Book Review: American Girls, Alison Umminger (2016)

June 29th, 2016 7:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Explores some interesting ideas, but the story never really clicked for me.

three out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received an electronic ARC for review through NetGalley. Trigger warning for allusions to rape.)

Backstage, Olivia Taylor had removed her moon boots and was curled cat-like against Karl Marx. He rubbed his hand up her leg, almost into her crotch, and she opened a mirror and lined her lips silver-blue while he talked.

“It’s all waste,” he said, his accent as perfectly beautiful as it sounded in the interviews I’d watched. “Waste and filth. Even these women, these perfect creatures.”

These children that come at you with knives, they are your children. —Charles Manson

As a teenager, I devoured true crime books. They were a guilty pleasure, if only because some of the adults around me made me feel like a borderline psychopath for my choice of reading materials. (JEEZ UNCLE GARY, MAYBE I WANT TO BE A FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGIST WHEN I GROW UP! DID YOU EVER THINK OF THAT?) My favorite sub-genre was cults, hands down; there was something about the mix of sociopathy and religion that I found especially compelling. In college, I was lucky enough to talk my way into a sociology project on Jonestown (though I struck out when trying to do something similar for an honors course called “The Psychology of Health & Wellness.” You can’t have wellness without sickness, I argued. Two sides of the same coin! Eventually the prof was forced to pick my topic for me: hardiness. Ugh. I still nailed it.)

So it’s an understatement to say that I was looking forward to Alison Umminger’s American Girls – one of two Manson-inspired books coming out in June. (The other? The Girls by Emma Cline, which I cannot recommend highly enough.) I’ve been humming the Tom Petty tune for going on a month now.

(More below the fold…)

tweets for 2016-06-28

June 29th, 2016 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

tweets for 2016-06-27

June 28th, 2016 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Book Review: The Geek Feminist Revolution, Kameron Hurley (2016)

June 27th, 2016 7:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Tell Them Stories

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC for review through NetGalley.)

As a writer, it’s my job to construct new normals for people. It’s my job to show folks what’s possible. It’s my job to rewrite narratives. Because we can change these narratives. We can choose better ones. We can tear it all down, and build it up again. It makes us the most poorly paid but most powerful people in the world. And I take that power seriously.

The only time I’ve ever been praised for my weight repeatedly was when I was dying.

— 3.5 stars —

Award-winning science fiction writer Kameron Hurley has been blogging about feminism and pop culture for more than a decade. The Geek Feminist Revolution is a collection of 35 of her essays on feminism, writing, and geek culture, with 9 all-new pieces written specifically for this anthology. (See the TOC below for a full list.) The pieces are grouped into four sections: Level Up, which explores the craft (and challenges) of writing; Geek, which interrogates a variety of media, from the specific (Die Hard, Mad Max, True Detective) to the more general (toxic masculinity, Strong Female Protagonists, the gendered reception of unlikable protagonists); Let’s Get Personal, in which Hurley’s life serves as a sort of microcosm for the issues she explores here; and Revolution, which calls on authors and readers alike to create a more equal and just world.

The essays are enjoyable, engaging – and highly entertaining. Hurley has a brash, no-bullshit writing style that’s perfectly suited to the subject matter. While the overall collection doesn’t seem to have a unifying theme (“geek culture” is quite broad), the power of stories to shape our world is a thread that she picks up time and again.

(More below the fold…)

tweets for 2016-06-26

June 27th, 2016 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

tweets for 2016-06-25

June 26th, 2016 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

Stacking the Shelves: June 2016

June 25th, 2016 10:00 am by Kelly Garbato

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2016-06-14 - the lightspeed back library

This month the first of the rewards from Lightspeed’s People of Colo(u)r Destroy SF Kickstarter campaign came in: namely, the special issue of Lightspeed (with Nightmare and Fantasy to follow in October and December). At my level, I also got access to all the back issues of Lightspeed, which is just bonkers. I already owned a few, thanks to past campaigns, but I think it came out to 64 new issues total. Like I said, BONKERS. I spent most of one afternoon downloading and cataloguing them!

