Monday, April 25, 2016

What I've Been Reading

I've read some great books lately!



Fade Out: Act Three Sean Phillips and Ed Brubaker. I loved this graphic novel Hollywood Noir trilogy. A murdered starlet, a corrupt studio system, blacklisting and the lingering effects of war? YES PLEASE. Less violent than their Fatale, Criminal, or Sleeper, this one was more up my alley, while still very much being the dark and compelling storytelling that make Phillips and Brubaker a favorite team of mine, even when their stories aren't my usual cup of tea.

Trade Me Courtney Milan. This was going to be my #TBRChallenge review this month, but I didn't get my thoughts collected in time. (womp womp) Anyway, a wonderful sizzling romance between Tina Chen, a poor college student and Blake Reynolds, software billionaire heir. After a heated class discussion in which Tina claims that Blake could never live her life, they trade places. Of course, you can't truly live another person's life, so they're in constant contact, and oh! the attraction! But both have issues and Tina's not about to get in a relationship with this guy, no matter how much she likes him. Even though it's set in college, but Blake and Tina are adults being adults and it's not a plot that can be solved by just talking to each other. (While they do have their secrets, that's not what's keeping them apart, and they're things the reader understands why they're being kept secret.) Sooooo good and I CANNOT wait for the next one in the series. CANNOT WAIT.

Lumberjanes Vol. 3: A Terrible Plan Shannon Watters, Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Brooke A Allen. It's a free day at camp, so Mal and Molly are on a picnic, which is totally not a date. Nope. Not at all. Only, they end up following the bear woman through a portal and have to fight some dinosaurs. The other girls decide to get as many of their boring badges as possible, to hilarious results. I love Lumberjanes! My only complaint is that the trades are SO FAR behind the issue releases. This trade just came out this month and collects issues 9-12. Meanwhile, issue 25 just came out this week. SO FAR BEHIND. Luckily, the next trade is out in July, so hopefully they're catching up?



Rat Queens Vol. 3: Demons Kurtis J Weibe, Tamara Bonvillain, Tess Fowler. Hannah is going back to Mage University to save her father, and all of her secrets are about to come out, and it's going to get very dark as the Rat Queens might just get pulled apart because of it. WHICH IS TERRIBLE BECAUSE THIS IS GOING HIATUS! There are 2 issues scheduled to be released and then... nothing and I'm not sure how they can wrap this up in 2 issues, and OMG WHAT ARE YOU PEOPLE DOING TO ME?!

Hamster Princess: Of Mice and Magic Ursula Vernon. My daughter (age 4.5) loves these books when we do a chapter or two at bedtime. I like them so much that I go back and read the chapters I miss when I'm not the one who did bedtime the night before! (I don't do that with most books!) Harriet is struggling with her abilities now that she's no longer invincible (and she really misses cliff diving) but that doesn't stop her from going on another quest. This time, it's a spin on Twelve Dancing Princesses. I don't know who's more excited for this fall's release of Ratpunzel, me or the kiddo.

Study of Seduction Sabrina Jeffries. Lady Clarissa has a giant dowry, no desire to marry, and a stalker with diplomatic immunity. Lady Clarissa is the ward of Warren (Marquess of Knightford) who asks his friend Edwin (Earl of Blakeborough) to squire Clarissa about town and protect her while Warren has to travel to Portugal on some business relating to Clarissa's brother. Edwin and Clarissa have known each other since they were children, but they're like oil and water. But... in order to stop this stalker, they fake an engagement, which then leads to them actually wedding. But can they love each other? Will the dark horrors of their past (especially Clarissa's) allow them to love anyone? Sizzling and so good! You spend half the book screaming "JUST KISS ALREADY" and the other half screaming "JUST TALK ALREADY!" (even though you totally know why they won't talk and you can't really blame them. Some things are impossible to talk about.) So good.



