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Bitsy's Books

Note: I'm uploading my books from Goodreads and since there are like 200+ it's going to take awhile. The uploading seems a bit wonky too, so hang with me as I fix things. Also there may be spoilers until I can make all the appropriate tags.


I'm an ex-English Major who, sick of reading classics after college, decided to read all the trashy books I didn't before because I was too snobby. Since graduating, I've entertained myself with comics, YA, and romance novels, finding out they can not only be decently written, but superbly written. I've since recovered from my classics aversion, but I'm now more open-minded reader willing to read from any genre. If a book has kick-ass heroines and/or witty banter and/or takes place in a different time or place (including fantasy settings), I will most likely fall in love with it. My favorite authors are Jane Austen, Shakespeare, E.M. Forster, Meljean Brook, Sarah Rees Brennan, Rachel Hartman, Catherynne M. Valente, and Aliette de Bodard.

Currently reading

The Blue Fairy Book
Andrew Lang
Apollo's Angels: A History of Ballet
Jennifer Homans

The Eternal Kiss: 12 Vampire Tales of Blood and Desire

The Eternal Kiss: 13 Vampire Tales of Blood and Desire - Libba Bray, Maria V. Snyder, Debbie Viguié, Lilith Saintcrow, Cecil Castellucci, Trisha Telep, Sarah Rees Brennan, Dina James, Karen Mahoney, Nancy Holder, Rachel Caine, Kelley Armstrong, Melissa  de la Cruz, Cassandra Clare, Holly Black

I am aware there was controversy surrounding this editor, so I had checked this out of the library. Because the original blog post detailing what happened has been taken down, I can only go by hearsay. Apparently in later anthology, one of the authors wanted to include a homosexual love story and Telep insisted the author change it to a heterosexual one. I don't know if Telep was acting on behalf of the publishing house or her own preferences. I thought to let people know to make their own decisions.


Average: 3.5 Stars

I just read the stories of the authors I was interested in. Despite the title, most of the stories I read fell more into the horror genre than YA paranormal romance. With the exception of Brennan's story, the stories revolved around the same theme of devolving into a monster and accepting one's monstrosity. Black's story is the standout that the rest fail to match, but there still is some pretty good vampire-based horror in here.

Favorite: "The Coldest Girl in Coldtown" by Holly Black

Standouts: "The Thirteenth Step" by Libba Bray and "Ambition" by Lili St. Crow


The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

5 Stars


Matilda has been infected by vampirism. If she avoids biting someone for 88 days, she can remain human. However, she will have to make a choice when her boyfriend and her friend's sister travel to a coldtown - where vampires are confined from the rest of the population. But once you enter Coldtown, you can never leave...


I wanted to read this to see if I should purchase the full length novel based on this story This story knocked me DEAD ON MY FEET (pun not intended). It's exactly what I think many vampire stories have been missing after the Twilight vampire resurgence - terror, (lack-of) morality, and mortality. It's one of those stories that after you put it down makes you think, "What do I do NOW? I can never read again, because nothing will ever live up to this." It always amazes me how writers can create a whole world in a short story and Black creates a terrible, yet believable future where vampires exist. Matilda is a great character - she's resourceful and worldly, yet self-destructive and naive at the same time. the journey she takes into Coldtown is both heartbreaking and horrible. A definite must read.


So in other words: I have already purchased the full-length novel :)


Undead is Very Hot Right Now by Sarah Rees Brennan

2.5 Stars


A new vampire joins a boy band and struggles to adjust to his new life and his new fame.I'm a huge fan of Brennan, but this story just fell flat. Her humor was a bit too over-the-top and I think she and Justine Larbalestier were much funnier and more poignant in their vampire spoof Team Human. Brennan still manages to get in her trademark funny one-liners, but not her best work.


The Thirteenth Step by Libba Bray

4 Stars


After her life being messed up by her sister's drug addiction, Lauren takes a job at Angeleus House to help other drug addicts. However, Angeleus House may not be what it seems.


One thing Libba Bray excels at is horror. She knows just how to infuse her scenes with enough creepiness and mystery to keep readers reading. That being said, I really really hated the protagonist. She was whiny, stupid, and privileged. I mean there are so many coincidences that scream "VAMPIRE" and "CULT" and Lauren just ignores them despite having been warned beforehand by another character. The emotional impact of the story was less because I just hoped Lauren would die. There is an interesting commentary running through the story that society's disregard of poor POCs and drug addicts and the like are what causes the vampires to infiltrate society. It is an interesting thought that rings of some truth, but I don't know if this was treated with sensitively. It's hard because Lauren is a self-centered bitch and dismisses people, but this sometimes left a bad taste in my mouth. The story wasn't helped by the fact it had similar themes to Holly Black's and Black's was much better. Still, a good creepy story.


Other Boys by Cassandra Clare

3 Stars


Jennifer finds herself drawn to the boy who says he's a vampire. Is he or is the truth much more horrific?The story was alright with a nice little twist on the usual vampire story. It didn't feel very original and similar in theme to Black's and Bray's stories, but not nearly as memorable.


Ambition by Lili St. Crow

4 Stars


The heroine has always felt she will never have the life of "the golden people" surrounding her at school.  Rich. Beautiful. Lucky. Irresistible. Until she meets Johnny and he makes her an offer to be something greater.


