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review 2018-09-29 18:02
Houses of Stone by Barbara Michaels
Houses of Stone - Barbara Michaels

Sometimes it's easy to forget how brilliant, capable and well-educated Barbara Michaels, aka Elizabeth Peters, aka Barbara Mertz was. By all rights, we should really call her Dr. Mertz, since she was awarded a Ph.D. in Egyptology from the University of Chicago in 1952. 

 

I haven't read a lot of her Amelia Peabody series, where she really puts that Egyptology doctorate to work, although the few I've read I've enjoyed. I have a pronounced weekness for mid-twentieth century Gothic Romance, which is why I've read a lot more of her so-called gothic romances.

 

Houses of Stone barely hits the romance genre. There are two love interests, one of whom turns out to be every bit as despicable as I predicted, the other who redeems himself somewhat. The real love story in this book is between the main character, Karen, and her scholarship. 

 

I didn't struggle with Karen as much as MBD did - she was prickly, angry, suspicious and occasionally she got things absolutely wrong. She was also over being condescended to and treated like an adorable but wayward child.

 

The scene in the library where she regales a room full of old biddies with their first taste of feminist criticism in a talk entitled "The Pen as Penis" or something like that was hilarious. As an aside, I would point out that the poisonous Mrs. Fowler who roped her into speaking to her book club for free had no expectation that Bill Meyer, a man, would do the same.

 

I also thoroughly enjoyed the discussions about the history of the gothic novel. Barbara Michaels sly sense of humor comes through on several occasions, including the very end, with the restoration of a painting. She isn't as successful in painting the gothic atmosphere in this one as in some of her others, but that's just fine. The strengths of the book make up for the other elements that Michaels leaves intentionally underdeveloped.

 

Karen isn't interested in being the heroine of her own gothic romance. She wants to make intellectual discoveries that will set her discipline on fire, and being the persecuted innocent woman at the center of a gothic melodrama would just get in the way of accomplishing what she sets out to do. The villains are disarmingly pedestrian: an old biddy with money problems, a couple of competitors who will stop at nothing to beat her, and a society that refuses to take serious women seriously.

 

Well done, Dr. Mertz.

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text 2018-09-29 00:58
Book spree
Spindrift - Phyllis A. Whitney
Feather on the Moon - Phyllis A. Whitney
Eternity Ring - Patricia Wentworth
Fire in the Thatch: A Devon Mystery - E.C.R. Lorac

In order to avoid setting the United States capital on fire, which would be bad because it might impact my good friend, Obsidian Blue, I indulged myself in a mini-book-buying spree. I'm also shutting down social media, avoiding the television, and am only allowed to check Booklikes until October. I need a mental health break from the world - I can't take this anymore.

 

I have decided that my second bingo card is going to be all women, in honor of this moment in history.

 

Smash the patriarchy.

 

 

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url 2017-03-08 16:39
50 Great Books about 50 Inspiring Women (from Flavorwire)

From the Flavorwire archives, in honor of International Women's Day.

Image result for rosie the riveter

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text 2017-03-08 15:30
(Nasty) Women's Day
Nasty Women - Laura Waddell,Laura Lam,Ren Aldridge,Nadine Aisha Jassat,Sasha De Buyl-Pisco,Elise Hines,Alice Tarbuck,Jonatha Kottler,Chitra Ramaswamy,Christina Neuwirth,Belle Owen,Zeba Talkhani,Katie Muriel,Joelle A. Owusu,Kaite Welsh,Claire L. Heuchan,Jen McGregor,Me

This essay collection edited by 404 Ink is out today. I'm not quite done with it yet, but so far it is great--intersectional, wise, sometimes painful. I'm only reading things by and about women in honor of International Women's Day today, and this book couldn't come at a better time.

Image result for smash the patriarchy gif

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review 2015-10-12 22:33
Review: Bitch Planet Vol. 1
Bitch Planet Volume 1 - Kelly Sue DeConnick,Robert Wilson IV,Valentine De Landro

(I received an ARC of this title from the publisher via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.)

