Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Do You Want to Start a Scandal? By Tessa Dare

Scandal started out extremely well. I enjoyed the hero and heroine. They accidentally find themselves caught in the library, alone, when another couple engages in a tryst during a ball. Of course our heroes find themselves caught instead of the couple that actually did the dirty.

Dare is a fun and energetic writer. This romance novel was not a high-angst emotion fest. It was a cute, sexy novel about two attractive regency characters. What I love about romance novels is how light and fun they can be. In fact, I took a break from an indepth biography of Donald Trump to read this book. It was exactly the breath of fresh air I needed.

The other thing that really sold me on Tessa Dare was the emoji joke. There is a scene, early in the book so this isn't really a spoiler, where the heroine's mother is explaining to her the mechanics of sex. Her mother uses piece of fruit to illustrate the act, choosing a peach and an eggplant. Of course those are now the internationally recognized symbols for the vagina and penis in emoji sex speak. I found that extended gag to be particularly delicious.

I found the hero to be a bit dull. He is supposed to be a spy working for the Crown, but he can't figure out what is going on in the castle? I guess he was blinded by love, but I found him to be a bit lacking. It was a bit more frustrating because I felt that Dare was telling us how brilliant and amazing he was, but not showing it to us.

The other problem is an issue I've been having more and more with romance novels. The romance goes from 0 to marriage in a week, sometimes less. I guess I can use my suspension of disbelief to believe that by the end of a two week stay somewhere that the hero and heroine have fallen in love. But I found it particularly egregious here. They are caught in their faux-tryst, he instantly says that he will marry her. Noble, but she demurs as she wants to marry for love. Then as they fall in love this becomes, I guess almost ret-conned, to be that he always wanted to marry her for love. But he'd just met her! I guess the part of the romance I love is how these two characters will get together. I mean we know they end up married in the end, but it's how they get there that is exciting. I guess I just didn't believe how they got there.

Overall still solid. 3 out of 5 eggplants.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Injunction Granted at Telluride To Prevent Screening of ‘Amazing Grace’

An injunction has been granted by a Colorado Federal judge to prevent the screening of Amazing Grace at the Telluride Film Festival, happening this weekend.
According to The Hollywood Reporter
The documentary had been scheduled to screen at 7:30 p.m. in Telluride. In the wake of the court ruling, the festival announced it would screen Jennifer Peedom‘s Sherpa, a documentary about the Sherpas who assist climbers on Mt. Everest, in that screening slot. While the festival sent out a notice alerting festivalgoers that “a Colorado judge has granted the injunction to block the screening of Amazing Grace at the Telluride Film Festival” and announcing the Sherpa substitution, it did not immediately offer any further comment on the situation.
After reviewing the Court’s decision it appears that the ruling was based on Ms. Franklin’s Right of Publicity Claims as well as the federal anti-bootlegging statute. 17 USC 1101(1). Particularly telling is that the judge stated that “a film that essentially recreates the entire concert experience is not fair use of this footage” and that “Ms. Franklin has a high likelihood of success on the merits.”

Sunday, September 13, 2015

God's Bankers by Gerald Posner

God’s Bankers is a meticulously well-research journey through the Vatican’s modern banking history. The book traces the history of the Vatican Bank, the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR), from its proto-days in the 1800s with the fall of the Papal States, to its inception during WWII, through the banking scandals of the 70s, 80s, 90s and on to the current cleansing.

I absolutely loved this book. It was a bit of a slog, long, fact-heavy and at times depressing, but I was determined to finish it before returning it to the library to the point where I incurred $2 in fines! Scandal! Anyway, I finished it and I really think that I learned so much about the modern Catholic Church.

There are a few things I found really fascinating about this book, 1. Overall Church History, 2. The Shady Banking Practices 3. The combination of disaffected and confused church authority.

Friday, September 4, 2015

The New Radicals: Children's Cartoons?

Progamming notice: I'm writing a blog for school that isn't allowed to public. I've been wanting to write something about Steven Universe for a while so I've cross posted it here.