I was surprised at how good this story was. Crow was really able to create a voice that sounded like a teenager and doesn't hammer home a moral, allowing for a Shirley Jacksonian ambiguity. Is this a (demented) Cinderella story? Or a horror story? It's up to the reader to decide. One minor quibble: the author (and editor) apparently don't know the correct spelling of hola. *side eye*


The Other Half of the Sky Anthology Part 1

The Other Half Of The Sky - Jack McDevitt, Kelly Jennings, Christine Lucas, Kay T. Holt, Alex Dally MacFarlane, Aliette de Bodard, Athena Andreadis, C.W. Johnson, Terry Boren, Sue Lange, Ken Liu, Cat Rambo, Melissa Scott, Joan Slonczewski, Alexander Jablokov, Nisi Shawl, Martha Wells, Vandana Singh

Average: 3 Stars (so far)

I didn't finish the anthology, but hope to come back to it eventually. So far, there was a lot of interesting ideas, but no story really stood out or was incredible.

Favorites: "Finders" by Melissa Scott and "Missions of Greed" by Sue Lange

Worst: "Landfall" by Joan Slonczewiski


"Finders" by Melissa Scott

4 Stars


Scavengers Cassilde and Dai must decide whether to risk all their funds and Cassilde's declining health when their untrustworthy ex-partner/lover returns promising a possible monunmental discovery.


Probably the most interesting and unique world-building I've read in a long time, I was fascinated with the part cyberpunk, part scavenger, and slightly Eastern-influenced world Scott created and wished that this story had been a much longer novel. A dying world, ravaged by war, forced to live off their fore-bearers' (or Ancestors to the characters)tech for survival. The Ancestor's technology is in limited quantities, forcing scavengers to go into the wreckage of the Ancestor's homes to mine what is left of a decreasing supply. Scott never info-dumps, but gives the reader enough information so they can piece together the world and it's history. Sadly, I never quite got the sense of the main character and the plot relied on a character needlessly withholding information and a baseline stupidity of most characters involved (Let's ignore the strange ship that showed up and disappear on our radar! That won't haunt us later! Let's leave our ship unguarded despite said strange ship and a possibility of an important artifact! Nobody will bother us!) in order to move forward. Despite an ending that felt abrupt, this is a unique tale that bends genres and makes me wish for more tales in this world.


"Bad Day on Boscobel" by Alexander Jablokov

3 Stars


While performing her job helping aliens immigrate and adjust to life on the astroid Boscobel, Dunya and her daughter become caught up with a couple Martians, gangs, and a possible invasion.While I enjoyed the setting (a society built in very large trees) and the characters of Miriam and Dunya, the story hinged on deus ex machinas and inconstant characterization to move the plot forward too often and was filled with awkward writing. The worst offender was Dunya's plot moppet daughter,Bodil, whose only personality traits were annoyingly spunky and the ability to show up randomly and instigate plot events. She is apparently old enough to have a boyfriend her mother disapproves of, but spoke ["They hit him, momma (sic). A lot. I never trusted them. I want to hurt them" (60).] and acted [Bodil pushed her lower lip out and looked about to cry (71).] like she was six-years-old. While Bodil's characterization and the lazy writing hurt the story, the unique world, Miriam's bad-assary and Dunya's efficiency made up for the weaknesses. An enjoyable, yet mediocre story.


"In Colors Everywhere" by Nisi Shawl

3.5 Stars



In the future, planets become penal colonies. When a mysterious object from the overseer crashes on their planet, Mentor Trill and elder-in-training, Dola, go and investigate, finding both horror and hope.


I loved the idea of this world - a penal colony where the personalities of prisoners are placed in clones and left on their own to survive. However, the prisoners have thrived, creating their own economy and culture and having children. Because the prisoners are placed in bodies that may be different from their original sex (or race or age), sexuality and gender identity is more fluid (it's also implied that the original prisoners may have been imprisoned for being transgender). The sinister overseer, nicknamed Dr. Ops by the prisoners, is not allowed to kill them, but can do whatever else s/he wants. Shawl's fantastic world-building has echoes of imperialism, first-world/third-world, and globalism.


However, there is a rape in this story. It threw me because it was so unexpected, especially given the feminist overtones of this anthology. I did not agree with how the elders had sent their recruit to be raped and then deny her abortion as her final test. It was incredibly cruel and made the ending ambiguous. I couldn’t tell if Shawl is approving or condemning the elders' actions, but the whole rape-plot didn’t sit well with me.I loved the story, but I’m struggling with the implications in the story. The world-building was fantastic and progressive, but the rape and elders’ complicity in the rape dropped the rating down for me.


"Mission of Greed" by Sue Lange

4 Stars


Captain Lai has been vying to have a planet named after her for years. However, her ambitions may cost her her life when one of her crew members is found murdered and her crew mutinies.


A throwback to the pulp sci-fi stories of yore, Lange's story heaps on the suspense as Lai doesn't know to trust while a possible extraterrestrial adds a hint of space horror. I loved the character of Lai - she's ruthless, ambitious, and tunnel-visioned, an almost fatal flaw. She's not the nicest or the most admirable person, but she's fascinating. The story isn't the most original (and you can figure out pretty easily who the culprits are) or boundary-breaking, but it kept me glued to the page and curious what would happen next.


"Sailing the Antarsa" by Vandana Singh

3.5 Stars


Mayha is sent from her planet Dhara to sail the Antarsa sea - a current that flows in outer space. Her people believe it will take her to another settlement of humans who haven't never been seen or heard from since they left Earth with the Dharans. As Mayha hurtles into the unknown, never to see her loved ones again, she contemplates how life brought her to this point and begins to make a startling discovery.