East of West Vol. 5: All These Secrets Jonathan Hickman, Rus Wooton, Frank Martin, Nick Dragotta. I love this series, but this volume was a bit "eh" mostly because in any long story, you need occasional bridge volumes to get you from A to B and they're necessary but not super exciting and this is a bridge volume, but it's building to something big, so I'm excited for volume 6. (Which doesn't have a release date yet. Blargh.)

A Royal Pain Megan Mulry. My friend Megan threw this in my face and told me to read it, so I did. Then she saw it on my desk and said "OMG THAT'S SO GOOD" and I had to remind her I only read it because she threw it at me and told me to! Bronte has a great career and moves to Chicago for a relationship that immediately falls apart. After rebuilding her life, she meets a lovely PhD student who's about to move back to the UK. They start a no-strings-attached fling. Only the student just happens to be heir to a Duke and he wants strings, because he's in love. Bronte doesn't want to give up everything she's built, not again, and it's one thing to dream of being a duchess, but the reality seems a little less desireable. I wanted a bit more from the ending, but I couldn't put it down, and was so excited to see when I grabbed the Amazon link while writing this that it's actually the first in a series?! And I just checked and the second on is on the shelf at the library so... I'm going to go act on that knowledge.

I'll hopefully be back next week with more of what I've been reading! I'd like to do this every week.


Book Provided by... Rat Queens and The Study of Seduction provided by my wallet. Everything else came from the local library.

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

#TBRChallenge : Serving Pleasure

Serving Pleasure Alisha Rai

So the theme for this month's #TBRChallenge is "Recommended Book." This one wasn't necessarily recommended to me directly, but it is recommended so often in general that I had it on my TBR pile.

Look, everyone said it was good. I knew it would be good. I did not know I would be texting my romance-friends excellent lines from it, when I was still on page 3. (In my defense: "he was so fucking gorgeous her eyeballs felt like they were being French kissed by angels every time she looked at him." HOW COULD YOU NOT SHARE THAT?!)

Rana has determined to set aside her party-girl sleeping around ways and go for a nice long-term real relationship with a man she could bring home to her mother. She goes on a date a week with perfectly nice men that she doesn't feel any chemistry with or particularly like. After working in her family's restaurant, she goes home and secretly spies on her new neighbor, an unbelievably hot painter.

Micah used to be at the top of the art world, but after almost dying in a vicious attack two years ago, he's trying to work his way back. Initially, he isn't happy that his neighbor is watching him paint, but he soon discovers he can't paint when he can't feel her watching.

Eventually they meet, she models for him, and they can't deny their attraction, but it can never be serious. Rana can't bring a tortured artist home to her mother, Micah can barely be there for himself, let alone someone else...

SO MUCH LOVE. I loved Rana. I loved her outlook on like and mostly her voice was amazing. I also loved her relationship with her sisters and how that worked (or didn't, depending). I loved Rana and Micah and how they worked through their issues. I loved Micah's parents and how they dealt with their worry. Micah's issues felt like a very authentic reaction/healing process to such a traumatic event instead of just convenient backstory for a brooding hero.

Plus, it's super hot and you need them to go together. I stayed up way too late to finish it with no regrets.

Book Provided by... my local library, but then I went and bought my own copy, so you know it's good.

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Bullet Journal Update

I previously blogged about my Bullet Journal here.

This calendar year, I made a huge change and started doing my Bullet Journal in a more traditional paper planner (specifically, an Erin Condren Life Planner).

