Wednesday, March 20, 2013

How I Read: Reviews

How I Read is a series of mine that is pretty much exactly what is says on the tin: post about my tastes/habits as a reader. Multiple people said they wanted more posts like this during my 300-GFC-follower celebration, so I will give my readers what they want.

The first post of this series was supposed to be about why I DNF books, but I found a few reviews today that pushed my buttons the wrong way and I decided this needed to go first.

True story: I started reading a Kindle freebie this morning before a class and had some issues with it I couldn't put my finger on. I turned on my Wi-Fi, started looking through reviews, and promptly got more pissed off than I already was--and let me tell you, I was some kind of angry this morning. It involves my roommates and too much off-topic stuff to bother talking about here.

Anyway, as you'll quickly see once you dive into my archives, I love negative reviews. I'm not afraid to write them ninety-nine percent of the time  and love reading ones written even for books I love.

What do I like to see in negative reviews in particular? What kind of offensive content there is, for one thing. I don't like slut-shaming, woman hate, general anti-woman themes, racism or race stereotypes, homophobia, general LGBT+ hatred, and all that kind of stuff. Some people call me overly politically correct. I call it being dedicated to not being an offensive ass.

Some more "vanilla" things I like to see? Details about how sensible/ludicrous the plot is, how flat/deep the personalities of all the important characters are (seriously, I don't want anymore books with asshole/abusive male leads), the quality of the worldbuilding, an examination of the internal logic, gender politics (how do characters of different genders interact? How do characters of the same gender treat each other?), and similar things. You may be able to come up with more examples based on what you want to know before you read a book.

As a progressive woman and a feminist, I despise slut-shaming and homophobia in particular. When I see either in a review? I get angry, to say the least. I don't even twitch if I see a negative review for something I loved. When I do twitch is when I see someone being a bigoted ass in their review. At that point, I get mad whether it's a book I loved or hated or even felt indifferent to.

Here are a few examples of said reviews. Names are blacked out/cut off for the reviewers' privacy. If someone who wrote one of these reviews contacts me asking me to remove it or this particular part of my post receives a large negative reaction, I will quickly remove then and post an apology.

 You can probably figure it out from context, but the first review is referring to the author being a lesbian.

I love that they wrote negative reviews of these books because such reviews helps me figure out what I want to read, what I can expect when I dive into a novel, and all sorts of stuff I find helpful. I don't have money to pick up every book that sounds fun and see if it's actually good. A lot of other people don't either and that's why reviews exist: to help people figure out whether or not they really want to read a book.

What I don't love about these reviews is that their homophobia and slut-shaming make their entire review unhelpful. When narrow-minded views like those make their way into reviews, I can't trust them to give me an accurate warning of what I might not like about a novel. I don't trust every single negative review I read because there are plenty of people out there with tastes that differ from mine, but I see a difference between differing tastes and flat-out asshattery.

Criticizing the way the main character bounces between three guys and makes out with Love Interest #2 next to Love Interest #1's dying body? Good. Tell me more, please. Calling the main character a slut or telling her to keep her legs closed? Not okay.

Criticizing a book because its romance (which happens to be between women) is weakly developed? Good. Criticizing it because it's about lesbians and "corrupts" a fairy tale? Not okay.

(Seriously, the reviews that say an LGBT storyline corrupts a fairy tale make me want to write a take on Beauty and the Beast where a MTF transsexual is the Beauty of the tale. The only reason I haven't done so yet is because I don't yet trust myself to write a transsexual character with the care and nuance I would need to do it well.)