Apparently this is the story to read in this anthology, so I'm sad I didn't love it. It's an excellent story, but there were a couple of things that tripped me up. I loved how Jainism was incorporated into the story and Dharan society. The ideas of kinship and non-violence are very refreshing considering how much sci-fi is based on imperialism. However, so much of the world-building relied on the fact that some Dharans have evolved inhuman traits (like scales or eyes that see in the dark) within only five generations. Evolution takes thousands of years, and to have some of the story hinge on this spontaneous Lamarckian evolution really made it hard to immerse myself completely in the story. Singh wrote an excellent story based on a theology that is so different from the various foundations of sci-fi, but the science was a bit too far-fetched for me.


"Landfall" by Joan Slonczewiski

1.5 Stars


Jenny Ramos Kennedy is working on a top secret project during summer break from college. However, her top secret project reacted badly to her experiment and hunks of debris are falling from space straight toward Havana.


This story is more like an interlude between two novels than an actual story. There was too much info-dumping, too many characters making an appearance with little if any personality, and no plot. The world-building is so lazy that the author mentions background info only to restate that EXACT SAME background information a page later as if it was new information. The “story” ends abruptly, and the last sentence basically read like an advertisement for the series. It also has two of my biggest pet peeves: heavy-handed politics and random Spanish words inserted into EVERY BIT OF DIALOUGE (because names like Cesar and Marta and the fact the story takes place in CUBA aren’t clues enough). There were a few interesting ideas (such as biology - something I understand! – used as part of the sci-fi world-building and computers implanted into the brain), but the mediocre writing and haphazard plot/world-building won't have me picking up any more of this author's work.


"This Alakie and the Death of Dima" by Terry Boren

2.5 Stars


The planet Dima is dying, forcing Alakie and the other Hu to leave behind their alien protectors, the Dina. However, Alakie isn't going to give up without making sure both the Dina' s and Hu's descendents survive.


The basis of this story was great - aliens saving and raising humans survivors of a crash, creating a symbiotic society, and the implications when their home is destroyed. However, I had no idea what the hell was going on for most of the story. I had to reread multiple parts just to somewhat grasp the world, the characters, the plot, etc. It didn't help the characters refered to each other by strange titles and themselves as "this *such-and-such*" I wish this story was more accessible, because underneath all the confusing world-building is a good emotional story. But as is, I shouldn't have to work so hard while reading for pleasure.

Capturing the Silken Thief

Capturing the Silken Thief - Jeannie Lin

4.5 out of 5 Stars


In the colorful capital of the Tang Dynasty, Musician Jia needs to steal a book by a famous courtesan to pay for her freedom. However, she has to steal it from the handsome Cheng!


It is truely amazing how much detail and character Lin fits in this well-plotted 57-page story. Chang'an comes alive, as do the character's of Jia and Cheng. Jia is determined and tough, yet vulnerable without being weak. She never plays the victim and, despite being a servant, is willfully in charge of her own destiny. Her Cheng is reserved and kind, yet as determined and playful as Jia underneath. Despite such a short page count, their story and attraction didn't feel rushed (although the very end resolved things a bit quickly and easily). I loved both these characters and their sweet sexy story very much. Jeannie Lin is definitely a gem among Harlequin authors.

Furious Love

Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the Century - Sam Kashner, Nancy Schoenberger

3.5 Stars


An interesting look at the lives and love affair of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, two of the greatest actors of the mid-20th century.The book was very readable and engaging, about not only the stars themselves, but the movies they were in as well. The authors had a weird tick of jumping around in time when relating the story, which could be very confusing. Once again, I just lost interest. Overall, I would recommend for those interested in old Hollywood and the fascinating stars that inhabited it.