One of the things that wasn't working for me in doing a plain-notebook Bullet Journal was how clunky it was to schedule things and plan ahead. I follow a lot of the Getting Things Done philosophy, so I write down EVERYTHING I need to do, as soon as I think about needing to do it. Because of this, I have a lot of things to plan ahead-- not just appointments and meetings, but reminders to change the library voicemail when we're closing for a holiday and another one to change it back after the holiday ends, or things that need to get done ASAP, but it's 10 minutes until close, so I have to do it tomorrow, or a phone call I need to return, but they won't in in the office until Thursday, or a monthly reminder on the first of every month to pay my bills, or what the various dress up days are this week at my daughter's school. The Future Log function of the Bullet Journal just isn't practical for this also, I wasn't great at actually checking the future log and adding things to my daily list, which defeats the purpose. One thing I also love about a more traditional planner is that as I map out large projects, I can write "hey! this thing due next week!" to help remind me of upcoming deadlines and events.

I had hacked this a few ways. In my previous post, you can see where I taped in some monthly calendar print-outs. When thinking about if doing bullet journal in a more traditional planner would work, I started making weekly grids that mimicked my greatly missed BusyBodyBook.

Here's a weekly grid example from last year:


On the left hand of the page spread had weekly tasks, inspirational quotations, weekly temporary notes, habit tracking, other odds and ends, and the right hand had the weekly grid, with rows for days and columns for parts of my life (work, reading, life). (There's also a taped in post-it of my notes for a review.)

But... drawing the weekly grid took time and it wasn't pretty, and to be most useful, I had to have many of them all drawn out at once, which just wasn't happening. A traditional planner had them for me. And ones for next week and the week after and the week after that. BUT, that left hand spread was so useful!

I went with the Erin Condren for a few reasons:
  1. They're really, really, really pretty
  2. They have some customization options. Not just the cover,  but the insides, too. One thing you can decide is if you want a horizontal layout (like I have) or a vertical. I wanted vertical but messed up on ordering. Ah well.
  3. Highly recommended by planner-obsessed friends (who could give me a discount code).
  4. The snap-in dashboard. Along with the notes field on the bottom right of the spread, this makes up for the loss of the left hand side of the sheet. I especially like that it travels from week to week without my having to rewrite it, so I can put monthly tasks on here, too. It's really easy to wash clean, but the marker won't wipe off until you make the effort to wash it, which is helpful. Plus, seeing my higher-priority longer-range projects every time I look at my daily list has been very helpful (for me) in terms of actually working on them.
  5. Monthly tabs to make flipping through to a certain date faster.
  6. There's a heavy-duty folder in the back to keep things and a resealable pouch for extra things. (There are several other accessories as well, but they're not ones I use.)
  7. It comes with some fun stickers. I don't use a lot of stickers, but I really like them and think they're pretty. More on that in a bit. 
Here's what my weekly spread looks like in the planner (the vote sticker is from Erin Condren, the Buffy one from Gatekeeper Goods):






Here's the dashboard (the quotation on the bottom is from Hamilton There's a million things I haven't done... just you wait, JUST YOU WAIT):




Like in my last post, I change pen colors every day. This helps me track when I'm scheduling stuff/completing it (I see you, Wednesday's color filling in Monday's tasks), plus I think lots of colors are pretty and they make me happy, because I can't really draw so this is an easy, no skill way to make things artistic. (One change is that I've switched to the Staedtler Triplus Fineliner Pens, which were recommended by Kelly and I love them.) I don't migrate my tasks everyday, as I can see the whole week (sometimes I even get to work ahead!) but I do migrate anything that's unfinished and still needs to get done at the start of a new week. (Also I sometimes migrate to Sunday, as that's the actual start of my work week and after two days off, I'm a little out of the groove.)

Some people use a lot of stickers and washi to make their planners very pretty. But I don't do a lot of this. If nothing else, I need to space to write down what I have to get done! I do use a few stickers on days I usually don't have much planned or a long to-do list (weekends) or to mark special occasions or events, because there are some really *great* stickers on Etsy and I couldn't resist. I also have a few motivational/inspirational quotes to get me going. The Erin Condren also comes with some stickers for scheduling that don't eat too much space. I don't need a lot of them (too many birthdays and mani/pedis, not enough doctor's appointments [being pregnant means going to the doctor A LOT] and none for meetings) but I like the blank ones (and you can order ones that say what you want them to say--I'm about to order some that say "meeting" and "review due" because those are things I use a lot).

