Llamas, Women, and Other Stereotypes

We’ve been taught to presume the woman-warriors of myth and legend like Brunhilde, Queen Maeve, and Boudicca were unique; anomalies not representative of “real” women from the myth-making eras. Whereas, the figures of Arthur, Sigurd, Beowulf, Roland, and so on, are usually believed to be at the very least based in some part on real men. But what if, like the stories of their male counterparts, these legends of women fierce and fell were in fact representative of a woman’s typical role in warrior cultures? Roles that were degraded and suppressed because those woman-warriors gave lie to the obedient, silent, and compliant wife/mother/daughter/sister narrative of a later era. Read  We Have Always Fought, a great essay from A Dribble of Ink by author Kameron Hurley on why writing outside the stereotype matters.


All the reviews I should have written this summer


At last, a post-apocalyptic hero the other half of the world can relate to! Not that there aren’t a lot of great reads featuring the current go-to hero/heroine, but as a reader with more than a few decades under her belt I do occasionally tire of the teenager-saves-the-world trope—there, I said it! I found a few chapters in the first half of the book a little slow. Not enough to put me off though and on the whole a fine offering from Howey (I’ve put Shift, and Dust on my reading list too).



I really wanted to like this more than I actually did. I’m a big fan of the fairy tale genre and write them myself. (Ahem, that’s a BIG hint by-the-way if anyone wants to head over to my website and check them out!) They are much harder to write than you might think. First, there’s a rhythm and tone to the language that is very different from the way we normally think and speak. Second, maintaining a consistent internal mythology is critical. Except at the very beginning, you can’t just make up random shit as you go along; everything has to flow from what came before. Ms. Lo does a fabulous job of the former but, in my opinion, not the latter. I detected a few skips in the mythology. At one point Ash is warned explicitly “time passes differently” when spending a night in Fairy. In the morning she returns home to find <insert gasp of surprise here> it’s the very next day!—wait, what? Eh, maybe I’m being too picky and others might not be bothered by something like that. My other problem with Ash is that although it’s an LGBT retelling of Cinderella wherein Ash falls in love not with The Prince, but with his Huntress, all of the sexual tension is between Ash and The Fairy. He’s always just called “The Fairy”, no name given so I’m not being obtuse. The growing romance between The Huntress and Ash is sweet and tender but overshadowed by the physical intensity of Ash’s connection to The Fairy. Then there’s The Prince: sure, he’s a convenient hook to hang The Huntresses’ movements and actions on, and serves to frustrate the ambitions of Ashes’ wicked stepmother and stepsisters, but he feels like such a peripheral character I wonder why he’s even there. He’s a path that leads nowhere, is ultimately irrelevant, and could easily have been written out of the story altogether without impeding the narrative. Ash isn’t a bad book—it’s just not great, and I wanted it to be great.



Holy Predictable and Forgettable Batman! The only surprise in this entire book was when the BMW our bad guy drove during the car chase inexplicably turned into a Lexus and then back to a BMW by the end of the paragraph. Or maybe it was the other way around? I can’t remember. Now, because Josie Brown has no less than eight, four and five star reviewed novels on Amazon I’m just going to presume this is not her best work. A book based on this concept should have been—and could have been—hilarious. But it wasn’t. And I can’t decide if the uninspired, soft-core porn scenes made it bearable or truly cringe-worthy. The Housewife Assassin’s Handbook was so forgettable that at one point I did, in fact, forget I was reading it. Enough said.



After reading so many great reviews I decided I had to read it myself. I love a flawlessly written historical novel and Hild hit the mark in every way. Detailed and intricate without falling into tedium, a compelling narrative pace, and characters with the depth and breadth of genuine humanity—no one-dimensional, trivial types here.



…and cue the applause. Nicely done Ms. Zevin. Nicely done. A book about books, and reading, and writing—and it takes place almost entirely in a bookstore! Okay, it’s not really about books. It’s about people, but the construct is genius, as is the writing. I loved A.J. (even as a bad-tempered drunk), Amelia, and Maya. I loved Lambaise and Ismay. I even loved that sorry, selfish, prick of a man, Daniel Parish; he was what he was and perfectly so. What else can one ask of any character? Funny, touching, revealing…I just can’t say enough great things about this book. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry goes straight to the top of my recommended reading list. Or it would if I had one. I may skip Zevin’s YA Birthright series but I’ll be keeping my eye out for a copy of Margarettown.

Bad Blogger! Bad!

Wow, I’m a lousy blogger! More than two months and three books since last we met. I do have a good excuse or two. One: I was on vacation (Ireland was lovely and loads of fun, thanks for asking), and two: I was working on final edits of some of of my own stuff. So it wasn’t like I was just sitting around, watching Orange Is The New Black, eating pizza, and playing with my cats…well, not all of the time anyway.  But onto the book review (sort of).



I really loved The Republic of Thieves so I want to review it, but honestly there isn’t too much I can say about why I loved this book, and the whole series, without either repeating what I’ve already written in an earlier Gentlemen Bastards review, or carelessly strewing spoilers all over the place. Instead, I’m going to rant. So if that doesn’t interest you feel free to stop reading now.