We can make these criticisms without using offensive terminology. I promise, it's possible.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Sexy Feminism by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong and Heather Wood Rudulph

Title: Sexy Feminism: A Girl's Guide to Love, Success, and Style
Author: Jennifer Keishin Armstrong and Heather Wood Rudulph
Publisher: Mariner Books
Release Date: March 12, 2013
Pages: 256 pages (paperback)
How I Got the Book: ARC via Amazon Vine
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Sexy Feminism: A Girl's Guide to Love, Success, and StyleNot your mother’s feminism! A humor-filled action plan for an accessible, cool, and, yes, even sexy brand of 21st-century feminism

A Mariner Original Paperback

Feminism can still seem like an abstract idea that is difficult to incorporate into our hectic, media-saturated, modern lives, but Jennifer Keishin Armstrong and Heather Wood RudĂșlph show how the everyday things matter. In an age when “concern-trolling,” “slut-shaming,” and “body-snarking” are blogosphere bywords, when reproductive rights are back under political attack, and when women are still pressured to “have it all,” feminism is more relevant than ever.  For many young women the radicalism of the Second Wave is unappealing, and the “do me” and “lipstick” feminism of the Third Wave feels out of date. Enter Sexy Feminism. It’s an inclusive, approachable kind of feminism—miniskirts, lip gloss, and waxing permitted. Covering a range of topics from body issues and workplace gender politics to fashion, dating, and sex, Sexy Feminism is full of advice, resources, and  pop culture references that will help shape what being a feminist can look like for you.


Strike one came when it tried twice to market feminism as sexy and fun. Strike two came when it called Lady Gaga a feminist icon. Strike three was the inappropriate use of a word I despise as a feminist: slut/slutty. Beyond all that, this book is a bit boring to someone like me, a young women who has been reading feminist lit and experimenting with her feminist ideology for years.

Before I dig into its more fundamental problems, I need to get its positives out of the way. Sexy Feminism makes sure to give you the background of many practices women now consider normal, such as waxing, plastic surgery, and makeup. If one will leave this book with anything, it will be the history of some of the services and objects still relevant to women and their intent when founded (feminist-minded or not). Most chapters have very clear points they stick to while explaining the intricacies of what does/doesn't make it feminist.

Still, my answer to a lot of their chapters is this: "Yeah, and...?"

Their talk of how feminists are allowed to diet and wear miniskirts is nothing new. I felt limited in what I could wear and do when I first started to identify as feminist, but I found my own style and definition of sexy that lives in harmony with my constantly-evolving ideology. Each woman will do roughly the same thing on their own, really. It's like a pair of new shoes, really: you're uncomfortable at first, but the more time you spend with it, the more you adjust to it and the more comfortable you get until you forget you ever had trouble with it to begin with.

One chapter is rather muddled, though: the chapter on waxing. It doesn't shy away from how it originated from patriarchal pressure and the porn industry (one big point of this book is how porn has really screwed with the image of women, pun not intended), but then it says getting a Brazilian is a-okay now even though the pressure to get one still comes from the same basic places. It reads a little like choice feminism when they praise waxing, which is an approach I find more than a little problematic because it tends to not consider the pressures society, gender roles, and men have a on a woman's choices. It automatically makes something feminist because a woman can choose to do it and that's a pretty clear problem.

And Lady Gaga as a feminist icon? Please. The book tries to show her good intent in its quick profile of why she's a sexy feminist, but her actual work gets twisted around until it's unrecognizable. I also still remember her flip-flopping on whether or not she's a feminist also.

The line "sexy doesn't have to be slutty" (ARC p. 97) is also rather troubling considering there's a chapter in here titled "Be a Sexy Feminist, Not a Slut-Shaming One" in which they rail against slut-shaming. To me, there is no taking back that word at this point. It is too mired in negative connotations and too widely used in negative ways for us to win it back at this point. Events like SlutWalk are able to use it in a challenging way and it works, but the authors aren't using it in any such way here.

Most importantly, feminism isn't sexy of fun the way Armstrong and Rudulph try to market it. Feminism is necessary and simply IS. That's it. Trying to attract women to feminism by telling them it's fun and sexy is a recipe for disaster because it isn't. Feminists are stereotyped, judged, and forced to deal with crap thrown at them. At times, it can be difficult to admit it to other people because you know how they will react. We work for our cause because it's necessary and right, not because it's fun. Anyone who is in it for fun or sexiness is only going to bring us down and marginalize our cause in their attempts to help.