There are a few things I don't like. It turns out I used blank pages for notes and non-daily list things a lot more often than I thought. There are pages for notes at the end of each month, but it's not enough. I ended up buying a Moleskine Cahier to put in the included folder for longer notes and things. Sometimes it's a cumbersome work-around, sometimes it's helpful to see my notes and my daily task list at the same time--especially because I do a lot of project planning in my notebook, so I can see the smaller steps that are coming up and add them to my daily list without having to flip back-and-forth between pages.

Here's the cahier in the folder, with the resealable pouch full of stickers (the poop emojis come from The Littlest Planner):



So, while this is working really well for me right now, we'll see if I stick with it--and that's my #1 favorite thing about Bullet Journal. It's perfectly customizable and adaptable, so if I think something else might work better as my work habits and circumstances change, I can find other ways to make Bullet Journal work for me then!


Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

#tbrchallenge Series Catch-Up: Roaring Twenties

It's time for February's TBR Challenge Post! (More info about the TBR Challenge here.)

So, the theme this month is Series Catch-Up, which is explained as reading a book from a series you've fallen behind on, which I didn't do. Instead, I read an entire series that had been sitting on my shelf for awhile. I picked it up because I had heard good things about the third book (possibly on an episode of the DBSA podcast?) and, when I can do anything about it, I like to start series from the beginning. (Example: I got confused as to which book was the first in this series, so I accidentally started with the second one. Maybe 40 pages in, we meet another couple and you get those few sentences of backstory in case you didn't read their book? Yeah. I PUT THE BOOK DOWN AND STARTED WITH THE FIRST ONE. That's how I roll.) ANYWAY.

I devoured all three in about a week and a half. It would have been quicker, but I had some other assigned reading to get done. And I moved. (But new house has a giant bathtub that's *perfect* for reading in.) So, this review is of the entire Roaring Twenties series by Jenn Bennett! Yay! All three take place in the 20s in San Fransisco, and follow the love lives of the Magnusson siblings. They're historical and paranormal and deal a lot with class--the Magnussons parents are Swedish immigrants (I don't have the book on me, so I can't check, but I think Winter was also born in Sweden) and started as fishermen and were very successful. When prohibition happened, their father turned most of the fleet to bootlegging and were even more successful. The Magnussons are rich, but they're new money and outlaws, so they're never fully accepted by society, even if society has a great need for their product. It's a fine line and odd balance they strike. They also have a bit of mystery/suspense to them that really make them move and unable to put down.

BUT! BUT! BUT! Yes, this is historical, but! Everyone still practices safe sex and no one's a virgin! AND! Bennett realizes that POC are not a modern invention and while most of the heroes and heroines are white, the world they live in is not! It's San Fransisco in the 1920s and it looks like it! That's not tokenism, it's REALITY. AND HISTORICAL ACCURACY.



Bitter Spirits

Aida is a spirit medium who has a gig at the Gris-Gris club, a black-and-tan (so, non-segregated) speak easy. One day she's called into work because Winter Magnusson (friend of the owner and the speakeasy's supplier) has been cursed and can not only suddenly see ghosts, but he's being stalked by them. Aida can get rid of the some of the ghosts that followed and Velma (the owner) can remove the cursed poison that's killing him, but who's after Winter, and why?

So... the person who cursed Winter is using Chinese magic. And Velma practices voodoo and immediately my head is all 'DANGER WILL ROBINSON! DANGER WILL ROBINSON!' Because Winter and Aida are white (as is the author), Velma is possibly black but maybe not (in the third book, she's described as having light brown skin of a shade that makes her race hard to determine and the characters don't really care what race she is, so it's not really dwelled on) and the Chinese magic?