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There are so many awesomely hilarious memoirs coming out this summer, I’m having trouble keeping track! This one’s from comedian Jessi Klein and Grand Central Publishing (thanks guys!). The is ARC is tragically lacking in cringeworthy childhood photos (the best part of any memoir!), but I’m holding out hope for the finished copy.

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The second week in June, Johnson County held its annual Sizzlin’ Summer Book Sale! I’ve gone a little overboard in years past, but seeing as I’ve been transitioning to ebooks in the past year or two, I almost skipped the sale altogether. But I really wanted to check out their selection of comic books, *and* we had a recycling run to make anyway, so we stopped by. I only spent like $8.50, but I had a few good scores.

Sadly I didn’t realize that I already owned copies of Sovay and Tunes for Bears to Dance To; those went straight into my donations box!

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I won an ARC of Everland and some pretty fun swag from @IReadYA! You just know I’m going to try those wings out on one or more of the dogs. (Poor dears.)

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For review from Recorded Books/Library Thing: Samatha Mabry’s A Fierce and Subtle Poison. This actually arrived last month – I’ve long since read and reviewed it – but I forgot to snap a pic before misplacing it in a pile of mail. Oops!

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I was over-the-moon thrilled to win @LillianJClark’s twitter giveaway for a complete set of The Passage ARCs. Normally I’m not a huge collector – ARCs, paperbacks, e-books, I don’t much care about format as long as I’ve a chance to read it – but I love this trilogy (or at least the first two books in it!) and a collection of ARCs really struck my fancy. They look so nice and shiny, sitting on the high living room shelf next to their hardcover cousins.

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Surprise book mail is the best! This copy of Lydia Millet’s Sweet Lamb of Heaven showed up in my mailbox unexpectedly; I guess I must have won a giveaway from @wwnorton and no one told me? Either way, not complaining!

 
I also snagged a few great deals on ebooks this month:

  • Heiresses of Russ 2011: The Year’s Best Lesbian Speculative Fiction edited by JoSelle Vanderhooft ($4.00)
  • Wilde Stories 2009: The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction edited by Steve Berman ($1.50)
  • Wilde Stories 2010: The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction edited by Steve Berman ($3.00)
  • Wilde Stories 2011: The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction edited by Steve Berman ($3.99)
  • Wilde Stories 2013: The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction edited by Steve Berman ($4.00)
  • The Black Tongue by Marko Hautala ($1.99)
  • The Girl in the Time Machine by Debra Chapoton ($.99)
  • Secrets Under the Olive Tree by Nevien Shaabneh ($.99)
  • Beastly Manor by Alex Hall (free on Amazon!)
  • You Were Here by Cori McCarthy ($1.99)
  •  
    For review on NetGalley:

  • The Girl Before by Rena Olsen
  • The Conjoined: A Novel by Jen Sookfong Lee
  • The Secret Horses of Briar Hill by Megan Shepherd
  • Summerlong by Peter S. Beagle
  • Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig
  • Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton
  • The Sunlight Pilgrims: A Novel by Jenni Fagan
  • All Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker
  •  
    For review on Edelweiss:

  • Unsportsmanlike Conduct: College Football and the Politics of Rape by Jessica Luther
  • The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
  • Spare and Found Parts by Sarah Maria Griffin
  • Orphans of the Carnival: A Novel by Carol Birch
  •  

    tweets for 2016-06-24

    June 25th, 2016 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

    Book Review: A Robot in the Garden, Deborah Install (2016)

    June 24th, 2016 7:00 am by Kelly Garbato

    Johnny Five is alive!

    four out of five stars

    (Full disclosure: I received an electronic ARC for review through Edelweiss/NetGalley.)

    Amy curled her lip. “Ben, it’s a robot, it doesn’t have feelings. It doesn’t care where it is or how broken it is. And this talk about you teaching it…you can’t even get it to talk properly. Wouldn’t you be better off doing something more productive?”

    “Funny, ain’t it, the way we apply human qualities to these machines? People can get real attached to them. We have a cemetery just down the road for folks who’ve lost their androids.”