 

Image Comics

 

Trade publication date: October 20, 2015 (all collected issues previously released individually)

 

If the future is undiscovered country, why does it feel like we’ve been here before? That’s why stories like this pack such a gut-punch; it’s too real, too possible. Never mind the space travel or the other science fiction trappings, the story has been told before and it never loses its alarming fascination. Charlotte Perkins Gilman told the story of a woman imprisoned by patriarchal society in The Yellow Wallpaper over 100 years ago. A story not set in a future dystopia, but set completely in the real world of her own experience. Gilman used horror as her vehicle; DeConnick merely switches up the genre and shows how easy it would be to come full circle.

 

Kelly Sue DeConnick has taken all of the greatest hits of science fiction dystopia—fascism, surveillance, manipulated media, death-as-spectator-sport, off-world detainment—and mashed them up with 70s-style prison exploitation, complete with badass afroed heroine and the obligatory group shower scene. There is a rich irony in her particular mix of styles, which she milks for all its worth: using a male-gaze genre that focuses on dehumanizing women for sexual kicks and turning those women into complete ass-kickers who will literally take down the voyeurs with their bare hands-- pure genius. In this future, any woman who is considered to be “noncompliant” is shipped to an off-world prison nicknamed Bitch Planet. Noncompliance can be anything from “seduction and disappointment” (not putting out) to “genetic error” (being born a twin) to being a “bad” mother (undefined, but I can guess). The “crimes” require nothing more than a complaint from a man—father, husband, stranger; the actual relationship doesn’t seem to matter.

 

I don’t think I can talk about Bitch Planet without making comparisons to The Handmaid’s Tale. Atwood’s novel set the standard for ass-backwards-patriarchy-gone-mad dystopia, and BP follows a line of direct descent. The tone and execution are completely different, but the effect is essentially the same: absolute, rage-inducing horror. As one reviewer put it, it’s “the kind of book that makes you feel good about being angry.”*

 

But unlike Handmaid’s Tale and, quite frankly, a lot of other feminist work, BP is intersectional in its look at women and women’s lives. The majority of the lead characters are women of color, often poor and working class, which reflects not just a wider human experience than most literature, but also the very real likelihood that race is a determining factor in who is considered noncompliant. There is a moment where the racism of the future (which is just racism with a new vocabulary) is made very clear: people of color are referred to as “skins.” The color-based terms once used are replaced by a more generic word, only to be just another way to describe someone as “other,” with even more reductive effect. It’s chilling, and all too real.

 

There is a reason real women all over the world have read these comics and branded themselves with the NC (noncompliant) tattoo, a punishment that is reclaimed as a act of defiance in Bitch Planet. What is compulsory in BP society is voluntary in this one; by choosing it willingly, we (I’m considering one myself) head off the possibility that someday it COULD BE mandatory. We accept that this future is possible, and we know where we stand, since simply by living our lives with expectations of being treated as fully recognized human beings, we are being noncompliant with the basic rules of a patriarchal society. There are people even now that want to set us back by a hundred years because a woman who can make her own choices is a threat. Bitch Planet shows us what that could mean, in a powerful, visceral way. This first collection is just the introduction to the world and the characters, but it packs a punch from page one.

 

DeConnick’s story is brought to life by Valentine De Landro’s sharp-as-nails art. He captures the run-down sterility of the prison, the oversaturated outside world, and the smarmy politicking behind the scenes with equal skill, and his retro-fabulous covers and ads are amazing. The settings, the character design, the dark color palette with incongruous pops of neon; all seamlessly reinforce DeConnick’s black humor and biting social commentary. De Landro is especially adept at presenting a wide range of body types among the women- each one is unique and every imperfection highlights their humanity and how very close we are to their reality.

 

 

This is only the first trade volume, collecting issues 1-5, but I’m definitely hooked for the long haul. Some people may be put off by how in-your-face DeConnick is about the violence and the cruelty, but it’s absolutely necessary for the message. And watching the ladies kick ass even when everything looks hopeless is exactly the kind of noncompliance we need.

 

(My only complaint is that the trade doesn't include the feminist essays that are published in the single issues.)

 

*Daily Dot blurb from the back cover of Volume 1

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