BUT! It's handled really well and respectfully. (Bennett has spent a lot of time in, and studying China) I think some of the reasons it works are (1) In this world, magic exists, and just like different ethnic groups have their own languages, food, and customs, of course they also have their own types of magic. And just like language and food and customs can be shared/warped across ethnic lines, so can magic. (2) The Chinese aren't all painted as a superstitious, magic-practicing people. Throughout this world, in all ethnic groups, people know about traditional magical customs but they don't actually believe in it. Unless they can actually see ghosts and the like (such as Aida and Winter.) And when I say "people know about traditional magical customs" I mean in the same way a lot of us do today. Like I know the magical customs of my European heritage such as witches can't cross running water, iron and salt will hurt an evil faerie, vampires can be killed with a wooden stake through the heart or sunlight, werewolves wolf out at the full moon and can't handle silver bullets, etc. etc. etc. But I don't believe in those things and for the most part don't take any supernatural precautions (except painting my porch ceilings haint blue, but that's just pretty, and I can do that because I live in the South now).

Aida helps Winter as he tries to figure out who's cursed him, and why, and how to end it, and the two can't fight their mutual attraction. Standing in the way of true love is the fact they've both vowed to never be serious about someone (for various reasons) and the fact that Aida's job at the Gris-Gris is temporary and she's been booked at a club in New Orleans soon. There is some "we won't talk about our feelings and what's going on" but that's really understandable, because while they're fighting ghosts and groping each other, they're not actually close, and what's keeping them both back is deeply personal. Yes, things would be easier if they'd talk, but they'd also be weird, because they don't have that kind of relationship (yet).

Grim Shadows

Lowe wants to make his own way, independent of his brother's bootlegging empire, so he's a treasure hunter. On his most recent trip to Egypt, he lost a finger, but he found the fabled djed amulet, which he can hopefully counterfeit, and sell twice to pay off the bad guys after him (who are after him because they found out the last thing he sold them was also a fake.) Only thing is, a lot of people want the amulet and they're not afraid to kill to get it.

Hadley is a curator and scholar of Egyptian antiquities and her father wants the amulet for the museum they both work for. She's also been cursed with dark malevolent spirits that appear and wreak havoc when she gets upset. Sometimes, this can help save her life, but usually it just makes things really, really hard.

But, it turns out that Hadley's father wants the amulet for more personal reasons and Lowe and Hadley have to battle Egyptian magic, and their attraction, to secure the amulet for their individual purposes. Until, of course, Hadley finds out about Lowe's plans and everything goes wrong.

I think this one had the weakest romance, but the best (and creepiest!) mystery. (Also, some minor Jewish characters, including a deaf child!) I also like how this world is so entwined. Not just the same settings but the mystery involves Hadley's dead mom. LUCKILY WE HAVE AIDA! She can talk to dead people! That's helpful!

Grave Phantoms

FIRST OFF LOOK AT THAT COVER. That's a hot Asian guy! And an inter-racial romance!

YES! It's time for the Magnusson sister, Astrid, and Winter's right-hand man, Bo to take center stage. First off, I love how this romance has been hinted at the entire time. (Lowe notices something is up between them as soon as he gets back from Egypt in the beginning of the second book, and there are hints in the first book, too.)

So, these are characters readers already know fairly well from the previous books, especially Bo, who is Winter's right-hand man. Astrid's been away at college and has returned for Christmas break. Both Bo and Astrid thought the time apart would help them move on, but nope. So, are they going to do this thing, or not?

The big complications of course are: They both have romantic pasts (some more recent than others) and there are some major jealousies on both sides. Winter took Bo under his wing when Bo was really young. Bo was supposed to be protecting Astrid, not falling in love with her and not doing the other things he dreams about at night. He doesn't want to betray Winter. He'd lose his job and security and nothing would pay as well as bootlegging. But, even bigger, Astrid is white and Bo is Chinese. Not only is that not societally acceptable, it's illegal. They could never get married. Their children wouldn't be accepted in either community.