*Spoiler Alert* for season 1&2.

I’m currently obsessed with the Cartoon Network show Steven Universe.  The idea behind Steven Universe started as what if a boy was a member of a magical girl squad, but has become so much more than that. The show follows the eponymous hero, Steven, through his adventures and the trials of growing up. Steven lives with the Crystal Gems who are super-heroines and a cross between a mother and sister to him. There are three Gems, Garnet, Pearl and Amethyst, they have super powers, and make up the magical girl team.
I would argue that Steven Universe is one of the most radical shows on TV today. It shows non-traditional families, it upends gender norms, and depicts a loving same-sex relationship.
  1. Steven’s Family
The first inkling that Steven Universe is a radical show is how it presents Steven’s family. Steven’s mother was a Crystal Gem, Rose Quartz, and she had to give up her physical form in order to give birth to Steven. Steven is half human and half gem. He lives in the gem temple with the Crystal Gems, but he does have a human father. He is very close to his dad, Greg, but does not live with him. Steven is primarily raised by the three Crystal Gems. What is really cool about this is that Steven seems to be raised without gender hang-ups. He has so many smart and powerful women in his life, he never looks down on “girl” things like some boys his age would. He is even teased about being a Crystal Gem in the pilot, because they are all women and he is not. Steven shoots the criticism down and stands by the Gems. There is a great song in their series about how excited Steven is to meet Opal, a giant gem who is incredibly powerful. There is no shame in the show from men about female power or the female characters.

There was an episode dedicated to his non-traditional family. Steven’s best friend Connie had lied about Steven having a traditional family to her parents. When Connie's parents decide they need to meet Steven's parents he spends the episode struggling to choose which parent to bring, because each one is important to him. There is a long charade where Steven tries to convince Connie’s parents that he only has two parents, but, of course, he’s found out. The moral of the episode being that families come in all different shapes and sizes, and your family is what it needs to be.

2. Fusion and Stevonnie
The other place where Steven Universe is totally radical is in the concept of Gem Fusion. Two Gems can fuse into an entirely new being. Steven is half human though, so he actually manages to fuse with a human, his best friend Connie. When Connie and Steven fuse they become a teenage girl called “Stevonnie.” What really blew me away about this episode is the gender fluidity present. Steven takes being a girl completely in stride. What could have been a cheap joke about boobs, or bras, or bathrooms is really just a sweet story about two friends having a unique experience. In an era where we can’t even put a female character on a boys’ shirt because “boys don’t like girl things,” the idea that your main male character would be comfortable in another gender is completely radical. I also think it brings up a few trans issues. While there aren’t any characters on the show who either are or identify a trans, I think it’s really great for visibility to have any form of gender fluidity, especially geared to the younger generation.

3. Garnet
Another amazing and barrier breaking concept happened during the season 1 finale. *SPOILER ALERT* Garnet is actually a fusion, she is a fusion all of the time! Garnet is a fusion of Ruby and Sapphire, two smaller gems. What is really spectacular about this is that Ruby and Sapphire are definitely a lesbian couple. During the final battle Garnet is broken apart, and must be reunited to defeat the bad guys. Ruby and Sapphire's relationship is explored through a song (by the incomparable Estelle, who voices Garnet!) that clearly states they are in a romantic relationship. With lines like “the two of us aren’t going to follow your rules” and “my relationship is stable” and “you’re just mad ‘cause you’re single.” It’s clear that this is a romantic relationship between two female expressing beings that is presented as being healthy, normal and powerful. Garnet is the physical embodiment of their relationship, she is “their fury, their patience, their conversation.” It’s a pretty radical presentation of love for a kids show. (I just watched Frozen last night and was annoyed at the heavy handed heteronormative romance plot.)

