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review 2019-01-16 05:07
Not That Bad by Roxane Gay (abandoned)
Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture - Roxane Azimi

The essays that I read were excellent, but this is just too hard to read at the moment.

 

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review 2019-01-13 17:16
THE SAME DEEP WATER AS YOU by Chad Lutzke
The Same Deep Water as You - Chad Lutzke

 

I'll start simple: I love me some Chad Lutzke! THE SAME DEEP WATER AS YOU is yet another tale from the author I view as the one most able to make me cry. If there was a ribbon for that, he would take blue for first place.

 

As always, Chad put together an intimate story where his writing is top notch. The language is plain but the words are put together in such a way that they make you feel. They're like tiny little word arrows shot into your heart.

 

 

" You can put life on hold for a whole year dating someone, getting to know them, and then it all falls apart. Your heart is broken and you can’t do shit for another half a year without thinking of them, missing them, missing all that wasted time. I suppose with each one we walk away learning something about ourselves, about life, about how to love. Maybe we’re all just stepping stones for each other. We’re all helping somebody get somewhere. From here to a better there."

 

 

 

While I did enjoy this novella, I didn't feel the same poignancy that I normally experience when reading Chad's work. I've been thinking on it and I've come up with this for the reason why: the time period in which it's set. I came of age of with ACDC, Motley, Judas and Ozzy. I'm pretty sure The Cure came after that?? That means that all references to them went right over my head, (other than those to their most popular songs.) Being more familiar with the band and their music would probably have provided that extra connection or nostalgia I felt I was missing.

 

This is still Chad Lutzke though, so it's all good. It's still a story that grabs you and makes you think. It still has phrases put together in such a way that they touch your heart. It still builds into a satisfying tale in the end and what more could you ask for?

 

Recommended! You can get your copy here: THE SAME DEEP WATER AS YOU

 

 

*I bought this book with my hard earned cash. *

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review 2019-01-13 02:49
BEARTOWN by Fredrik Backman
Beartown: A Novel - Fredrik Backman
  Wow! What a read! Nothing like I expected. I was expecting something like A Man Called Ove or Britt-Marie Was Here but Beartown is the opposite of them. Told through multiple eyes with a narrator putting his comments in throughout the book, it is a very intense read. There are some good one-liners that made me laugh out loud but there is more about our humanness and how we fail to live up to that humanness in this book. It is the teens who do the teaching here. Some show loyalty by sticking by the offender. Others show loyalty by standing up to those who want them to chose the wrong/evil path. This book so clearly shows how often the female is judged and found wanting while the male is seen as the "poor" victim. No one reverses how the questions are asked or the comments made to show who was in the wrong.

I liked the teens. Too many of the adults were found wanting. Kevin's father is horrible. I loved Maya's solution. I was a little worried there. I appreciated her response to Kevin's mother. She shows so much compassion. Maya's parents, Peter and Kira, do the best they can but come to realize they can't protect their children. They are good complements for each other. I loved Benji and Amat and how they went against the others.

This is a keeper. I cannot wait to read the sequel, Us Against You.
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review 2019-01-06 04:20
Gakuen Prince (manga, vol. 1) by Jun Yuzuki, translated by Harumi Ueno
Gakuen Prince 1 - Jun Yuzuki

I bought this and the next two volumes while bargain bin shopping a while back. The cover made me think it might be some kind of "bad boy + nerdy wallflower" romance. It's not.

Jyoushioka High School used to be an all-girls' school until a few years ago. Although it's now co-ed, the school's girls still vastly outnumber the boys. All the boys are placed in S-class, which only the richest and brightest girls are assigned to.

Azusa Mizutani is the school's newest male transfer student. He has no idea how the school works, and he soon realizes that he'll have to learn fast. Since boys are few and far between, nearly all of the girls are sex crazed. S-class gets first dibs on raping the boys, after which they're fair game for anyone who can get at them. Munechika, the school's most powerful guy, has learned how to make the system work for him, and his advice to Azusa is simple: just accept it and don't get anyone pregnant.

Azusa doesn't have many options. He can take control and actively seduce girls the way Munechika does, keep running until he's finally cornered and raped, or find a girl who's willing to date him and thereby stake her claim on him. When he accidentally comes across Rise Okitsu, a girl who just wants to make it through high school without getting involved in any trouble, he decides to declare her his girlfriend.

I always liked Del Rey's manga releases because they all had pages of useful translator's notes. Those notes are probably the best thing about this pile of garbage.

This series is basically just an excuse for lots of on-page abuse and near-rape. Within the first few pages, Azusa spots a guy in tears because a gang of girls ripped all his clothes off. During his first class, he reads a note being passed around in which all the girls are talking about how hot he is and what it'll be like when they tie him up, take embarrassing pictures of him, and rape him. (I don't recall the word "rape" ever being used in the volume, but it's pretty clear that's what the girls intend to do.) After Azusa forces Rise to help him,

she's bullied and set up to be raped by a lesbian who she initially mistakes for a man.