But, of course, there's also a supernatural mystery going on! This one involving Aztec magic and some French pirates. And Astrid accidentally gets someone else's magic and has two auras now and is getting freaky visions of what happened on a ghost ship that crashed onto the Magnusson's pier. Luckily, the object that zapped Astrid looks like an artifact and Astrid just happens to know some experts in the area. Lowe and Hadley specialize in Egypt, and the idol is Aztec, but they know people who can help (and are a white/Latina lesbian couple!).

I loved this one, because with most romances, you know how the couple can work out their issues, if they just get around to doing it. While I was sure Bo and Astrid would work it out (I mean, it's a romance! HEA is a requirement!) I had no idea how they could make it work. I also loved the friendship that Aida, Hadley, and Astrid had formed, and how they help each other out behind the backs of Winter, Lowe, and Bo. I also really liked Bo's ex-girlfriend, Sylvia. (YAY! For a great ex-girlfriend who isn't automatically the bad guy! She and Bo didn't work, but I love that they're still friends and while it causes some conflict because Astrid misunderstands their relationship, when Bo won't tell her, Astrid just asks Sylvia point blank, gets the story, and it's no longer an issue. I hope they later become BFFs)

Plus there are some fun jabs at the fact this story takes place between the bulk of Grim Shadows and its epilogue.

Overall, a FANTASTIC series. I'm sad there's not more!



Books Provided by... my wallet

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

TBR Challenge: Pregnant by the Rival CEO

Pregnant by the Rival CEO Karen Booth

Yay! I joined the TBR Challenge this year! January's theme is Shorts, so category or novellas. I went with a brand new category that I just bought, so it wouldn't stay on Mt. TBR too long.

Anna's father recently died, leaving the family company to her brother. Adam promised Anna he'd step aside and let her be CEO, but he's dragging his feet as he's not dealing well with his grief. Meanwhile, the company is floundering. Anna has a lead on some hot new tech that could change everything, but the only way to it is Jacob Lin.

Jacob Lin, who rejected her 6 years ago and has only gotten hotter. Jacob Lin, Adam's former BFF, now very public enemy. Jacob Lin, who's planning revenge on Adam through a hostile takeover of the company.

When Jacob and Anna meet, years of unresolved sexual tension make things go steamy and fast. (Turns out when he rejected Anna because of his friendship with Adam, it wasn't an excuse, he's just the type of guy who knows that hooking up with your best friend's little sister is skeevy.)*

And then Anna finds out about the takeover and ends everything.

And then Anna finds out that even though some weird scar tissue from her appendectomy has pretty much left her infertile, she's pregnant.

Bum bum bum!

Ok, I loved this. Anna and Jacob are both such adults! They are driven and successful in their careers. Their conflict is real and they talk to each other when they need to. The drama is pretty much just business (literally.) And, as much as I hate a miracle baby, I like the way that even though it was a miracle, it was super unplanned and threw everything off for both of them. (Also, I think it was the only way for a surprise pregnancy that would fit with both of their characters. They are responsible and on top of things. There is a condom break, but I think if Anna's reaction hadn't been "It's ok, I'm infertile" it would have been "It's ok, we'll get some Plan B in the morning.")

One of the things I love about category is due to the shortened page-count, a lot of the 'not talking to each other like adults' gets cut because there's no space for drawn out drama. I also enjoyed Anna's best friend Holly, who gives Anna the right advice when she needs it and Anna takes it.

More adults in romance, please! More external drama, less "I can't talk about my feelings."

Solid all around.


Book Provided by... my wallet

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Monday, November 09, 2015

The Keeper

This is a Cybils book, but the opinion expressed in this review is just mine, and not the committee's.