Clarkesworld Magazine Issue 69 - Neil Clarke,  An Owomoyela,  Aliette de Bodard,  E. Catherine Tobler Overall: 4 StarsAn excellent issue with great stories. Even those that aren't exceptional are worth the read.Favorite: "If The Mountain Comes" by An OwomoyelaStandout: "Immersion" by Aliette de BodardDud: "Another Word: Assimilation, Multiculturalism, and Me" by Daniel AbrahamFiction"Immersion" by Aliette de Bodard5 StarsA young waitress and a wife of an interacial marriage find an unexpected common ground.Set in her Xuya universe, De Bodard explores globalization, cultural identity, and western-standards of beauty. While a much quieter story than others of her's I've read, she still manages to question the structure of not only sci-fi narratives, but political relations in the world as well. Her experiments with form and voice (such as second person narration here) have paid off in this story, not only putting the reader in the head-space of "the other," but becoming her. I haven't read a story about cultural ideals of beauty this heart-wrenching since The Bluest Eye. This story has won almost every award ever and I understand why."If The Mountain Comes" by An Owomoyela5 StarsA young woman is torn between her father, who militantly controls all the ever decreasing water in the village, and the man who promises to give the village their river back.This story starts off with probably the best first two lines I've ever read:François and Papa were outside, discussing what to do if the water rose. I was in, scrubbing blood from the walls with a palmful of sand.It's beautiful, violent, and descriptive, immediately putting you in the mindset necessary for the story. I loved the religious and nature metaphors the author used to describe the village and the predicament. I loved how there were no simple answers and all the characters had both good and bad motivations. An Owomoyela is definitely an author to look out for."You Were She Who Abode" by E. Catherine Tobler3.5 StarsA war veteran struggles to regain make sense of her shattered memory after suffering a brain injury.This is very much a stream-of-conscious narrative, which was really really hard for me to follow. I think that is party the point - to reflect Cardee's confusion after her injury - but it made the story almost impossible to follow until about halfway through. It was a very emotional, yet hopeful story, showing the costs of war. However, I think the language was a bit too flowery and the stream-of-conscious a bit too chaotic for me to become fully invested. I was too busy trying to figure out what was going on to be emotionally engaged.Non-fiction"Energizing Futures: How SF Fuels Itself" by Stephen GaskellNot RatedI'm more of a humanities and social sciences person, so these extreme science articles make my eyes glaze over. I don't think I have the ability to give critical analysis to articles so outside my sphere of knowledge. So I'm just going to not rate very scientific articles in the future. The only argument I could level against this is it isn't very clear for those outside the discipline."Neither the Billionaire nor the Tramp: Economics in Speculative Fiction" by Jeremy L. C. Jones5 StarsAfter taking an economics class in high school, the term makes me shudder. However, I never really thought about how economics affects and drives narratives. Jones interviews many authors who give their opinions and tips on creating economies in sci-fi/fantasy fiction. It's a great companion piece to Owomoyela's and de Bodard's stories. It was very informative and will definitely influence how I interact with media and my own sad pieces of writing from now on.And John C. Wright is a sanctimonious ass."Another Word: Assimilation, Multiculturalism, and Me" by Daniel Abraham2 StarsI'm somewhat confused what the purpose of this article was. I guess a sort of memoir of the author's interactions with multiculturalism. He does bring up some good points (like how multiculturalism both exposes people to other cultures, but ghettoizes those other cultures into the "other"), but he never really explores any of those ideas. It seems to be more of a congratulatory patting himself on the back for his progressiveness. His final conclusion is just very naive. Of course there are good books from all cultures, but cultural background shapes reader responses to works. Works that don't fit the Western paradigm of active individualism (such as more passive characters who have things happen to them instead of "forging their own destiny," or importance is placed on community, not individuality) are turned down because they won't appeal to the Western reader. It's a much more complex problem than I believe the author realizes.You can read the full magazine for free here! If you like what you read, support the magazine by buying a copy for your e-reader.

The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden

In the Night Garden - Catherynne M. Valente

4.5 Stars


A young girl born with eyes rimmed in black is banished to the palace garden to live out her life. However, when a young prince befriends her, she weaves magical interwoven tales, enchanting and enthralling him.


To describe In the Night Garden is an almost impossible task. It’s a collection of stories at once Arabian Nights and fairy tales and none of those things. The book is split into two larger tales, but each story spawns another story, and each interconnected, not only to the story before, but to other stories and the other tale. It is at once homage to legends and myths and fairy tales, yet at the same time, deconstructs the things we take for granted in those tales (especially with gender, race, and sexuality). There is so much in this book – so many characters, so many stories, so many plots – it takes a while to read. Valente’s fantastic imagination is shown off, as is her heartbreaking insights and dark humor. She draws from many different cultures and traditions to create her own diverse world where the stories occur. And like anything Valente, the world is so unique and fully fleshed out, it’s amazing. Each story is like pulling back layers on the world and a larger story. Her ability to change her authorial voice to each speaker of a story is impressive and really sells the multiple layers to the story(ies).


The reason why I didn’t feel this book was up to the standards of Deathless or The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland… is because neither tale in In the Night Garden was as distinctive nor had the sense of completion of Valente’s other works. Both tales left something wanting. One tale was more traditional, but tied all the loose ends up at the end; while the other, more unique in its subject matter, left some story threads incomplete. The ending is rather abrupt, like the book was chopped off at the end. Of course, there is a second volume and maybe both need to be read as a complete book.


While In the Night Garden isn’t my favorite Valente, it’s still a Valente, which means it is leaps and bounds above most fantasy fiction out there. Unique worlds, fantastic characters and creatures, subverted folklore, humor, heartbreak – what more could you ask for?