Though I primarily review YA, I'm no stranger to reading nonfiction. If one catches my interest based on its thesis, I jump right into it. Two of the three previous nonfiction titles I've reviewed had refined voices (the one that didn't was a memoir), but Sexy Feminism lacks that. Each chapter reads like an article from their website--which isn't bad in and of itself, but when you want to sit down and read it all at once, your eyes roll into the back of your head after a while. It starts out engaging, but it doesn't stay engaging.

Perhaps people still developing their feminist ideas will be able to get more out of this than I did--as long as it's accompanied by other books that present other ideas. Relying on this alone to form a person's ideals doesn't seem like a very good idea.

What am I reading next?: Levitating Las Vegas by Jennifer Echols

Friday, March 1, 2013

Cover Reveal: The Night Creatures series by Marianne de Pierres (US/International)

Way back in December 2011, I read Burn Bright by Marianne de Pierres and thoroughly enjoyed it. I've wanted to read on, but getting just that book was a hassle and a half. Getting the others wasn't going to be an easy feat no matter how much I wanted to read them (and I still want to read them a LOT).

Now? Not so much. Because Burn Bright and the rest of the Night Creatures series will be available in ebook and paperback through Amazon WORLDWIDE very soon. As in, this month kind of soon. This also comes with new covers for each book in the series (a little sad because I LOVE the original Aussie covers, but this happens sometimes) and I'm happy to be able to show you the new covers for the series as a member of the Burn Bright VIP club!

First comes the new cover for the first book, Burn Bright:

Into a world of wild secrets and deadly pleasures comes a girl whose innocence may be her greatest strength.

In Ixion music and party are our only beliefs. Darkness is our comfort. We have few rules but they are absolute . . .

Retra doesn’t want to go to Ixion, the island of ever-night, ever-youth and never-sleep. Retra is a Seal – sealed minds, sealed community. She doesn’t crave parties and pleasure, experience and freedom.

But her brother Joel left for Ixion two years ago, and Retra is determined to find him. Braving the intense pain of her obedience strip to escape the only home she’s ever known, Retra stows away on the barge that will take her to her brother.

When she can’t find Joel, Retra finds herself drawn deeper into the intoxicating world of Ixion. Come to me, whispers a voice in her head. Who are the Ripers, the mysterious guardians of Ixion? What are the Night Creatures Retra can see in the shadows? And what happens to those who grow too old for Ixion?

Retra will find that Ixion has its pleasures, but its secrets are deadly. Will friendship, and the creation of an eternal bond with a Riper, be enough to save her from the darkness?

Listen well, baby bats. Burn bright, but do not stray from the paths. Remember, when you live in a place of darkness you also live with creatures of the dark.


Then the cover for Angel Arias, the second book in the series (no jacket copy for this one in order to protect you from spoilers):

And finally, the new cover for Shine Light, the final book of the series (once again, no jacket copy in order to stop spoilers from happening):

 For comparison, here are the three original covers:

 Burn Bright (Night Creatures, #1)Angel Arias (Night Creatures, #2)Shine Light (Night Creatures, #3) 

So what do you think? I didn't care much for the new covers when they first popped into my inbox, but I've got to admit, they're growing on me. I'll always be fond of the Aussie covers, though. Very unique and eye-grabbing and beautiful. Either way, I'm happy more readers will be able to have access to the series soon. Australia is hoarding too many good books!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Revenge of the DNF

If you've been following me long enough, you've seen me plow through some REALLY terrible books like wow, but even I lack the patience for certain books sometimes. Busier school year + book that has nothing to keep me going + stupidity = nope. I've had enough DNF (did not finish) books build up that I think it's time to unload some mini-reviews on y'all.

I don't want to spend more time on these DNFs than I already am, so you get the cover, title/author, where I got it from, and why I didn't finish it. Also, if you're coming here expecting sweetness? You might want to leave. I try to hold myself to a certain standard in reviews, but all bets are off in DNF reports.

Crash (Crash, #1)Crash by Nicole Williams (Bought)

Oh God, there are not words for this. I read a single chapter and... Wow. Just check out my Goodreads review of it for quotes. If I copy the quotes here, it'll take up way too much space. In short, this is one of the worst attempts at writing in a teenage voice that I've ever seen. It may actually be THE worst I've ever seen, it's so bad. That this got a deal with HarperCollins baffles, terrifies, and amazes me.