The Keeper: The Unguarded Story of Tim Howard Young Readers' Edition by Tim Howard with Ali Benjamin

Tim Howard plays keeper for Everton FC in Liverpool, and the US Men's Team. He also has Tourette's Syndrome and OCD. The biography starts in his early years and moves through the aftermath of the 2014 World Cup.

There are a few things that really stand out in the book:

1. Howard's experiences with TS and OCD. He explains really well what it feels like, and how hard it can be with people who don't understand, but he's pretty adamant that they are what help make him such an amazing player. His hyper-focus and demand to get everything just right is what helped drive him to greatness. He also does a lot of work with kids who have TS to offer support and a role model.

2. The importance of a good coach and a good team environment. Howard has played for a lot of teams and understands what the role of good coach is at all levels of play and really focuses on what made different coaches so helpful and spectacular. He also talks a lot of team dynamics, which was really fascinating when he went from Manchester United to Everton and how different the two teams were and what allowed him to flourish at one and not the other. (He talks about this so much, coupled with his work with kids with TS, I have a feeling he would be a really great coach after he retires from active play.)

3. The changing place of soccer in the US over the course of his career. He started playing professionally right when MLS started in the US and it didn't seem like anyone in the US cared about soccer and no one expected US teams to go anywhere, and through the phenomenon of the last World Cup (I believe that we will win), professional soccer has come a long way in the US and he's been on the inside the whole time, and it was really interesting to see that change from his perspective.

Overall, it's a really readable, great book. It's not one I would have picked up on my own, but I'm glad I read it. It is a Young Reader's Edition, and I'd be interested to see if the language in some of the conversations changes in the adult version. There's a lot of "oh my goodness!" in here that I think might have been something more salty in real life.


Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Fan Girl's Guide to the Galaxy

This is a Cybils book, but the opinion expressed in this review is just mine, and not the committee's.

The Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Girl Geeks Sam Maggs

Here's the guide you've been waiting for on Fandom 101, especially for girls. Everything is covered--how to get started, next steps to take, great books to read and shows to wath, how to make an awesome cosplay costume, tips for writing awesome fanfic, finding your people, and dealing with various levels of trolls. Parts of it are a general rah rah rah celebration of fandom, and parts are very nitty gritty hands-on practical advice (which sites you'll want to be on, but with a throw-away name/email that's not linked to any of your other social media)

It's great and interesting and wonderful with one major fatal flaw that made me want to throw it across the room. It's written right on the back-cover, but I didn't read it, because too much is obscured with library stickers. It's "The Geek Girl's Litany for Feminism."

I m a geek girl and I am a feminist... I don't have to prove my nerd cred to anyone, ever.

There are some great lines in there:

From SuperWhoLock to Shakarian, I accept all fandoms and ships as equally meaningful and important in our geek girl lives...I will support empowering, lady-created media and amazing female characters...

And then we get the kicker that made me roll my eyes so hard they almost fell out of my head:

Buffy, not Bella

Because, all fandoms are meaningful and we support lady-created media, right? Oh... only if they're the right ones. Yeah. That's when I flipped back to where she's introducing fandoms and in the list of major fandoms, the Twihards aren't listed at all. Sure, they might be covered under "YA Book Nerds" but the Nerdfighters get their own shout-out. Potter has its own section. In non-book fandoms, Gleeks get a mention. Squints get a mention. Scoobies are mentioned on the list, despite the fact there's a whole section on Whedonites in general. Leaving off Twihards seems pretty deliberate. And telling.

Outside the Buffy, not Bella thing, Twilight only gets name-checked in the section on how to critique media. There's a general introduction about why we need to critique media and that it's ok if we enjoy not-perfect things but... it's glib and kinda snarky ("I'm not telling you... to stop reading your guilty-pleasure YA romance novels!") And in things to look out for, there's a section on "How Healthy is that relationship, anyway?"

There a lot of media out there (like Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey) that glorifies abusive, controlling, or even violent behavior as a romantic relationship. When we read these books and think, "Wow, that's so sweet that he shows up at her house, uninvited, at night while she's unconscious, to watch her sleep!" we subconsciously accept that behavior as okay.