Clarkesworld Magazine Issue 64 - Neil Clarke,  Aliette de Bodard,  Rahul Kanakia,  Gwendolyn Clare Overall: 3.5 StarsA solid issue. The only stand out was de Bodard's story, but the rest are good. No duds or things that made me rage-y.Favorite: "Scattered Along the River of Heaven" by Aliette de BodardFiction"Scattered Along the River of Heaven" by Aliette de Bodard4.5 Stars"Scattered Along the River of Heaven" is the story of a revolutionary's rise and fall from power and also the story of her estranged family. I think I should remove the words "heartbreaking" and "beautiful" from my vocabulary when speaking about de Bodard's work because everything she writes is both. She has a painful understanding of how revolutions (and the concept of history written by winners) works. The granddaughter not knowing her own grandmother adds an emotional undercurrent, made all the more powerful by the Chinese ideals of filial piety and honoring ancestors. I docked a half star because some of the Chinese terms confused me (e.g. Mheng is used to refer to the oppressed people and High Mheng is the language used by the oppressors). My own ignorance of Chinese language and culture probably played did not help the confusion. Overall, de Bodard is a different voice in the sci-fi world and one that deserves to be heard."What Everyone Remembers" by Rahul Kanakia3.5 StarsA unique take on the belief cockroaches will survive a nuclear war. Some of the ideas argued in the story seemed familiar and typical for apocalyptic stories, but Eve's sweet voice and unknowingly sad life elevated the piece."All the Painted Stars" by Gwendolyn Clare3.5 StarsA mash-up of Alien/human contact from the perspective of the alien and a coming of age story, but Clare makes them work together into a harmonious story. The amount of world-building done was impressive. However, the story-arch seamed a little too...precious for lack of a better term. I don't think all sci-fi/fantasy has to be depressing and bleak, but this just seamed too pat. I think that may be more of my grumpiness than any actual reflection on the author or her story.Non-fiction"The Future Sounds of Yesterday: A Sequence of Synthesizers in Science Fiction" by Christopher Bahn3 StarsA brief history of the developing technology in music and how it related to sci-fi media (movies, television, etc). There really isn't any analysis besides "synthesizers sound futuristic!" and sometimes the history can be a bit dense, but it's interesting.You can read the full magazine for free here! If you like what you read, support the magazine by buying a copy for your e-reader.
Apex Magazine - November 2009 - Apex Publications, Lavie Tidhar, Aliette de Bodard, Nir Yaniv, Alexsander Ziljak Overall: 3 StarsAccording to the Apex website (and Amazon, B&N, and other retailers), this is actually Issue 5. I have no idea why it is labeled as issue 6 on Goodreads.De Bodard's story is fantastic, but the other two are meh to terrible. These selections do not make me want to pick up the anthology the editor put out. If this is the best world Sci-fi authors have to offer, we are in trouble.Favorite: "After the Fire" by Aliette de BodardWorst: "An Evening in the City Coffeehouse, With Lydia on My Mind" by Alexsander Ziljak“After the Fire” by Aliette de Bodard5 StarsJiaotan is woken from hibernation to convince her sister to fix the ship that contains the last survivors of Earth. I loved how Chinese culture was seamlessly blended into the sci-fi setting. De Bodard is a master of beautiful evocative imagery and has created one of the most unique sci-fi worlds I've read in awhile. Definitely a writer to watch.“Benjamin Schneider’s Little Greys” by Nir Yaniv2.5 StarsThe hypochondriac Benjamin Scheider continually visits Dr. Katz's clinic, until there appears to be some a strange truth behind all his claims. This story had the air of a mysterious, sci-fi mystery at first, but the denouncement left me scratching my head. I'm afraid I just didn't get it. Also, I can't tell if it was the translator or the author, but there was some strange language used, such as a grown man referring to his stomach as his "tummy."“An Evening in the City Coffeehouse, With Lydia on My Mind” by Alexsander Ziljak1.5 StarsA hacker who makes porn by spying and filming people's lives. When he comes across the perfect subject, her dark secret may be his end. Ho hum, so original. Don't let the Simon and Garfunkel-esque title fool you. Jesus, can I please have a story written by a male author that doesn't have someone pissing themselves/an erection/mentioning their penis? How about not using female characters as purely sexual objects? The Lydia of the title, the perfect unknowing porn star specimen prostitutes herself and fucks aliens. Don't worry, we get lots of gory details. *eyeroll* I mean, am I really supposed to feel bad for a guy who spies on people and violates their privacy? And then turns their private moments into porn? Uh...no. Seriously, this story was almost satirical in everything sexist in Sci-fi. It was well written and suspenseful and I did finish it, so that counts for something?Nope.You can read the full magazine for free here! If you like what you read, support the magazine by buying a copy for your e-reader.