    Thirty-four-year-old Ben Chambers is in a bit of a rut. By which I mean a gaping, stretching chasm from which escape seems impossible. His parents died six years ago – adventurous adrenaline junkies in their retirement, they perished when the light aircraft they were flying hit a bird and crashed – and Ben’s been struggling with grief and depression ever since.

    After their deaths, his studies faltered, and he was asked to take a leave of absence from the veterinary program he was enrolled in. Luckily, his parents left Ben his childhood home and a large chunk of money to live on; but this only enabled his chronic unemployment and general aimlessness. His wife Amy, a successful attorney, is understandably fed up; Ben doesn’t even try to pull his own weight in the form of household chores. Tang is just the straw that broke their marriage’s back.

    When a beaten-up robot suddenly appears in their back garden one September morning, Ben fixates on him. (Ben is certain he’s a He, even if robots don’t have genders as such.) He’s convinced that “acrid Tang” – “Tang” for short – is special and in need of saving. Among the bolts and rivets and squat boxes that make up Tang’s body, Ben finds a broken cylinder, slowly but surely leaking fluid, in Tang’s chest – right about where his heart would be. Armed just with a few partial inscriptions on Tang’s undercarriage, Ben resolves to find Tang’s creator before the cylinder runs dry and Tang stops working.

    (More below the fold…)

    tweets for 2016-06-23

    June 24th, 2016 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

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    June 23rd, 2016 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

    Book Review: Brain Freeze Journal, Potterstyle (2016)

    June 22nd, 2016 7:00 am by Kelly Garbato

    Makes me crave a Tofutti Cutie every time I journal!

    four out of five stars

    (Full disclosure: I received a free book for review through Blogging for Books.)

    So here’s the deal: I kind of love this journal in spite of myself.

    Like many of Potterstyle’s journals, Brain Freeze is small: 4.1″ wide by 6.1″ tall, and a whopping 1.4″ thick. The teeny tiny pages + the thickness of the book makes it quite difficult to write in: my hand starts to fall off the bottom of the page a mere 1/3 of the way down, and it’s such a long drop that it’s a struggle to continue. My handwriting’s bad enough without the extra help, thanks!

    It’s a mystery why they design the books this way. So they can easily fit in your pocket or a purse? But who wants to carry their journal into the world, where it can get lost or stolen? I’d much rather have a journal that’s comfortable to use, you know?

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    2016-05-10 - Brain Freeze Journal - 0007 [flickr]

    2016-05-10 - Brain Freeze Journal - 0002 [flickr]

    Even though I knew I’d end up loathing the dimensions, I just had to have this journal. Ice cream is literally my favorite, and this book looks so much like a Neapolitan ice cream sammie that I salivate a little every time I look at it. The outer edges of the pages are colored chocolate, white, and pink. While the pages themselves are white (obvs), the lines inside are dyed to match the theme. Weirdly, this means that the middle section is one huge blank space (white on white = all-white). I guess you could use it to highlight much-loved quotes or important thoughts? Either way, the lines are spaced 1/4″ apart (similar to college ruled), with a 2″ gap in the middle white area.

    2016-05-10 - Brain Freeze Journal - 0008 [flickr]

    The brown cover is stamped with dots, similar to the cookies in an ice cream sandwich, to complete the look. Before ordering I worried that it might be made of leather – I’m a vegan – but now that I have it in my ends, I’m pretty sure it’s a high-end, fancy-pants cardboard. It has a luxurious, smooth feel. The journal’s title is also embossed on the cover in a yellow-gold, all-caps font. The whole thing feels quite rich, much like a sundae, or maybe some homemade cookie butter ice cream.

    (This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

    tweets for 2016-06-21

    June 22nd, 2016 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

    tweets for 2016-06-20

    June 21st, 2016 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

    Book Review: Gena/Finn, Hannah Moskowitz & Kat Helgeson (2016)

    June 20th, 2016 7:00 am by Kelly Garbato

    You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll want to throw the book across the room.

    four out of five stars

    (Full disclosure: I received a free ARC for review through Library Thing’s Early Reviewers program. This review contains clearly marked spoilers.)