There could have been a great section on how things that are mostly liked by teen girls are automatically dismissed as lesser and what that says about us as a society and how to deal with that as a fangirl. Or, you know, it could just pile on.

Most importantly, it could have been a great section on how to reconcile how problematic our faves are. I know all about problematic faves. How? Because I am Buffy, not Bella. And even though this book is all over the awesomeness of Buffy (as it should be, Buffy is awesome) it never points out its problems. And Buffy has plenty of problems.

For instance, that whole thing there it's painted as "romantic" for a vampire to show up uninvited to watch his girlfriend sleep? Before Edward did that to Bella, ANGEL WAS DOING THAT TO BUFFY. Speaking as someone who got into Buffy late in the series and didn't go back and watch the beginning until after I read Twilight? Angel has most, if not all, of Edward's icky points. Buffy's other loves all come with major issues in the "healthy relationship" category. Maggs mentions Spuffy elsewhere in the book, and trust me, Spike over Angel any day, but Spike is ISSUES and their relationship is all ISSUES. And I really like Xander, but that guy is really a whole heap of Nice Guy (tm) problems.

When Twilight was still new there were T-Shirts and sayings of"And then Buffy staked Edward. The End" Yeah... Buffy wouldn't have. Edward and the other Cullens would have all been Scoobies. There's a good chance Buffy would have dated Edward. Or at least made out with him, or had a MEANINGFUL slow dance (note to self: see if there's any good fanfic with Rosalie and Cordelia as BFFs. Or Willow and Alice.)

I think the main difference is not the guys, or the relationships, but Buffy and Bella themselves. To save the world, Buffy killed Angel--I don't think that Bella could have killed Edward. BUT, BUT, BUT in one of my many conversations about this (hi, my name is Jennie, and I'm a fangirl) my Twitter friend @FangirlJeanne pointed out something major that has me rethinking that stance:

Buffy was THE SLAYER. She had a job given to her by the POWERS THAT BE. She was the CHOSEN ONE and had to deal with DESTINY. Of course she killed Angel. Bella didn't. Bella was just a normal girl who turned into a normal vampire and she still fought serious battles before and after to protect her friends and family. If Bella was a CHOSEN ONE and had to deal with SLAYER DESTINY, could she have then killed Edward? If Buffy wasn't the SLAYER, could she have still killed Angel? I don't know, but these are the kind of things fangirls think about late at night, both the Buffys and the Bellas.

Maggs went a snarky, easy route that ended up invalidating a lot of her book for me, undermining her main argument. We like all fandoms, but not that one.

And now I'm rage-defending Twilight, which is not a place a like to be. (This review sums up my Twilight feelings pretty well)

Book Provided by... my local library

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Monday, October 19, 2015

Elena Vanishing

This is a Cybils book, but the opinion expressed in this review is just mine, and not the committee's.

Elena Vanishing: A Memoir Elena Dunkle and Clare B. Dunkle

It opens with Elena in a hospital in Germany, not sure why her chest hurts so much. She's then medically evacuated to the US, to be treated for anorexia. She next years are a tangle in and out of treatment as everyone watches Elena slip away while she insists she's fine.

This is co-written with her mother, who is a novelist, and it was that story-telling sensibility. Part of that is we are in Elena's head for the entire time, and not Elena-looking-back, but Elena-then, so... holy unreliable narrator Batman. It's a pretty warped (albeit fascinating) perspective.

One thing I would have liked is something on what was "really" happening during all of this, because Elena's POV is so divorced from reality. (of course, I could just read her mother's memoir of the same time, Hope and Other Luxuries: A Mother's Life with a Daughter's Anorexia)

It's painful and hard to read, but also hard to put down.


Book Provided by... my local library

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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Lunch



What I'm reading on my lunch break today.