Apex Magazine Issue 48 - Lynne M. Thomas,  Douglas F. Warwick,  Shira Lipkin,  Emily Jiang,  Joe R. Lansdale,  E. Lily Yu Overall: 3.5 StarsWorth it for the truly excellent stories by Yu, Jiang, and Warrick. Sadly, the story by Lansdale is pretty horrendous and Ellis's essay leaves much to be desired (funny how I find the newer mostly unpublished authors better than the prolific author with an impressive backlist). Luckily, the good overshadows the bad immensely. Apex is a quality e-magazine I'll be keeping my eye on in the future.Favorite: Tie between "Ilse, Who Saw Clearly" by E. Lily Yu and "The Binding of Ming-tain" by Emily JiangWorst: "Tight Little Stitches on a Dead Man's Back" by Joe R. LansdaleStandouts: "Come to My Arms, My Beamish Boy" by Douglas F. WarrickDuds: "Kicking Ass, Taking Names, Bubblegum Optional" by Sigrid EllisFiction“Ilse, Who Saw Clearly” by E. Lily Yu5 StarsA magician comes to Ilse's small town and replaces everyone's eyes. After her leaves, all the eyes melt, it's up to Ilse, the only one to keep her own eyes, to find the magician and help her villiage. However, Ilse may have her own eyes opened during her journey.A coming-of-age quest tale, with dark fairy-tale trappings, it's amazing Yu created such a fully realized world and characters in such a short story. A feast for the mind and the imagination.“The Binding of Ming-tian” by Emily Jiang5 StarsA hauntingly beautiful story, reflecting Chinese literature, tying the pain of art to the pain of beauty (represented by foot-binding). I continued to think of this story long after I finished.“Tight Little Stitches in a Dead Man’s Back” by Joe R. Lansdale1.5 StarsI think the premise was unique and completely different from most zombie post-apocalyptic worlds. I liked the creepy mutated air-breathing whales and fish with legs. However, the protagonist's musings on his dead daughter took a disturbingly sexual turn that was completely unnecessary. For example, while musing about the last day of his daughter's life:"...I opened the door as Rae (the daughter), naked as the day of her birth, was stepping from the tub.Surprised, she turned to look at me. An arm went over her breasts, and a hand, like a dove settling into a fiery bush, covered her pubic area...It was an innocent thing. An accident. Nothing sexual. But when I think of her now, more often than not, that is the first image that comes to mind. (Lansdale)"Um..I'd hate to break it to you but that is a pretty sexual image of your daughter. This is the first image the reader receives of Rae before the protagonist even muses about her childhood. By showing "grown-up sexy Rae" before child Rae cements Rae in the reader's mind, not as a little girl and a daughter, but as a sexual object. In other words, Rae is an object for the male gaze, not a character in her own right.It only gets better. I had to rage quit after this line:"So the day Rae went off to college and was fucked into oblivion by the dark, pelvic thrust of the bomb, Mary drove me to work. (Lansdale)"You are using rapetastic language to talk about your daughter. You are talking about your own daughter being fucked into oblivion. It's sexualizing and fetishizing and just gross. Why was any of this language necessary? This clearly sends the message this story is for menz and not for the wimin.Not to mention the obligatory erection that seems to be mandatory for all male authors writing for adults. It's like a checklist of everything wrong with male writers.This might be a good story. There were a lot of promising ideas. But the gross sexualization and of the daughter and rape-y language made this a DNF for me.“Come to My Arms, My Beamish Boy” by Douglas F. Warrick4.5 StarsAnother heartbreaking tale (honestly anything with Alzheimer's always gets to me) with a really creepy fantastical twist. Luckily, though sad, the ending is bittersweet. I loved the ruminations on life and purpose. I took off at half star because of the mention of pissing oneself - the other thing besides erections male authors *always have* to mention. Despite that hiccup, it's a wonderful story.Poetry“The Busker, Broke and Busted” by Shira Lipkin4 StarsA heart-breaking yet darkly funny poem about an out-of-date robot in disrepair trying to resell itself to another user. Lipkin slyly makes similarities between the robot and an old prostitute trying to sell herself to another man. While the robot's desperation can be darkly amusing, at the same time the poem has strikes a chord as the robot desperately tries to assert it's humanity and worth as a humanoid.Nonfiction“Kicking Ass, Taking Names, Bubblegum Optional” by Sigrid Ellis2 StarsThis article discusses (or really yells at the reader) that terrible genre action movies are really empowering and we should just ignore all the sexist bullshit because...because...I don't know? Guuuuuuurl power? I obviously don't agree with Ellis's point. I'm not saying one can't be a fan of problematic things (Lord knows I am), but by ignoring the problematic issues just because you like it, is a form of erasure and silencing. Saying "So fucking what" over films like Suckerpunch, Jennifer's Body, and anything Mila Jovovich is in because you like them, is immature and shuts down any possible conversations. And shutting down conversation is opposite of the purpose of an essay or social justice.I'm not giving this essay a low grade because I don't agree with Ellis, but because it's poorly and amateurly written and Ellis spends more time yelling at her audience than trying to provoke thought and start a dialogue. She does make some interesting points about the movies mentioned above, but it's drowned out by her need to vindicate herself and her shaming others for finding these movies problematic. There is a good article on this topic, but this isn't it. This is it.You can read the full magazine for free here! If you like what you read, support the magazine by buying a copy for your e-reader.
Red Fox - Karina Halle 0 out of 5 StarsOH JESUS MARY AND JOSEPH, I AM DONE! Go watch Supernatural, read The Mediator series by Meg Cabot, burn your eyes out - do ANYTHING but read this book.I guess I'm just naively idealistic. I thought maybe the navel-gazing, pity-party, hapless, idiotic characters would morph into actually likable (or at least interesting) three-dimensional people. I thought maybe the love story and the ghost hunting would seamlessly blend together. Basically I was hoping this series would turn into what I wanted it to be, not what it actually is.Review to come.