In a way I’m lucky; I came late to this series and didn’t discover the Gentlemen Bastards until about last January. So I’ve had the pleasure of reading the first three novels with only short, self-imposed breaks between (and as I understand it, the fourth is expected in early 2015) and wasn’t subject to any agonizingly long waits to read the next book. The same was true of  A Song of Ice and Fire. The first four were already published in paperback and e-book by the time I picked up A Game of Thrones and I only had to wait a couple of years before the fifth was available.  I consider myself as big a fan of both these series as anyone and will admit to some frustration at waiting for the next book, but the amount of really harsh criticism and outright vitriol some so-called fans constantly spew about being forced to wait is really surprising to me. Yeah, eight years is a long time. But come on, it’s not as if there aren’t other books out there to read. The world is full of books! Really, really, good books! And you know what? These authors don’t owe us a thing. Artists of all kinds create their art because they need to, and they need to do it for themselves. We, as the audience, either appreciate and enjoy it or we don’t. Painters will paint whether or not anyone sees or buys their work, dancers dance even if no one ever watches, and writers still write even if nobody ever buys a single one of their books. Maybe, I’m just more easy going than others. Maybe it’s because in my “other life” I’m an Oncology nurse and work with people who are facing literal life and death struggles every single day, and let me tell you: that has a way of keeping all the extraneous bullshit in perspective.


So to all the people out there calling Lynch, Martin, or whomever else they feel is making them wait too long to read a book, awful names and threatening to leave their fandom, I pose the question: when was the last time you wrote and published a sell-able epic fantasy or a “heartbreaking work of staggering genius”?

What was that?

Did you say Never?

Yeah…that’s what I thought, so maybe you should shut the fuck up.


Let the hate mail begin…


Being bookish is the best thing I’ve ever done!

Anna's reading list

I’ve been book blogging for just over a month now and one of my favourite things that I’ve discovered in this time is bloggers’ reclaiming of the word ‘bookish’.

When I was a child and someone described me as ‘bookish’, it never meant anything good. The connotations were all negative: nerdy, introverted, quiet, unfriendly, socially awkward, square… I could go on.

So, I love the way book bloggers have taken back this word and proudly describe their blog posts and themselves as ‘bookish’. Book bloggers revel in using this word to indicate a love of reading and books and it makes these blogs a happy and safe place to visit.

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I Heart Flavia de Luce


In the event the title of this review isn’t enough of a warning for you, beware: lavish gushing dead ahead!

For a quiet mid-century English village, Bishop’s Lacey has a remarkable number of murders. Happily, they also have Flavia de Luce to solve their mysteries. Young Flavia; eleven year-old scion of a genteel family fallen on post-war hard times, budding chemist, poison aficionado, and smart-as-a-whip detective is, I think, destined for literary immortality. She’s both endearing and prickly—a combination I find irresistible in a character.

When she’s not too busy in her long-dead Uncle’s abandoned laboratory conducting chemistry experiments, plotting to poison one or both of her uppity big sisters, or flying around Bishop’s Lacey on a bicycle named Gladys, Flavia is poking her nose where all the adults, particularly the police, are quite sure it doesn’t belong. Her investigations land her in a spot of trouble now and again…okay, they frequently land her in dangerous situations, but our intrepid girl seldom needs much rescuing and even the local police detective has to admit the pint-sized Poirot is at least as smart as he is. Maybe smarter. She’s certainly smarter than her two sisters, who delight in tormenting Flavia in a variety of ways. Their chief tool of torture being the claim she’s not really their sister at all, but was adopted, a decision their parents soon regretted only to find the orphanage refused to take her back. (About now, if my two big sisters are reading this, they’re saying to themselves so that’s why she loves this Flavia creature so much! Because you see, I can relate, having been put through the identical torment myself as a child. I understand completely the equal parts disdain, fascination, affection, and anxiety that so thoroughly muddles her relationship with them. In another time and place I might have been Flavia. Although, I haven’t plotted to poison my sisters…lately.)

But hold on, you say, is there anything to commend these books outside of working through your childhood trauma and angst? Well, of course. Flavia and her sisters aren’t the only interesting, fully realized, quirky personalities inhabiting Bishop’s Lacey and its environs. A whole slew of characters—shady, colorful, and otherwise—populate the pages and make them come alive. Bishop’s Lacey feels like a real place, albeit with a weirdly high homicide rate. Bradley’s prose is direct and clean, baits and hints are doled out carefully without giving away too much, and every sentence moves the plot forward making for a quick-paced and easy read.

A Red Herring Without Mustard is the third book of a series. I recommend starting with the first book, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, but strictly speaking, it isn’t necessary. Mr. Bradley does a great job of providing enough backstory in the second and third novels without boring readers who are returning to Bishop’s Lacey to see what Flavia might be getting up to next. (I for one already have the 4th book, I’m just saving it for vacation reading next month.)