(spoiler show)

There are a couple instances where girls try to drug Azusa -

in fact, they actually do manage to give him something near the end of the volume, which leads to Azusa almost forcing himself on Rise (she punches him).

(spoiler show)


The brief quiet period after Azusa initially announced that he belonged to Rise bothered me on multiple levels. Both Azusa and Rise started to relax, thinking their fellow students' sudden friendliness was genuine, and all I could think was how gross it would be to smile and laugh with students who were only behaving like decent human beings because of a necktie (students who are dating each other exchange neckties).

There are a few gender-flipped instances of the sorts of things women often encounter. For example, when Azusa first finds out how the girls treat the boys, he tells himself that the boy he saw on his way to his first class must have had a problem (had done something that led to the girls attacking him). That kind of thing wouldn't happen to him because he's different. So we have victim-blaming as a form of self-comfort (which doesn't last long in this case). Then there's the whole "ownership" aspect of dating - guys gaining some measure of protection by declaring that they "belong" to one particular girl. The gender-flipping didn't make any of it less gross, and I have a feeling that, in the end, Yuzuki was aiming more for "titillating rape fantasy" than some sort of commentary on rape culture.

There was also some "not like other girls" crap. Rise was the only girl who wasn't involved in the boy-hunting and the only one who seemed to be even slightly bothered by any of it. There were also multiple instances of her fuming about the "heifers" and "sluts" at her school.

If I continue on, it's because I already own the next couple volumes and it's always hard for me to force myself to offload stuff I haven't read. I can't get the "what if it gets better?" voice to shut up, even in cases like this, where odds are really good that it won't get better and might even get worse.

Extras:

Four pages of translators notes, a couple pages of honorifics explanations, a few author freetalk sections (including the postscript, in which the author writes "Well, to tell you the truth, I've been drawing manga just by my instincts, so I don't know the basics of building up a story." (175)), and at least one humorous four-panel comic featuring characters from the series.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2019-01-04 21:33
Rust & Stardust
Rust & Stardust - T. Greenwood

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

I wasn’t exactly sure what this novel would be like—true crime stories are usually more on the grim, graphic side, and as for “Lolita” (for which Sally Horner’s story was partly an inspiration), I admit I liked it more for its value as a classic than for its theme. Still, “Rust & Stardust” looked like it’d be an interesting read, and that it was… as well as heart-breaking in many ways. (Especially when you already know how things went for the real Sally Horner.)

One thing I really appreciated with it is how it never veers into graphic/descriptive territory when it comes to the sexual abuse Sally suffered. I’m not a prude, but reading about women being defiled in terms that make the whole thing look like “stuff being done to a piece of meat” has never been something I particularly relish, and when the victims are kids, how to put it… That’d just be the worst. So I was really glad that, while there’s no doubt as to what LaSalle does to Sally, there’s also no need to say more. We get it. We get the picture. He’s a disgusting man. And we can leave it at that.

There’s also a really frustrating side to the story, in that it shows us several close calls where, had things gone just slightly differently, Sally could’ve been found much sooner. It always hinges on a tiny thing, on just the wrong timing—frustrating, but also all too human, because it puts the reader face to face with something that most of us may indeed not recognise in time to act. It’s all about “someone has to do something”, but the someones who could act are sometimes oblivious, and sometimes make their decision just that tad bit too late to be useful. And, to be fair, most of the characters were so naive! Granted, it was 1948, and we can assume there weren't so many horror stories of kids being abducted at the time, and people wouldn't be as savvy and wary as they generally (well, supposedly) are now. Still, I felt like slapping them sometimes and tall them "duh, this is so obvious!"

(I say “frustrating”, but with a dash of anticipation, like when you’re left with a cliffhanger.)

The novel doesn’t entirely follow Sally’s ordeal either, and the author took some freedoms with the side characters: people whom Sally meets, who may or may not be in positions to help her, and who provide a ray of sunshine in her existence while LaSalle drags her around. What it was exactly like for the real Sally, we’ll never know, but here, it felt as if these encounters allowed her to survive, to remain strong enough in spite of all the grim sides. There’s an (expected) turning point when she reaches that stage where she starts to look more like a young woman, something that doesn’t “appeal” to Frank, and in turn, he gradually treats her differently—and you can’t help but shiver, on top of the previous shivers due to the whole paedophilia part itself, because it’s when you also start wondering “how long until he discards her because she’s not a little girl anymore?”

I guess I had more trouble, all in all, with the overall style. The writing was OK but not the best ever, and there were moments in the story when the rhythm felt strange; or perhaps that was because everything focused on the characters and little on the investigation itself, so there wasn’t the same kind of suspense I usually associate with “crime stories”?

Nevertheless, I “enjoyed” the book, also for telling this story that deserved telling. 3.5 to 4 stars here.

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