    I’m telling you this, Evie, because stories change in memory and in the retelling, and because you write and rewrite them until they’re what you want them to be, but this is one story I want you to remember the way it happened. I want you to remember the people we are now, the times I was there for you and the times I let you down. I want you to love me weak like I loved you crazy, and when we’re both on top again we’ll remember that we did it.

    the truth is
    your heart is stronger than you think it is
    the truth is
    loving someone isn’t a period
    it’s a semicolon
    and the choice you make is what comes on the other side
    maybe it’s a picket fence and a subaru and 2.5 kids
    maybe it’s a fantasy world that lives in your computer
    maybe it’s a guild
    maybe it’s a fandom
    maybe it’s the last thing you ever expected

    Gena/Finn is the story of two young women who might never have met, if not for their shared love of a cheesy cop drama called Up Below (whose emotionally tortured, pathologically codependent male leads are highly evocative of Sam and Dean Winchester). They meet online and strike up a tentative friendship via email, IM, texts, and comments left on one another’s fan blogs. A once-in-a-lifetime bargain allows them to meet IRL, at the annual Up Below con in Chicago – and a surreal chance encounter draws them even closer. With Gena struggling in college and Finn questioning her long-time relationship with high school sweetheart Charlie, the girls turn to each other for solace and support. And then tragedy strikes and things really go sideways.

    I’ll be honest: for the first dozen or so pages, I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy this book. It’s what I like to call a “crafty” book (filed under “crafty book is crafty”), artsy and told in an unconventional way, through a series of blog posts and comments; emails, IMs, and text messages; bulletins and reports; and even the odd post-it note and governmental doc. This wasn’t the problem, though; I usually read more traditional novels and thus welcome the occasional creative deviation. Rather, it was the fandom that got me. While I can relate on a general level, I just couldn’t bring myself to care about Up Below. Since the story is kind of Up Below-heavy at the beginning, I worried. But as Gena and Finn’s relationship evolved and took center stage, the issue became moot. Sure, I skimmed the episode recaps (and inevitable arguments over who’s hotter, Jake or Tyler) later on, but these are few and far between.

    (More below the fold…)

    tweets for 2016-06-19

    June 20th, 2016 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

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    June 19th, 2016 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

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    June 18th, 2016 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato

    Book Review: The Gilda Stories: Expanded 25th Anniversary Edition, Jewelle Gomez (2016)

    June 17th, 2016 7:00 am by Kelly Garbato

    A subversive and exhilarating read!

    four out of five stars

    (Full disclosure: I received a free book for review from the publisher. Trigger warning for violence, including rape.)

    “Why do you say others may kill and we must not?”

    “Some are said to live through the energy of fear. That is their sustenance more than sharing. The truth is we hunger for connection to life, but it needn’t be through horror or destruction. Those are just the easiest links to evoke. Once learned, this lesson mustn’t be forgotten. To ignore it, to wallow in death as the white man has done, can only bring bitterness.”

    My love is the blood that enriches this ground.
    The sun is a star denied you and me.
    But you are the life I’ve searched for and found
    And the moon is our half of the dream.

    That she hit him with his own whip seemed to startle him more than the pain.

    The Girl is just nine when her mother passes away – of the flu, contracted from one of the white women she was caring for in the main house. Scared that she’ll be sold off like her father, she runs away, getting as far as the state line that separates Mississippi from Louisiana before being discovered by a bounty hunter. Gilda finds the Girl in her cellar, shaking and covered in blood – and with the corpse of her would-be rapist at her feet.

    As with many girls before her, Gilda takes the Girl in, offering her sanctuary in her saloon/brothel. But Gilda and her lover/business partner, Bird, take a special interest in this girl, teaching her how to read and write in multiple languages; how to grow her own food and run a business; and, eventually, in the ways of their kind. Gilda is a three hundred-year-old vampire, you see, and her days walking this earth are numbered. Tired of the war, hatred, and inequality that surrounds her, Gilda yearns for her “true death,” and hopes to turn the Girl so that Bird will not be left alone in her absence.

    (More below the fold…)

    tweets for 2016-06-16

    June 17th, 2016 2:00 am by Kelly Garbato