I find Steven Universe to have just the right mix of radical and fun, adorable and action. Showrunner Rebecca Sugar has really made something super special here and I can’t wait for the next Stevenbomb!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

After being strong and resisting the urge, I found myself relapsing. I went thrifting and ended up buying about 10 new books. Who knows if when or how I'll ever read them, but during my bender I picked up a copy of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. I've been an Alexie fan for years (and not just because he shares a name with my best friend).  I went through a big Native lit phase in college and it still resurfaces in odd ways. When I found a copy of this critically acclaimed, and frequently banned, book for a mere $1 I knew it needed to come home with me.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop

From the Publisher

The Dark Kingdom is preparing itself for the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy--the arrival of a new Queen, a Witch who will wield more power than even the High Lord of Hell himself. But this new ruler is young, and very susceptible to influence and corruption; whoever controls her controls the Darkness. And now, three sworn enemies begin a ruthless game of politics and intrigue, magic and betrayal, and the destiny of an entire world is at stake.

Do you ever read something and you’re just not quite sure how you feel about it? That’s how I feel about Anne Bishop’s Daughter of theBlood. I think I like it. I’m pretty sure I’ll read the rest of the trilogy, which is a high compliment. Still, I’m not sure how I felt about it.

My main problem was with all of the sexual assault. *Trigger Warning* everyone is assaulted, male, female, didn’t matter. This is one of those erotic fantasy novels where sex is critically integral to the culture. Normally that is something I really like, however, here, it seemed like there were no positive sexual experiences for any character. I honestly couldn’t understand how this culture had clung to these sexual rituals when everyone was getting raped. Janelle, who is going to be the new Queen, is supposed to put this system to rights, but I honestly couldn’t understand who would want it. There were no positive sexual relationships.

I also couldn’t understand the point of some characters. Arguably, the three main characters are Saetan, Daemon, and Lucivar. (the novel is told through about 10 different perspectives which I found frustrating at first, but effective towards the end). Daemon and Lucivar are both currently enslaved with a sexual torture device called “The Ring of Obedience,” it’s a magic torture cock ring, just FYI. Daemon is forced into sexual service for the various lessor queens at the behest of his controller, the evil queen Dorothea. This is a matriarchal society, and yet all I could see was women treating men terribly, like Daemon. While I’m not saying that women would never treat men badly, at times I felt almost like it was a Gorian answer to feminists. Like “See! You’d be awful!” I think Bishop saves it for me with the female characters. Ultimately I think she is trying to say that the system is corrupted and needs to be fixed, and until that happens female and male characters will continue to be destructive.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Heir to Scandal by Andrea Laurence

So boring . .  Zzzzzzzzzzzz

From the Publisher: 

"Yes, you have a son."
The past is about to catch up with Congressman Xander Langston...in more ways than one. While his reelection campaign is in full swing, unidentified remains surface on his family's farm and scandal ensues. Yet when he returns home, it's his reunion with Rose Pierce that's consuming all his waking thoughts.

His high school sweetheart has blossomed into a radiant beauty. The thrill of first love that Xander had once dismissed is proving to be a more enduring proposition. But Rose has a secret, too--will it put a stop to their second chance and derail his career for good?

Woe betide you who buy Harlequins in Target’s Clearance Bin. I get what I deserve and I deserve this suffering. One of my favorite tropes is Secret Baby, which is when there is a child resulting from a pre-story hook-up which gets dragged out into a wrought piece of high angst. What can I say, I used to watch soaps with my mom sometimes. So when I came upon a $3 romance not only with this trope but from the Desire line, I had hopes for sexy good times. I had thought I’d get that with Heir to Scandal, the blurb on the back proudly announcing “Yes, you have a son.”
Unfortunately, I ended up with two pieces of emotionless driftwood and what was clearly the laundry list of a committee who wanted to “appeal to middle America.” The hero and heroine are boring, so terribly boring it took me a week to finish this book. I can read a Harlequin in a couple of hours, a week should be reserved for the works of George R.R. Martin. This book is one of a series about the Eden Boys, four boys who were adopted and raised on the Eden Christmas Tree Farm. The series is called Secrets of Eden because one of the boys killed another foster child in self-defense and then all of them covered it up. The body has now been found and they are trying to keep it under wraps. That might sound interesting, but it really isn’t.