The Left Hand of Darkness

The Left Hand of Darkness - Ursula K. Le Guin 4 out of 5 StarsGenly Ai has been sent to convince the Gethenians on the Planet Winter to join a planetary alliance. The Gethenians are asexual – they only become male or female once every month. Genly has to learn to navigate his way through the strange rules of this planet and to forge relationships that transcend sexual identity.When I first heard of The Left Hand of Darkness, I expected it to be more of an exploration of gender and how gender influences destiny a la a Joanna Russ novel. Gender is touched on but it isn’t the focus of the story. Going in with very different expectations (excpecting Russ when I got…well, le Guin), I didn’t really enjoy the first few chapters. The book felt more like an antholopological study. I was completely bored and almost DNFed. But when I let go of my RAH RAH FEMINISM expectations, and read the book for what it was, I began to enjoy it. What I first had assumed was purely anthropological was setting the groundwork for the eventual political drama. By being immersed in Gethenian society and politics the reader really understood why groups and characters acted as they did and eventually came to better understand the Gethenian characters, especially Estravan, and how he deviates from the norm.The focus of the book is Genly and his complicated relationship with Estraven. Although neither are particularly close or even like each other at the beginning, both eventually come together over their goal for Winter to join the Ekumenical Council and the hardships they face to achieve that goal. Experiencing so much together, they begin to relate to each other on an almost spiritual level, based on who they are, not what they are (male/female, earth/alien, norm/other, etc.)The best parts were the Gethenian myths, legends, and religious texts interspersed throughout the book. They probably were much more interesting and informative on Gethenians worldview than the chapters spent describing Winter and the various countries. I loved how each of these stories eventually came back and reflected the journey and friendship of Genly and Estraven and their own individual lives.However, the book is a bit dated. Written in 1969, some of the gender politics are old-fashioned (seriously in a 1000 years, women haven’t been able to achieve equal status with men? On any planet? In 40 years we’ve accomplished much more than what le Guin predicts for the future). The gender politics on Terra and the other planets part of the Ekumenical council sound close to those of 1960’s middle class America. There is an interesting chapter where a female scientist muses that it’s hard to live on Winter because the people don’t notice or recognize your sexuality. As a female scientist, this seemed a really odd statement, especially since it flies close to benevolent sexism (i.e. You’re really pretty for a scientist!)This is compounded by the fact that Genly is pretty sexist. He constantly looks down on the Gethenians he sees as having “female” traits (even though they do not identify as either male or female but asexual). While he eventually does move past this with Estravan, and sees him as truly asexual, Genly never really leaves his sexism behind. While this is probably more realistic than Genly suddenly quoting Gloria Steinem and marching for equal rights, his actions and feelings were a bit too close to Poe’s Law for comfort. Especially considering the sexism plaguing sci-fi, Genly could easily be any one of these men.Despite being a bit dated, this book is a wonderful exploration of relationships – how people relate to one another, how they can bridge differences and learn about each other – and one planet adapting to their whole worldview changing. The Left Hand of Darkness broke my heart and made me think. I don’t know if I feel it was worthy of winning both the Hugo and Nebula in 1969 (all that anthropological stuff and survival stuff did weigh the book down a bit), but then again I wasn’t alive back then. What I can say is Le Guin definitely deserves her place as the premier female science fiction author, and is a must read for any fans of the genre. She brings a unique perspective that is different from the Bradburys, Huxleys, and Orwells. She deserves to stand next to the greats.
Frida - Jonah Winter, Ana Juan Text: 4.5 StarsIllustrations: 5 StarsA short simple biography of Frida Kahlo's early life and how her accidents inspired her to paint.I don't know much about Kahlo, but the author did a good job showing what an inspiration she was. The story was simple enough to understand who she was as a young girl and her influences.The real standout is Juan's art. She uses symbolism to depict the difficulties in Frida's life, so the book isn't too graphic. In an artist's note, Juan explains how she uses characters from Mexican folklore that Kahlo would have been familiar with, as companions of Frida's in her illustrations. I thought that was a clever and cute way to incorperate Mexican culture and Kahlo's influences.A great book for kids overcoming obstacles, learning about Mexican culture, or aspiring artists. Both Winter and Juan adore Kahlo and their passion comes through on the page.
Shadow - Amanda Sun 2 out of 5 StarsTomohiro is being haunted by his dreams and accidents in his past. In America, Katie feels lost after losing her mother. She's given a chance to start over in Japan. Will she take it?Meh. This novella caught my interest since I love Japan, a rare Asian hero, and the beautiful cover. It's a prequel novella to a new series, but it was basically Twilight in Japan. Whiney characters who sulk in their own pity parties. Nondescript stupid heroine. "Monsterous" dangerous hero. Overwritten dramatic prose and serious overuse of metaphors. Slut-shaming. Yawn. Yawn. Anyone with a pretty good knowledge of Japanese culture will be annoyed by the info dumps. The story got a bit more interesting once Katie started school in Japan, but mostly because it reminded me a bit of Persona 4.This series will probably be popular. It's typical YA formula. But it's not for me. I'll be playing my Persona games.
Entwined with You - Sylvia Day This review evolves into more of a discussion of the slut-shaming and misogyny I've seen pop up over the course of this series, so it will be longer than my normal reviews.1.5 out of 5 StarsAfter Gideon made an astonishing sacrifice for Eva’s safety and happiness, Eva and Gideon must hide their relationship from their friends, family, and especially the police. Can they finally find happiness together? Or will their tumultuous pasts keep getting in the way of their future?I guess I’m a masochist because even though I hated Reflected in You (it was in my top five worst reads of last year), I couldn't help checking out Entwined with You. There is something compelling about Gideon and Eva’s fucked up relationship and since I already read the first two, why not read the final book? Well, surprise surprise this isn't the final book. The trilogy has been extended to a five book series. Many fans and readers were angry at the paper thin-plot, irrelevant secondary characters, and not getting the ending they had been promised. Since I thought Reflected in You was plot-less and mostly pointless, I wasn't as disappointed as others. Don’t get me wrong – those are absolutely legitimate criticisms and this book isn't good by any stretch of the imagination. But I surprisingly found myself entertained for the first 4/5ths of the book. For the most part Gideon and Eva were acting like adults and