their respective partners out of town all Hope and Godfrey can do is get Isabelle to the safety of Little Dip and the Garoul clan before her sire comes to claim her.

In a desperate race against time, with the hounds of hell snapping at their heels, can they save her—and does Isabelle want to be saved?

Review: If the synopsis accurately reflected the book it likely would have been much more engaging. As-is, the synopsis is misleading in every way that counts: Hope and Godfrey meet Isabelle after she's attacked and know her all of a day, are nearly as absent as their completely-absent partners, and Isabelle "wanting" to be saved has ... nothing to do with the plot?

The actual novel goes something like this: a woman suffers an accident, and wakes up in an unfamiliar isolated cabin with amnesia. While suspicious, she's attacked to her savior, and enjoys the merry band of runaway teens who live in a compound with her. Despite major warning signs of physical and emotional abuse, Isabelle can't decide whether she should stay or go. After discovering they're beasts of some kind she makes up her mind.

The entire story hinges on information withheld by the author, which is just lazy writing. The reader already understands far more than the protagonist, and the concluding reveals are rushed and anticlimactic. There's neither suspense nor romance, and it was a chore to finish - not something one wants from their escapist fiction.

Feb 17, 8:37am

My turn for the library loan came around again, and I finished this fun romp over coffee this morning.

Title: The House in the Cerulean Sea
Author: TJ Klune
Pages: 400
Date Finished: February 13, 2021
Recommended by: Steph S.
Rating: ****
Synopsis: Linus Baker is a by-the-book case worker in the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He's tasked with determining whether six dangerous magical children are likely to bring about the end of the world.

Arthur Parnassus is the master of the orphanage. He would do anything to keep the children safe, even if it means the world will burn. And his secrets will come to light.

Review: Quietly charming, this book is exactly what you predict from the first page, but is no less fun for being so. It's popularity is perfectly understandable.

Feb 21, 9:33pm

Title: A Plain and Simple Heart
Author: Lori Copeland and Virginia Smith
Pages: 317
Date Finished: February 19 2021
Recommended by: The Library
Rating: ***1/2
Synopsis:A Plain and Simple Heart, an exciting new Amish-meets-Wild West adventure from bestselling authors Lori Copeland and Virginia Smith, weaves an entertaining and romantic tale for devoted fans and new readers.

1884—Several years earlier, young Rebecca Switzer lost her heart to Jesse Montgomery, a rugged but dissolute cowboy on a dusty cattle trail near the Amish settlement of Apple Grove. Now she is grown up, and when she hears one day that he has been spotted nearby, her desire is plain and simple: She must see him.

Sheriff Colin Maddox is counting the days until he can leave law enforcement and follow his dream of starting a church. When a lovely woman, new to town and looking travel weary and a bit lost, gets caught up in the middle of a temperance riot, she is arrested along with the leaders. He can hardly believe she is what she claims—a Plain and simple woman. Nor can he believe how quickly he loses his heart to her. Can Colin convince her to forget Jesse and give him a chance?

My first job was shelving books at our community library, and it was here I first discovered the existence of ... Amish romance novels. We had a small display of them, and I've always found them so curious. When I went searching for queer romance novels the same library system suggested one, and I gave in to curiosity.

It was great. I mean, it was terrible, from the awkward dialogue to the clearly unrealistic romanticization of the American frontier to the fetishization of the Amish, but that's exactly what I expected, which is what made it great. I've been so frustrated lately with reads that don't live up to my expectations that it was nice to read something so thoroughly predictable.

Feb 21, 9:44pm

^ classic. I love that review. 'It met my expectations, and that was a relief, therefore it was good'.
I have to admit, I was quizzled by the Amish-meets-Wild West adventure genre!

Feb 22, 8:41am

>111 London_StJ: Ha! I love it.

Have you checked out the new BBC The Watch (based on the Night Watch books in the Discworld)? We're about 4 episodes in and it's really pretty good. The casting is fantastic.

Feb 22, 10:48am

>112 LovingLit: Lol, it's not really my cuppa, but it was good for being exactly what it said it would be.

>113 scaifea: I haven't! I really want to, though. My wife has thus far refused to watch it with me because the Watch is her favorite Discworld subgenre, and she's afraid it won't live up to expectations. I need to find time to glut it on my own.

Feb 23, 12:16am

>114 London_StJ: Have you seen Gentleman Jack? A British period drama. I just re-watched the entire first series this weekend (seeing as I was under the weather). I love it not just for the love story (female/female), but for the commentary it gives on gender roles in 19th C Britain. It is based on a real life person, and I *should* go back and read the books that have been written about her. I have been impatiently waiting for a second series!

Feb 23, 7:53am

>114 London_StJ: Hm, well, you may want to watch it on your own, then, depending on just how true to the books your wife wants it to be. I'm okay with the points where they deviate because for me they seem to be staying true to the spirit of the books, but if she's a stickler for accurate details, she may be unhappy. But, as I said, the casting is absolutely brilliant and makes me so happy.

>115 LovingLit: Oooh that sounds excellent!

Feb 23, 4:25pm

>115 LovingLit: Oh, I desperately love Gentleman Jack. Anne Lister is a fascinating historical character, although I admit I haven't read more than a couple of articles about her. As portrayed in the show, she's one of those characters where I can't decide if I want to be her or be with her. Delicious. I didn't realize there was going to be a second season, though - I'm so excited!

I'm sorry to hear you were unwell, though, and hope you're feeling better now!

>116 scaifea: I'm less of a stickler; I see films and books as separate media, and so don't mind when adaptations "stray." I'd heard that they were doing fun and interesting things with casting, so I'm looking forward to that. And do look out for Gentleman Jack - it's a real treat.