Okay, here's just one quote: "My heart went boom-boom, my head got all foggy, and I felt this ache inside when he turned and walked away, like we were tied together by a fixed rope. I’d let exactly four of these soul typhoons pass unexplored, but I’d made a pact of the utmost sacredness with myself that I wouldn’t let a fifth go by in the same kind of way. (2)" Just so you know, that really is from page TWO of the book. TWO. I'm way too smart for this bullshit.

Books like this are why new adult can KISS MY ASS.

Twenty Boy SummerTwenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler (Birthday gift)

Note to readers? Don't be stupid like me and buy a book because of its title. I bought this one because it implied harem romance I was fully aware wasn't going to happen and all I got out of it was a headache.

This is a major case of me getting what the author is going for and seeing it sometimes but it not working most of the time. Anna just lets Frankie keep pushing her and pushing her about her virginity when it's none of Frankie's damn business. My best friends don't get to push me like that about my sex life or relationship status just like I don't get to push them around about it. If they try to, their ears practically get bitten off once we're in private.

I was so sad to see this one fail as badly as it did too. Ockler her the heartfelt moments in her prose and times where it rang true, but I got so annoyed with Frankie and Anna and everything else that I gave up a little over halfway through. 

MILA 2.0 (MILA 2.0, #1)Mila 2.0 by Debra Driza (ARC given to me by a friend)

I got a bad feeling just looking at my copy and lo and behold, reading it didn't go well. Quit after part one, which was about 34% of the way in. I just didn't have the patience for this.

The way the other girls Mila's age are characterized disgusts me. Kaylee's only traits are that she's boy-crazy, she's angry when the new guy starts paying attention to Mila, and she's vicious enough to start a rumor saying Mila cut off her arm and sent it to an ex-boyfriend after he broke up with her. Another girl named Parker makes mean quips as well about how Kaylee is only nice to her because she's new. The way Mila describes them/their clothing reeks of judgment, like how she expects Parker to preen smugly when Mila notices her haircut and how both girls wear platform shoes.

What, are platform shoes the sign of mean girls now? Then you all better run for your lives because me and my three-inch glittering platform heels? We're the motherfucking devil in disguise.

Mila just isn't that interesting of a character. Her developing relationship with her love interest Hunter is boring and all the information about who/what Mila is gets infodumped on her/us via an iPod she listens to while her mother fixes her arm. Seriously? That's a pretty lazy way to tell us about her origins.

Smokeless Fire (Fire Spirits, #1)Smokeless Fire by Samantha Young (Bought)

Did I really expect anything different from the woman who brought us the hot mess known as On Dublin Street? No, not really. Still, I gave it a try because it sounded interesting enough. Bzzt! Wrong!

This quote left me asking what the hell was going on when I'd barely even begun to read: "Everywhere he glanced those eyes of a thousand nights, eyes that had made love to every spectrum of color this realm and the others had to offer, were refracted on the cold glass and black marble of his home (p. 6)."

Eyes making love? What? Not to mention the poor grammar. Commas: they're important. "Let's eat, Grandpa" and "Let's eat Grandpa" is a good example of that.

There are also words being thrown across a room belligerently, amateur infodumping that doesn't even attempt to seem natural, lots of head-jumping into heads we didn't need to be in, and no commas where there needed to be commas. Also, slut-shaming: not cool.

"OK, maybe it was too early for patience. “What… get high? Get wasted. Sleep around with a bunch of STD-infected skanks (p. 47)."" (Also a failure to use question marks right in this passage, but the slut-shaming is much more important.)

Thank goodness this one was a Kindle freebie when I got it. I don't feel like I wasted any money because I didn't PAY any money. All I wasted was time on this sorry excuse for a book.


There are plenty more DNFs where those came from, but I tend to just mark them as gave-up-on on Goodreads, make a small note about why, and leave it at that. What about y'all? Anything you haven't been able to make yourself finish reading for the life of you lately?