there was less anger/jealousy/possessiveness than in the last book. Gideon still has his “Watching Eva’s Every Move Through Security Cameras and Manipulating Elevators to Stalk Her” and “Having Security Follow Her During Girl’s Night” moments, but Gideon and Eva actually spent time together working on their relationship.Until the last 100 pages. The last 100 pages just ruined the book. Gideon and Eva started regressing to their old possessiveness and jealousy. Random subplots seemed to be thrown at a wall to see what would stick. ROCK STAR EX-BOYFRIENDS! ADULTEROUS PARENTS! SEX TAPES! RUSSIAN MAFIA! SECRET MARRIAGES! PREGNANT MODEL SLUTS! RAVENOUS REPORTER SLUTS! MENTALLY ILL EX-FIANCEE SLUTS! DID I MENTION SLUTS? Because seriously, how many evil ex-girlfriends does Gideon drive to distraction who then make it their mission to destroy poor wittle Eva? In the series thus far we have:1. Magdalene – friend-zoned BFF slut2. Corrine – the mentally-ill ex-fiancee slut.3. Deanna – the ravenous reporter slut4. Anne Lucas – the revenge fuck slut5. Tatiana – not actually Gideon’s, but she’s snobby and dresses promiscuously, so obviously slutCOLLECT THEM ALL!Oh wait, Gideon already did.These EVIL!slut characters are such insane caricatures – constantly plotting to ruin Eva and Gideon’s relationship and throwing themselves at Gideon. NOBODY like them exists in real life. They don’t further the relationship between Gideon and Eva. They just cause drama that leads the plot nowhere. The only reason they are in the narrative is to pad the books and for readers to vicariously hate other women through Eva. Eva’s few girlfriends don’t make up for the fuck-ton of slut-shamming that happens.However, the absolute nadir was when EVIL!slut Corrine tried to commit suicide by overdosing. When Gideon was a child, his father killed himself after being discovered for running a Ponzi scheme. So of course Corrine’s suicide is all about Gideon: “How could she not know what a suicide attempt would do to Gideon? She couldn't be that blind. Or had his reaction, his guilt, been her aim all along? It made me sick to think of anyone being that manipulative, but there was no denying the result. Gideon was back at her side” (327). Corrine just tried to KILL HERSELF, Eva! THE WORLD DOES NOT REVOLVE AROUND YOU AND GIDEON! Eva, someone who battled depression after her abuse, who was unable to function after Gideon “dumped” her, should empathize. But besides her callousness, Eva assumes that Corrine did this for attention and she couldn't be serious. Only men, like Gideon’s father, are serious about killing themselves and it’s a considered a tragedy. Suicidal women are frivolous attention-seekers. When it’s revealed that Corrine was pregnant and the suicide attempt killed the fetus, Corrine’s husband blames Gideon. Because Corrine couldn't possibly kill herself because of other reasons – as a woman her life must revolve around a man – specifically Gideon, the best penis to ever penis. But of course, this isn't about Corrine. She’s just a stupid bitch who tried to kill herself. It’s all about Gideon’s man-pain:“You are not responsible for this…Do you hear me? Only Corinne is responsible for what happened. She’ll have to live with what she’s done, not you and me” (340).It’s like Women in Refrigerators: Romance Edition! Actually, Gideon and Eva are somewhat responsible for what happened to Corrine – this woman needed help and she was ignored by the people she relied on because she was being a “crazy bitchy woman.” Her pleas weren't taken seriously because everyone knows women are hysterical and overemotional. Eva’s insistence that Gideon ignore Corrine and stay away from her probably played a part in Corrine’s downward spiral.In a way, the Crossfire series is much worse and more insidious in its treatment of EVIL!sluts than other romance novels. The trope of EVIL!sluts is widespread and a problem in romance, but usually the EVIL!sluts are humiliated and/or put down by the hero/ine and go off and sulk in a corner at the end. So far in the Crossfire series, Magdalene was used for sex and filmed WITHOUT HER KNOWLEDGE OR CONSENT BY EVA’S BEST FRIEND during one of these sexual encounters. The video was shown WITHOUT HER KNOWLEDGE OR CONSENT to Gideon and Eva. Corrine tries to commit suicide and loses her unborn baby. These women aren't just humiliated for being mean to the heroine and going after her man – they are completely disgraced and brought down. They are not humiliated, they are punished. There is a twisted catharsis in the book over the disgrace of these women that’s downright cruel and nasty. Having Magdalene eventually move on and most likely having Corrine find solace in the arms of her (shitty absent) husband doesn't make this “female-positive” – these characters are still harshly punished for being less than perfect women. Hell, in the second book even Eva is “punished” sexually by Gideon in a rather dubiously consented scene after she kisses another man to make him jealous. How fucked up is that?Day is a good writer, but the series has been spinning on its wheels for two books as the author and/or publisher try to pad out the books to extend the series and make more money. However, Day’s padding usually involves multiple female characters obsessed with Gideon and using mean girl tactics on Eva. What does this say about women and how they perceive each other? The series has serious issues with women and how they should act, who they should be, and how they should be treated. I don’t think this is intentional, but societal sexism is at work. “The evil slutty other woman who gets her comeuppance” is an easy plot device in many romance novels, and Entwined with You and the Crossfire series goes to that well over and over and over.
Elena's Serenade - Campbell Geeslin, Ana Juan Text: 5 StarsIllustrations: 4.5 StarsElena wants to become a glassblower, but her father says girls can't become one. So Elena disguises herself as a boy and goes on a journey to prove her father wrong.A creative and empowering story about a little girl going against the odds, achieving her goals, and discovering herself. It incorporates simple facts about Mexican culture without interrupting the flow of the story. Ana Juan's illustrations are amazing as always. They are beautiful and adorable at the same time. A great book with gorgeous illustrations and a strong female lead.
For You Are a Kenyan Child - Kelly Cunnane Text: 2 StarsIllustrations: 5 StarsExperience a day as a Kenyan child in a village, but don't forget your chores!I appreciate what this book was trying to do, but I don't think it ever worked. The story is told in second-person ("you"), so that the reader/child identifies and experiences the story as the Kenyan protagonist. I know it is to show people not as "the other" but as people with similar experiences. However, because of the second-person narration (which is a bit clunky), the story is dry and lacks personality. I would have preferred a character as the protagonist to follow. Also, a few JUST LIKE US!!! messages contradict the point of the second-person and made me uncomfortable. Otherwise, the plot was cute and taught about Kenyan culture (albeit not seemlessly).Ana Juan's illustrations are, again, wonderful. She gives the characters so much personality and expression without losing her signature style. Her pictures, not the text, do most of the work giving life and interest to a scene. I agree with another reviewer the book could be only pictures and still be understandable.In summary, superb illustrations, mediocre text.