Title: Frankenstein
Author: Mary Shelley
Pages: 172
Date Finished: February 21 2021
Recommended by: Me
Rating: *****
Review: A fascinating and engaging novel, it's no wonder that Shelley's Frankenstein has never been out of print in its 203 years. I am now teaching a unit on Frank3nst3in, by which I mean the cultural phenomenon that has become "Frankenstein." The first of three primary sources of the unit, my main interest in class discussions is the value placed on beauty, and the consequences of it - Frankenstein's abandonment of his creature for his lack of physical beauty. This is likewise interesting as one considers the Frankenstein aesthetics perpetuated by multimedia texts, and the disconnection between the face described in the novel and the face culturally recognized as "Frankenstein."

Also, I did not remember just how young Victor Frankenstein is - he goes off to college at 17, and finishes his creature at ... 19? 20? Building a reanimated man in what amounts to his dorm room ... This fact really challenges the archetype for which he is largely responsible - that of the mad scientist.

Feb 23, 4:49pm

>117 London_StJ: I look forward to chatting with you, then, about the casting, if you find some time to watch it!

Are you a Buffy fan? I'd love to hear what you have to say about the Frankenstein season.

Editado: Feb 24, 9:28pm

Title: Sucker Punch
Author: Laurell K. Hamilton
Pages: 609
Date Finished: February 24 2021
Recommended by:
Rating: *
Synopsis: A brutal murder, a suspect in jail, and an execution planned—but what if the wrong person is about to be killed?

When a fellow U.S. Marshal asks Anita Blake to fly to a tiny community in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on an emergency consult, she knows time is running short. When she arrives, there is plenty of proof that a young wereleopard killed his uncle in the most gruesome and bloody way possible. As the mounting evidence points to him, a warrant of execution is already under way.

But something seems off about the murder, and Anita has been asked for her expert opinion on the crime scene. Despite escalating pressure from local cops and the family’s cries for justice for their dead patriarch, Anita quickly realizes that the evidence doesn’t quite add up.

Time is against Anita, as the tight-knit community is up in arms and its fear of supernaturals is growing. She races to uncover the truth and determine whether the Marshals have caught the killer or are about to execute an innocent man—all in the name of justice.

This is a 200-page novella stretched on a rack to a joint-popping, tendon-tearing 609 pages. It is tedious and antagonizing, packed with awkward and unbelievable and affectively-neutered conversations about Anita's personal relationships. These relationships have exactly zero impact on the story, but they become the suffocating focus of the narrative. The series went from flirty and sexy and fun to oppressive and exhausting.

And my god is Anita a perfectly wretched, awful person. She's repugnant. In theory, she's compelling - a woman with agency negotiating difficult social situations and privileging her love life over the standards of the broader community. Only she's still completely bound by conservative restrictions - she sex-shames even herself, and continues to judge and look down upon other women, even those she's dating. She's sexist and she's racist, and her weapons fetish is the most consistent facet of her personality. She reads like a 58-year-old cop who's sick to death of having to recognize anyone else's humanity. Sure, she pontificates on the racism of the justice system, and the bigotry of communities, but a page later she will say "Persian or Oriental, or whatever the politically correct term is for it now" (111) or "Once I'd have said straight human, but I'd been chastised for using the word straight" (5) or commiserating with another marshal over hating "the new vocabulary" (7) which better respects individual identities. And yeah, most of eye-rolling is about supernatural races and identities, but these identities have always metaphorically represented other minority identities, and anyone who doesn't acknowledge that is willfully denying literary devices and hundreds of years of convention.

I stopped buying books in the series several years ago, when I realized I was more upset by how awful of a person the protagonist is than I was interested in the narratives themselves. Why do I keep reading? Because I genuinely adore Nathaniel and Jean Claude. But at this point the series feels emotionally abusive and I have to turn my back on them.

ETA: Amazon reviewers seem as fed up as I am ...

Feb 24, 9:45pm

>117 London_StJ: Oh good, you have seen it.
I didn't know that there was going to be a second series...I just assumed (and really wanted) there to be another one! If they refer to something as Series 1, I assume there will be a 2 ;)

I have a costume all ready to be Ann Lister at my next dress-up party - I just need a top hat and cane!

Oh, and I am feeling better, thank you. It was a fast and furious stomach bug!

Ayer, 8:07am

>119 London_StJ: Oh, ew. I'm sorry the series has gone sour for you. I wonder if maybe there's good fanfic out there starring your favorite characters? That might help ease the pain.

Ayer, 11:33am

>121 scaifea: I've never delved into fanfic, but I think this is a perfect case for it, so I should go hunting.

And to answer your earlier question, I haven't seen Buffy since I was in high school, and sadly can't remember a Frankenstein series...

>120 LovingLit: Everyone should have a top hat and a cane, so I fully support.

Ayer, 11:46am

>122 London_StJ: There's some excellent stuff out there in the fanfic world; I hope you find something you like.

In Season 4 of Buffy, the Big Bad turns out to be a Frankenstein and her monster type thing. It's possibly the best season of the show on the whole, really.

Ayer, 12:51pm

>123 scaifea: I may have to seek out that season, because it sounds like good fun

Editado: Ayer, 1:28pm

I echo Amber's rec for season 4. It includes the excellent Thanksgiving episode and is also the source of this moment, which always delights me:

Ayer, 1:52pm

>125 MickyFine: YES! Plus "yam scam."

Also, season 4 has the epsiode "Hush," which is beyond fabulous and won awards for its awesomeness.

Ayer, 2:46pm

>135 Spike was my favorite part of the show way back when, so I'm in.